If you want to understand what a digital nomad is, look no further than Orlando Osorio. The 33- year old comes from Venezuela, works for tech companies in Silicon Valley and currently lives in Mexico City.
He describes himself as having no fixed address. Instead, he lives in airbnbs all over the World, and the apartments double up as his office.
Would we all benefit from this way of life? A study done by three American universities found that living abroad increases ‘self-concept clarity’. In layman’s terms, this means that you get clear on what you want and your values and beliefs by changing where you live.
So how is Orlando’s self-concept clarity coming along? It was no easy job, but we managed to track him down and ask. It ended up being a delightfully philosophical conversation.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
Watch the video above to learn all about Orlando’s journey.
Hi Orlando, thank you for chatting with us. What makes you want to travel so much?
We’ve been taught that it’s best to set an anchor and stay there for a long time. Doing this is good, they say. It brings stability and security. It is fundamental to have a strong and solid ground, they say. Frankly speaking, there is a lot of truth to that. Moving can be unsettling. It’s difficult to establish routines and to develop deep connections with friends and neighbours, something that’s been particularly difficult for me. But at the same time, travel is a great way to gain perspective. In my case, it has shifted my mentality.
I have learned that motivation, willpower and discipline are fundamentally related to our physical and personal environment. This means that to generate positive changes in ourselves, sometimes it is as simple as moving from one place to another, to stop interacting with some people and start interacting with others.
What have you gained from travelling so much?
Travelling and living in other places has meant many things for me. Interacting with other people and studying their ways of living, spending more time alone, having good days that make me feel great about myself, and dreadful ones that make me appreciate the value of the things I left behind.
I’ve become a subject of study to myself. Having new experiences has made my internal debates much more interesting.
Wow, it really does sound like your self-concept clarity is in a pretty good place! If there’s so many benefits, why do you think more people don’t become digital nomads?
I think people love taking vacations but they never really consider taking a long break from their routines that is not a holiday. Let's say, changing cities for a few months while working. They get stuck easily when they start thinking about it. Some think it’s too expensive. It’s not. Others like to imagine problems that don’t exist.
But the number one thing that keeps people at home, in my experience, is an attachment to their belongings. The thing is, when you are leaving for just three or six months you don’t need to figure out all the little details.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the digital nomad movement?
The COVID-19 pandemic brought many tragedies, but it also showed that remote working...works! But very few people have taken advantage of this opportunity to move to a new place. The virus broke through cultural and technological barriers that kept remote work from being done in the past, allowing some people to work from anywhere. In this way, people can plan their days so that their professional and personal lives can coexist peacefully. The definition of an appropriate workplace has changed, and remote work takes advantage of that.
So here’s my challenge to you: temporarily store the things you own, go on a trip, find a new place to live and tell me how it changed you.
What advice would you give to someone who is tempted to become a digital nomad?
Remember that embarking on a trip of six months or less just means putting your things in storage (temporarily), letting go of your apartment (temporarily), and simply going to a place that you want to experience.
I have found that it’s important to understand that an adventure like this isn’t forever. The trip is temporary and its mission is to give you space in your life for new discussions with yourself, new narratives with others, and serendipity (my favourite prospect of them all).
I’ll leave you with a quote from Matthew McConaughey “Do yourself this favour. Whatever your answer is, don't choose anything that will jeopardise your soul.” I would add to that - maybe you haven’t found your soul because you haven’t explored enough yet
Watch the video above to see Orlando on the road.