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It’s an exciting time for digital nomads.
Thanks to the pandemic, nomadism is growing and—as you’ll see from these digital nomad statistics—will continue to explode in the future.
People are craving adventure and remote work has never been more popular.
Whether you’re a new nomad or have been at it for a while, some of these digital nomad stats may surprise you.
We’ll look at:
- What type of people make up the digital nomad demographic?
- How long does the average nomad stay on the road?
- What are the biggest struggles digital nomads face?
- How much does digital nomad life cost?
- What’s the future outlook for nomads?
- How much do digital nomads make?
- And much more.
Let’s dive in.
Key Digital Nomad Statistics and Facts
- The number of digital nomads in the U.S. has more than doubled over the past couple years—from 4.8 million in 2018 to 10.9 million in 2020.
- The average digital nomad age in 2021 is 32 years old.
- 70% of American digital nomads are white, 14% are African-American, 7% are Asian, 7% are Hispanic, and 2% are of other ethnicity.
- 49% of digital nomads earn the same salary (or more) than their prior office job.
- 38% of American digital nomads earn over $75,000 per year while enjoying a lower cost of living.
- 34% plan to be digital nomads for a year or less—many expect to return to the office after the pandemic.
- Only 24% of location-independent remote workers actually mix work and travel simultaneously.
- Most digital nomads travel slow, with only 17% visiting more than 5 countries per year.
- 85% of business owners say their business is more productive when people work remotely.
- Over half of digital nomads (52%) rated finding reliable wifi as one of the top challenges of the nomadic lifestyle.
- Only 30% of digital nomads report working over 40 hours per week.
- Van lifers make up 17% of American digital nomads.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of these digital nomad trends.
Who are Digital Nomads?
A digital nomad is a traveler who supports themselves online while “nomading” around the globe.
Digital nomads come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common:
A passion for travel, adventure, and most importantly, freedom.
There are more than 10 million digital nomads from the U.S. alone
According to data from MBO Partners, in 2019 there were 7.3 million Americans who identified as digital nomads. Between 2019 and 2020 (boosted by COVID-19), this figure rose by a staggering 49%. Today, there are over 10.9 million digital nomads from the US alone.1
A combination of increased flexibility, higher salary expectations, freedom, and the ability to work anywhere in the world. And the digital nomad growth won’t stop there. Pieter Levels, the founder of NomadList, predicts a billion digital nomads globally by 2035.2
Women are leading the way with digital nomadism
Becoming a mother is one of the biggest challenges for women who want to advance their careers. Taking time off work to have and raise children often means fewer promotions and contributes to the gender wage gap.
Becoming a digital nomad can change this. Released from their office desk and 9-5 routine, women and working mothers have been able to flourish.
Almost 30% of fully remote companies have either women CEOs, founders, or presidents. Compared this to the measly 5.2% of female CEOs in traditional workplaces, and it’s no surprise women are choosing the nomadic lifestyle.3
These digital nomad statistics are incredibly refreshing—proving that a remote lifestyle encourages equality and gives female entrepreneurs a much-needed edge.
The average age of a digital nomad is 32 years old
COVID-19 has produced another unexpected digital nomad trend—the typical age of travelers.
Before the pandemic, there was a rise of Baby Boomers (aged 57-75 years old) who were nomadic—choosing to spend their time traveling instead of sitting in their gardens. Many opted to combine this with freelance work and, in 2019, 27% of all digital nomads were Boomers.
But COVID caused this to crumble. Due to the risk of infection, many decided to stay safely in their own homes. Now, just 17% of digital nomads are Baby Boomers, but this could rise again in coming years.1
Digital nomads come from all over the world and represent every age group and gender
Digital nomad trends in 2021 show the nomad population is a pretty mixed bunch and comes from all over the world. Of the American population, 70% of digital nomads are white, 14% are African-American, 7% are Asian, 7% are Hispanic, and 2% are of other ethnicity.
Nomads also represent every age group from 17 to 65 and older.1
They’re not just freelancers—they include CEOs, artists, writers, programmers, teachers…the list goes on!
A 2021 research report shows only 36% of digital nomads freelance for multiple companies.
When it comes to profession, digital nomad jobs range from engineers to designers and creatives to marketers.
Twenty-one percent work for just one company or business, 5% work as consultants, and 33% own their own business.
