I left London yesterday after living there for over 15 years. It's where I learnt to speak English and where I went from being a very clumsy child to an even more haphazard young adult. I still think it's one of the best cities in the world, but I no longer feel a pull like I once did. Every so often I ask myself the following question:
What does my ideal day look like?
Increasingly it wasn't in London. Recovering from long COVID has ended up being a much longer process than I'd anticipated. Being in one of the best cities in the world, but no longer having access to it was more isolating than being elsewhere. London comes to life through its museums, culture, the restaurants and the wide-range of people. A couple of years ago I'd walk around the city and felt like there was something exciting around the corner. Now I feel an extreme restlessness. A feeling that is definitely compounded by immobile in the same room for close to a year. There's still very little information or treatments for long COVID and though people are recovering, doctors still don't know why. Many doctors have merely emphasised that there is no real "cure", apart from time.
If so, then why stay in London? Why not wait somewhere else entirely?
In London I've felt as if I'm waiting to resume life again. As if I'm waiting for my body to go back to the way it was, able to walk for long stretches, catch the tube, sit up for hours on end, so that I can enjoy what this great city has to offer. But unfortunately that could be months or even years away.
The Rise of Digital Nomads
I ended up doing a bit of research into a new lifestyle entirely: digital nomads. Digital nomads live a location-independent lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely. They can be freelancers, own their own businesses or are employed by someone else.
The first thought that popped to my mind was an influencer lying by the pool, cocktail in hand with a silver MacBook Air teetering dangerously close to the pool.
But after doing some digging, I discovered nomads were a diverse group, made up of no single generation, profession, or socio-economic class. Over a third (38 percent) report earning less than $10,000 per year. But 16 percent, or about 790,000, say they earn $75,000 or more.
Is this a new concept? Not really. It's been nearly fifteen years since Tim Ferris' bestselling 4 Hour Work Week came out. Ferris provides tips on how to work less while maintaining the same output and travelling all over the world.
But the pandemic and rise of remote working coupled with less financial security, have led many to rethink the type of life they want to lead. Companies are growing much more accepting of the idea of a distributed workforce. As long as you're getting your work done, why does it matter where you happen to be?
Does digital nomadism increase inequalities?
As great as this life may seem, I have a few ethical concerns. There is undoubtedly an unequal playing field in considering a nomadic life. Not all jobs can be remote, so this is largely restricted to the creative industries, tech and knowledge workers. Anyone with kids or caring responsibilities would find it tricky to throw caution to the wind and spend six months thousands of kilometres away from loved ones.
Similarly if well-off Londoners are moving to Istanbul for three months, while paying taxes in the UK, then to what extent is this serving Turkey?
COVID still remains a question mark. Vaccines are not accessible for everyone globally, so how fair is it to be galavanting all over the world potentially spreading new variants halfway across the world.
More questions than answers at this stage, but I have booked a flight. With no return flight. Wild. I'll be documenting my findings as I go along.