Imagine working from a hip co-working space in Bali before heading to the beach for a dive. Thanks to technology, the internet and a global sharing economy, we now have the freedom to work from anywhere. This has given birth to the concept of “Digital Nomadism”. Digital nomads are borderless, mostly self-employed remote workers who combine work with travel.
This unique career path is on the rise around the world and Pakistan is no alien to the trend. It is a fantasy for those who possess an undying wanderlust, a penchant for travel, meeting diverse people, learning about new cultures and adding doses of inspiration to their daily life. Of course, the lifestyle has its own set of challenges but here are some Pakistani digital nomads already nailing it.
Meet Zeeshan Raza, Co-Founder of Inflowlabs and WooNinjas, a digital marketing agency and a WordPress development agency. Zeeshan combines entrepreneurship with digital nomadism, a challenging feat especially when a Start Up is in its initial stages, but since 80% of Zeeshan’s employees work remotely, he has learnt to manage the “business chaos” impeccably. “I learnt about the term ‘digital nomad’ upon my first visit to Thailand, when a friend told me that I should go to Chiang Mai, a city famous for this subculture.” Says Zeeshan. “The term instantly clicked with me, and I felt exhilarated to discover that there was actually “tribe” of people from across the globe, adopting this lifestyle that I had always yearned for.” he added.
Upon his return to Pakistan, Zeeshan decided to make his company stable enough for him to afford to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a Digital Nomad. He lived and worked in Chiang Mai from a property that he rented off of Air Bnb, an app heavily used by digital nomads. “When you’re a digital nomad, you get to curate your life on your own terms and handpick the people and experiences that you really want to have in your life” says Zeeshan. “In Chiang Mai, I met an entire community of digital nomads from around the globe, which included WordPress pros, accountants, lawyers and so many more professionals, it was truly inspiring” he added.
Zeeshan’s travel bug recently took him to Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstaan, where he handled work operations, from the comfort of his smartphone. “Apps like Basecamp, Slack and Google drive make it pretty manageable to lead and organise your work operations.” he informs.
Digital nomads crave to make extra-ordinary memories. “One fun trip was when I got to to the wedding photoshoot of an American couple in Virginia. They sponsored my three-month stay and I got to experience a beautiful wedding from another culture. The memories I made there were awesome.” Says Belal Khan, who also did the wedding photo-shoot of politician Imran Khan and journalist Reham Khan’s Nikkah ceremony in Bani Gala.
Pakistani women have also ventured onto this novel career path that intertwines work with travel such as Sumbal Gillani. She works as a content writer with Canadian clients’ and has travelled to up to 25 countries, “I particularly enjoy the flexibility of my work. You have your own hours, which, helps a person like me who is extremely nocturnal. You are living in a new place, learning new skills, meeting other travellers and locals, and eating different foods (food is a huge factor for me, part of the reason why I camped out in Penang, Malaysia for about two months” she says.
Digital Nomadism also holds the opportunity for exponential growth, as you get a taste of the entrepreneurial life minus the high investment risk that is required in setting up a brick and mortar business. Tech Blogger Hira Saeed pays testament to that. She is an independent tech journalist and consultant who works in the domain of Tech PR, content marketing and social media management.
She started working as a digital nomad just recently in March of 2017 and although she is living her dream, she also wanted to share the behind-the-scenes reality of any seemingly glamorous career. “Remote work is not everyone’s cup of tea. People start doing it out of excitement or maybe out of frustration from their current job but I clearly say to them that it’s not a walk in the park. It’s a decision that you should take after measuring all the pros and cons. One of the pros is being able to earn in dollars for global clients and take a day off when you do not feel like working on a particular day. “ informs Hira.
She shares the cons of remote work. “Forget that pay-check on 2nd date of every month. There is no such thing as “office timings”. If there is a meeting that you need to attend according to the Pacific time-zone, you have to ditch friendly hangouts to make yourself available. Some mornings, demotivation will cover you up and you won’t feel like continuing it because there is no boss to give you a threat call but believe me, a pissed-off client is worse than a pissed-off boss. ” confesses Hira. “Where some people will call you over to take inspiration and admire your liberty, some of them will be like “You don’t work? Remote jobs? It’s not a career, man! Apply at Unilever, they have openings,” She adds.
The most inspiring of the lot for me are digital nomad couples. Yes, there are also entire digital nomad families who work as they travel as they raise their children. Meet couple Saad Hamid and his wife Aine Fatima. Saad runs a digital solutions company DEMO and is the TEDx ambassador to Pakistan whereas Aine works as a Marketing and Communications manager for Maarij Capital, a UK based company, from Islamabad.
According to Saad, the main challenge in being a digital nomad for the millennials of today is of self-discipline. “I usually have a very intense day while working which starts from the time I wake up (around 10am) and ends at midnight. Workaholic is a soft word for a person like me since I work day and night and even on weekends so there is no concept of “working day” or “work hours”. As long as you see me breathing, I am working.” shares Saad.
Saad believes that anyone with skill and remote working opportunities can become a Digital Nomad in 2017. “All you have to do is figure out which part of your work routine can be handled remotely and start from there. In the age of Messengers and WhatsApps, almost everything can be done remotely unless of course you are driving an Uber or Careem so start by figuring out how you could automate your workflow and use digital tools to make it effective yet remote.”
Saad’s wife Aine takes discipline and multi-tasking to the next level by balancing her remote work life with travel and a toddler. “My wife inspires me every day with how she balances work and personal life” says Saad.
It is truly amazing to witness working moms juggle between work and family life. These are some success stories of digital nomads in Pakistan. If you are a Pakistani digital nomad, feel free to get in touch and share your story. After reading about those who’ve been there and done that, do you think that digital nomadism could be your cup of tea?