However, aside from entrepreneurs, computer programmers and engineers tend to earn higher salaries than other remote professions.5
Speaking of which…
How Much Do Digital Nomads Earn?
A Flexjobs survey revealed that 1 in 5 digital nomads makes between $50,000 and $99,999 annually. Compare this to the average working American salary of $55,744 for men and $46,488 for women, and it’s no wonder digital nomads are on the rise.6,7
That said, digital nomad jobs come in all shapes and sizes, and most remote workers earn between $10 – $30 per hour, depending on their skills, experience, and field.
Income for freelancers and business owners varies wildly—from newbies earning a few bucks an hour to established business owners pulling in six and seven figures.
Around 38% of American digital nomads earn $75,000 or more per year
MBO Partners’ research study offers an even brighter outlook on digital nomad salaries, concluding that 38% of American nomads (around 4.1 million people) earn over $75,000 per year.1
However, even the 62% that are earning less than $75,000 are still seeing more cash in their pockets each month thanks to a reduced cost of living.
Many nomads choose to live and travel in countries with comparably low living costs, so their money stretches further.
They also don’t have to worry about typical household bills, car payments, or even small, irregular bills like decorating costs and clothes shopping.
When you have to fit your life in a suitcase, you naturally become more minimalistic.
All these extra savings often go towards funding retirement accounts, travel expenses, or business growth.
Digital nomads can save over $4,000 a year thanks to remote work
This obviously depends on your overall lifestyle, but the average employee who spends half their time working remotely saves between $2500 to $4000 per year compared to those who work 100% onsite. These savings come from a combination of travel costs (car, car insurance, fuel), expensive lunches, child or pet care, and pricey parking fees.8
If you work remotely for the entire year and live in a cheaper country, those savings explode even further.
Digital nomads who travel slowly are also good for the environment. The average American uses 3.2 tons of CO2 each year on their daily commute. Working remotely as a digital nomad eliminates this (assuming a slow travel pace with minimal flights).9
What’s the Digital Nomad Lifestyle Actually Like?
We’ve all seen the classic beachside work photos online, but what is digital nomad life really like? Let’s look at the data.
Just over a third of all digital nomads have been living this lifestyle for less than a year
Working while exploring the world may seem like a dream lifestyle, but surprisingly, 34% of nomads see it as a phase, planning to be a digital nomad for just a year or less. Fifty-three percent plan on traveling for two years.1
Many traditional workers who have gone nomadic due to COVID-19 also plan on nomading for less than a year, as many are expected to eventually return to the office.
Nine percent of nomads who’ve worked remotely for under a year find it difficult to stay motivated—likely due to the distractions of living abroad and the learning curve associated with working in a virtual office environment. While 9% isn’t much, it does influence many nomad’s decisions to return home.4
Only 24% of location-independent remote workers actually travel while working
According to a study by And.co on “Anywhere Workers” (i.e., remote workers who can work from anywhere) only 24% actually live a nomadic lifestyle that mixes work and travel simultaneously.
Nine percent work permanently abroad and 8% split their time between domestic and foreign destinations. But the majority (83%) simply work remotely from somewhere in their home country.
Respondents report that it can be harder to be productive as a digital nomad when you factor in time zone differences and having to adjust to living in a different culture.
Only 55% of Anytime Workers are actually fully remote. The rest still have varying levels of onsite responsibilities, which explains why many choose to stay closer to home as “part-time” digital nomads.
Turns out, most Anywhere Workers (62%) chose this lifestyle to be able to work where they want, but only 8% became a digital nomad to actively travel.4 Just because they have jobs that allow travel doesn’t necessarily mean they are constantly traveling.
Of the 24% who work while traveling, 54% only visit 1-2 countries per year
It turns out, most digital nomads are a lot less mobile than most people imagine, sticking to just a couple countries per year.
Twenty-nine percent of digital nomads visit 3-5 countries, and only 17% visit more than five countries per year.4
Of those countries, the InterNations Expat Insider 2019 Survey ranks Taiwan as the best country for digital nomads. Second is Vietnam, as 88% of digital nomads are happy with their life there. Portugal is a close third, with half of expats reporting they’d be happy to stay forever.
A few other top destinations include the ever predictable Thailand, Indonesia, Colombia, and Mexico.
