We’ve all heard of Digital Nomads. Some of us may strive to be one, and some already are. The glitterati of the travel set, who broke out of their “9 to 5 lives” and set out in search of a better, more fulfilling (and often tropical/cheaper) life elsewhere. Elsewhere with high speed internet, that is.
Not too long ago there were what one might call the “Analog Nomads”. Those who took to the open road or overseas with very little connecting them to home, distance work, or any sort of social media. These were the writers, the artists, the creative sorts that sought unique experiences to act as muses to fuel their ‘work’.
This lifestyle was as attainable then as it is now, though digital nomadery often, on the surface, looks more appealing. “Who doesn’t want to be able to work on a graphic design project from the comfort of the beach?” some might ask.
One could counter that with the question “Have…you ever taken a laptop to a beach? It’s a terrible idea.”
What makes the lifestyle so appealing? Is it the cheaper living? The idea that one COULD work “anywhere in the world” (though few seldom do)? Or is it the idea that YOU are in control of your work and are your own “boss”? This often leads to working more hours, not actually taking vacation, or even traveling, since a digital nomad is most often subject to the stretch of the internet’s umbilical cord.
As this is being written, the power is out in this author’s little Italian flat. At fault? The desire to bake chocolate chip cookies and have air conditioning at the same time. However, this may be the most productive time I’ve ever had all week. No buzzing of electricity, no distraction of social media or Youtube to tear me away from the writing I should be doing. I even wrote two letters, something that, sadly, gets overlooked when the siren’s call of Netflix is heard. The irony is that this is being typed on a laptop, but spurred on by the quickly draining battery.
In short, one might admire those who have cut loose from the shackles of eternal connectivity. To set out without the ability to pass the time on the train with flipping through photos, instead of writing or thinking. To seek the inspiration of scenery, not other people’s Instagram. To pull oneself out of the depths of never-ending canyons of information, at once a blessing and a curse.
The digital nomad life has given many, myself included, the ability to do so much more than sit in a cubicle, stuck in one location, subject to the whims of mid-level management. However, the argument that it is some sort of golden bastion of freedom is misleading. Digital nomads cannot function without a computer and internet connection, thereby limiting themselves to living in places that have these things, not able to be truly nomadic. Travel writer and all-around interesting person, Rolf Potts’ Vagablogging, makes similar points in his piece on “The Lost Art of the Analog Nomad.”
The analog lifestyle could and did make this happen. How many thousands have paved the way as nomadic teachers, writers, painters, singers, those who interacted with real people, learned languages and culture. There are endless options for bartenders, tour guides, shoe-making, mushroom hunting, farming, scientists, vineyard tending, researchers, photographers, construction or volunteering nearly anywhere, or even whale watching, to name a few. Jobs or adventures that get the worker out from behind a computer (which is good for eyesight as well as socialization).
It’s just a thought. Excuse me while I trudge down to the basement with a flashlight to switch the breaker back on and enjoy the fresh and delicious chocolate chip cookies that only electricity can bring.