Being a digital nomad can involve more spent time alone than you may like. But is having a community while traveling really important? And if so, which online communities are the best to join?
The idea of becoming a digital nomad — those remote workers who’re able to earn a living from any location with a decent WiFi connection — is a beseeching option to many. But as the history of digital nomadism shows, there are pitfalls to this lifestyle.
These drawbacks include the inability to spend time in places “off the grid”, difficulties in being able to turn off from work and constant battles with distraction.
Yet one of the talking points that often crops up when chatting with nomads is the challenge of meeting like-minded people while “settling down” for a while. This challenge of building nomadic relationships — as against a casual backpacking lifestyle — can be tough.
“Where are you from, man? How long have you been on the road? Where to next? Where’s the best place for a drink ’round here?”
I jest. Kind of.
The Benefits Of Joining A Community
This craving for community may well be borne of a longing to feel more at home in a place, but it also spans myriad other purposes. Having a network of fellow nomads to meet with in person or online helps you to:
Gather advice about a place before (or when) you arrive.
Find the best WiFi spots, the nicest accommodation, the most hipster coffee shop before you land. Sure, you can use Foursquare for this research, but having boots on the ground is always best.
Often, before I fly to a new city, I’ll message 3-5 other nomads friends who’ve also spent time there, and ask for some recommendations. These quick exchanges have led to me finding impressive accommodation throughout Thailand and elsewhere, along with a host of other benefits.
Arrange meet-ups and coffee dates with people you’re more likely to have things in common with. You’ll have a group of friends who’ve seen the same tribulations as yours, whether that be home-sickness, trouble with a client, or complete burnout.
Form a mastermind group.
You can easily form a small group of close friends who appreciate your lifestyle choice and values. Most digital nomads will also enjoy talking about their business/freelancing woes and successes with you. Most other travelers, on the other hand, will often gag at the thought of talking about something so serious.
The community you form, while working your way around the world, will have unique skill sets and experiences that you’ll be able to call upon when needed. Plus, as you meet more people on the road, you’ll be able to recommend your skilled friends to each other where applicable.
In the past 3 months alone, I’ve introduced dozens of people to each other after learning what their skills and passions are, and have had my own services recommended to several people due to those relationships, too.
Have long-term friends.
Meeting “single serving friends” during a night out, of making weekend mates with a couple who’re in the same guesthouse is all well and good, but if you’re traveling for any length of time, you’ll want to be able to somehow form and maintain stronger friendships that last longer than just a few days.
Luckily, these travel needs can be met. There are a number of great communities cropping up around the web. Just a few of these are below. If you have any more recommendations, please leave a link in the comments!
Although this isn’t a ‘traditional’ community, this interactive map (a group project from The Anywhereists) shows where digital nomads are hanging out right now, and enables you to check out their profiles and reach out to anyone you’d like to possibly meet up with. A very useful feature is the ability to add information about your future travel plans, so you can also see who’ll be in a city exactly when you’ll be there too. You can arrange meet-ups and form connections ahead of time.
This new addition to the nomadic community toolbox is a novel aid for finding people to hang out with on the road. Although the site is still in its early stages, there’s still a good selection of nomads to get in contact with. And, if you’re so inclined, read all about the evolution of the idea and development of the tool.
Strangely enough, there’s a very very similar site called WhereMyNomads.at. I’m unsure which came first, but both seem pretty nice tools to use.
This is a friendly and extremely helpful community of digital nomads set up by Mish and Rob from MakingItAnywhere. The size of the community is limited to 150 hand-picked members, making this group of peeps special. While providing an “ever-growing library of video training, book notes, cheat sheets and city guides”, the forum hosts regular Google Hangouts.
During these hangouts, members “take it in turns to give a ten-minute presentation each month, then the rest of the time is spent asking questions, chatting, swapping tips and complaining about the WiFi in whichever part of the world we’re in!”.
I personally joined this group a few months ago, and within just a couple of posts and replies, had already found perfect recommendations of where to stay in Chiang Mai, and agreed to meet up with several other members of the community while we were based in the city.
This Digital Nomad sub-Reddit is a pretty active, friendly community with 5000+ members. With all discussions about various destinations in one place, this is a great place for Q&A, but less so for more structured discussions about a particular place, or for relationship building. But it is still a great place for nomads to hang out and share their hard-earned wisdom.
That being said, Reddit does offer a digital nomad wiki feature, which is massively underused, but could well hold some promise in the future.
HashtagNomads.com is a burgeoning (1250+ members), extremely active community recently launched by @levelsio who’s working his way around the world while starting 12 startups in 12 months. One of these startups was NomadList, which received ample publicity around the web, leading to #Nomads being launched, thus providing added value to the nomadic community, including regular, member-led meet-ups.
As a side-note, this is the first online community I’ve seen that’s using Slack as a large-scale community platform, which makes group communication easier. This has the added benefits of ensuring access to the community on any device, favoriting topics, easily tagging others, and sending private messages.
Facebook Groups (Free) [No Longer Available]
Although this isn’t a single community, if you’re planning to settle in a nomadic hotspot for a month or more, you can sometimes find active Facebook Groups where you can find the best places to work, live, and organise meet-ups.
Personally, I dislike Facebook Groups as they crowd my news feed. I forget that I joined some of them. But if you are okay with Facebook, these can be a great source of information, and an easy way to quickly arrange a meet-up when you arrive in a new location. Plus, you can easily add others as Facebook friends directly from the group. None of that “what’s your full name so I can add you to Facebook?” malarkey.
The DynamiteCircle (DC) is a community with over 900 members, which organises tons of meet-ups, an annual conference (in Bangkok), plus helps users to hire each other, set up mastermind groups, and even provides a library of useful information for digital nomads.
Promoted as a “high-level” community for professional networking, many users are successful entrepreneurs such as Justin Cooke (Empire Flippers), and Brendan Tully (The Search Engine Shop), who can add real value to your own business and can be effective mentors.
A few of their advertised selling points are:
- Network with other DC members who are service providers, investors, and experts in their field.
- Share bleeding edge actionable advice and business challenges with other internet entrepreneurs who are getting it done.
- Get exclusive no-bullsh*t dish-the-goods access to our Media Library.
- Follow other case studies from DC members.
The tagline of NomadForum is “Connecting the Nomadic Revolution”. Now, although I disagree that this movement is a revolution, I can’t disagree that this is a beautiful site with a ton of great information. Though it appears to be most relevant for US nomads. At first I thought that this wouldn’t be much more than a Q&A site, but
At first I thought that this wouldn’t be much more than a Q&A site, but the first topic I opened proved me wrong, with the conversation rapidly culminating as follows:
The community hosts occasional AMA (ask me anything) threads with fellow nomads, and also allows you to like posts/threads (so you can visit them again later), and gives each user a basic profile page. I’d like to see more information about each member available, but in terms of talking about digital nomadism in general, and finding recommendations and gathering advice from other travelers, this is a fantastic resource.
I’d like to see more information about each member available, but in terms of talking about digital nomadism in general, finding recommendations, and gathering advice from other travelers, this is a fantastic resource.
Which Other Communities Do You Recommend?
There are a few other digital nomad communities out there to help you overcome those long-term travel hurdles. Which is the most user-friendly community you have come across? How did they help you in your nomadic journey? Share your stories.