When You’re a ‘Digital Nomad,’ the World Is Your Office

from NYTs

On the far eastern edge of Miami’s Little Havana, beyond a tall black gate, sit four century-old wooden buildings made of strong Dade County pine, arranged around a courtyard with a pool. Letters on the frontmost building’s pale yellow facade identify it as the Miami River Inn. One of the city’s very first hotels, it was built in 1908 to house transient laborers working on the docks, back when Miami was still a frontier outpost of barely 5,000 people. Locals have long harbored a belief that the bottom floor of one house is haunted.

At the time of the inn’s construction, the surrounding area was known as Riverside; like the rest of the city, it became a hotbed of real estate speculation over the coming decades. As a new residential neighborhood grew around it, the inn remained a holdout from another era. In the ’80s, its rent was $100 a week, and the buildings were crumbling. Then, in 1990, a preservationist bought the property and turned it into a bed-and-breakfast, and in 2015, it was flipped again to a hip hotel group. Two years ago, the buildings were leased by a start-up that intended to return them to their original use, housing itinerant workers — albeit a very different kind.

That company is called Roam, and since its founding in 2015, it has constructed an international housing network for so-called digital nomads, a growing demographic of people who travel the world while working remotely over the internet. Roam operates complexes of furnished, single-occupancy residences in four cities (Miami, Tokyo, London and Ubud, in Bali), with three more on the way (in New York, Berlin and San Francisco). The idea is that you never have to leave the system: Roam is everywhere you want to be. Residents pay rent starting at $500 a week to comfortably live and work, two activities that quickly become indistinguishable within Roam’s confines.

More here.

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4 Responses to When You’re a ‘Digital Nomad,’ the World Is Your Office

  1. Charles Navarre February 15, 2018 at 4:19 pm #

    By nature, housing is supposed to fulfill the occupants needs… When needs change, housing offers evolve accordingly. The changes of this Miami building’s uses is not uncommon. In Europe old castles have been transformed into hotels for centuries, mansions into apartment buildings or townhouses into company headquarters. In American cities, some churches have been transformed into restaurants and night clubs, schools and factories in condominiums.

    Roam doesn’t highlight the power of attraction of using a historical, repurposed building which to me, is one key feature: instead of erecting a brand-new complex, they save the past structures, use history adding some human character to their complex which seems to be what their clientele is looking for: sense of being part of a community.

    What seems interesting to me is that their clientele left their communities. Not only their geographical communities but also their social communities and are now looking for a new version of a community. It seems like it’s a lighter version, a less committing version of the traditional communities and groups. Yes, the internet untied a very large number of jobs to a geographical situation, but living is: can you leave remotely? Aren’t we all tied to somebody with our hearts? To our childhood? to friends and family somewhere? If your job doesn’t require you to be somewhere, isn’t your personal life taking you somewhere?

    Roam looks like an affordable alternative to a traditional hotel, a “camp for digital-nomads”, an affordable version of an all-inclusive resort, a large bed-and-breakfast, or a millennial version of YMCAs: it is affordable, convenient, and attracting people with a common mindset. It seems to me like the “tiny house” movement, which in a certain sense is not very different than the “trailer concept”!

    What doesn’t seem to fit into the picture though is the comment that adding more complexes will allow their residents to not leave the system. Roam’s residents are nomads, they “rejected” other communities. Why would they be interested in staying within the same Roam chain anywhere else in the word rather than branching out to experience other similar communities?

