Deborah is founder and director of Camino Insight, a strategic consultancy that exists to build stronger connections between brands and consumers. She is also a digital nomad, who has also been researching this growing trend, and the implications for the future workplace.
We sat down with her (remotely), to find out more.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who uses technology to perform their job remotely, so they can be based anywhere in the world.
It’s a growing movement – it is estimated there will be 1 billion digital nomads by 2035.
As part of my own journey, I undertook an extensive piece of research around the rise of the digital nomad. I’ve been sharing this insight to help to educate organisations, both as employers, and creators of products and services, on how they can better cater to this growing demographic.
Through my research, I identified three main travel styles, and within these, 5 digital nomad typologies:
- The Perpetual Nomad. Someone with a fully remote job and no home base. There is no limit on their travel.
- The Shift Nomad. They become a nomad for a change of pace and will usually return to their previous lives.
- The Intermittent Nomad. They like to have a home base and so choose to travel intermittently for shorter periods of time.
Of course, not everyone is suited to a nomadic lifestyle – and while there is increasing demand for remote working, there will always be a need for face to face communication in some contexts.
That said, technology means that the proportion of situations where everyone needs to be in the same room is getting smaller by the day.
What’s your digital nomad story?
I had been freelancing in London for several years. I loved my work, but I wanted a change.
I considering going travelling, but I’d spent the last few years building up my business – so leaving my clients felt irresponsible.
Then I came across Remote Year.
Remote Year helps enormously with the logistics of moving around so regularly, which means that you can be confident that you’ll be able to work effectively, wherever you are in the world, through their network of coworking and living spaces.
I took the plunge in March 2017 and set off with a 50 strong community of digital nomads from all corners of the earth. I lived in a different city each month for over a year, running Camino – fully remotely – as I travelled.
It has been an amazing experience. I have made friends across the world, and have found a real community with my fellow nomads. Being part of a coliving space still gives you privacy when you want it, but there’s always someone there to interact with when you want company.
Being a digital nomad has opened my eyes in so many ways, and I’ve learnt so much about myself, and about life.
What are the challenges of being a digital nomad?
A lot of businesses have anxiety around employing or working with freelancers who are remote.
While more and more organisations are offering remote working, it’s often because they feel they should, rather than because they really buy into the benefits – of which there are many.
There’s a lot of research out there that shows that remote workers work harder, and for longer.
I’ve yet to meet a digital nomad who doesn’t consider their laptop their most important possession.
The lifestyle does, however, have its challenges. Many remote workers feel like they have to over-deliver in order to defend their lifestyle and ‘prove’ that they’re working.
Add in client demands and different time zones, it can be difficult to switch off.
This is something that every nomad should watch out for, in themselves and in their friends. And as more employees take on a nomadic lifestyle, employers need to consider how they are going to manage their staff to ensure they are happy and healthy, as well as productive.
There’s a huge education piece for everyone here, but I hope as more and more people become digital nomads, the community will be able to share their experiences to the benefit of everyone.
What is the biggest misconception about being a digital nomad?
You’ll rarely find a digital nomad working on a beach; it’s usually a terrible idea! Sun on your screen, sand everywhere, no plug sockets… we joke about it often, but the reality is it doesn’t work.
And that we’re ‘lucky’ – for me, becoming a digital nomad was an intentional move to shape my life. Luck doesn’t come into it.
A little bit more about Deborah
I am the founder and director of Camino Insight.
Working in the magazine publishing business on ‘youth’-focused titles between 2000 and 2006 meant I was part of an industry for whom the need for digital transformation was met with urgency. I took my learnings into my new career in consumer research and insight and have never looked back.
Having worked in research agencies for 8 years before starting Camino, I have worked across a variety of sectors, but have always come back to digital and younger audiences.
This was further reinforced by my decision to pack up my life and become a digital nomad for 1+ years from March 2017. I travelled with a 50 strong community of digital nomads from all corners of the earth and lived in a different city each month for over a year, running Camino – fully remotely – as I travelled.
For the duration of the trip, I also conducted a self-funded longitudinal research study on the Digital Nomad movement. I have been invited to speak about my research at the Workplace Trends Research Summit in London.