Even before the pandemic, the number of remote workers worldwide was growing: Research from the consulting firm MBO Partners found that the number of independent workers in the United States, which includes consultants, freelancers and temporary workers, was around 41 million in 2019. More than 7.3 million workers in the United States described themselves in 2019 as “digital nomads”: those who chose to embrace a location-independent lifestyle that allowed them to travel and work remotely.
Maggie Turansky, whose hometown is Phoenix, currently lives in the Republic of Georgia. She runs a website, The World Was Here First, with her partner, and rents a brand-new apartment in Tbilisi for about $500 a month. They stayed there during the pandemic.
David Cassar, MBO Partners’ chief operations officer, notes that the international leverage of freelancers is increasing considerably. “We absolutely expect interest in becoming a digital nomad to spike among independent workers in the coming years. Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of widespread remote work, and independent workers will be among the first to take advantage of a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle,” he said.
Many workers are drawn to the lifestyle of digital nomads because of a lower cost of living.
“I can’t think of any other major city in a Western country that would be comparable,” she said. “The utilities on top of that rarely go above $50 a month, and the Wi-Fi is great. Georgia is appealing and there’s so much to see and do, and we kind of fell in love with it.”
Mr. Ngobeh noted that he has found decent two- to four-bedroom apartments that rent from $500 to $1,500 a month.
Amanda Kolbye, another United States citizen, currently works from Malaysia as an online business coach. She has enjoyed living and working overseas for the past two years, living in six countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Qatar and Taiwan.
“I’m not planning to return to the U.S. for the foreseeable future,” Ms. Kolbye said. “I’m considering running my business in another country, like Estonia or Barbados or Bermuda that will allow me to be closer to home.”