Insights into the remote lifestyle: The digital nomad survey

The average digital nomad is a married female gen Xer who is an experienced employee working at least 40 hours a week in the writing, education, and training, or administrative fields.

FlexJobs surveyed over 500 digital nomads about key topics related to their digital nomad career, lifestyle, and work style in September and October 2018. The results of our digital nomad survey challenge some of the conceptions we see about who digital nomads are, and offer a fascinating look at this nomadic remote lifestyle.

Who’s the typical digital nomad?

According to the nomads themselves, the profile of the average digital nomad is a married female gen Xer who is an experienced employee working at a company at least 40 hours a week in the writing, education and training, or administrative career fields. She has health insurance, is saving for retirement, and has a bachelor’s degree or higher.

This is far from the stereotypical nomad. In the media, the “typical digital nomad” is often portrayed as a freelancer or solopreneur, or a young professional backpacking across Europe, or a tech startup founder living the dream. And more often than not, a digital nomad is characterized as a man rather than a woman, yet according to this survey, 70% of digital nomads are women.

We learned a lot about digital nomads from the answers given by these 500-plus survey respondents, and we hope you do, too!

Read on for an inside look into digital nomads, how they work and live, and why they’ve chosen the nomadic remote lifestyle:

Demographics

  • Generation: 27% identify as millennials or gen Z, 41% identify as gen X, and 32% identify as baby boomers or the silent generation.
  • Gender: There are more women (70%) digital nomads than men (30%).
  • Education: 72% have at least a bachelor’s degree and 33% have a master’s degree.
  • Work: More digital nomads are employed by a company (35%) than digital nomad freelancers (28%) or business owners (18%).
  • Time: 42% have been digital nomads for less than a year, 33% for 1-5 years, and 24% have been digital nomads for more than 5 years.

Career fields for digital nomads

We asked nomads to choose the career field they work in, and these were the top 10 fields:

  1. Writing
  2. Education & Training
  3. Administrative
  4. Customer Service
  5. Art & Creative
  6. Computer & IT
  7. Consulting
  8. Data Entry
  9. Marketing
  10. Project Management

Where digital nomads live and travel

  • Where They Stay: The majority of digital nomads live in hotels (51%), then with friends/family (41%), Airbnb (36%), car/van/RV (21%), and hostels (16%).
  • Top Places They Travel: America (53%); Western Europe (18%); Asia (13%); all over the world (12%).
  • How Many Countries They Visit in a Year: 1-2 countries (73%); 3-4 countries (19%); more than 5 countries(8%).
  • Travel Programs: Only 6% have participated in travel programs for nomads, such as Remote Year or Hacker Paradise. Just 5% have used co-living spaces, such as Outsite or Nomad House.
  • Longest Travel Time: The longest amount of time they’ve spent traveling while working: 1-3 months (65%); 3-6 months (14%); 6 months-1 year (10%); 1+ year (11%).
  • Moving Around: How long they typically stay in one location before moving on: it varies (27%); 1-2 weeks (22%); less than a week (17%); 3+ months (12%); 3-4 weeks (11%); 1-2 months (11%).

Families of digital nomads

  • Marriage: 61% of digital nomads are married and 39% are unmarried.
  • Travel with Spouse: 31% of married digital nomads’ partners travel with them full-time, 38% travel with them part-time, and 32% don’t travel with their partners at all.
  • Children: Only 26% of digital nomads have children 18 and under.
  • Travel with Children: Of those with children, 59% say their children don’t travel with them at all.
  • Schooling for Nomad Kids: For those with children who do travel with their digital nomad parent, the majority are enrolled in public school to meet their educational needs, followed by homeschooling and online schools.

How digital nomads work: hours, spaces, tech, travel

  • Hours: 70% work 40 hours per week or fewer. One-third of digital nomads work more than 40 hours per week, far fewer than the general population where 86% of men and 67% of women work more than 40 hours per week.
  • Spaces: Less than one-fifth work in coworking spaces (19%). The majority work from their hotel/hostel (46%), coffee shop or local dining establishment (45%), Airbnb (27%), primary mode of transportation (van, camper, RV, car, etc.) (21%), or a library (20%).

Top 5 Digital Communication and Collaboration Tools

  1. Skype (67%)
  2. Google Chat (34%)
  3. GoToMeeting (32%)
  4. Google Hangouts (29%)
  5. Zoom (24%)

Top 5 Technology Tools

  1. Laptop (91%)
  2. Cell phone (88%)
  3. Battery charger (67%)
  4. Hotspot (51%)
  5. Wall power outlet adapter (48%)

Challenges, benefits, and reasons for being a digital nomad

  • Top Challenges of Being a Digital Nomad: finding reliable Wi-Fi (52%); finding a good place to work (42%); networking (35%); time zones (29%); work communications (20%).
  • Top Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad: flexible schedule (85%); no commuting (65%); freedom to live and work where I choose (65%), work-life balance (63%); no office politics (52%); no dressing up for work (51%).
  • Top Factors for Wanting to Be a Digital Nomad: work-life balance (73%); enjoy the freedom (68%); love to travel (55%); avoid office politics and distractions of a traditional work environment (43%); want to explore other cultures (37%); high cost of living in home country (30%); poor local job market in hometown (24%).
  • Lifestyle: 92% of digital nomads say the lifestyle is important to them.
  • Impact: 88% report that being a digital nomad has had a huge improvement or positive impact on their lives.

Salary, healthcare, finances, and retirement

  • Health Insurance: 74% of digital nomads have health insurance.
  • Income: 18% report making six figures or more and 22% make between $50,000 and $99,999. According to the Social Security Administration, the average U.S. worker today earns roughly $46,641 a year.
  • Making More or Less Than In-Office: 31% make similar amounts of money and 18% make more money as a digital nomad than when they worked traditionally. 46% make less money as a digital nomad.
  • Additional Financial Support: 32% have occasionally received financial support beyond income from an outside source like a friend or family member to help make ends meet.
  • Financial Stress: 38% say they feel less stressed financially as a digital nomad and 34% say there is no difference in financial stress than when they worked a traditional job.
  • Retirement Savings: 55% are saving for retirement (a 2018 retirement savings survey found 42% of Americans will retire broke).
    • 31% are very concerned about saving for retirement and 34% say it is a concern.
    • 20% are slightly concerned and only 15% are not concerned at all.

What everyone wants to know from digital nomads

The question digital nomads are most commonly asked revolve around practical logistics:

  • How does it work/how do you do it? (35%)
  • How do you afford it—can you make a living doing this? (12%)
  • Does your family travel with you, what do your kids do for school, and do you miss being away from home so much? (9%)

This article first appeared on FlexJobs.