Digital nomadism, the “have internet, will travel” work style that was once only a dream for many people, is becoming part of the mainstream. Our research has revealed that the population of American workers self-describing as digital nomads has steadily risen, from 7.3 million in 2019 to a whopping 16.9 million in 2022. This is a digital nomad growth of 131% over three years.
Digital Nomads by the Numbers
The characteristic shared by all digital nomads is a lifestyle that combines remote work with travel. From there, differences abound. Some travel for short periods, some stay on the road for years. Some travel domestically while others go international. Some travel solo and some take their families along.
As part of our annual State of Independence Report for 2022, we continued to look closely at the digital nomad population. Our research delved into the demographics, professions, and quality of digital nomad life. Some of the highlights include:
- Age touches all generations, with Millennials and GenX comprising the largest portions (70%), bookended by GenZ (17%) and Baby Boomers (13%).
- The breakdown by gender is 59% male and 41% female.
- Over half (56%) are married.
- Fifty-nine percent reported having a college degree or higher.
- Professions tend to be those that lend themselves to remote work, with information technology the highest (21%), followed by creative services (12%), education and training (11%), sales, marketing, and PR (9%), finance and accounting (9%), and consulting, coaching and research (8 %).
- Ninety-two percent reported being highly satisfied (81%) or satisfied (11%) with their life and workstyle.
Why Are More Workers Choosing to Be Digital Nomads?
Digital nomad growth is expected to continue in the coming years, though the rate of increase will likely slow down. The factors influencing this growth include:
- The chance to travel and experience different locations and cultures while working.
- High satisfaction with earnings while working remotely.
- Ability to live in a low-cost-of-living location while earning high wages.
A key influence in digital nomad growth is the support of the lifestyle by employers, countries, and a new service industry catering to these workers. Many companies have implemented plans and policies that enable more employees to become digital nomads, removing what was once a barrier to pursuing the lifestyle. Internationally, countries and cities have seen value in attracting digital nomads. Digital nomad visas make it easier to live and work in over 45 countries.
Services for digital nomads include cross-border health insurance, financial services, temporary work/living spaces, and online sites specifically designed to help digital nomads find work. In some locations, digital nomad villages have been established that provide the work and living infrastructure remote workers need to be productive and at the same time offer community with social activities to promote connection.
This lifestyle support effectively addresses some of the challenges reported by digital nomads. These include personal safety (34%), loneliness (26%), and time zone differences making work difficult (30%). Some challenges still remain, primarily being away from family and friends (32%) and managing work and travel (25%). These don’t appear insurmountable: Even among digital nomads who have stopped, our interviews indicate that many will return to this lifestyle.
The Future According to Digital Nomads
Sixty-nine percent of digital nomads reported plans to continue the lifestyle over the next two to three years, up from 2021 (54%) and 2020 (49%). A major part of this increase is from digital nomads with traditional jobs whose employers now allow this form of remote work. Fifty-eight percent of digital nomads responding to our research plan to spend at least part of their travel time outside the U.S. In 2021, 48% went international. The remainder of the population reported plans to travel exclusively within the U.S.
Many of the domestic travelers are members of the “VanLife Movement.” VanLifers are digital nomads who travel, live, and work in RVs, vans, or other vehicles converted into roaming residences. Their numbers grew to 3.1 million members in 2022, up from 2.6 million in 2021 and 1.9 million in 2020. The benefits to VanLifers include simplified travel logistics and the ability to visit popular locations around the country in their own homes. These benefits help eliminate hotel and airplane expenses, lower food costs, and the ability tem to bring along far more belongings than they could via other forms of travel.
Our research indicates that digital nomad growth will continue as traditional employees as well as independent professionals embrace the lifestyle. Companies can reap benefits by embracing the lifestyle as well. Highly desirable expertise and skills reside in this group of professionals; implementing policies and processes to attract and retain these people can result in positive bottom-line results.
Download our new research to get a more detailed view of digital nomad growth in the U.S.