Meanwhile, countries with the lowest rankings were Kuwait, Nigeria, and Italy.9
Digital nomads and remote workers are more productive than office workers
The 2019 IWG Workplace Study revealed that remote workers were 35% more productive than those working in an office. 85% of business owners say their business is more productive when people work remotely.10
A Flexjobs backs this up, reporting that:6
- 76% have fewer distractions when working remotely
- 51% said they enjoy not having to dress up for work
- 52% say lack of office politics is a huge bonus
- 85% prefer the flexible schedule
One of the top challenges of digital nomad jobs is finding reliable WIFI
The FlexJobs survey showed that over half of digital nomads (52%) rated finding reliable wifi as one of the top challenges of the nomadic lifestyle.
This is mainly due to slow mobile hotspots, dodgy internet cafes, unpredictable hotel wifi, and security issues related to using shared internet (always use a secure VPN!).
But wifi wasn’t the only hurdle.
Twenty-nine percent report difficulties working with colleagues in other time zones, and 20% say communication was tricky.6
This loosely matches the Anywhere Workers study, where 30% found a lack of communication the hardest part about working remotely.
Apart from work-related issues, feelings of loneliness were also common (33%) in digital nomads who’d been on the road less than a year.
Long-term nomads, on the other hand, seem to adjust to those feelings of loneliness and report overwork (33%) and lack of career progression (25%) as their biggest challenges.4
There’s no such thing as “too many” hours when it comes to working remotely
Although many remote workers have the luxury of choosing their own hours, that doesn’t always equate to fewer hours.
Forty-five percent of remote workers who have become remote in the past year regularly work more hours than they did before.11 And 33% report finding it difficult to switch work off at the end of the day.4
However, digital nomads are a special breed of remote workers who learn to cram their work into smaller periods of time—especially if they are trying to fit travel into their schedule.
One one the most shocking digital nomad statistics (and perhaps the one that will tempt you the most) is that 4% of nomads have figured out how to support themselves working less than 10 hours per week.12
What Does the Future Look Like for Digital Nomads?
The work dynamic is changing rapidly, and that appears to include a nomadic shift. But what does the data say about the outlook for nomads?
More and more people are becoming digital nomads each day
You’ve probably heard the term ‘digital nomad’ before. It’s not a new concept. The difference is, these days, everyone is jumping on board—from bootstrapping solopreneurs to retirees to complete digital nomad families.
Google search results that include the term “digital nomad” spiked from 1,300,000 in January 2019 to over 4,520,000 in April 2021.
Studies show 19 million Americans plan on becoming a digital nomad in the next 2 to 3 years. This is an amazing 18% increase from 2019. An additional 64 million Americans said they were considering it (up 10% from 2019).1
The number of people who work remotely has increased by 140% since 2005
Technology has advanced to the point where 56% of workers could do at least some of their job remotely.8 And 41.8% of the American workforce are currently working remotely. This is a tremendous 87% increase from pre-pandemic times.
Although it’s expected from some of these remote workers to eventually return to the office, an estimated 36.2 million Americans (22%) will still be working remotely by 2025.13
This is partly thanks to the fact that nowadays, 16% of companies only hire remote employees.14
Plus, given that 69% of millennials would give up other work benefits for a more flexible working space, the digital nomad demographic is only going to get bigger.15
Digital Nomad Trends In the Years to Come
The immediate future is a bit complicated for international digital nomads.
Ever-changing travel restrictions, governments that can’t make up their minds, and local lockdowns mean entering different countries is still quite a challenge.
The long-term future looks a lot brighter.
The pandemic has taught us that many workers don’t need a set location or office to effectively do their jobs.
Before COVID, many companies were hesitant to adopt this new way of working. But, since global tech giants like Twitter, Apple and Facebook declared they’ll be making the permanent shift to remote work, many smaller companies have followed suit.
While the end of the pandemic will see people jetting off to every corner of the world, plenty of digital nomads will also stay closer to home.
Many workplaces plan on holding occasional face-to-face meetups or adopting a part-time remote policy that requires employees to stay within range. This, however, opens the doors for the exploding Van-Life Movement, which now makes up 17% of American digital nomads.1
We’re also likely to see a slower approach to travel in the future.
Airbnb is seeing a rise in stays of 28 days or longer and this is predicted to continue into the future.16
We’ve all been cooped up for so long that—when we eventually do get to travel—we may not want to go home.
And as a digital nomad, you don’t have to.
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).