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Monday, July 27, 2009

On being a digital nomad

On this Monday "weekend," with grey clouds hanging listlessly overhead and a light rain drizzling on and off, I've foregone the fun stuff to do some necessary chores. Wet laundry now covers every square inch of my 15 x 10 apartment, the floors got a thorough scrubdown and I even began the arduous process of boxing up winter clothes and other items to ship back to the States rather than pack.

But when the prospect of tackling the bathroom arose, I knew I needed a distraction. This isn't your ordinary bathroom, remember. This tiny room is a toilet and shower in one -- a place of perpetual dampness where the floors are never quite dry. Cleaning it is a painful chore, one I put off as long as possible.

And what better way to postpone chores than to get caught up on a weekend's worth of blogs and update my own? But the prospect of sitting in my apartment amidst laundry, boxes and the lingering smell of cleaning supplies (mmm... lemon fresh!) wasn't nearly as appealing as this window table at Starbucks, where the chai lattes are hot and the air smells like freshly-ground coffee beans.

All of which remind me of yesterday's Washington Post story about "digital nomads." Thanks to wireless Internet, laptop computers and all of the other fun gadgets that make life easy, millions of Americans are no longer chained to desks. Why sit in a windowless cubicle when you can do the exact same work at a lively coffee shop (mega love for Adams Morgan's Tryst in the article) or pool-side?

Tech company bigwigs think this trend will only grow in future years.

The younger workforce will demand it. That's how they live.

To me, this is the perfect work environment. One of the worst things about working is having to go to an office every day, sit at a desk, chained to a computer and breathing in the recycled air without a hint of sunshine. I had a great office job while at university and made some fantastic friends, but it was in a basement office, from which I'd emerge after a shift to find a downpour of rain or sprinkling of snow that I'd had no idea was occurring. Depressing.

At the same time, I'd hate to work from home day after day. I can barely blog from home, where distractions abound and if there's not a distraction, I'll create one myself to keep from being productive. My ideal work environment is a crowded coffeeshop.

Maybe finding a career that allows me to be a digital nomad will be a turning point for my decision to return permanently to the States. Until then, I'll just continue being a nomad in every sense of the word.

(On an unrelated but funny note, a 60-something-year-old man just knocked on the window, stuck his tongue out at me, mouthed "You're beautiful," and then stood there and stared. I smiled back before trying to ignore him but it was an awkward 30 seconds...)


  1. I actually worked poolside this summer! I was doing freelance research for a professor and the state government, and we happen to have a fairly strong wireless connection at my apartment complex's pool deck. Now I believe it's the only real way to work on beautiful days--plus the schmoozers at the pool don't bother you as much if you tell them you have a job to do! I highly recommend it, especially since you don't have to keep buying drink/food at a cafe.

    - Emily

  2. Here here Erin! More power to you! Yeah I do miss the coworkers from my desk job, but I certainly don't miss being trapped inside all day surrounded by your standard-issue cubicle walls and desk (even though mine had a nice window!). I still work from home too much, but cafes and co-working clubs are pretty awesome! (Check 'em out, they're popping up everywhere in the States)

    Safe travels! :)

  3. Outstanding revelation. A nice combination of office meets home is the way to go. And there is nothing wrong with being a nomad - I am out of here (Maryland) in a few weeks!

  4. You're right, it's impossible to write when you're home because of all the distractions! I've been trying to blog from home and it's just not happening. I work well in coffee shops too, so I will try that from now on and pray for creativity to runneth its cupeth over. Btw, I have a sweet gig right now. I work on a magazine in an office two weeks of every month then freelance from home the other two weeks. The balance is perfect!