Have you ever dreamed of leaving your ordinary life behind and traveling the world? While work, family and other responsibilities can make it feel like you're tied down to one place, all that is changing. Thanks to the growing popularity of telecommuting, easier access to Wi-Fi and the rise of affordable home-sharing services such as Airbnb, the ability to globetrot for months and even years on end is becoming a reality for many people.
"Digital nomads" are folks who choose to live a location-independent lifestyle, traveling from country to country, continent to continent with just a few bags and a laptop. They support themselves by working remotely and spend their free time exploring the bazaars of Morocco, sailing the Mediterranean and climbing the Great Wall of China.
To give you a glimpse of what living abroad with no home address is really like, we asked five real-life nomads to share their adventures and challenges thus far. Here are their stories.
Profession: Attorney and president of Rosen Law Firm
"My wife and I have always enjoyed travel and have been on the road for a year. We departed after our second kid left for college--we sold everything and flew the coop.
"We are having endless cool experiences. The ruins on the coast of Turkey were spectacular. The serrano ham in Barcelona melts in your mouth. The temples in Bangkok are fascinating. We loved cruising the Bosphorus [waterway] in Istanbul and zipping over to Greece for a day trip on a boat. The best parts, for us, are getting to know people and gaining an understanding of our differences and commonalities.
"I still own a law firm of a dozen lawyers in North Carolina. My role is management and I meet with a couple of key players each week via the internet. The business is built to run without my day-to-day involvement. My wife, Lisa Rosen, writes novels.
"We have no plans to return anywhere. We've given away our stuff and are down to two carry-on bags and we're in this for the duration. We prepared our kids and helped them adjust their expectations. Our younger child has visited us in Spain and we're going to spend the next couple of months with her in Ireland, Scotland and Paris. It's different, but she's coming to appreciate the benefits."
Profession: Owner/founder of Official Coupon Code
"Before becoming a digital nomad, I was living in Dallas and working as the vice president of global e-commerce for Fossil. While I may return to a traditional role in the future, my priority this year is to travel while working on my own endeavor. So far this year I've visited Antarctica and Morocco, along with several states. Next up is the Arctic, including Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard.
"I frequently travel by myself but will join up with a group if it's a trip where it requires a lot of coordination and it's safer to travel in a group, like in Africa. I take a lot of trips with National Geographic, because I'm an avid photographer and enjoy meeting other folks who share the same passion.
"Some of my favorite experiences include shooting photos of the Milky Way in the desert at 2 a.m., hiking up and then subsequently sliding down a glacier, riding camels and hanging out and chatting with some of the artisans in Morocco.
"I've been to six continents and more than 30 countries, but always meet people who make me feel like I'm not yet well traveled."
"I'm a 30-something woman who has been on the digital nomad path for two years after living and working in the Chicago area. I loved my job and my life in Chicago, but I got addicted to travel and couldn't shake it. I was totally obsessed with leaving my apartment and hitting the road--I daydreamed constantly and secretly planned and schemed for two years.
"I've spent time in the Caribbean, Europe and the U.S., hopping from place to place with one suitcase and no apartment to return to.
"About a year ago, I spent a whole month in New Orleans; it's such a seductive town and I had a blast. From January to April of this year, I was hopping around Europe, exploring beach towns like Nice and Marseille, which are surprisingly lovely in the winter. I met some other digital nomads in Barcelona, and even spent a week in a little Spanish coastal town called Jávea. A few times a year, I head down to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I fell in love there and my boyfriend still lives there, so I stop through as often as I can.
"My job with BeachDeals.com is completely remote, and the best part is that it allows me to tie my travels directly to my work. For me, that's important, because it gives some purpose to my wandering. Now I'm visiting as many beaches as possible, which benefits my work and my lifestyle."
Profession: WordPress consultant and website expert
"I have been traveling the world since 2014 with my wife, Tracey, and our seven-year-old son, Mak. We lived and worked in Canada before hitting the road. Our decision to become digital nomads ultimately came down to two things: a desire to spend more time with our son and an intense passion for travel. We wanted to give our son a world perspective at a young age. I had traveled a lot in my growing years and doing so had an intensely positive effect on me. After our son was born, we couldn't stand to work the hours we had before. Our life in Canada was so expensive, so we needed to make a drastic change if we wanted to work less and travel with our son, too. Unloading the things that cost us the most money, like our mortgage and our truck, and building freelance careers to have more time with our son seemed to be the perfect solution.
"For the most part, we stay one of two ways in the places we visit. We use short-term rentals through Airbnb or stay free with house-sitting. Living in typical houses in local neighborhoods helps us create a home on the road and experience local culture naturally. It also saves us a ton of money, so we can work less and homeschool Mak.
"We have visited some really cool places. We loved Spain, specifically a small town on the southern coast called Garrucha, where we got to know a lot of vendors at the local market and business owners in the town. Mak learned to swim in the Alboran Sea and we spent a lot of time at the beach enjoying the weather. Some other cool things we've done are hiking to awesome waterfalls in Otavalo, Ecuador, walking on the amazing volcanic stones at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and seeing the Panama Canal.
"Traveling has had an incredible effect on our son's development. He doesn't suffer any anxiety in new situations, in fact he thrives in them. He doesn't see differences as much as similarities in people."
Profession: Internet marketing coach
"For the past four years, I've lived out of three bags and grown and run my business from Thailand, Bali, Mexico, Costa Rica and now Spain. This kind of lifestyle fills your life with so many cool experiences, but solo travel as a woman is very different than for a man.
"While I've been fortunate to have avoided physical danger, as a solo female traveler, you are always more vulnerable. And being more vulnerable means that you often have to pay more to make sure you have good accommodations and that the door locks behind you. In Rio de Janeiro, there are neighborhoods where you absolutely don't want to be walking around alone after nightfall. But in my neighborhood in Barcelona where I am staying now, there still seems to be hordes of people walking around between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. any day of the week, so I feel safe walking home by myself late at night.
"When I land in a place, I first establish my presence. I connect with the people I know in the locale--they may be virtual friends in the digital nomad community or friends of friends that have been recommended to me to connect to. I also make sure my friends and family know where I am. I find out from locals what neighborhoods are sketchy and if there are any security concerns in the area.
"I think we need to make more strides in inviting more talented women entrepreneurs into the digital nomad community. I love being able to go deep into the locations I visit, exploring to my heart's content, discovering local gems, making local friends and learning the language. You will never get this kind of intimacy with a place with a two-week vacation."