The following is the original piece I wrote for CNN last year about location independent entrepreneurs, also known as “digital nomads.” Since the whole “Work Online, Travel the World and Live the Dream” angle had been done to death in a million places, I decided to go the other direction and show the dark side of being a digital nomad — the challenges one faces, the emotional pitfalls, the social sacrifices.
Predictably, CNN hated it. The editors hacked it to pieces and asked me to rewrite sections to make it less gloomy. And since they’re CNN and I’m just an asshole with a book about smut, I said OK.
But I was always fond of the original, so I’m posting it here unabridged. Also note: the people and events in the piece are actually composites and mash-ups of my real life experiences and relationships. I did that for the sake of narrative and space. Enjoy.
It’s 12:20PM on a Friday afternoon when most of them shuffle into the hotel conference room. The schedule said 11AM. Wishful thinking.
Floor-to-ceiling windows look out over a rooftop lagoon with the sunny reflective skyline of Bangkok draped behind, 19 floors up.
The people’s feet are adorned with flip-flops and Converse sneakers, some of their bodies in button-downs and blazers, others in cargo shorts and tank tops. They are mostly men, single, in their 20’s and 30’s. But as with every group, there are exceptions.
Eventually, 44 of them will fill the full-windowed conference room, bathed in natural light, sipping Singha beer and thirty-cent Red Bulls, listening to ad hoc presentations about outsourcing, systems management, dropshipping, grey-hat SEO, and other esoteric topics.
Unless someone told you, you would never guess that this was a conference for successful internet entrepreneurs and business owners from around the world, that the median income of the scraggly-faced, wrinkly-shirted crowd is likely well into the six-figures. And many of them make most of it while sleeping off their Tuesday night hangovers.
Spontaneous international congregations like this are quickly becoming the norm as more and more entrepreneurs remove themselves from the grid and choose to live nomadically.