It’s safe to say the coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of employers and employees around the world. With the global impact of COVID-19, governments have increased efforts to protect their economies through strategies for job retention and opportunities for remote work.
While the digital nomad lifestyle was already gaining steam pre-COVID, more companies are now looking into the potential of long-term remote work, and even questioning the need to return to a traditional office space at all.
Covid + Nomads: Where Many Ended Up
For many in the digital nomad community, the months or years spent marrying work with travel came to a sudden halt this spring. As the severity of COVID-19 quickly escalated, a large number of nomads had to completely reimagine their impending plans. For some, that meant scrambling for accommodations or booking a last-minute flight home to wait out the worst of it.
Although a lot is still uncertain, digital nomads are optimistic about how travel will adapt in the future, and how possibilities for exploration will continually be made available.
Digital Nomad Living Post-Covid
So much is yet to be determined about life post-COVID, but it’s clear adjustments will be made to adapt to this ever-evolving situation. From revisions to co-working culture to updated office communications, it’s looking like the coronavirus will leave its mark on digital nomad living for a bit longer. Here follows some of the clearer repercussions nomads will be dealing with post-covid.
Certain Countries May Have Restrictions
With confirmed cases of the coronavirus on an endless ebb and flow, travel restrictions have largely remained in flux, as well. The past six months have seen a wide range of regulations and parameters around travel, from not being permitted entry into some countries at all, to a mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival.
For digital nomads hoping to book a flight soon, it’s best to consult online resources (including government websites, like The U.S. Department of State) for updated information on safety guidelines and international access.
Changes in Co-Working Culture
Working from a coffee shop or co-working space is routine for many digital nomads, thanks to a steady internet connection, community of fellow remote workers, and ample supply of caffeine. With that said, there’s expected to be changes within co-working culture as various safety measures continue to be put into place.
Guests may be required to wear a mask, sit six-feet apart from one another, or capacity may simply be limited. That’s not to say cafes and co-working centers will be less frequented by digital nomads, but it does mean how they’re enjoyed will look somewhat different.
New Developments in Communication
The global reach of COVID-19 created a significant shift in how companies manage their teams and uphold their business models. With more and more traditional offices transitioning to a work from home approach, there has been tremendous growth in the use of video conferencing and chat app platforms.
In conjunction with this growth, there’s also come a greater understanding of and appreciation for virtual communications among distributed teams. And if these developments have revealed anything, it’s that digital nomads can be just as connected and effective in their work as they would in an in-person environment.
Many More Employees Going Fully Remote
While many companies allowed for remote work as a direct result of the coronavirus, that doesn’t discount the many benefits this change has contributed. Companies all over the world are discovering the many advantages of working remotely, including lower operational costs and increased autonomy for their teams (translating to greater job satisfaction).
With many companies preparing to continue remote work even after COVID is less of a concern, distributed teams are now considered more of a long-term opportunity than a short-term solution. For digital nomads, this could mean additional job openings in the future, or potential for current jobs to accommodate this lifestyle.
3 Options Digital Nomads Face With COVID
Since COVID’s influence looks like it’ll continue into the fall, digital nomads are faced with a few options as far as how to move forward. This may mean staying put altogether, or it could mean arranging for a road trip rather than air travel.
Wait It Out
It can be difficult to wait out a situation with no distinct timeline, but for many digital nomads and fellow travel enthusiasts, that’s exactly what’s happening. Rather than searching for flight deals or the perfect accommodations, many people are only dreaming of foreign destinations for now.
This waiting is often intertwined with wanting to travel safely and confidently, despite so many lingering unknowns. The hope is, by holding off on travel until restrictions eventually ease, the entire experience will feel fuller and more enjoyable down the line.
Plan Weekend/Weeklong Getaways
If you’re someone who can’t shake the urge to leave town, you still have the option to explore on weekend trips or week long getaways. With overseas air travel less possible these days, this might be the perfect time to hop in the car and head somewhere a little closer to home.
Vacation rentals might be offering end-of-summer deals as a way to encourage bookings, just like many restaurants and small businesses have run promotions during COVID, as well. By travelling domestically, you can support local economies who’ve felt the weight of the pandemic, while potentially discovering a few hidden gems along the way.
Community is always essential to our well-being, but especially when so much feels uncertain, it’s important to surround yourself with people who feel like a soft place to land. Having a close community, whether in-person or online, can help you navigate difficult emotions (like frustration over the ongoing travel hiatus).
Using Facebook, Slack, and Reddit, you can connect with like-minded travelers to express disappointment over postponed trips, gather recommendations for future ventures, or get updated information regarding travel restrictions. These virtual communities can offer support and understanding you may not find elsewhere, so be sure to utilize these spaces as needed.
What to Expect Once Travel Opens Back Up
Even though COVID hasn't eased up quite yet, it’s important to remember this situation is temporary. And once things look better, the digital nomad workforce will be back stronger than before, as the desire to travel has only been magnified during this waiting period.
Many More Nomads Joining the Community
With remote work gaining popularity among companies worldwide, millions of people are predicted to join the nomad community in the coming years. In their 2019 study, MBO Partners found that 7.3 million Americans described themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 2.5 million people over 2018’s results. In spite of the setbacks the coronavirus has caused, the digital nomad lifestyle is expected to keep trending upwards, with more and more individuals rethinking what a work-life balance could look like.
Programs Picking up Where They Left Off
For remote travel companies like WiFi Tribe, opportunities for coworking and coliving have largely been put on hold for the time being. With that said, plans are definitely in place to pick up where things left off this spring, when closings and cancelled flights suddenly became the norm. While exact dates remain flexible, loose schedules and itineraries are already in place for early next year, which means digital nomads will be thriving again soon.
A New Sense of Mindfulness
With the unforeseen and extensive effects of the coronavirus, the entire population has been given pause like never before. But as flights and foreign countries become more accessible, it’s likely those resuming travel will bring with them a renewed (or possibly brand new) sense of mindfulness -- a deeper gratitude for their experiences, a stronger focus on health for themselves and others, and possibly a more grounded perspective on what it means to belong to the global community.
Things might look and feel differently as the world reopens, but we will absolutely travel again. And when we do, we can still count on our travels to be as rewarding and impactful as they’ve always been, with the ability to transform our lives and keep us vowing to return.
Kelsey Reaves is a digital nomad and growth marketer. She’s also the founder of SiteSee, a clothing brand dedicated to creating beautiful, sustainable and functional pieces for digital nomads and female travelers.