What It Takes To Be A Digital Nomad, From A Startup That Creates Them – Forbes

It’s been over six months since I left my corporate life in New York City behind to become a digital nomad. Since then, I haven’t looked back. Although the nomadic life certainly comes with its challenges, the perks more than makeup for it: I get to make my own schedule, work from wherever I want, and be my own boss. Not to mention, I am constantly meeting other like-minded entrepreneurs on the road who are on ventures to establish themselves as digital nomads, as well as helping others do the same.

Meet William Duran, a Colombia native, entrepreneur, and founder of Destination: Dev, a coding bootcamp that takes students to Medellin, Colombia to co-work, co-live and co-learn web development on a professional level. Duran has spent the majority of his life as a nomad, living on four continents and traveling to over 40 countries. After working in private equity, education and technology, he moved back to Colombia to grow and establish a business that would help others towards the path of becoming digital nomads.

After realizing that there were countless professionals, aspiring digital nomads and entrepreneurs who needed greater fluency in technology, William and his business partners, Andrew Wong and Doug Mill, built a coding bootcamp designed to teach students the necessary skill set to find remote work as software developers. They are currently planning on jump-starting the program through a Kickstarter campaign, offering 12 spots for an eight-week boot camp that will offer coding classes, cultural immersion activities, and housing in the upscale neighborhood of Poblado in Medellin, Colombia.

William shares his insights on the perks and challenges of being a digital nomad, and why companies should strive to accommodate this increasingly popular lifestyle:

Meet William Duran (center), Andrew Wong (left), and Doug Mill (right), founders of Destination: Dev. Photo: William Duran

Meet William Duran (center), Andrew Wong (left), and Doug Mill (right), founders of Destination: Dev. Photo: William Duran

What is the value of being a digital nomad?

Duran: The main value is greater flexibility with your time and location. Being a digital nomad allows you to experience a lot more than a typical 9-to-5 job with two weeks of vacation. For example, you can stay in different locations for longer periods of time and immerse yourself in a country’s culture and beauty in a way that would not be possible if solely on vacation. This, to me, is real travel.

There is a stereotype that the digital nomad lifestyle is limited to young, single people looking to live out an adventure for a couple of years before settling back into “normal” life. But, the world is changing rapidly. There are more and more communities such as Remote Year forming to accommodate this lifestyle, as well as remote jobs, easier and cheaper flights, and shared housing options across different regions of the world.

I predict that in the near future, living in a fully remote world will be the new “normal.” The digital nomad lifestyle won’t just be for people in their 20s but will also be accessible to say, entire families.

William in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: William Duran

William in Medellin, Colombia. Photo: William Duran

How does coding help someone embark on the digital nomad path, and can one make decent money?

Duran: You have complete location independence since you only need a laptop and an Internet connection to do your job. It’s also a skill set that is very high in demand in terms of remote work and freelancing. According to the 2016 yearly report by FlexJobs, a leader in the remote work marketplace, software developers are the most sought-after professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projected that the web development job outlook would grow by 27% from 2014 to 2024, with many of those jobs being done remotely.

Having coding skills makes life much easier when creating any type of business in the digital age, especially if you are an entrepreneur. For example, instead of spending $15,000 paying someone to build an app prototype, you could build it yourself for free. That’s true entrepreneurial independence!

There are many ways that digital nomads with coding skills can make money. For starters, companies such as Amazon, Intuit, IBM, Cybercoders, and many more offer coders the opportunity to work remotely on five- or six-figure salaries, which is comparable to what they would earn at the office. Freelance coders are also highly in demand, with salaries starting out at around $30/hour but skyrocketing to as much as $1,000/hour for coders with the right combination of skills.

Being a digital nomad grants you the flexibility to work from wherever you wish. Photo: William Duran

Being a digital nomad grants you the flexibility to work from wherever you wish. Photo: William Duran

Is this program primarily designed for Millennials? How are you appealing to this generation?

Duran: We live in a global marketplace now and companies are looking to hire the best talent, regardless of location. Millenials who travel and experience the world will be better off at serving this marketplace and taking advantage of it.

Millenials are digital natives and can take advantage of the rising demand for tech talent. Even so, it is still crucial to develop soft skills and build valuable relationships. One of the large setbacks for a lot of software engineers is not having as much opportunity to develop the required people skills to become project managers, executives, or entrepreneurs. With our company, we strive for people to spend as much time coding as they do getting immersed in a new culture and building a valuable network with other digital nomads.

What are the downsides to creating a fleet of digital nomads, and what kinds of issues can they run into when launching such careers?

Duran: Creating more digital nomads means that less people will want to work in an office. While many companies are becoming flexible and the world is changing, the digital nomad lifestyle is still considered “off-the-beaten-path” and comes with its challenges. There are still many jobs that require your presence at the office, and some careers are not as well suited for digital nomads.

There is also the psychological aspect of becoming a digital nomad. There is a stigma associated with working and traveling as if it were a less “serious” job. Little do people know that being a digital nomad requires tremendous stamina, organization, time-management skills and self-control: when you’re traveling and don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, distraction is a risk.

This lifestyle also requires a lot of patience, especially if you’re freelancing. You need to be resilient, willing to initially sacrifice income, and build a client base and reputation before becoming established.

A view of the beautiful Medellin, Colombia. Photo: William Duran

A view of the beautiful Medellin, Colombia. Photo: William Duran

­­­­What are the primary challenges in creating and running your business?

Duran: I would narrow our primary challenges down to:

  1. People’s lack of trust in their own abilities.There is a large psychological barrier because people lack confidence in their ability to learn how to code. There is also apprehension about traveling to a new country.
  1. Negative stereotypes about Colombia. Colombia gets a bad rep with TV shows like Narcos, which has highlighted much of the country’s dark history. We have moved on since then and the country is now prosperous, yet we still face negative stigma. I want to bring foreigners to my country to show them a complete picture of Colombia – not just what is portrayed in television.
  1. We’re the new kids on the block! We aspire to become the go-to training camp for digital nomads, but it’s challenging to compete with titans such as Hack Reactor, StartUp Institute, General Assembly and App Academy. We can’t compete with thousands of dollars on ads, so instead we focus on connecting with people more personally. We write valuable content on Hacker News, Hackernoon, Reddit, Medium. We do live streams and post videos in which we answer questions, and have even provided free one-on-one tutoring sessions.

Given that our vision is long-term, we have to make sacrifices short-term to encourage people to enroll into the program. For example, by offering our program through Kickstarter at a 70% discount to most leading boot camps and being very transparent about where our expenses are going, we are focusing on building trust with our candidates and setting them up for success to become digital nomads.

Celinne Da Costa is a travel journalist and brand strategist currently couch surfing around the world via her social network. Follow her journey on TheNomadsOasis.com and social @TheNomadsOasis.

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