Digital Nomad: What does “nomadic” mean?
Good question, because you’re not alone in asking. You’ve all probably heard the term “Digital Nomad” by now. If you haven’t, don’t worry. Perhaps you’re heard of “Remote Workers” or maybe you’ve been acquainted with individuals who are “Location Independent Entrepreneurs”. Sound more familiar? These are all just loose terms to describe individuals who are able to work and travel simultaneously. While the terms are more or less interchangeable, it’s all a matter of personal preference. Enter Steve Munroe, a location independent Canadian living in Indonesia. Isn’t that great, eh? Steve is a co-founder of Hubud, a co-working space set up in Bali. Recently, we chatted with Steve about life in Indonesia, about Hubud, and the real triumphs and struggles that surround “ditching the 9-5” and making the lifestyle shift into being a “digital nomad”.
Travel visas make finding jobs abroad more difficult
The contemporary digital nomad exists, from a visa perspective, sandwiched between two worlds, explained Steve – a former employee at the United Nations turned visionary co-founder. This makes sense considering the term “digital nomad” didn’t explode in usage until late 2014 – giving those looking to live and work abroad a tribe and a name with which they could identify. While countries continue to offer visas for short-term stays, today’s digital nomads are forced to (legally) circumnavigate these restrictions. For most nomads choosing to set up camp in Indonesia, their experience is heavily influenced by the idea of time. In the short term, the bureaucratic timeline of how long a person can stay in the country on a visa dictates their rhythm of life. Influenced by “visa runs”, (where travellers leave the country they are temporarily residing in, acquire a new visa for their stay, and re-enter the country) nomads can often be found heading on a cheap flight to Singapore where they can re-apply for an Indonesian visa to stay another 30 days. Nomads intending to stay in Indonesia for 6-8 months may have to leave and re-enter every 60 days. In conclusion, most country visa schemes don’t serve the needs of today’s “longer stay traveller”.
As Steve explains, there’s very good reason behind this. To paraphrase, “Traditionally, countries had two kinds of people: the short-term and the long-term. The tourists are the individuals who are short-term. They arrive, spend money, and leave. The other group is those living long term – those who have settled here ‘permanently’ through marriage or through deep business ties. In the middle, we have the location independent – those looking to stay for longer than the traditional tourist, while working on their projects or overseas businesses and contributing to the local economy. This ‘middle ground’ of digital nomads is growing rapidly, and there is not a reliable visa scheme that serves them.”
Steve has been respectfully vocal in this space, identifying a growing need for a specific clientele of travellers that do not fit into the current global mold of short-term travel trends. These are the people who choose to visit and work while at Hubud, a shared workspace in Indonesia. While there is no great “digital nomad visa” for Indonesia, long term stay is possible through a unique mix of preparation and attention to detail. If you’re interested in understanding more about longer stays and visas to Indonesia, click here. “Hubud is happy to legally contribute to the Indonesian economy by providing a work location solution for travellers”, Steve concluded. This was a perfect segway into what I personally wanted to know: how did Hubud come to be?
Remote Jobs are around the globe
Steve was kind enough talk to us about Hubud (Hub – In – Ubud), a co-working space he co-founded in Ubud, Indonesia. “Hubud is a gathering point for those in a transition from one life to another. Bali is a great place for that”. Founded in 2013, Hubud is a result of the growing observation that “corporate escapees” were flocking to Indonesia. Hubud exemplifies what it means to create a global-focussed community with 5000 registered total members from close to 80 countries. “Our members are looking for ‘a re-invention of self’ – in their career or life path, and Hubud understands them. We’re a transitional place to live, work, and learn”.
“Hubud is about bringing together the kookie people in Bali” – Steve.
The best online jobs might be in the sunshine
Hubud works much like a gym membership. “Members pay a monthly fee, and we have around 250 active members living in the space at any given time”. The “Forbes recognized” space offers accommodation, co-working spaces of all layouts, you name it. You can check the out the paradise-like photos here. Last year, they hosted 431 events – a testament to the culture of knowledge-sharing among passionate professionals. “Events are in our DNA”, explained Steve. “That, and a feeling of community”. Moving to a new space in 2017, Hubud looks forward to growing and expanding – finding new ways to engage their alumni base of 5000 “location independent” wanderers from around the globe. “We’re launching a digital membership for our alumni, with access to live streams for workshops and talks online”. Noting the importance of quality content, a membership allows Hubud alumni to stay engaged as life-long learners through knowledge-sharing – well after they have ventured on from Hubud.
