Many digital nomads make it seem like the end of the world when they can no longer get visa extensions to stay in country X forever.
The great thing about holding a powerful passport is the fact that you can enter a number of countries,as a tourist, visa free and stay for about 3 months on average. Often times at the end of this time period, you can get an extension, but most countries will not extend an individual’s visa indefinitely.
Isn’t this wonderful for those who just fall in love with a country?
This is something that many digital nomads do, so that they can, of course enjoy all the country has to offer. However, when X country does not extend their visa, per the country’s regulations, we see a blog post or vlog bemoaning their fate to their followers.
Countries that Attract Digital Nomads
A country must have certain elements to meet the exacting standards of many digital nomads. Countries are often pitted against each other and whole continents do not make the cut for failing to live up these expectations:
- There must be reliable internet service with crazy internet speed.
- The cost of living must be low based on their standard (read poorer than what they are used to in their powerful country, but usually beyond the reach of the locals where they have set up shop)
- The climate must be temperate to effectively enjoy their work-life balance.
- Other digital nomads are there and there are work spaces to facilitate their craft.
Since, the cost of living is expected to be low, to maximise their earnings, digital nomads more often than not, live in less powerful countries. Thailand is a big favourite with Chiang Mai in particular being sought after.
I have seen videos where some digital nomads have shed tears when they were told their visas – tourist visas- would not be extended further. This reeks of entitlement doesn’t it?
I wonder how many Thai residents are able to show up to powerful countries without a visa, stay there for 3 months and further extend their visas?
I remember watching a video at some point last year, where a digital nomad, who had been ‘forced’ to move to Bali from Chiang Mai, complained about it bitterly. That wonderful, lush location was not sufficient because it was more expensive than Chiang Mai. These individuals lose sight of the fact, that they are tourists, whose primary purpose is to tour using a budget they have prepared for doing so. This is surely entitlement, no?
Have you ever visited Bali? Is it expensive when compared to the price of things in most developed countries?
Check out the average price of things in Bali here.
Are Digital Nomads Being in a Country Mutually Beneficial?
Who benefits more from digital nomads staying in a local community? The digital nomad or the country itself?
There are of course many ways in which a digital nomad contributes to the local economy, in the country where he or she sets up shop. The basic needs of an individual means that money will be spent on food, shelter and basic utilities as a start. Since the internet is indispensable to digital nomads, they also pay for this service thus further contributing to the economy. Some nomads also splurge and hire house help for the duration of their stay, but they seem to be in the minority. Also, they spend money on transportation and entertainment, in this way contributing positively to those industries.
If one is on a tourist visa in a country, then you are essentially a visitor and have no reason to pay income tax and so on. The understanding is that since the money made by digital nomads, is not made in the country, then they should not be expected to pay local income taxes – fair enough. Is this the reason why more digital nomads do not apply for work visas instead of extending their tourist visas? Some digital nomads also leave the country periodically to reset the system and re-enter a few months later.
Powerful passports sure make things easy.
It is clear that digital nomads contribute positively to the local economies where they reside temporarily. However, one key way in which they disadvantage the locals, is where the cost of certain goods and services are concerned. They usually earn more money than the average local – see the Forbes article in the first link above.
This will impact the price of rent in certain neighbourhoods. I wonder how many people have seen the prices of apartments and houses climb out of reach because of digital nomads. They are able to pay more; owners know this and proceed accordingly. Is this a new kind of gentrification perhaps?
In addition, when a city is overrun by digital nomads doesn’t it lose that certain je ne sais quoi that caused it to attract tourist from all walks of life? This may not be something major, who knows.
Do Digital Nomads Always Connect with the Local Community?
Do we always connect meaningfully when we travel to different places? Some of us do and some don’t, but you would think if one decides to settle in a location for a few months, he or she would connect with the community. In areas where there is a high concentration of digital nomads there are events that cater specifically to this group. Many of these are geared at learning how to improve the business of being a digital nomad.
I wonder how many give back to the local community by helping schools, hospitals, local shelters and so on? Since, the areas where digital nomads, overwhelmingly station themselves are relatively poor, there is often areas of great need. I see many digital nomads sharing their adventures in such places, offering their marketing courses and touting their growing wealth. I, however, do not see videos showcasing humanitarian efforts in their adopted communities.
