In 2017, I set a five-year goal that would see me living and working in Bali in 2022 while fleeing Melbourne’s winter. My thinking was that my three kids would have finished high school, they would be young adults and I would have fewer strings attaching me full time to Melbourne.
Moreover, as a 50ish woman who had dedicated decades to nurturing everyone around me, it was surely my turn! It was a perfect plan, except for two relatively non minor considerations:
- At the time, it was very, very hard to get an Indonesian visa that would allow me to stay in Bali for longer than 30 days.
- Between 2020 and 2022, we were experiencing a pandemic that made it impossible for me to venture more than 5km from my home for much of the time, let alone entertain the option of leaving the country.
Fast forward to 2023, and things are definitely looking up for this wannabe digital nomad.
First, travel restrictions are off the agenda.
Second, countries that took a massive travel revenue hit from COVID have become creative with their visa offerings. Indonesia, for example, has announced that it is finalising a new ‘digital nomad’ visa that will allow non-residents to live in Bali for up to five years without paying local taxes, provided their earnings come from companies outside Indonesia. In the meantime, remote workers will be allowed to reside in Bali and work for up to six months.
Third, as a midlife woman with a thirst for designing my perfect life, I am well and truly ready to challenge the definition of a ‘traditional digital nomad’.
So, what is a digital nomad?
Prior to COVID, remote working was mainly the purview of the part-time mum juggling work and kids. COVID obviously normalised remote working for us all, overnight. And then clever Estonia, one of many countries with a decimated travel industry, introduced a ‘digital nomad’ visa allowing non-residents to live in the country for up to 183 consecutive days while continuing to work online in their existing job/ business – without paying local income tax.
Boom. The digital nomad was born. Estonia’s innovation was quickly followed by other countries, and now over 50 countries offer some form of digital nomad visa, with an estimated 35 million digital nomads worldwide. Most digital nomads head offshore at 29 and the average age of today’s digital nomad is 32. But this is something I am looking to challenge. Why on earth should the under-35s have all the fun?
What’s in it for the host country?
Cash. Digital nomads contribute a global economic value of $787 billion per annum. Digital nomad visas are targeted at professionals who ‘come with a job’ as opposed to those looking to ‘find fruit-picking work in situ’, who are established in the workforce, earn good money, will stay in the country for a longer period of time, spend their money, build networks with local businesses and, most importantly, not compete with the local workforce.
Why midlifers need to jump on the bandwagon
There are many good reasons to pack your computer with your bathers and head north for some remote offshore work, including:
- Digital nomad visas aren’t ‘ageist’ – unlike working holiday visas that tap out at 30.
- The application process is quite easy – these beautiful countries want us to visit and stay.
- The list of over 50 countries offering digital nomad visas is tantalising.
- 46 per cent of digital nomads are self-employed, and as 47 per cent of Australian small business owners are over the age of 50, the numbers are in our favour. We want to be our own boss, we want to set our own hours, we want to work with clients we love and we want to do all of this from under a palm tree.
- With many of us empty nesting, we suddenly have more time and freedom on our hands, and we are champing at the bit to get out and about sans kids.
So, I’m off to Bali in July for seven weeks for a practice run – where I get to live and work in paradise while the rest of Melbourne is freezing through winter. Sounds like a good plan to me.
Kate Christie is a time management expert and best-selling author. Her most recent book, The Life List: Master Every Moment and Live an Audacious Life, is targeted at 50ish women wanting to live an audacious life by design. The Life List is available now.
Where would you most like to enjoy an extended break? Let us know in the comments section below.
Also read: Do grey nomads help our economy?