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.

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11 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

  5. Lauren Woodward February 21, 2018 at 9:13 pm #

    The idea of traveling while still working seems like an interesting way of life for some people; and I always wonder where these people reside during their work. Our generic forms of living while doing this includes hotels, motels, and more recently Airbnbs. Roam takes these forms of living and creates a whole new way for people to travel and work. Never had I ever thought there would be a place specifically for the purpose of traveling digital works. Roam seems like basically any other temporary living arrangement, however it is specifically made for those that travel with the digital world taped to their backs. The walls are bare, white, theres no TV, and it seems like a clear space to get all your work done. Its almost like a space high school and college students truly need. However, these lodges are specified for the traveling workers in our world.
    The word Nomad takes a whole new turn through the establishment of Roam. However, by staying at multiple Roams around the world, an individual establishes kind of a “home feeling.” The idea of Roam is to provide a homey atmosphere while functioning at a low cost for the roamer. The only issue I initially find with this idea is the extreme exclusivity that owners will have to abide to when allowing individuals to lodge there. They can’t just accept anyone; the houses are not that large. They’s have to narrow down the specifics of which individuals are worthy of the creative work space/living space. Therefore, just people traveling, maybe putting up a few blog posts, might not cut it. Then again, the large demand for a place like Roam will only increase its profitability, therefore expanding the already booming business.
    I think this is an incredible step into our inevitable fully-digital future, its like a hotel, but the living space is completely fixed to focus on their work. With everyone connecting via Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, Linked In, and many more media platforms, there is never really a chance to meet others face-to-face and make a true connection. I believe Roam will be able to unite these avid-digital users and nomads and reestablish the physical interactions we as humans used to know how to make. Wanderers and couch surfers can finally settle down (somewhat) and establish a community for the new digital age.

  6. Mary Margaret Miller February 22, 2018 at 10:01 am #

    A new trend that is sweeping the way of how we do business trips is defined as, “Nomadism.” By definition, it means an individual that solely travels for the purpose and intent of work without having a permanent place of residency, and companies such as Roam are making this possible. Not only has this created a better work environment for many individuals, but it has also redefined how we think and work. By travelling the globe, we become more culturally aware of other individuals and their customs, in addition to expanding your knowledge through experience.
    Companies are trying to adapt new changes as to how they run their business. Companies such as Google and Hulu have changed the way they operate in order to keep their employees more satisfied while at work by offering a less stressful atmosphere. Hulu and Google have added more break times into their employees’ schedules, in addition to more amenities at their offices. Some of these amenities are gyms, rec rooms, and tv rooms, and even slides in place of stairs in order to make their work environment more lively. What Google brags the most about is the slides they’ve added to their offices. What other office has that? Their goal is to spark creativity amongst their employees without having them work too hard in a high pressure demand job. Has this method been proven to be more effective? The answer is yes. It has been reported that these changes that were enacted to these companies have not only improve the mental health of their employees, but the emotional health of their employees has improved as well. They have also redefined how they operate by allowing their employees to dress however they want. Their philosophy is why be uncomfortable when you can be comfortable and casually work at your own pace. Roam has adopted this idea by giving their hotels a homelike feel to make business trips more enjoyable and desirable.
    Roam offers experiences at their locations that no other hotel seems to focus on. Hotels aim for the luxurious feel, while Roam focuses on catering to every individual’s specific needs. They offer yoga classes and fine dining, while still giving off a completely casual vibe for their guests. While hotels only plan for you to stay a couple of nights, they do not get to know you personally. Roam’s goal is to get people to stay long term in their locations, and for some, even make it a place they can call home. With Roam’s affordable accommodations, people have gone to stay there over places that are more luxurious with higher-end amenities. People who have stayed with Roam say that you go there to receive an experience you cannot get elsewhere, and it becomes a home away from home.
    While staying at Roam, you are able to connect with people from all over the globe, while also having a peaceful environment to work in. Roam encourages their visitors to interact with one another, as they say that their locations are meant to be communities that are always willing to welcome new members.
    By offering this type of work environment, not only is there an increase in productivity, but individuals of the work world feel more compelled to get their day to day work completed. This experience of services they offer is that of no other, and if more companies were to adapt this type of atmosphere into their offices, less and less individuals would face high amounts of stress on a daily basis.
    Lynley, Matt. “RANKED: The Best Slides And Worst Slides In Google’s Offices.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 14 May 2012, http://www.businessinsider.com/googles-office-slides-2012-5.

  7. Connor Wiedeman February 22, 2018 at 5:38 pm #

    This was a really interesting article to read because of the uniqueness of this business idea. While I could understand if this business struggles for the next year or so, I can see this as one of those ideas that everyone doubts and dismisses as not profitable or too different, and then the company thrives. The company’s CEO, Bruno Haid, is definitely a creative person and believes in his unique idea which is all a company really needs to become profitable and sustain a profit. For Haid to come up with a unique idea and run with it is something cool to see. You can tell from the article and interview that he is truly passionate about his company and he is excited to see it expand.
    More and more jobs are not requiring employees to have to show up to work, in fact a growing number of jobs in the modern world are becoming solely internet based, which would not require the employee to physically be inside the office building if they are able to complete their required work from home just as efficiently, or in these cases anywhere in the world with a decent internet access. These jobs are growing in quantity which means new potential customers for Roam in the coming years.
    While Roam is definitely a cool and unique idea, there are a few downsides to a company with this format. My first concern is that Roam currently operate their residences in four cities, (Miami, Tokyo, London, and Ubud) and soon to operate in New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. These cities are quite literally all over the world, which is a cool concept, but this could make the residences extremely difficult to manage from a corporate perspective. These residences are all in different time zones, occupants speak different languages, and different countries which could result in difficulty maneuvering around these various countries’ different laws regarding how business is conducted. There will also be plenty of language barriers to overcome regarding customer service in each of these residences. Although there are plenty of obstacles for Roam to overcome, they also have things working in their favor. Roam is in a growing market, and they are starting small with only a few residences open which gives them time to sort out the kinks before they have a much larger market wanting to rent out rooms for a week. This is something that hasn’t really been done before so every step Roam makes is a first and experimental. Living like a nomad is not exactly a popular life style with today’s technologies but with Roam being an attractive life style for a modern nomad, we could see a trend form. Roam is a great way for anyone to see more of the world, not just stay at home workers. Roam offers surprisingly low rates of around 500 dollars per month which seems difficult for them to turn up much profit, especially considering they are only operating four residences.

  8. zhijie Yang February 23, 2018 at 7:05 pm #

    I have seen in The Fast Company’s web site an article “The Digital Nomad ‘s Guide to Working From Anywhere On Earth”. The article mention that, as early as in 1997, a Japanese Hitachi executives – Tsugio Makimoto wrote a book called “The Digital Nomad” , he boldly predicted: “The future of human society, the high-speed wireless network and powerful mobile devices will break The boundaries between the career and geographical area, ten thousands of people will sell their house, embracing a new way of life which rely on work in the Internet to create income and travel around the world. These people through the Internet to earn first world-class income, choose to live in some spaces where the price level of developing countries, they were known as “Digital Nomad”. This lifestyle does not seem to be very difficult for people to understand in today’s society, but you have to know the book was published in 1997, that time no high-speed wireless networks and powerful device, even has not gained popularity BP machine, so the concept is very advanced at the time.
    In 2007, Tim Ferriss’s “The 4-hour Workweek” took over 75 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list. In this book, the author defines a New social class, “New Rich”. NR has not only “enough money to spend”, but more importantly, “free time” to spend. This concept has made many people realize that the meaning of life is not to create huge wealth for others in a boring job. This book is a bible for many digital nomads.
    The most important concept in digital lifestyle is “Geo-arbitrage.” For example, let’s say there have two programmers, A and B, the same $ 5,000 monthly salary, A lives in Silicon Valley Bay, B lives in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Then since the cost of living in Chiang Mai is much lower than that in Silicon Valley, the purchasing power of Programmer B is much higher than that of Programmer A. Correspondingly, his life pressure is lower and the quality of life is higher than A. So, as digital migrants are completely independent of their geographical location, people can make money in any place with Wi-Fi, the so-called “Location independence,” which gives them a precondition for geographical arbitrage.
    Well, there are many ways for digital migrants to generate income, such as freelance work, business start-ups, self-media and e-commerce. The work site has Coworking space, Coliving Space, Coworkation three forms. The Roam Company in the United States belongs to the Coliving Space, where people not only work together in one space but also live and play together in order to gain greater productivity and creativity. This business model is also known as Startup Retreat. Roam also won a $ 3.4 million seed fund in Silicon Valley in 2016 and continues to expand globally. Unlike Airbnb, Roam’s target audience is not travelers, but those who work in unfettered places and can be surrounded by people.
    I think this will become more and more a trend in the future, and more people will join this group. According to statistics, there will be one billion people working for home by 2035. The biggest challenge in the future may be only time. So Roam this company in my opinion is very strategic business strategy, in the next 20 years will be very promising. And just as the founder of Roam said “people who live here do not want to go on vacation, but sincerely want to balance work and life.”

  9. Grace Galuppo March 2, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

    Moving could be considered as one of the most stressful experiences someone can go through, but what if moving became stress free and allowed you to travel the world to as many places as you desired. The movement of digital nomadism allows people who work primarily online to live anywhere they want in the world. Roam, a company founded by Bruno Haid, offers a service to make “dislocation easy and glamorous”, allowing people the opportunity to rent out inexpensive rooms around the world. Many people seem to be interested in obtaining a nomadic lifestyle as Roam has hosted more than 2,200 people since its beginnings in 2015. Roam allows digital nomads, people who want to travel the world and work from their devices, a place to live and a sense of community wherever they are around the world. As of now, Roam is in Miami, Bali, and Tokyo; however, Roam is expanding quickly into more cities, such as New York, San Francisco, and Berlin. The people who live in the Roam compounds are known as Roamies; they often get together for dinner or parties just like any other community would. In an environment like Roam communities, strangers can quickly become friends.
    If you are one with a free, adventurous, and adaptable personality then Roam could offer a beneficial and affordable way for you to travel the world. The Roam communities offer morning yoga classes and communal kitchens and workspaces. The Roam environment reminds me of a retreat that should only last a couple of days, but when I checked their website, it said that a one-week stay was the minimum amount of time a person could book. Personally, I think I would be distracted by the beach breeze and beautiful palm trees to get any of my work done by a deadline. I also have a personality type where I am not a fan of sudden change. In addition, to be a digital nomad a person needs to have their job available to them online. In the past, the idea of Roam would have sounded preposterous as the jobs back then were evolved around the technology; however now and the way the economic future looks Roam could offer many people a solution. In a sense Roam is geared toward young, single people with flexible jobs, nonetheless the article shared stories of retirees and other types of people who contribute to the Roam community.
    Roam empathizes their unique community on their homepage, which could definitely attract new Roamies because everyone wants to have a sense of belong. Roam compounds have weekly newsletters sent out to their Roamies so that they could learn about that week’s activities, almost like a college campus. Roam is an interesting concept that is currently being explored. I predict that in the future, when there will be more freelancers, Roam will explode and have a presence in locations across the world.

