By now, we have all heard about digital nomadism. Earlier this year, I authored a long form piece for HBR on the topic, on how to get started and have a successful digital nomad experience.
However, while the phenomenon of employee nomading has been extensively recorded, its allure is now expanding beyond individuals to encompass families, highlighting a growing lifestyle trend.
Digital nomad families are a modern manifestation of work and lifestyle, where parents embrace remote work to traverse the globe with their children. Balancing professional commitments and educational needs, these families embrace work from anywhere to create a unique blend of adventure and stability. This evolving trend reshapes traditional notions of family life, fostering a global community while exploring the world together.
I had been a remote worker for many years before I had a family, but six years ago for me and my family, access to remote work and global mobility became a necessity. When my daughter was just 9 months old, she was diagnosed with chronic childhood asthma, leading to a series of persistent health challenges. Those early months were incredibly tough, marked by little sleep as we explored various medical interventions in Dublin.
Following medical advice that a drier climate could be beneficial, given the damp weather in Dublin was exacerbating her condition, we began searching through the options our European passports afforded us. We appreciated that we had the privilege of global mobility. So Italy, Germany, and Spain were all under consideration, and it so happened that my husband, a software engineer, had the chance to work remotely from his company’s Zaragoza office in Spain. This twist of fate led us to make the decision to put down roots there in 2016. Now, we are based in Zaragoza but we maintain that global mobility and are nomadic as a family for up to four months a year.
Writing these lines from Cilento, Italy, whilst we are on a 3 month Family European trip I realize that for my daughter, the world has become her classroom, and on every journey a lesson is waiting to be learned. As she crosses borders, traverses diverse landscapes, absorbs varying cultures, and interacts with people from all walks of life, she not only collects passport stamps; she is gathering an education that transcends textbooks. Various definitions exist for how children can be educated and learn whilst families travel and move frequently. Some people call this WorldSchooling, others UnSchooling, whatever the term, more and more examples are emerging. As an example, Lauren Hill’s family sails the world while balancing remote work and “world schooling” for their kids. Despite challenges, they create schedules to manage work and parenting. Several real-life examples tell us that nomading as a family is not only possible, but beneficial once they find their very personal recipe to juggle work and family, but also to prioritize education. Regardless, it takes a “village to raise a child”:
“What we’re seeing is this network where you can help each other and families are together living this life. It’s a village that helps to better manage as a family.” —Elodie F. Boundless Life.
As nomadic families meet together in locations, travel together and explore in and with their communities globally, solutions to support these emerging markets are arriving and being built, many by those traveling families themselves, like the founding team from Boundless Life. This start-up offers Digital Nomad Families the full 360 degree support services in destinations, including accommodation, co-working space access, community events and forward-thinking education for under 12s. Their service offerings also work for families taking shorter workation type breaks of 4 or 3 months in duration.
For us, the parents, the traditional boundaries of work and home are already reimagined, resulting in a precious gift: abundant quality time. We are grateful for the emerging infrastructure, enabled by new providers, communities and destination services – all combining to support our growing nomadic global village of families.
Rowena Hennigan is a global expert on remote work and digital nomadism