The rise of “digital nomads,” knowledge workers able to do their jobs from a rotating assortment of exotic locales the beaches of Phuket, the suburbs of Cape Town, the cafes of Paris took a big hit earlier this year as borders closed and cafes did too. Some nomads hunkered down, others scurried home. Startup Remote Year Inc., founded in 2014 to facilitate such work-adventures, laid off most of its staff and suspended services, leaving some customers in the lurch (it was acquired this month by a Panama-based hotel company).
But while digital nomads have for the most part been stuck in their own countries since then, there appear to be far more of them than ever before. After a survey of 3,457 U.S. adults conducted this July and August, MBO Partners, which provides services to independent professionals, estimated there were 10.9 million digital nomads in the U.S. this year versus 7.3 million in 2019, a 49% increase. To qualify as such, one has to change location at least three times a year, not just shuttle back and forth between a country house and a city place, and not move at an employer’s behest, said Steve King of Emergent Research, who helped design the survey.
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