Inside the New York Times’ Epic Fail on Digital Nomad Living

Inside the New York Times’ Epic Fail on Digital Nomad Living

Living as a digital nomad has nothing to do with Zoom calls from a tent and everything to do with living in Paris as a temporary Parisian.

Living as a digital nomad has nothing to do with Zoom calls from a tent and everything to do with living in Paris as a temporary Parisian.

The New York Times embarrassed itself with an ignorant, bigoted and laughable take-down of the digital nomad lifestyle this week in an article called "The Digital Nomads Did Not Prepare for This," written by Erin Griffith.

The author pretends that working and living abroad started this year, saying that a "tiny cohort" grabbed their "N95 masks" and became digital nomads. In fact, people have been living this way since the 1980s. We, for example, have been doing so for 14 years.

Seething with contempt for people who chose a different lifestyle than she, Griffith embraces the bigot’s favorite logical fallacy: the fallacy of composition. That’s where you pick non-representative samples, then argue that the majority represents your cherry-picked minority.

Specifically, Griffith trots out the blunders and errors of a small number of breathtakingly uninformed and inexperienced newbies, implying that digital nomads are generally clueless.

That’s like finding a dozen people trying wind-surfing for the first time, chronicling their clumsy wipe-outs and then disparaging wind-surfing as an activity filled with mistakes, injuries and disappointments.

Her subjects fly to Amsterdam, for example, apparently unaware of the common knowledge that Europe is currently closed to Americans. Who doesn’t know this? Why would anyone do this? What does have to do with digital nomads?

She treats the downsides of digital nomad living as some kind of surprise, or revelation. "It turns out," Griffith says, that nomads have to consider taxes, bureaucracy, WiFi problems and border issues. Who knew? (Basically every digital nomad knew, other than the odd collection of blunderers featured.)

As Griffith gropes in the darkness to understand this strange phenomenon, about which hundreds of thousands of articles and hundreds of books have been written, she mischaracterizes the lifestyle as a permanent "staycation" — which is not only false, it’s the direct opposite of what’s true.

A "staycation" is where you stay at home and don’t work.

Digital nomadism is where you don’t stay at "home" but you do work.

Slavery is freedom and war is peace, apparently.

The confusion continues.

Griffith claims that digital nomadism is the "worst of both worlds." You can’t enjoy your vacation-like surroundings because you’re working. You can’t enjoy yourself, but you’re failing at work, too.

Again, her claim is the opposite of what’s true. While living in a beautiful new place, in fact you enjoy it massively. You experience the joy and novelty of shopping in the market, exploring the town, meeting people — just as you would at home, but surrounded by novelty and the thrill of acclimating to a new culture. And you can be far more productive and successful, because you’re not wasting your time on a commute.

Digital nomad living is not about sight-seeing and doing all the touristy things. It’s about becoming part of a new community, meeting people, truly understanding another place.

If digital nomad living were "the worst of both worlds," then millions of digital nomads wouldn’t love the lifestyle. It’s in fact, the best of both worlds. You get to experience the world while also having a career. That’s the whole point, which Griffith misses completely.

Griffith’s evidence for this patently false claim is one L.A. resident who tried to live in a tent for a month and who complained about campground WiFi. People who are trying to camp in a tent while working represent, I am sure, less than .01 % of the digital nomad community. Again, where did she find these people? Who tries to do Zoom calls from a tent? And what does this have to do with the lived experience of millions of digital nomads?

In her attempt to smear and disparage people who chose a digital nomad lifestyle, Griffith somehow found people incapable of performing a simple Google search to find out what to expect before blundering into an unhappy and surprising situation.

This is not how actual digital nomads do it.

Griffith also tries to scare people with a casual allusion to the violent crime one subject suffered in a Portugese city.

It’s an easy game to play. For example, as a champion of the digital nomad lifestyle, I could easily describe violent crimes suffered by residents of San Francisco, where Griffith lives, to scare people away from living permanently in an apartment in an American city. In fact, the crime rate in San Francisco is six times higher than in the city Griffith mentioned, according to the website The truth is that living in the city where her subject was victimized is far safer than the city where Griffith hands down her scaremongering judgements about living abroad.

It’s bizarre to me that America’s Paper of Record would so thoroughly denigrate one of the most exciting and wonderful lifestyle choices one can make in the 21st Century with a dishonest take-down of a lifestyle the author has clear and personal animosity toward.

This is especially disappointing because there are many quality and objective journalists available who actually know what the digital nomad lifestyle is about.

No, I’m not saying it’s all unicorns and rainbows — my own digital nomad book, Gastronomad: The Art of Living Everywhere and Eating Everything, has an entire chapter about the downsides. But what I am saying is that Griffith’s non representative sampling of inexperienced and uninformed newbies is the opposite of 99% of the digital nomads I know — and I know hundreds. And her ignorant hatred of the lifestyle is plain to see and, embarrassingly, firmly planted on the wrong side of history. The pandemic — the experience of pandemics — plus the coming revolution in global satellite internet as represented by SpaceX’s Starlink, has put us on the cusp of a globe-changing revolution in flexible living that will transform economies and usher in a new world of international empathy and understanding.

As I write this from our temporary apartment in Oaxaca, Mexico, where we’re living in peace, beauty, joy and safety, I can tell you that actual digital nomads, in fact, did prepare for this.

It’s Griffith who didn’t prepare.

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via Mike Elgan

November 13, 2020 at 02:33AM


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