RESHAPING HOTEL SPACES
Digital technology has changed how we travel, forever: by 2025, it’s predicted that 50% of the global workforce will be freelance and working remotely. This new way of working is unsurprisingly physically transforming hotel lobbies, public spaces, restaurants and cafés — and lobby culture is all the richer for the buzz of creative minds dotted around the sofas. Exciting international collaborations can arise over a flat white or a dirty martini. Perhaps most thrillingly, work-as-they-go travellers might even wind up being the most engaged, generous and responsible travellers: so it pays to be poised to host them with gusto.
As a freelance writer who runs my own business from my MacBook, I’m one of this new breed of remote workers. Friends frequently scroll through my Instagram and accuse me of being on a permanent holiday. In fact, I haven’t spent more than 24 hours away from my laptop in over a year. ‘Digital nomad’ is the label economists and social commentators like to give us, under-35s such as myself who seek out the freedom to arrange our professional life around our aspirations, rather than the other way around. But when you intend to carry your career in a computer case with you when you stride into a new hotel, well, you really need to do your homework. I need to be confident I can open my laptop and hit the ground running.
What this digital nomad looks for from a hotel hang-out…
—Friendly, informal hotels that I know want me there
—They need to have fast WiFi
—I want airy and open public spaces
—A thoughtful, gentle soundtrack
My write-as-you-go working life means that the word ‘holiday’ means nothing to me now, because I expect to work as I travel, and vice versa. I don’t think this is a bad thing. If I’ve sacrificed the good old-fashioned off-grid holiday, I’ve gained something more valuable: flexibility. I consider this freedom one of my greatest career assets — it’s enabled me to work full-time from a campervan in New Zealand for six months, base myself in beach huts across Thailand, plot up in a co-working space in Bali for winter, and pause for a season in an LA Airbnb.
Unlike some, I don’t see threat in blurring lines between work and leisure; I see an attractive apparition. I behold the possibility of a sustainable, rewarding career and a heathy, happy life full of the people, places and pastimes I love. In essence, my laptop lifestyle permits my travel aspirations to peacefully coexist alongside career goals.
Recent technological advances have enabled us to work on the go, with more and more people choosing to work remotely. I’m observing that this laptop lifestyle is no longer confined to writers, designers, coders and solo entrepreneurs — I’m sharing ‘coffices’ (coffee shops doubling as offices) and lobbies from professionals from all walks — doctors, musicians and top-level management consultants.
Just as I believe everyone is dotted somewhere on the sexual spectrum, in 2018, I think we’ll discover we’re all part-digital nomad. Or at least ‘digi-curious’.
REMOTE YET CONNECTED
I believe that travel makes me a more creative and productive worker, but I also believe that working makes me a more switched-on traveller. For example, I get to discover Berlin by staying in a hotel in Kreuzberg, hitting the freelancer café circuit by day, then discovering dive bars by night. I’d rather meet a new city this way than by traipsing around tourist sights over a long weekend, staying at a characterless city-centre stay.
LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
Don’t get me wrong; there’s much terrain to navigate, and I firmly believe in digitally detoxing, but technology has given me the freedom to work effectively from home, from a shared co-working space in Tulum, Budapest, Berlin or Sao Paulo, and even a gleaming hotel lobby in Zanzibar. My laptop lifestyle lets me see the world without quitting my job or syphoning off my savings. Best of all, I see destinations the way they’re meant to be seen, from the inside out. Not the outside in.