The digital nomad movement is normally associated with spiritual places like Bali and Chiang Mai, rather than the financial hubs of this world – and for good reason. But as the name suggests, digital nomadism denotes location independence, and so the trend is rapidly finding its way into our big cities where you’re more likely to encounter a football field than a rice field.
And big cities frankly don’t come much bigger than Shanghai, a heaving megalopolis of 24 million souls (more than double the population of Belgium, or eight times the population of Wales, if you prefer), the scene of an upcoming digital nomad meetup.
On 11 May, coding bootcamp specialists Le Wagon Shanghai will deliver a free evening of digital nomadism talks on how to take advantage of our “ultra-connected world to work whatever suits freelancers”. The event will be held at bar/cafe/hipster space X-Space, Jiangning Road near Fengxian Lu, which has the added kudos of being located in my former neighbourhood.
Beginning at 7pm, the evening will include a snapshot of the key challenges relating to the digital nomad lifestyle in Shanghai, short talks from digital nomads on remote work, Q&A and drinks (obviously).
(With special thanks to Brian Tam for alerting me to this.)
I’m taking a break from my favorite Korean TV show, with my favorite Canadian band playing in the background, drinking a cup of Colombian coffee that a German friend brought back to my Shanghai apartment.
At first, I was worried all of this might sound a bit pretentious, but in reality this internationalism is the new normal for many of us. Take a second to think about your global life. I can point to my Dutch buddy working for a Chinese Austrian joint-venture and dating an Irish/Cantonese fashionista. Or another American-Chinese friend who speaks 4 languages, dances Cuban salsa and is dating a Swiss guy, who himself speaks 7 languages and works for a Chinese gaming company. The list goes on and on.
Its stunning how common this is for so many of us now. As our cities become increasingly international, so do our lives. What are the implications of these huge changes? Will our cultures become muddied with foreign values? Will we forget who we really are?
For me, this global lifestyle presents the opportunity to discover a more authentic version of me. The “American” tag that I was born with never quite felt 100% accurate. Yet, for many many years, I blindly lived and worked under some over-generalized stereotype and wondered why was everything a struggle, why others didn’t understand me, why my career didn’t move forward?
Now that I moved cities, met expats and mumbled new languages, I’ve shed that over-simplification in favor of the complex realities of who I really am. I suddenly see in finer shades of grey. All of these diverse points of views has proved useful as I opened my creativity consultancy, Let’s Make Great!, in Shanghai more than 2 years ago. My clients depend on me for fresh ideas, to provoke a unique point of view, and to inspire them to have more of this open mindset as well.
How do my team and I do it?
- Collect experiences – The first step is exploring — to go beyond the superficial depth of “nationalities.” Take the chance that this phenomenal website presents to understand exotic cities, work on meaningful new projects and learn from complete strangers.
- Curate your favorites – discover the things that resonate with you. For me, I realize my humor is mostly Korean “Running Man,” my soundtrack is “Broken Social Scene” and my home is Jingan District, Shanghai. Feel free to pick your favorites and choose yours.
- Create your new identity – Like old t-shirts from the 90’s, allow yourself to let go of old identities. Who do you want to become next? Beyond your past experiences and your favorite things, what
else is out there for you? Its a continuous exploration of who we are to become.
Pico Iyer, the ultimate global citizen, says it best
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.
creativity catalyst & founder of Let’s Make Great!