We often have a very fixed idea of what a digital nomad looks like. Perhaps a man around the age of 30 from a wealthy country who works in an area such as programming, probably single and without kids. But how accurate is this description?

Many digital nomad communities have conducted several surveys to try and better understand who digital nomads are, and the challenges that they face. However, it is fair to say that these surveys, conducted in English and shared with people “tuned in” to the digital nomad conversation to respond too voluntarily, produce biased results.

Consequently, it is fair to say that we know quite a bit about what digital nomads from rich countries, and especially the United States, look like. But we have a less clear idea of what it might look like to be a digital nomad or remote worker in other parts of the world.

While acknowledging this limitation, let’s look at some of the most recent surveys of digital nomads. We’re going to look at the findings of three 2023 surveys individually, and then draw some of my own higher-level conclusions at the end.


MBO Partners Survey 2023 – US Digital Nomads

The MBO Partners Digital Nomads Survey 2023 interviewed US workers, both digital nomads and non-digital nomads, to understand who digital nomads are and how they relate to the wider demographic. They determined that there are 17.3 million digital nomads in the United States, more than double what they were in 2019, but the country has only been singing a modest year-on-year growth since the explosion in 2021.

In contrast to what might be assumed, 10.7 million of those digital nomads have “traditional jobs” where they have a contract with a specific employer, and only 6.6 million are independent workers.

Most digital nomads are under 40, but 42% are older. The biggest growth is being seen among Gen-Z, born between 1997 and 2012. This makes sense as many of these people were still at school pre-pandemic and so are now entering the workforce. The survey found that in 2023 21% of digital nomads are Gen Z (1997-2012), 37% are Millennials (1980-1996), 27% are Gen X (1965-1980), and 15% are Baby Boomers (1946-1964). 56% are men, 43 % are women, and 1% report as non-binary.

Looking deeper at the demographics, 53% of these digital nomads say that they are married or in a long-term relationship. 24% travel with their children, and 14% travel with pets. Interestingly, 53% of these US digital nomads choose to travel exclusively within the United States. 14% are “stealth nomads” who do not have specific permission from their employer to travel.

In general, these findings meet with expectations, though the demographic may be a bit more female and a bit older than expected, but this seems to be in line with a general trend towards settling down later.

If I had the data in front of me, I would want to know whether women are more likely to travel with a partner and children than men, and the profile of nomads who choose to stay within the US vs travel abroad.

One final happy finding is that digital nomads tend to be more satisfied with both their work and lifestyle, with 80% self-reporting as very satisfied, vs 68% for the general population.

Passport-Photo Online Interviews – Nomad Challenges

In 2023, Passport-Photo Online conducted interviews with 950 digital nomads with US passports to understand the biggest challenges faced when traveling while working. The demographics of respondents were very similar to that of MBO Partners.

It is worth bearing in mind that this survey focussed specifically on challenges rather than the positive aspects. But the respondents were overwhelmingly happy with 94% saying that they intended to continue their digital nomad lifestyle for at least the next year. So, with that in mind, here are some of the headline findings.

  • 60% of Digital nomads worked 40 hours a week or less. Freelancers were the most likely to put in extra hours, followed by remote workers. Entrepreneurs were the least likely to overwork.
  • 41% of respondents said that they felt their work-life balance was right, while 31% said that they worked too much, and 28% that they worked too little.
  • More than 70% of digital nomads worked on weekends, but it was clear that this reflected flexibility in working hours rather than additional working hours for most.
  • 75% reported having difficulty “switching off” and not checking emails when they weren’t “on the clock”. 83% said that they felt guilty when they disconnected from work.
  • 40% report that they often struggle with a sense of loneliness. While this was lowest in the first six months, it rapidly increased from the six-month mark and remained consistent, even for those who had been traveling for 5+ years.
  • There was quite a lot of variation in how often digital nomads moved. Around 20% moved at least every two weeks, and another 15% moved within a month. Another 15% moved within two months, and yet another 15% moved within four months. This left 35% that tended to stay put for longer than four months.
  • Just over 50% reported regularly feeling “road fatigue”. Around 25% said that they dealt with this by taking a break or moving more slowly.
  • Around 40% of respondents said that they often have significant concerns about their financial stability and paying for their lifestyle.

