Maria, the founder of Octo-D, loves traveling. Born in France, she ended up Canada about 20 years ago. But, no matter what she’s done or where she’s lived, she never gave up her passion to be in new places. As a result, she created an e-learning business that enables her to work from wherever she can go with her laptop and has become part of a rather new tribe of workers, the digital nomads.
“Digital nomads are location independent,” Maria says. And though many are in IT and programmers, she points out that there are engineers, designers, coaches, HR people, marketing people, and “anyone who is able to work from a laptop or with a phone and who is able to and does travel.”
In comparison with people who travel for work, digital nomads tend to stay in one place for months at a time before moving on to the next. They choose their destinations based on climate as well as specific work or opportunities in a location. Maria explains, “Some people go all year round. Some people do it a few months a year for different reasons. My business partner will stay in the same country for years.”
Maria also notes how digial nomadism is often a different lifestyle from those who live and work in one place. “Digital nomads often have very few possessions. They travel with a carry on and that’s what they own,” she says. “They don’t have the responsibilities of a home, home insurance, or a car.” Instead, digital nomads mainly worry about where to live and possibly finding an office space.
The logistics of arranging where to stay is one of the most complicated aspects of the digital nomad life. While some opt for short term leases or Air BnB apartments, others make their way to coliving spaces designed to facilitate their lifestyle choice. Worldwide, there are many co-living spaces where digital nomads can have most of their needs met. Here in Montreal, recognizing that Canada was a bit behind the international co-living scene, Maria along with several others created the Nomad Coliving space. The not-for-profit coliving space opened in 2018 and has been full ever since.
Maria explains that the space was developed because there was nothing like it here. “I knew a community that needed it,” she says. “The first people moving in were from Montreal who travel a lot. Then there were people I knew from traveling. Now even people I don’t know come.”
Surprisingly, the digital nomad community relies on hubs like this as a way to interact and share information. “A lot of people who are digital nomads know each other, because it’s a small community. There are not that many digital nomads world-wide,” says Maria. “Peer to peer training is very much a part of the digital nomadism. Digital nomads learn by living with other digital nomads. Sometimes they cooperate or they hire each other. They teach each other skills.”
Along these same lines, the co-living space is partnering with Meetup Group Montreal Digital Nomads to host a one day conference, entitled One Day to Celebrate Digital Nomadism. The event includes speakers, panels, and of course, a BBQ.
“People are flying in to speak,” says Maria, “Then they’ll be staying here. Others are here already.” The topics covered include getting started in being a digital nomad, finding jobs on Fiverr and Upwork, and flying with points. The speakers come from around the world, such as a Youtuber who covers digital nomadism for the Spanish speaking community and is hoping to expand into English. A panel discussion will cover different types of digital nomadism.
“The main goal is to bring digital nomads together,” says Maria. She notes that because her business is already running, she doesn’t necessarily attend this type of gathering because of the topics. “I go to these events because it’s cool to meet people having this lifestyle. People ask why you travel so much. You always have to explain your life to people. I’m not a millionaire. I just organize my life differently.” The conference lets her be around people who are like her. “Also, meeting people so you can visit them and making plans together,” she says.
“It can be lonely to be a digital nomad, but it depends where you go and how you live,” Maria says. “Living in an Air BnB for two months can be lonely, but if you live in a digital nomad hub, it’s never lonely. In Chiang Mai, you’ll make friends super quickly. The community gets to meet and mingle there.”
Maria has only seen digital nomadism increase in popularity ” It’s a way of living that is becoming more popular. We call it the future of living and working, especially with cost of transportation going so low. The technologies to work online are becoming more mainstream and the household model changing. It feels like there is no reason anymore to heat up a seat in an office 9-5 when only the results count.”
For those interested in the Nomad Coliving space in Montreal, check their website here. Tickets for One Day to Celebrate Digital Nomadism on August 2, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., can be found HERE and range in price from $28-60.