Skillset, mindset – important shifts for getting a job abroad
Comparing his life to a stop-motion animated video, his work at Hubud has offered a unique perspective. “We stay in one place and the people come and go. Again and again. Always changing. It’s been interesting to watch the shift in not only who is becoming “digital nomads”, but also how they are accomplishing it”. Achieving the shift to working while travelling is a journey, and, as Steve so eloquently put it, “there’s two shifts involved in making this kind of journey: a shift in skill set, and a shift in mindset. You have to have both.”
“A radically supportive bamboo haven
of big ideas.” – Hubud website
How to make money while travelling
Often, the skill set is thought about first: it’s the how do I work and travel? What would I do for work? What skills can I leverage to make it possible? Programmer, web developer, sales, and software – these are all typical digital jobs that can be done remotely. The second shift is of one’s mindset. It’s the why should I work and travel. Simply, it’s believing that something else besides the current norm of work is possible. As Steve discussed, often people deciding to move abroad do so while still existing in their previous world, where the “traditional routine” continues to permeate career culture. Shifting your mindset to truly accepting that another way of working is possible for you is critical in “taking the leap”. This is because the message that gets reinforced over and over is this: “That’s crazy!” “They are not alone, not crazy – there are others who are like you,” Steve mentioned. “It’s an amazing feeling to find your people, and the realizations to get you there are so important”.
(It was at this point in the Skype call that I put my pen down and just listened, as Steve was point-for-point describing my own personal life and career journey over the past 2 years. I told him I had to stop taking notes and just listened in awe – he laughed).
A nomadic job in a nomadic life
Seeking out the “best jobs for travelling as a digital nomad” is not just a millennial phase. It’s a shift in contemporary career development. The trend of the digital nomad is not going away soon. The movement sits, interestingly enough, at the busy ideological intersection of increased internet connectivity, an increased entrepreneurial spirit in the millennial generation, and a fundamental shift in career expectations. The officer at the intersection directing the traffic is the current visa regulations. It would be in the best interest of many countries to look at these travellers as key pieces to the changing landscape of tourism and cater to this demographic. Most workers want to legally and conveniently do their work, and in Sherpa’s opinion, the first country to properly cater will win big economically. For Sherpa, we’re committed to helping the travellers, the wanderers, and the location independent. May they be travel bloggers, digital programmer, photographers, or otherwise. Any skillset that can be developed, sold and shared, or completed over wifi can allow you the capacity to travel. At the same time, it’s not for everyone.
Thank you, Steve, for sharing your story with us. If you’re interested in learning more about Hubud, you can check out their FAQ here. They are offering a “9-to-Thrive” course in July that discusses how one can escape the drain of routine and make the transition from employee to entrepreneur. As always, Travel Easy!
Sherpa Traveller Pro Tip – if you’re considering travelling to Indonesia to pursue remote jobs, think about your visa options. Generally, there are 3 main options:
- Most citizenships have “free visa entry”. A stamp on arrival allows for a 30-day single-entry visa. It’s free and non-extendable. Use the Sherpa app to easily check if your citizenship is included.
- There’s a Visa on Arrival (VoA). For $35 USD, it’s good for 30 days of travel in Indonesia. Key Point: it can be extended once only for 30 more days.
- There are a variety of “longer term” stay visas: Business Visa, Socio-cultural Visa (Social Visa), Government (Diplomatic/Service Visa), Multiple Entry Visa, Temporary Stay Visa. For more information, check out this site as a helpful resource, or consult the Indonesian consulate in your home country for their specific requirements and guidelines.
Friendly Disclaimer: Sherpa is humbled by worldly connections and the introduction to Steve, and Hubud. As such, we’ve been given nothing by Hubud to put this article together. Just trying to spread the word about safe, cool, and realistic travel opportunities. If you liked this article, you can find more by Eric, our Content Director, over at his dual language travel blog Penguin and Pia. You can also connect with him @wanderingwychop on Instagram.