This past weekend in Chiang Mai I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd annual Nomad Summit, an event created for people living a location-independent lifestyle and working in the ever-shifting realm of online entrepreneurship- commonly known as “digital nomads.”
I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous going into it. This was the first business/networking type of conference I’ve attended, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. I prepared myself to creatively avoid that ever-present question which has plagued me since it became relevant to ask:
“What do you do?”
I’ve never had a clear answer to that question, and at times have felt almost ashamed of that fact. Yet for once, I was surrounded by people who’s answer was often just as bizarre and noncommittal as my own. What a relief!
And while this community may indeed be nomadic and prioritize values like freedom and independence, don’t be fooled- digital nomads work hard.
Here’s just a few examples of what people do to earn a living online:
Ecommerce – Selling products through Amazon.com, either by using “dropshipping” or “FBA” (Google it.)
Epublishing – Creating and selling ebooks for Kindle
Ecourses – Teaching skills though online platforms like Udemy.com
Graphic design and web development, app development, social media marketing, copywriting, and other online freelance work.
That stuff might not sound idealistic, fulfilling, or passionate- all things I value highly, yet they work, and many people are able to live the life they want, where they want.
I’ll also admit that selling plastic crap from China to people I have no connection with is not something I aspire to, despite its business potential and proven success.
For the record, I will not be going into business selling egg-beaters and selfie-sticks on Amazon.
In general, I would say that the digital nomad community and the Nomad Summit could benefit from a healthy dose of sustainable thinking, and an emphasis on social entrepreneurship- two conspicuously absent themes from the conference.
I want to hear the stories of amazing social entrepreneurs and business-savvy eco-warriors out there, not just stories of material success and attractive lifestyles.
Here’s the truth: any community that considers itself “cutting edge” today must confront the environmental and social issues we all know exist. Otherwise I will question its validity.
That said, I did take away from the Nomad Summit an emboldened faith in my ability to create the life I want to live. It helped clarify and reinforce many of my own values, like travel and cultural exchange, self-reliance, personal sovereignty, and creative solutions to solving both personal and global problems.
I also got to connect with some really genuine and welcoming people who shared a similar vision and values to myself, which was perhaps more important than the event itself.
This proved especially true in getting to know Cody McKibben- Nomad Summit co-host and producer, who’s work at Thrilling Heroics inspires me to seriously level up.
I also discovered TreeTribe– an ecologically restorative sunglasses company that plants 10 trees for every 1 pair sold. Epic work!
At heart, the digital nomad community has helped me redefine that tired old maxim of working to live, rather than living to work.
I embraced this long ago, when I found myself no longer resonating with the prescribed values and lifestyle that so often goes unquestioned.
I took the red pill, and for once, I wasn’t the lone freak in the room who did.
The digital nomad community is far from mainstream, and I doubt it will ever be. Thats one of the reasons why I enjoy being a part of it.
Yet I predict that as politics in our home countries continue to leave people feeling disenfranchised, economies become more and more decentralized, and people start asking themselves what they really want out of life, the digital nomad community will only continue to grow.