The Global Responsibility of Digital Nomads
8 Ways that Working Travelers Can Strengthen Local Economies
Ah, the life of a location-independent professional: building a remote career while traveling the world… living the dream. Our feeds are full of seemingly-candid photos of laptops perched in cozy European coffee houses, serene stretches of beach, and misty jungles as untethered workers are transforming the definition of “office” into any environment that fuels their creativity. But what we too easily forget is that behind every Instagram post is a complex infrastructure of people, goods, and services that work tirelessly to make each traveler’s stay picture-perfect.
Tourism is a thriving global industry that has the potential to rescue even the most destitute of economies. With the right formula of appeal, regions that attract travelers are not only bringing in traffic, but foreign exchange and spending power. In turn, a higher rate of purchases creates jobs, which build strong businesses that produce more taxes and municipal revenue, which then results in a stable and dependable city infrastructure. So every nomad’s jealousy-inducing photo is not only promoting the freedom of remote work, but is also serving as a marketing campaign for the communities that they are touring, and in turn, benefitting the lives of the local population.
But before any nomads start developing a messiah complex, it’s crucial to remember that tourism can also have severely negative effects on the culture, landscape, and sustainability of an area. Therefore, each traveler needs to carefully consider the impact of their temporary presence.
Here are 8 habits that digital nomads can (and should!) develop to show economic respect for the communities that they visit:
- Shop Local – Resist the temptation to rely on familiar brands. Instead, utilize “mom and pop” restaurants, hotels, and products to ensure that you spending power is directly benefiting that community.
- Venture Beyond the Beaten Path – Of course you’re going to want to see iconic landmarks during your travels, but popular tourist destinations can imbalance regional economies and create a lot of waste. So also take the time to explore surrounding cities to get to know the real culture of that region.
- Use Public or Human-Powered Transportation – In a modern society of speed and convenience, travel creates emissions. The faster the mode, the more the environmental impact. Instead, slow down and enjoy the scenery. After all, that’s why you’re there!
- Travel Less – Speaking of emissions, try to simplify the frequency and complexity of your travel to reduce your carbon footprint. When possible, avoid hopping from destination to destination in favor of staying in one location for a few weeks or months at a time.
- Don’t Haggle – Foreign exchange rates and strong spending power are often in favor of the nomad, so remember that a few cents or euros isn’t going to make a big difference to you, but it can change the life of an local entrepreneur. Be responsible, compassionate, and generous as you evaluate prices.
- Support Other Economies – If a community relies too heavily on revenue from tourism, the economy can be in danger if the area ever loses appeal or accessibility, or generates too many low-wage jobs. Think creatively about how to diversify your spending power in other businesses, such as healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture.
- Seek Service Opportunities – Use more than your money to help the locals. Donate some time, technology, or talents to a cause in need or contribute to relief efforts to areas that may be recovering from previous natural or cultural disasters.
- “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints” – This rule of thumb is just as applicabile in Laos as it is in London. In all of your habits and activities, make an effort to reduce your waste, preserve natural landscapes, and adapt to the culture. Every small effort helps to preserve the environment and culture for future travelers.
Overall, remember that your trips are more than vacations, they are encapsulated deliveries of economic stimulus. Your ability to work remotely and travel the world can not only change your life, but can also help hundreds of people around you enjoy a new level of freedom and satisfaction in their lives, too.
Use your power wisely.