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.
Table of Contents
- Key Digital Nomad Statistics and Facts
- Who are Digital Nomads?
- How many digital nomads are there?
- Women are leading the way with digital nomadism
- The average age of a digital nomad is 32 years old
- Digital nomads come from all over the world and represent every age group and gender
- They’re not just freelancers—they include CEOs, artists, writers, programmers, teachers…the list goes on!
- How Much Do Digital Nomads Earn?
- What’s the Digital Nomad Lifestyle Actually Like?
- A third of digital nomads plan to nomad for a year or less
- Only 24% of location-independent remote workers actually travel while working
- Of the 24% who work while traveling, 54% only visit 1-2 countries per year
- Digital nomads and remote workers are more productive than office workers
- One of the top challenges of digital nomad jobs is finding reliable WIFI
- There’s no such thing as “too many” hours when it comes to working remotely
- What Does the Future Look Like for Digital Nomads?
- Digital Nomad Trends In the Years to Come
Key Digital Nomad Statistics and Facts
- The number of digital nomads from the U.S. has more than tripled over the past few years—from 4.8 million in 2018 to 15.5 million in 2021.
- The average digital nomad age in 2021 was 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.
- 66% of digital nomads are traditional remote employees, and only 34% are independent workers — a shift caused by the pandemic-drive remote work boom.
- 49% of digital nomads earn the same salary (or more) than their prior office job.
- 44% of American digital nomads earn over $75,000 per year while enjoying a lower cost of living.
- 32% 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.
- 55% of business owners say that remote work does not negatively affect productivity.
- 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.
- The number of van lifers grew to 2.6 million in 2021, making 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.
How many digital nomads are there?
The number of digital nomads has grown to more than 15.5 million 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% to 10.9 million. Then in 2021, the number of digital nomads continued surging up to 15.5 million.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
Digital nomads are commonly portrayed as men, but a Flexjobs survey found the opposite to be true, with 70% of digital nomads identifying as female.6
That said, it’s challenging to gather precise gender data using limited samples sizes. These findings conflict with other digital nomad data sources, which happen to be mostly men.
But exact numbers aside, one thing is for certain — remote work and the digital nomad lifestyle is good for gender equality.
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. Compare 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 58-76 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 return to the safety of their homes. Late 2021 data shows Baby Boomers now make up just 12% of digital nomads, 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 2022 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!
One 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.5
In 2019, independent digital nomads (e.g. freelancers, contractors, etc.) outnumbered remote employee nomads from the U.S.
But during the pandemic, there was a “flippening.”
In 2021, remote working digital nomads from the U.S. (10.2 million) left independent nomads in the dust (5.5 million).1
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.
That said, digital nomad jobs come in all shapes and sizes, and most remote workers earn between $10 and $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 figures and beyond.
Around 44% 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 44% of American nomads (around 6.8 million people) earn over $75,000 per year.1
However, even the 56% 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
Those who work remotely full-time can save even more — especially if they earn in a strong currency while living in cheaper countries (i.e., geoarbitrage).
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.
A third of digital nomads plan to nomad for a year or less
Working while exploring the world may seem like a dream lifestyle, but surprisingly, 32% of nomads see it as a phase, planning to be a digital nomad for just a year or less. Fifty-four percent plan on traveling for at least the next 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.
Most long-term digital nomads tend to be independent workers who don’t have an office to return to, and 69% of independents plan to nomad for at least another two years.
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 nomads’ 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.
Data from MBO Partners shows a more balanced landscape, with 52% of American nomads planning to stick within the United States, and 48% looking to hit international destinations.1
One reason nomads avoid international travel is that productivity as a digital nomad can suffer when you’re juggling time zone differences and adjusting to a different culture.
Plus, 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 of 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 2021 Survey ranks Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the best place to live for expats. Second is Málaga, Spain, where it’s easy to make friends and have a social life. Dubai, UAE is a close third thanks to it’s ease to get set up and lack of language barrier.
Meanwhile, the cities with the lowest rankings were Rome (Italy), Milan (Italy), and Johannesburg (South Africa).9
That said, these rankings focus more on long-term expats looking to permanently relocate. It’s a subtle difference, but most digital nomads are just temporary visitors with different priorities.
Top destinations for mobile digital nomads include the ever predictable Thailand, Indonesia, Colombia, and Mexico.
Many countries are introducing new digital nomad visas, which may cause a shift in digital nomad hotspots in 2022 and beyond.
Digital nomads and remote workers are more productive than office workers
An analysis of several thousand work-from-home studies shows that remote workers are 35% to 40% more productive than their fellow office workers.10
A Flexjobs study backs this up, reporting that:6
- 68% have fewer interruptions when working remotely
- 55% say lack of office politics is a huge bonus
- 68% are more productive thanks to a quieter work environment
- 63% enjoy more focused time when remote
That said, these benefits are largely attributed to having a routine with a comfortable home base.
Digital nomads who set up bases for months at a time see increased productivity, while those who are constantly on the move struggle to find a solid routine.
Not all business owners are happy with remote work productivity, though. One study focuses on the negative affects remote work has on small businesses, and 45% of business owners cite productivity as an issue.18 However, this still makes it the minority view.
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.
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 hobbies into their schedule.
Flexjobs found that 70% of digital nomads work 40 hours or less per week. Less than 1 in 3 nomads work over than 40 hours per week, which means most nomads have a better work-life balance than traditional workers.6
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 people are becoming digital nomads every day
You’ve probably heard the term ‘digital nomad’ before. It’s not a new concept. The difference is that these days, everyone is jumping on board—from bootstrapping solopreneurs to retirees to complete digital nomad families.
Google search results for the term “digital nomad” exploded from 1,300,000 in January 2019 to over 56,700,000 in January 2022.
Surveys show 24 million Americans plan on becoming a digital nomad in the next 2 to 3 years, and an additional 41 million Americans said they were considering it. That’s a 20% increase in interest since 2020.1
The number telecommuters has increased by 216% from 2005 to 2019
And by the time new data is released, this number will be significantly higher.
Technology has advanced to the point where 56% of workers could do at least some of their job remotely.8 And 45% of the American workforce are currently working remotely either part-time or full-time.17
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.
To retain top talent, companies will have to adopt permanent remote work policies. Thirty percent of remote workers say if their remote privileges are removed, they’ll simply find a new company to work for.17 These shifting priorities will eventually become the “new normal”, leading to interesting 2022 digital nomad statistics as the year progresses.
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 grew to 17% of American digital nomads (2.6 million) in 2021.1
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).