It can be argued, of course, that since they are essentially tourists there should not be any such expectations.
One would think that the human heart of compassion would move some of them to share some of their bounty with those less fortunate. The bounty, may I add, that grows because of the cheapness (I made up the word, yes) of the location. This again is entitlement to their monies, no? Yes, they do make it using their own wits and whatever, but they have more because of being allowed to live in a cheaper location while doing so. It would be nice to see more digital nomads actively giving back to the community and making it known. They can use their social media fame to do much good for those communities. It would be awesome if they identified a need and worked with their followers to help meet that need.
More of Ubud
The Act of Going to a Country with the Primary Aim of Being a Digital Nomad is the Essence of Entitlement
It really is entitlement at its highest, to pack one’s bag knowing that your primary aim is to be a digital nomad in the place you are going. The irony is that, the country where the digital nomad is going, is one he or she would not live in, if he or she had to work for local wages. This is why it is particular unpleasant, to see them lauding how cheap it is to live in these places. Cheap for whom and by whose standards, I wonder?
Entitlement is also making videos complaining about not getting visa extensions or asking supporters to send good vibes to get such extensions. I am always baffled by these videos. Digital nomads get to jet off to poorer countries than their own for months at a time and enjoy the facilities. They are not affected by the real life issues of locals. They can pack up and move on when their time is up. They can repeat all of this in a few months per the country’s visa regulations.
I wonder how many of them are even aware of or care that those around them, do not have the same luxury of jetting off to visit other more powerful countries? Does it even cross their minds? The local people often have to spend much money and gather many documents to even apply for a visa to such countries. They are refused many times without any clear reasons. Digital nomads who gripe about not being able to stay in X country after 6 or more months, should consider this and know how privileged they are.
Those with privilege are often ignorant to the plight of those without.
If you are a digital nomad go to your embassy in the country where you have set up shop on a weekday. Speak to the locals and get to know how many are not given a visa to visit your country or other powerful countries.
Not all, but many digital nomads see certain poorer countries as their playing field – theirs to flit in and out of at will. They behave like spoiled brats who throw tantrums when the immigration officials do their jobs and adhere to their laws. Every country is sovereign and its laws to be respected. How many digital nomads would complain if they were not granted a visa extension in a powerful country? Why should poorer countries throw out their laws to accommodate your desire to enjoy their hospitality for months on end while you pay taxes in your home country?
Digital Nomads Be Better World Citizens
Give back meaningfully to the local areas where you base yourselves. Many of you love Chiang Mai and are making it a place where you can help others like yourself. What of the local community? Why not band together and use some of your growing wealth and influence on social media to help develop schools, hospitals, take care of a local family or even help some local businesses to reach wider audiences online? If such businesses grow, they could employ more people and help to boost the local economy.
It is high time for those who benefit from poorer communities to spend some time giving back to these communities. It is actually exploitative to do otherwise and expect sympathy when you are shown the door. Remember that when we are allowed to visit a country, as a tourist, we are expected to tour and do things that meet that visa requirement.
Digital nomads are so focused, on making their venture a success, that they often fail to think about the humans they live among.
It is actually not very nice to hear that an individual’s chief reason for choosing to live in X location is because it is cheap. No where is ever just cheap, some people are suffering terribly even in such communities. It is an insult to them to flaunt your relative wealth in that area and not provide opportunities for them to meet some of their basic needs.
Some digital nomads have criticised the whole continent of Africa as being unsuitable for them because the internet is slow in some places. In other places on the continent with fast internet, they have been found lacking because they are too expensive. Comments such as these send the subliminal message that a digital nomad does not set up shop in a location that he or she loves. He or she sets up shop only in locations that have cheap cost of living and fast internet. The rest is a bonus it would seem. The benefit is all one way. This is sad, given the fact that many digital nomads, who are social media influencers, are helping to motivate others to do the same thing.
I am from a weak country and I travel on a weak passport. I look at the accounts shared on social media by digital nomads differently. I see people who visit a place of their choosing, to stay as long as they can on their tourist visas. They make money and live on much less of it than they would at home. I do not see digital nomads seeking out ways to give back to the local communities and help the less fortunate to come up in life.
Whenever a digital nomad makes a video moaning about a visa extension being refused, his or her entitlement shines through bright like a diamond though quite unattractive.