  10. Alan Josefsek March 2, 2018 at 9:06 pm #

    The world is becoming increasingly technology dependent. With this comes new possibilities once unimagined. Everybody with access to the internet can now become self sufficient as a business owner. You can do many things with this including marketing, product development, management, finances, and many others. One great resource I use often is Entreprenuer.com. Here, you can find countless resources of how to start a business. Find a need and fill it.
    Write copy that sells.
    Design and build an easy-to-use website.
    Use search engines to drive traffic to your site.
    Establish an expert reputation for yourself.
    Follow up with your customers and subscribers with email.
    Increase your income through back-end sales and upselling.
    Usually in a business, marketing is one of the biggest challenges but online, it is much easier. Pay-per-click advertising is the easiest way to get traffic to a brand-new site. It has two advantages over waiting for the traffic to come to you organically. With Pay-per-click ads, you can find the keywords that return the greatest number of searches. Then you can distribute the keywords throughout your site in your copy and code, which will help your rankings in the organic search results. Additionally, you can build an opt-in list on your website that helps convert visitors into paying customers, you’re creating one of the most valuable assets of your online business. Your customers and subscribers have given you permission to send them email. Another great resource available online is financial tracking. You can easily track finances spent and your net revenue using online programs. According to Entreprenuer.com, the internet changes so fast that one year online equals about five years in the real world. That is a testament to the amount of value the internet can provide to your online presence and or business. Your business still needs to be registered according to your state’s laws, just like a physical business. Simply choose an official business name and fill out the appropriate paperwork to make your business official. This takes about two weeks maximum and is simple to put together. Using a service such as Legal Zoom alleviates the time this takes and is also capable of impeccable customer support.

  11. Andrew Kuttin March 11, 2018 at 12:57 am #

    In the very near future, over half of workers in the United States will be freelancers (https://tinyurl.com/ybcmfx92). Our economy has shifted very far from the days of the 9-5 job with a few promotions and an early retirement. American workers today change jobs an average of 12 times throughout their careers (https://tinyurl.com/yc6725b4). As younger generations show more disinterest in the stereotypical “American Dream”, they strive for changes in the way they live and the way they work. This gives rise to innovators like Bruno Haid, the founder of Roam and the idea of a 2 in 1 communal workspace and living space. WeWork (https://www.wework.com/) is the biggest name in the industry, and they are even mentioned in this article. While WeWork promotes anchoring your business in one of their many worldwide locations, Roam advocates for the reverse. Haid’s big picture consists of a worldwide network of locations where workers can migrate without being anchored to one specific home. These “digital nomads” make up an ever-growing group of people who work remotely with multiple different diversified incomes (https://tinyurl.com/yda68n7k). Bruno Haid wants to make it possible for nomads to travel the world as they work using his network of locations. In this article, author Kyla Chayka details his weeklong stay in Roam’s Miami location, and his experience is fascinating.
    The unquestionable positive aspect of his stay is the communal atmosphere. People from all different walks of life came together under one roof, not on a vacation, but a business trip. The networking opportunity was invaluable. Much like in the collaborative environment promoted by WeWork, Roam creates an atmosphere where entrepreneurial spirits can come together and make each other better. Through events like the family dinner promoted by Roam, the people living under Haid’s roof blend their cultures and ideas which can be nothing but beneficial to those involved.
    What concerns me is the loss of independence and appreciation for the surrounding world that comes with living with Roam. Both the United States and the world as a whole are shifting towards a sharing economy (https://tinyurl.com/yd8z2wc2). Sticking with the trends in job loyalty, people are opting to live month to month. They rent homes and cars rather than committing to one for a large chunk of their lives. With these trends, something like Roam is the logical culmination. It is the ultimate sharing community. Everyone involved pays rent to live temporarily in a specific location while relying on temporary services like Uber to travel and Roam for their necessities. This puts residents at the mercy of Roam or whatever company provides their amenities, which I would argue is concerning. This forfeit of individuality for a communal atmosphere seems too Orwellian for my taste. As Chayka mentions at the end of his article, he had spent almost an entire week in Miami without visiting a beach. He did not leave the Roam campus because he had no reason to. I fear that the mainstream adoption of these communal work/living spaces will chip away at what makes the locations they are in special. The only thing that is certain is that, when I and other undergrads join the workforce, it will look nothing like the way it does today.

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