How infrastructure will unlock digital nomadism

category - design
sector - travel & hospitality
type - opinion
As remote working and nomadic visas become reality, the development of rural and suburban infrastructures will support a digital nomadic lifestyle.

Before settlements and communities materialised (over 12,000 years ago) humans lived a nomadic lifestyle as hunter-gatherers. The emergence of agriculture gave reason for people to lay down roots and anchor themselves to a specific location. The resurgence of nomadic living, coupled with future autonomous vehicles and community service hubs, could one day enable us to revisit our explorative ancestral lifestyle. Here, we discuss more about our fully autonomous nomadic concepts: a selection of electric vehicles designed for the future digital nomad community. They provide not only a versatile home and place of work, but a range of service vehicles which helps support this flexible way of life.

The ongoing pandemic has accelerated the move towards a digital nomadic lifestyle, triggering 'The Great Resignation'. Alongside this, the extreme rise in inflation has resulted in a cost of living crisis that is taking a toll on so many globally. The UK saw a 40-year inflation high, reaching 9.4% during June 2022, with soaring food and fuel prices largely behind the increase. Many are changing routine lifestyle behaviours to manage and support themselves and their loved ones.

We’ve seen a steady uptake in people choosing to travel as they work, giving rise to the 'half-tourist' or 'workationers': individuals hungry to explore new parts of the world, creating experiences for themselves while they work remotely. This principle untethers people from urban environments and enables them to explore. Another term in frequent use is ‘Digital Nomads’ – those who are not tied to a fixed location. Studies estimate as much as 22% of the US workforce will be working remotely by 2025, whilst Italy and Thailand have both introduced ‘Digital Nomad’ visas. Digital Nomads rely on wireless devices with internet capabilities, like smartphones and mobile hotspots, to work wherever they desire. This freedom can be beneficial to both the individual and the rural community in which they choose to work.

This all sounds good, but what’s preventing widespread adoption?

Published by:

13 September 2022

Author: Oliver Winter

Image: Nomad by Seymourpowell, UK


Nomad by Seymourpowell, UK

Challenges around cost, time, energy and infrastructure continue to exist. Some countries are offering solutions to barriers, such as the Digital Nomad visa: a document which provides someone with the legal right to work remotely, while residing away from their country of permanent residence. Currently, there are only a handful of countries offering such visas: The Bahamas, Germany, Portugal and Mexico, to name a few. It’s not only governments looking to provide support. Companies, such as Deel, are helping businesses and individuals overcome the legal and compliance obstacles involved in remote working and international hiring, assisting with document procuring, running payroll and providing legal support.

We spoke with Jemima Owen-Jones, Content Writer at Deel, about the hurdles: 'The biggest challenge our clients face when setting up remote work is employing the international worker in the first place. Before Deel came along, a company would have to spend lots of time and money navigating the local labour law compliance or even setting up their own entity, which costs tens of thousands of pounds.' Traditional barriers may deter many from adopting a more flexible way of life, but services like the above are becoming more commonplace to help smooth this transition, paving the way for a frictionless, nomadic lifestyle.

At Seymourpowell, we believe that the collaborative efforts of the technology, transport and architectural sectors will create a whole host of new opportunities and experiences, informing how we live and work in the future. Mobile power generation, retail and even waste management services, could help build temporary and fluid communities around communal events and landmarks, enabling lifestyles and behaviours which were previously not feasible.

Our concept vehicle, Nomad, is a level 5, fully autonomous home which moves between urban centres, providing an unrestricted form of off-grid and remote living. The concept is an exploration into how autonomy and services might eventually enable people to form new lifestyles rooted in flexible attitudes to work.

‘The collaborative efforts of the technology, transport and architectural sectors will create a whole host of new opportunities and experiences, informing how we live and work in the future’
Nomad by Seymourpowell, UK

Radical new autonomous vehicles could change the way our cities evolve, and our community’s form. The freedom to move is something which is already evident in the rise of the ‘Van Life’ and ‘Boondocking’ movements across Europe and the USA. Such movements continue to gather pace as people leverage new flexible ways of working in the search for more-fulfilling lifestyles. The electric autonomous vehicle operates between urban and developed areas, allowing occupants to enjoy a roving lifestyle between desired destinations. Where necessary, the vehicle puts them within reach of existing transport networks to be able to complete the journey to the ultimate destination. We’ve been considering ways in which an evolving fleet of autonomous service vehicles, running on clean energy, can provide the neo-nomadic community with the utilities they require.

On top of these autonomous solutions, strategically positioned service hubs would enable users to charge their vehicle, comfortably settle for a period, and take advantage of any amenities they require. Such hubs would also provide the opportunity to meet like-minded members of the community. An entire industry and service economy could be built on this framework, facilitating fleeting experiences which, when coupled with a networked infrastructure, allow for permanent ways of living.

Nomad is more than just another autonomous vehicle. It’s a system, a service, a community and a way of life. Through such vehicles and systems, we predict that nomadic communities will be more connected than ever. For many, the place they wish to lay their hat is subject to change, but their desire to build a lifestyle around exploring, working and living between these spots is unwavering.

Oliver is a design strategist at Seymourpowell. After graduating from Royal College of Art with a Masters in Intelligent Mobility, he spent time researching the future landscape of the transportation industry, while developing solutions with companies to humanise autonomy. At Seymourpowell, he continues to create better solutions for brands and people.

‘Strategically positioned service hubs would enable users to charge their vehicle, comfortably settle for a period, and take advantage of any amenities they require’

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