  2. Nathaniel B February 16, 2018 at 12:05 pm #

    Roam seems like a good idea on paper, a cheap place to live and work while freely traveling the world as an independent worker. The sense of community provided by Roam in Miami, and probably similar in their other locations will attract travelers and more than likely inspire digital nomads by the sharing of ideas, stories, and new destinations. While this all seems good, the narrator seems to have mixed feelings about the facilities and the general vibe. It is true that many backpackers, digital nomads, and anyone in-between who are traveling will prefer to stay in a cheaper, hostel like accommodations to meet new people, but in this case it seems like the residents are only there to work. To me, this raises the question, why travel to exotic locations like Bali, Tokyo, Miami, if you are not going to experience the city and country that you are in. It was not until the last day of the narrators extended stay at Roam, Miami that he even saw the beach.
    One possible solution that people do this, and not necessarily with Roam, is simply for the cheaper cost of living. As said in the article, $1000 goes much farther in Southeast Asia or parts of Europe than in New York City. As someone who has personally backpacked and stayed in many hostels throughout Europe and South America for extended periods of time, I can certainly back up the statement that it is cheaper than living in the United States. Especially if some of these people are making money while doing it, I just think it would be better to experience the new places that they are in while doing so rather than just stay in the facility because if so, then why travel in the first place? In this article, the narrator even describes the facility as a “compound” (which to me has a negative connotation) in Miami as dull and almost haunting because of its lack of character. The travelers and workers passing through are described as almost ghosts.
    Again, I think it is an interesting concept but is targeting a clientele that is missing the point of traveling to new places and not taking advantage of their unique situation of being able to work while traveling. In my opinion the ideal situation would be for the residents of Roam to find a balance between exploring and experiencing the culture they are in as well as getting their work done.

  3. Matt Henry February 16, 2018 at 7:15 pm #

    The saying, “Home is where the heart is” may be true from an emotional standpoint, but when you have a job home is wherever you need to be to work. Especially in jobs that require traveling, there is much less of a home feeling when staying at so many different hotels. Living in a hotel from time to time is doable, but even at home traveling to and from the office takes away so much time from truly being at home. Something most people are not familiar with are digital nomads. These are people who use telecommunications to earn a living which allows them to work anywhere. There is no requirement to live somewhere because their job requires it. With this in mind, these nomads would want to live where they can pay a low cost and still have a high quality of life.
    This trend was highly promoted in 2007 and continued to get bigger each year. Enter Bruno Haid, the 40-year-old Australian who considered himself a nomad. As a businessman who recognized this trend, Haid founded Roam which is a hotel business specifically for digital nomads like him. Founded in 2015, Roam constructed an international housing network and operates single-occupancy residences in four cities as of now with many more on the way. In these houses, digital nomads can live and work while always feeling at home.
    As technology continues to increase, digital nomads will continue to increase in number and this seems like something millennials will be all about. Buying and renting places to live is expensive, and Roam claims to be the solution for single working people. It is definitely questionable how they keep the expenses down compared to other real estate in the areas. The point of this business is to make sure digital nomads feel like they are in a community and I do not think as many people consider themselves digital nomads that would be necessary to fill all of these rooms. This is definitely an innovative company and they claim to already be profitable, but I see trouble in expanding if Roam keeps its eye on only digital nomads.

  4. Frank Mabalatan February 16, 2018 at 8:58 pm #

    In a globalized world, success is rooted in how far one’s work influence extends into the world. This exposes one’s company or business to a larger pool of people, allowing one to grow his enterprise. Gone are the days in which workers are stuck to the confines of their cubicles and handed down orders from corporate. 50% of millennial workers will be freelance within the next decade. This statistic is indicative of a workforce that is no longer dependent on large corporations to give opportunities to individuals. A person could decide one day to start a food blog and make a living off of sponsorships and page views because he no longer has to depend on a large newspaper publication to offer him a job as a food and drink writer. Additionally, the food blogger would be able to travel whenever he wanted and wherever he wished as a freelance writer.
    Roam quite literally opens a world of opportunities for this pool of freelance workers. Society is developing into a climate in which the free-flow of ideas are encouraged to take people all over the world to find the best way to bring their ideas to fruition. From culture to culture, daily lives are different and certain actions and procedures may be found to be more efficient or exciting than in one’s culture of birth. Roam allows professionals to open their perspectives to different places, immersing them in the culture by allowing them to live in the authentic atmosphere of the host city.
    By allowing these digital nomads to live and work in impermanent places, more freedom is granted to those who wish to follow wherever their creative minds take them. Innovation is driven when ideas are given the opportunity to flourish. By setting up these living spaces in the world’s most exciting cities, professionals are implanted into the centers of humanity and draw inspiration for their work from the greatest contemporaries. It is my opinion that freelance professionalism should be encouraged more, so that professionals can produce more meaningful, more fruitful, and more innovative work.

    Related reading:

    50% of millennial workers will be freelance: http://bit.ly/2yArgOF
    Freelance Now Makeup 35% of Workforce: http://bit.ly/2o4Z6F8

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