New generations take their digital life on the road.
There’s no doubt about it. Travel is big.
The travel industry has been exploding in recent years, with figures showing an 86% increase in leisure travel from 2010 to 2020. And it shows no signs of slowing down.
The popularity of backpacking, flashpacking and couchsurfing among twenty and thirty-somethings has shown many that they can live a fuller, richer life with nothing more than the contents of a single bag or suitcase.
With an increasing number of people able to work remotely using little more than their laptop, a large chunk are deciding to uproot their lives and opt for a life of travel.
“What we’re seeing is a massive shift in how many younger people are living today. And it was something we didn’t quite expect.” says Mark Schumann of Schumann & Associates. “They’re essentially nomads, with no fixed home. And they like it that way.”
Unlike the traditional nomadic tribes of Australia and India, these modern nomads are living with luxuries, at least the ones that are important to them — most of which are now digital. If it is lightweight and preferably multi-function, it’s good to bring along.
But why is this happening? And why now?
There are several reasons for this shift:
A reduction in fear-mongering has made world travel seem safer, especially for those in the U.S. who have been traditionally more cautious to travel internationally.
These generations are restless…
Always on the lookout for something new. Something more. Something else…
Another important reason is that the MTV generations need constant visual stimulation. And what better stimulation that exploring a new city, or, better yet a whole country?
For many, gaming has offered this constant visual stimulation, but others long for ‘doing it for real’ and taking to a life of worldly exploration and discovery.
Finally, many companies are now allowing employees to work remotely — as long as the work gets done. A linked-in laptop and a quiet space in Belize can provide a better working environment than a noisy office in Illinois. Those who aren’t permitted to work remotely will often create their own business and work for themselves. We’ve seen a massive increase in globe-trotting entrepreneurs over the past decade, with everyone from programmers, designers right through to photographers and tattoo artists taking to the road.
What would once take up a room,
is now portable.
Years ago, the average 20-something’s bedroom may have consisted of a shelf of DVD’s, a few piles of books, some albums full of photos, some messy piles of CDs, a desktop computer, clunky monitor and a closet full of clothes. Oh, and a bed…
Now, all of that can fit in a backpack and be taken around the world (except of course, the bed).
To break it down: the majority of the list — piles of music, movies and photos all can be easily carried on an ultralight, ultrathin laptop, or pocket mobile device. The rest — ie. clothing, is simply a matter of some clever decision engineering. The youth of 2021 do not much feel the need to stay in one place.
Notions of community are redefined.
The same device that stores their digital ‘stuff’ of course also gives today’s digital nomad instant access to any of their friends, in any country, complete with 3D video interfaces that are ‘just like being there’.
Instead of just one group of friends, these new nomadic explorers have multiple groups of friends that they have met during their travels and will regularly keep in touch with and cross paths with again.
Schumann sees the overall shift as very positive, with these ‘nomads’ gaining an increased understanding of the world and the people in it. He notes “A meeting of two people from different countries and cultures enriches both of them. Minds broaden & attitudes change.”
There may come a time where these nomads actually want to settle down and stay in one place, but until then, let them be free.