While this survey explored the challenges, and therefore the negative side, of the digital nomad lifestyle, many of the challenges explored are not so different from those faced by the general population. Forbes reports that 58% of Americans say that they feel lonely consistently. Digital nomads don’t seem to be doing too badly.


Flatio Digital Nomad Report 2023 – Worldwide Community

But while we seem to know a lot about the digital nomad community from the United States, what about nomads from other parts of the world? This is challenging to discuss because, while you can find a lot of statistics if you start Googling, it is often unclear where the information comes from.

A recent survey of 1200 people conducted by Flatio is helping to fill the void, but it is worth noting that the survey was sent to their database of 25,000 mostly English-speaking digital nomads. Nevertheless, let’s look at the findings.

First, looking at nationality, they could that 37.4% of digital nomads are from the United States, and most of the other countries in the top 10 are either in the EU or English-speaking. These include the UK (12.3%), Germany (5.6%), Australia (4%), Austria (4%), Canada (3.1%), France (3%), and Portugal (1.6%). The outlier is the next on the list, Argentina, at 1.5%.

Age demographics align with those of US digital nomads: 18-29 make up 22.4%, 30-39 take 52.6%, 40-49 are 19.7%, and 50+ make up the remaining 5.3%. 55.3% are male, 44% female, and 0.7% identify as non-binary. 43.3% traveled alone, 23.9% with a partner, and 17.5% with children as a family unit.

When compared to US nomads, the international group was much more likely to work flexibly or for themselves, with only 31.5% in traditional jobs. While 30% chose not to disclose, the majority 30% earned between EUR 30-50,000 per year. 66% paid taxes in their home country, while 20% had become a tax resident in another country. 10% reported that they did not pay taxes.

These nomads were more likely to travel internationally, with 46.6% stating that cost was the principal factor they considered with choosing a destination, and 154% sunshine. Among the most popular destinations were Portugal, Thailand, Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and Indonesia.

They reported that their biggest challenge was finding accommodation (39.8%) followed by making new friends (23.2%). 20.8% said that they rely on Airbnb most for accommodation, followed by 17.4% using Booking.com, and 15.3% using Facebook Groups. 34.7% preferred private apartments vs 33.8% in hotels, and only 7.8% in hostels.


So, What Do We Know?

It is estimated that there are around 35 million digital nomads in the world, and collectively these surveys have spoken to fewer than 3,000 of them, the vast majority from the United States. While that isn’t a terrible sample, we do need to be careful about the conclusions that we draw. But what do I think?

  • Young people are very interested in the idea of the digital nomad lifestyle and will be drawn to “work from anywhere” jobs.
  • However, people often need to establish themselves in their careers before they can have the luxury and security to travel, so the 30-49 bracket will probably dominate the digital nomad demographic in the coming years.
  • While the decision to start a family will continue to be one of the main reasons that digital nomads stop traveling, an increasing number will choose to travel with kids. This will probably also see a rise in a more “flexible” approach to the lifestyle, for example with families choosing to travel for three months of the year rather than continuously.
  • More digital nomads will stop traveling due to travel fatigue and the desire for a new challenge. The majority will settle down in a country other than their home country, discovered while traveling.
  • Businesses and countries will become increasingly better equipped to manage digital nomads with companies introducing better “work from anywhere” policies and digital nomad visas simplifying tax payments.
  • More people will choose to travel close to home, largely due to the rising price of living and travel.
  • Generally speaking, we will see a more autonomous approach to work emerge, with workers responsible for a specific output rather than specific hours. This will affect remote workers and traditional workers and will generally change our approach to balancing work and life, for the better.

Those are my predictions for rich countries that top the digital nomad list based on the current data. Do you agree?