So here we all are, jet-setting citizens of the world! Undaunted we stride forth into the world, soaking up the complexity of cultures with intrepid confidence! We challenge our notions of identity, explore new and unknown social landscapes and …
And we often hang out with a bunch of other foreigners in coworking spaces designed for the privileged few (yes, me, yes, you). We have the capacity, freedom and the means to live a life travelling the world, and if that’s not a privilege I don’t know what is. And with privilege comes responsibility.
Might it not be a good time to talk about the real impact our electro-hobo lifestyles are having on the people and places we visit? Is it not worth discussing how we can ensure that the social and economic impact we have is a positive one? How can we ensure that we’re not simply perpetuating a neo-colonial attitude in our interactions? Is financial arbitrage the real motivation behind our ‘love of travel’?
I know, heavy stuff, but luckily these are some of the questions being raised in round-table discussions and conference presentations within the location independent movement. The aim is not only to raise awareness, but to come up with some helpful ways we can ensure our presence is a positive one.
Getting involved in a new culture isn’t always easy, which is why there’s a tendency for us to hang out with each other in our little coworking bubbles.
Where to start?
Imagine you walk into a new coworking space and are presented with a set of values, would it be enough to get you thinking? It’s easy to say you agree a set of values however, but how do we go about living our values?
One of the biggest hurdles we face when in a foreign culture is the language barrier for instance. You’d love to hire a local freelancer, but where to you find them and how would you work with them? You’d love to get involved as a volunteer, but are daunted by the apparently complicated legalities of doing so. You think you have skills you could offer a local charity, but don’t know how to connect.
There are loads of obstacles, both real and perceived. Some of these are up to us, as individuals to overcome. But there is huge potential in having coworking spaces, coliving spaces, public & private community engagement schemes playing a lead role. As the first point of contact for many travellers, these spaces can offer newcomers access to resources that could make integration so much easier. Perhaps reading some of the suggestions below can inspire you to take the initiative in your space!
What does being responsible look like?
Social responsibility & Community integration
Spaces or social media pages can provide listings of locally run homestays, giving you an option to meet and make friends with locals without the challenge of searching them out on your own.
Hosted social get-togethers, make new friends and real connections with the community.
Language meetups: a fun way to get some cultural orientation for free and make friends.
Have empathy. Listen and learn. Take the time to ask questions about how people feel about issues before making judgements based on the context of your life, their life context is completely different.
Nobody knows what the community needs more than the community! So avoid the pitfall of assuming your knowledge trumps local knowledge, and learn to listen.
Workshops by visiting freelancers for locals on anything from setting them up on Airbnb to creating a listing on a freelancer website.
Connecting coworkers with local freelancing spaces so we can hire local. This not only gives valuable experience but opens the door to them being able to get clients (and the associated pay cheque) overseas. The positive financial impact this could have on families and communities is huge, as it means people won’t have to leave their hometowns to make a living.
Mentorship & Apprenticeship schemes.
Consider partnerships with local businesses.
Source from a directory of local suppliers for your own project.
Source from a list of local freelancers that speak other languages.
Connect with local organisations or schemes that you can volunteer and learn or offer your own skills.
Be aware of the environmental issues faced in each particular location. Think about water restrictions, local practices, waste disposal, etc.
The most important schemes coming out of coworking spaces. Cogiving refers to project-based giving initiatives.
Find out what local organisations or initiatives need help with specifically (a website, SM help), and align them with coworkers with the appropriate skill set.
The good stuff…
There are some super-positive aspects to the rise of location independence. This lifestyle is introducing new a new form of tourism, supporting local businesses through establishing a consistent, year-round customer-base rather than just the summer influx of holidaymakers. In response to the digital nomad influx some governments are prioritising strong and readily available internet connections, which benefits residents as well as visitors. And for people who don’t get to travel much themselves, the increased exposure to visitors from all over the world is a real plus.
There is so much potential for the location independent movement to have a positive contribution beyond a simple economic boost. If we take the time and make the effort to truly connect with the people and cultures we inhabit, we can create friendships that change the world, and be (at least in part) responsible for the growth of a global community built upon understanding, empathy, and the breaking down of barriers.
Here are some of our friends doing awesome work in the sharing the notion of Nomad Social Responsibility:
Follow the NSR Movement page or search # NSR Movement.
Join the Digital Nomads for Good page and attend an event near you.
Let’s keep the conversation going! Comment, share, and make suggestions, if we’re going to have any impact this has to be a collaborative effort!