How digital nomads are redefining work in the Kootenays

The workplace is changing beyond recognition, thanks to new technologies like web collaboration tools, the smartphone and next generation internet connectivity, freeing to work from wherever they want. We speak with some digital nomads working amongst us in Revelstoke.

Henning Schipper is amongst the new class of digital nomads freed to transfer their skills to almost any location due to online connectivity. Photo: Jean-Marc LaFlamme

‘150Mbps internet and a ski resort downtown? I’m coming to work, play & stay for the season.’

The Internet is enabling digital nomads to travel and work from anywhere in the world.

The workplace is changing beyond recognition, thanks to new technologies like web collaboration tools, the smartphone and next generation internet connectivity. Now, people don’t have to be tied to a desk or even an office; you can work remotely from home, a coworking space or really, any place that has WiFi. The new economy is growing as more and more people work for themselves, with half of our workforce becoming freelance by 2020.

Coworking spaces popping up in cities

The growth in the freelance economy has also prompted the emergence of coworking spaces like our own Mountain CoLab catering to these self-employed professionals. This is a diverse bunch, with some working in industries like tech, communications, engineering, education, design, photography, fashion, accounting, sales, or any number of emergent online industries.

Flickr Creative Commons licence image by Sagie.
Flickr Creative Commons licence image by Sagie.

In the last few years, digital nomads have been flocking to cities like Bangkok, Berlin and Budapest where costs of living are relatively cheap and the WiFi widely available and reliable. They’ve been characterized as borderless “citizens of the world.” They aren’t quite tourists and yet, they aren’t quite residents. Co-working hubs and home-office hybrids for travelling professionals are popping up all over the place to bring together these ‘short-term expats,’ who seek social interaction, networking opportunities, a good internet connection and a decent place to hold client meetings.

There is significant occupational shift, most probably rooted in generational differences about work and ownership, where most don’t feel the need to own a car, home or material items. The loss of traditional jobs from our the traditional resource-based economy.

Besides the constant quest for a decent Internet connection, digital nomads base their travel decisions on cost of living in their host cities, since on average, digital nomads do stay in their adopted communities for longer periods of time than the typical tourist. Our Revelstoke digital nomads are here for the lifestyle and particularly for outdoor recreation such as skiing, biking, hiking and then dozens of other major activities. They are also looking for social support, knowledge sharing, networking and partners to innovate outside their professional coworkers in the other side of the planet.

Piotr is a web developer from Poland in Revelstoke for the winter

Piotr at work overlooking Mackenzie Avenue the Revelstoke Mountain CoLab. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer
Piotr at work overlooking Mackenzie Avenue the Revelstoke Mountain CoLab. Photo: Aaron Orlando/Revelstoke Mountaineer

“I’m a ski addict, so I when I look for my winter home, I just focus on snow conditions and mountains around. That’s why Revelstoke was an obvious choice. I used to not expect too much from ski towns — coworking spaces and vibrant tech communities tend to stick to the big cities,” Piotr said.
“But Revelstoke has proved me wrong. Not only have I found an amazing skiing, but also a great CoLab and a community built around it. I think that being surrounded by people with similar values and mindset is the best motivation for me to both work and play hard. I’m really excited that now you can find those people outside big cities, in places where you can easily follow outdoorsy passions and still develop a career. It’s the essence of remote work for me.”

Henning is a transplant from Germany with an architecture background, working to innovate the local wood products industry.

“In 2012 I quit my job as an architect in Germany, to go to Canada to ride my mountain bikes as much as possible. After leaving Whistler and on the way to Banff, I got ‘Revelstuck.’ I started working for Take to Heart, a specialty wood product sawmill local owned in Revelstoke. Over the years we started to develop new sustainable construction and housing concepts. When I’m working my projects I’m going to the CoLab, here I’m get into a work environment where I can focus and be able to network. It’s right in the middle of downtown which makes it very convenient to meet with customers or go back to work after some riding on the lunchbreak.”

Alastair and Nerida are a couple from Australia in the web and fashion industries.

“I’ve been working remotely for companies in Australia and the US as a web developer since 2014,” Alistair said.  “In choosing a place to visit, we look for lifestyle opportunities as well as practical considerations such as timezone and cost-of-living. Revelstoke is an amazing place to live given the breadth of outdoors activities available. Its relative remoteness seems to have helped bond the community with terrific programs like that offered by the Mountain CoLab. We did find it challenging though to secure an apartment, and housing is certainly an area I’d like to see improved if we’re to return.”

While this kind of lifestyle may seem more suited to carefree millennial, there are families with children jumping on the digital nomad bandwagon too. And in fact, telecommuting can promote slow, responsible travel.

The rewards of living lighter and more fully outside of a cubicle, and earning a living while venturing out in the wider world can ultimately be a thoroughly satisfying one. With traditional office work slowly giving way to a new work ethic, redefining what it means to be productive and meaningful, the digital nomad way of life may very well become a new normal.

What does an entrepreneur need in Revelstoke besides high speed internet?

Take a look at this list and let us know!

This is the fifth part of a technology education series hosted in the Revelstoke Mountaineer in conjunction with YourLink Revelstoke, and our new Mountain CoLab to discuss the wide swath of opportunities for our community to capitalize.
Stay tuned for ways in which you can engage at innovation nights, join our LinkedIn group, and leave a message below on what technology means to you and future of our family.