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Nine years ago this week we had our very first kiss. It wasn’t really a long or particularly noteworthy kiss, because some teenager nearby on the banks of the Thames said “Ewwww they’re SNOGGING,” and that kind of ruined the moment. Also, we were meant to be best friends, and best friends don’t kiss. So it all got a bit awkward.
Nine years ago, it was August 2005. Twitter hadn’t yet launched. Facebook was only available to university and high school students. The MacBook Air was still two years away. The 4-Hour Workweek hadn’t been written. And while the term “digital nomad” existed, it was being used and understood by almost no one: there simply wasn’t the infrastructure in place to support that way of life. Cafes didn’t have wifi. Skype didn’t work properly (OK, it still doesn’t really work). Dropbox hadn’t been born. And Airbnb was a non-twinkle in no one’s eye.
The expectations we had for our lives together couldn’t be more different from what we’ve ended up with. Because over the past couple of years, digital nomadism has become a real, viable lifestyle – and we’ve both embraced it with a vigour that our former “Never again are we even holding hands in public” selves would have been mortified by.
It’s not just that the logistics and technology are easier, but that we’re all slowly realising that the traditional way of doing things isn’t necessarily the best way – at least, not for everyone. Life doesn’t have to revolve around the commute or working for someone else. Owning a house to live in can be a huge liability – the opposite of feeling safe and protected. Buying and hoarding heaps of stuff clutters up both our external and internal worlds. And deferring all the fun until we’ve retired seems stupid: why wait until we’re too old to make the most of it?
Why not build exciting businesses while we travel, and experience both wonderful new cultures and the freedom to work our own hours on our own terms, instead?
It’s amazing to feel like we’re at the forefront of this new way of living (and new way of thinking about living), but being an “early adopter” comes with its fair share of hassles. At some point in the future, visas will have to be less complicated. Ditto taxes and international healthcare. We won’t need to travel with 20 different SIM cards in our wallets. There’ll be more “Airbnb for x” collaborative consumption models than we know what to do with – which means we can go through life “renting” items if and when we need them. There’ll also be more of us – which means more opportunities to make friends and hang out with like-minded people.
And more people will understand and appreciate it, too. They’ll get that “home” can be anywhere you feel safe and happy – not a structure made of bricks with dodgy plumbing and dry rot. They’ll see that it really is possible to run a business without renting an office and buying a tantrum-prone copy machine. They’ll realise that no, our lives are not “one big long vacation”, because we work our butts off (the difference being that we love it and we get to choose what we work on). They might not decide to be digital nomads themselves, but they’ll see why other people want to.
It’s an exciting time – and we’re eager to see what else will be possible in the future. Because if someone told us back on the banks of the Thames that in nine years’ time we’d be snogging in our Airbnb while watching Netflix on our iPad…they would have received a very strange look indeed.