Recently, I shared my goals for life with the readers of this website. The first on the list was being able to live a completely digital life. Although I’m sure I haven’t invented the term, I don’t see it used too frequently. In fact, aside from a small subculture of blogs and books, the idea of “digital living” isn’t even imagined by most people.
What is a Digital Life?
I’m going to take the initiative to define a digital life as:
- One where the primary source of income is detached from any location.
- All or most assets you own are stored as bits and bytes on a computer.
- You can earn your income fully from anywhere you can bring a laptop and receive satellite phone/internet connections.
At first glance, this doesn’t seem incredibly appealing. The American Dream is a four bedroom house, two cars and a driveway in the suburbs. Why is the Digital Dream of having most the things you own stored on a hard drive desirable?
The reason is that a digital life enables you to live in a way that would otherwise be completely impossible, perhaps even unimaginable. Here are a few things you could do, living entirely with 1’s and 0’s:
- Live anywhere in the world, at any time. Who wants to live in Spain, India or Sweden for six months? Normally such trips are called vacations and require extra money, only last a week or two, during which you can’t earn any more money. Digital living means vacationing could be a way of life, and not a brochure.
- Have complete control over your time. Most regular work is fixed to the 9-5 schedule. This means opportunities are left for evenings and weekends. It also means your productivity is limited to what you can work with during those hours. Digital living would remove those barriers and give you 100% control over your time.
- Not tied to civilization. I’m a fan of hot showers and paved streets. But, if your life were completely digital, you would be less attached to civilization itself. You could live in the jungle for as long as you have battery packs. Heck, with a portable solar generator, you wouldn’t even need to go back to recharge.
The possibilities of what you can do with a completely digital life are almost endless. Tim Ferriss introduces many of the ideas of digital living in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. However, he holds back on some ideas, sticking with the belief that most people will still work in a corporate environment or have a major location.
Normally, world travel and disconnect from society has it’s costs. Either you need to accept a much lower income, or you work odd jobs during your travels. A digital life is different in that you can still pursue ambitious financial goals. I know people who could, if they want, earn in the mid six-figures, without needing more than a laptop.
How Do You Create a Digital Life?
The internet provides the best opportunity for going completely digital. There is more than a few ways you can use the internet to make a digital life possible. Here are just a few:
- Internet Businesses/Blogs. This is the current path I’m pursuing. Setting up a successful business isn’t easy. Setting up a successful, completely digital, business, isn’t any easier. However, the rewards of a digital life are big enough to make the challenge worthwhile.
- Freelancing. Writing, designing, programming, even doing taxes are all going online now. Taking your employable skills to the freelance market can be an easier way to transition into digital than starting a business. With the rise of communication software, there isn’t a difficulty interacting with people on the other side of the globe.
- Mobile Employment. Many employers are starting to offer work at home programs. It saves them office space, boosts productivity and moves you a step towards digital.
The Stuff Obsession
More than just income generation, a digital life requires a different way of looking at how to live. The typical Western approach is to own a lot of stuff. Buy a house. Buy IKEA furniture. Buy a car, a truck, a big screen television and all the things your money can buy.
But do we really need more stuff? Is our obsession with ownership based on the need to watch prime time television in high-def? Or is it just something to fill up time and distract from the fact that life is boring and we’ve come to accept it as an inevitability.
A digital way of living flips this thinking on its head. More stuff is bad. A friend of mine (not digital, but a vagabond who comes pretty close) once said that he prefers “when my life can fit in a backpack.” Stuff can provide comfort, but it takes away freedom. A coffee table and china set just provide the illusion of stability.
Digital life doesn’t mean becoming a monk and completely abandoning all material possessions. But, it does put stuff in its place. Instead of rewarding the collection of useless junk, digital living sees your things as functional necessities, not filler for a boring life.
My Progress Towards Digital Living
I’m not completely digital yet. But I’m expecting that I could be in the next few years. I’m almost at the stage of having a full-time income stream from the web. I expect to finish my education and build up some reserve funds before I’m able to make the complete switch.
Digital Life is an Option, Not a Prerequisite
Digital living is about creating the option to have nearly complete freedom. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever stay in one place or have a home. Digital life is just another form of independence, giving you more flexibility to create the lifestyle you want.