A nomadic lifestyle is full of freedom and adventure, unchaining people from the shackles of time, authority, and 9-5 office work. Giving full control to individuals to decide the life they want to lead without the burden of heavy possessions or responsibilities. Unfortunately, this lifestyle has almost disappeared in our modern world. Travel restrictions based on nationality, formal education and waged labour are tying individuals to a fixed geography.
However, technological advancements and the widespread use of the internet has allowed a new kind of nomadic lifestyle called Digital Nomadism. We will be exploring how to be a digital nomad in Iraq.
What is a Digital Nomad?
Digital Nomads are defined as people who live a location free, technology-enabled lifestyle. They can choose where to live and work, as long as they have access to the internet.
Such a lifestyle was first popularised by travel bloggers and vloggers producing content while on the move. The publicity generated by this content drew attention to Digital Nomadism. In addition, tech companies began to expand their workforce with remote workers and freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr provided a directory of talent and opportunity.
Covid-19 restrictions have made Digital Nomadism even more attractive with companies being open to hiring remote employees and the culture of remote working becoming more popular.
Digital Nomad in Iraq
Digital Nomadism is gaining popularity in Iraq, especially among the younger generation. The possibility of generating more income is especially enticing, either by getting higher paid jobs from international clients or working for international companies.
Iraq is a fertile ground for such a lifestyle. Nearly all parts of the country have access to the internet (though speeds vary based on location), which enables digital nomads to travel and work in their desired place.
Co-working spaces are also increasing in number across Iraq, offering desks, high-speed wifi, meeting rooms and camaraderie to independent professionals who prefer to work among peers rather than from the isolation of home. Like other countries, Covid-19 lockdowns pushed Iraqi companies to experience remote work. With employee productivity remaining at the same level, many companies are opening permanent remote positions resulting in more opportunities for Digital Nomads.
Despite the obvious benefits remote working and Digital Nomadism can offer, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. Some are inherent to Digital Nomadism and others are unique to Iraq:
High internet speed is necessary to participate in video conferences and Zoom meetings. Unfortunately, Iraq suffers in this aspect as internet speeds greatly vary between location. Although 4G was recently brought forth, major cities tend to benefit the most with high-speed, reliable internet, whilst smaller towns and rural areas struggle. This restricts the freedom of movement that Iraq-based Digital Nomads have.
A lot of Digital Nomads around the world mention loneliness and burnout as the downside to this lifestyle. The human connections one would find in an office environment is removed and a lack of structured work hours makes it easy to overdo it. Digital Nomads need to pay closer attention to their mental health and psychological well being.
Miscommunication is a big issue with remote work as communication is isolated from the subtle body language and facial expressions. Written messages can be read wrongly and skewed to the reader, making simple sentences sound harsher than they actually are. This is something a lot of creators have started working on to improve by creating tools for Slack and Google Chrome.
Receiving payments and salaries is a big obstacle for Digital Nomads in Iraq. Iraq’s banking system has not matured and cannot provide seamless payment options. This is somewhat remedied by Mobile Payment Systems giving the ability to receive and send instantaneous payments within the country.
The increased popularity of cryptocurrencies means that Iraqis are more open to receiving payment in digital assets, which can be withdrawn from local cryptocurrency exchanges.
Yet the issue remains for Digital Nomads working with clients outside the country. Sending and receiving funds is extremely difficult due to some countries having Iraq on a blacklist for payment transfers, and local banks requiring additional paperwork to access funds to avoid money laundering.
What The Future Holds
As the world continues to move towards technological dependence, and with Covid-19 not going away anytime soon, it is expected that Iraqi companies will continue to place more emphasis on remote employment. This will also raise more awareness among the wider job-seeking community about remote and flexible working, in addition to the government perhaps paying attention to this new type of work and introducing legislation to further encourage companies and workers alike.