The jump to remote work for many during the pandemic removed geographical barriers and provided greater flexibility in how and where we do our jobs; ushering in a new type of digital nomad: the anywhere worker.
It has meant that a wider range of conventional workers, not just freelancers, can take their jobs anywhere provided they have a laptop and a strong WiFi connection. Older workers and people with families have been able to work and travel during the pandemic too, not just carefree young adults hopping from hostel to hostel. Plus, several countries are now issuing long-term visas and digital nomad schemes specifically for people who are able to take their jobs on the road.
In a recent Lonely Planet survey of more than 1,400 respondents—made up of 67 different nationalities across six countries (including the US, Mexico, Portugal, Indonesia and Spain)—and conducted with freelancer services marketplace Fiverr, more than half (54%) said they now consider themselves to be anywhere workers. That is the new generation of workers that has emerged since the pandemic began—the people who have been traveling and working for the past year or so, without being tied to a specific place.
Who is the anywhere worker?
Essentially a post-pandemic digital nomad. The majority of anywhere workers can be found in largely digital-based industries, most commonly IT, engineering, consulting, business intelligence, architecture and interior design, and digital marketing. While digital nomads have traditionally been freelancers, more than half of anywhere workers (61%) work full-time and the majority (84%) believe their line of work supports their ability to travel. The people who can access this lifestyle generally earn a comfortable salary with over 50% of US respondents earning $2,000 a month.
About 70% of people who consider themselves to be anywhere workers are aged between 24 and 44-years-old, and 35% are between 45 and 54-years-old. It's almost an even split between genders at 56% (male) and 44% (female). Almost half (45%) are married and, unlike the typical digital nomad who tends to hit the road solo, 70% are parents who are taking their families with them when they move around.
In the past digital nomads have drawn criticism for their oversized carbon footprint and failure to provide meaningful engagement with local communities by moving location every few days or weeks. The anywhere worker appears to be doing things differently. They're staying put in new destinations for longer to better experience local culture, with a third of anywhere worker respondents saying they prefer to move to another destination every month or every three months. But 55% of people, the 'slomads'', enjoy working in one location and traveling every three months or more.
Anywhere worker challenges
The anywhere worker lifestyle isn't for everyone. Loneliness is one of the main challenges as traveling can make it difficult to establish proper social connections, particularly as it offers fewer opportunities for face-to-face interactions with co-workers. Almost 90% of people surveyed said they felt lonely during their travels.
Even though 90% of respondents said their earnings either increased or remained stable since becoming an anywhere worker, the financial implications of taking on this lifestyle were also considered to be barriers. Flights, taxes, and visa costs add up quickly. In the US, about 28% said they spend between US$500 and $1,000 per month.
Struggling to adapt to local culture and nuances, isolation from friends and family, and living out of a suitcase were also among the least attractive qualities of the anywhere worker lifestyle.
Where are anywhere workers traveling to?
Digital nomads tend to be found far from home but our Fiverr survey found that while anywhere workers want to travel, they don't necessarily want to go very far. Almost half say they chose this lifestyle because they wanted more autonomy and flexibility over their lives and careers. They typically want to take their jobs to locations that provide greater opportunities for families and education. Though a third said that a better cost of living was their number one reason for relocating to a new place.
Some of the most popular destinations for anywhere workers surveyed include Thailand, the US, Spain, Japan, and Portugal, countries with established digital nomad cultures. Also, notably, countries that are close to where we polled respondents.
Furthermore, anywhere workers polled from the US largely agreed that domestic destinations are the best place for traveling workers right now, specifically populous states like Texas, followed by California and Florida.
Despite the challenges and the return to the office or a hybrid model in many workplaces, the anywhere worker trend is likely to continue. Nearly every respondent (98%) said they want to continue working and traveling for the foreseeable future. Especially now there's an increasing number of programs, particularly in the US, to cater to them; helping them find places to live, co-working spaces, and setting them up with local guides for networking, community insights, and sightseeing tips.
And more countries are continuing to issue special long-term visas to attract international remote workers. Barbados, Aruba, Estonia, Norway, and Croatia have all introduced similar schemes recently. And last month, Italy hinted that it may introduce one soon for non-EU citizens, including American and British digital nomads, who want to live and work in Italy, allowing them to bypass tricky immigration barriers and tax deterrents without switching jobs.