Global Natives, or Digital Nomads, are a generation of people who are not “from” a single place but instead have embraced a global culture. Thanks to remote work Global Natives travel around the world, adjusting their lifestyle to their needs, and connecting with new people and cultures 一 constantly redefining their identity.
However, as this way of living becomes more popular, it becomes necessary to acknowledge the privileges and challenges inherited from the legacy Nation-state system. Today, both global mobility and participation in the job market are heavily affected by which passport you own, continuing to promote inequality of opportunity based on people’s place of birth.
If we truly want to build a global culture and a borderless world, we must fight for global mobility and job participation for all, independent of nationality, as well as we need institutions to facilitate the integration between the global and local cultures.
Rather than establishing a set routine in one home city, nomads adapt to each new place they go. The fundamental human desires stay the same—food, fun, friends, fitness—but the rituals vary from place to place.
These lifestyle differences are an inherent part of the fun of all travel, and they’re also what prompts an important process of self-reflection and personal growth during nomad trips. Through travel, people come to understand what shapes their sense of identity, community, home, and belonging. And their thinking is constantly challenged by cultural and social differences, giving them a uniquely global perspective.
At its most optimistic, the nomad movement could be viewed as a chance to build bridges between emerging and established economies. But since nomads mostly hold the powerful passports of former empires, some say they are following in the footsteps of their predecessors to travel, adventure, exploit, and even colonize, with little concern about their impact on host communities.
Digital nomadism works best for those in a position of privilege who can already afford to buffer its risks. So, what does it mean if knowledge workers from wealthy countries work remotely in poorer countries, and climb a few rungs up the class ladder compared with the local population? Enjoying the fruits of an “exotic” setting while taking advantage of global inequalities like cheap labor, currency discrepancies, and low property prices raise questions about the structures the nomad lifestyle is built on and supporting.
Trade, capital, knowledge, and communication all flow freely across borders, yet humans themselves still face restrictions. While a person’s rights are still determined by their passport, the old systems of wealth, power, and status will persist in the world. The legacy infrastructure governing mobility and taxes have not caught up with the way people are living. Instead, we’re stuck with a global system optimized for inequality, and which privileges and restricts people based on their birthplace, heritage, physical location, skin color, and native language.
A century after the invention of passports, and with all the tech we have available today, a fundamental update is long overdue. The opportunity for passport innovation isn’t in the hardware, it’s in the software—the ideas driving how we manage global movement.
Global mobility can be a great equalizer, or the catalyst for new forms of exploitation. We need a global system that doesn’t only afford rights and privileges to the wealthy but instead champions human potential, by default and on principle.
Currently, borders restrict a person’s ability to pick up their laptop and start over elsewhere. If a nation-state fails, its citizens have to wait years to be allowed to work in another country or engage with the global economy through the internet. A refugee who works as a graphic designer or web developer can’t log in to online platforms and keep working overseas like a digital nomad can, because the right to do so depends on the power of their passport.
Early nomad hubs succeeded because they balanced nomads’ practical needs with something more elusive: serendipity. Nomads place high value on the experience of being on-the-ground and connecting with interesting people. Despite all the digital connectivity, they still want to physically go where the action is and be part of it. Beyond the practicalities, this social capital is what matters most when nomads choose destinations. Some places feel dead, and others pulse with possibility. There’s a “cool” factor no policymaker can hope to create, because it’s built from the bottom-up, not from the top-down.
What nomads hope to find in the places they visit are the opportunities and adventures meeting new people creates.
A city or town that wants to become a nomad hub has to get good at facilitating strong human connections, and not just between nomad visitors, but also between nomads and locals. Nomads don’t just want to meet other nomads, they want to learn how different people from different cultures think about the world and their place in it.
Subscription living is the logical next step for accommodation brands seeking to serve the nomad market. What appeals to remote workers is not just staying and working from somewhere new and exciting, but the convenience of accommodation, workspace, and community all in one place.
It may soon be completely normal to pay a global brand subscription for flexible accommodation across various cities instead of rent to a single landlord for a long-term, fixed address.
Now that remote work is mainstream, a much broader spectrum of people will navigate decisions about their work and lives differently. I call them “global natives”—a generation of globalized people, raised in a globalized world, who are not “from” a single place. For us, travel is not a luxury. It’s what allows us to connect with our loved ones across borders, how we learn about ourselves and the world.
As we build new solutions, we’re guided by the same principles I advocate for in this book: