The life of a digital nomad: Is it for you?

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Meet the people who were brave enough to ditch their dreary jobs to travel the world. (Shutterstock)
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Andrew Miller is currently based in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
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Joan Torres now lives in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
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Kate Smith is enjoying her time in Bali, Indonesia.
Updated 12 November 2017
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The life of a digital nomad: Is it for you?

DAMMAM: Traveling to exotic locations around the world without having to worry about running out of vacation days or how you will pay the bills is a dream that many of us may want to live out.
However, this nomadic lifestyle is a reality for some brave individuals, including some who previously lived in Dubai, who are choosing to live as digital nomads.
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely, via technology, and is not tied to a physical location. This could mean retaining the same job, but without the restrictions of an office or it could even mean changing career altogether.
Kate Smith, a former project manager at an advertising agency in Canada, left her dreary nine-to-five cubicle job to pursue the nomadic lifestyle and has not looked back since.
Long working hours and the daily grind had started to take a physical and mental toll on Smith. Ultimately, she desired flexibility and the ability to travel more. Ever since she quit her job and booked a one-way ticket to Prague in 2015, Smith has traveled to more than 23 countries and has lived in 12 countries over a span of two years. This month, she has chosen Bali as her home and office.
Smith employed the services of a US-based company called “Remote Year,” which offers a year-long travel experience. According to the company’s website, 75 like-minded professionals with remote jobs work around the world for a year, spending each month in a new country. They pay for each month and services include travel between countries, a private bedroom, access to a co-working space, Wi-Fi and professional, cultural or social experiences in the country.
During her time with Remote Year, Kate identified a gap in the program — only people who had a remote job were eligible to apply. She then started “WiFly Nomads,” which enables a digital lifestyle by providing the necessary facilities and services, including a SIM card, accommodation, co-working space, high-speed Internet, workshops on how to remain productive while traveling, excursions in the new country and even assistance with finding a remote job or starting your own remote business.
Several Dubai-based professionals have also left their fast-paced, stressful corporate jobs to pursue the digital nomad lifestyle. After working for three years in the marketing department of an international FMCG company, Joan Torres decided he had had enough of the 14-hour work days. Even five weeks of annual vacation could not make up for stress at the workplace and he regretted not dedicating enough time to travel. Andrew Miller, who worked in the Dubai tech industry for five years was tired of paying rent in expensive cities. Later, his company was acquired, which left him with no job.
These days, Miller works as a remote marketing consultant, assisting early-stage start-ups with launch, strategy, content creation, social media and blogging. He is currently in the Czech Republic and will then fly off to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
“Travel helps me learn about cultures and new languages. In the past few years of traveling, I have learnt Spanish and gotten pretty good at Arabic, Hindi/Urdu, French, Italian, Russian, and Yoruba,” Miller told Arab News.
Torres took a different path and combined his passions — photography and writing — to start a travel blog called “Against the Compass,” writing about off-the-beaten-path destinations. He currently lives and writes in Uzbekistan and is enjoying his newfound freedom.
As many professions take to the Internet and four-walled offices become a thing of the past, many people are trading in the stability and structure of a full-time corporate job for the digital nomad lifestyle. Such a lifestyle provides flexibility, greater ownership of work, personal development, a wealth of travel experiences, social and cultural awareness and, most importantly, a sense of belonging to a global community.
As Greg Caplan, founder and CEO of Remote Year, says: “At the core of the remote revolution is the potential to be a better global citizen and move through the world with purpose, cultural sensitivity and awareness.”
Torres says the digital nomad lifestyle has helped him go “beyond all the general misconceptions (of a country) and understand the world better.”
For Kate, the experience has expanded her horizons and perspective.
“I’ve met a diverse group of lawyers, entrepreneurs and bloggers and they can all teach you something. It gives you a better understanding of the world as a whole. You learn to appreciate what you have back home, but also appreciate where you are at the same time.”
So, will you ditch the nine-to-five grind and go digital?


Iraq’s top musicians play on despite unpaid wages

Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra conductor Mohammed Amin Ezzat leads musicians during a rehearsal at Baghdad's School of Music and Ballet. (AFP)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Iraq’s top musicians play on despite unpaid wages

In a dusty Baghdad dance studio, conductor Mohammed Amin Ezzat tries to fire up the musicians of Iraq’s National Symphony Orchestra, whose enthusiasm has been dampened by eight months without pay.
An aging air conditioner fights to beat back the summer heat in the cramped space at the capital’s School of Music and Ballet as the 57-year-old maestro leads the group through a rehearsal of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.”
The shaggy-haired Ezzat and the 40 musicians surrounding him are gearing up to perform at Baghdad’s National Theater on Saturday, but the group’s morale is at an all-time low.
The ensemble has lost more than half its members since the start of the year, when the government issued a directive barring state employees with two jobs from receiving two salaries.
The anti-corruption measure was suggested by the World Bank and should affect only about a third of the orchestra’s musicians, but because of delays in carrying out the reform wages have been withheld from the entire group.
“The orchestra is in great danger,” Ezzat said. “Some don’t have enough money to come, and others are disappointed by the impact of politics on the orchestra.”
Officially created in 1970 after several unsuccessful attempts, Iraq’s national orchestra has survived decades of upheaval.
It has survived wars, an invasion, a 12-year international embargo and a devastating three-year battle against Daesh militants, which came to an end last year.
But this may be the last straw for the outfit, a collateral victim of Iraq’s “war on corruption.”
“Not being paid for eight months has had a terrible psychological effect on the musicians, but we’ll continue to resist peacefully with our music,” said Ezzat, who became the orchestra’s first Iraqi conductor in 1989.
“We’re on the precipice but sure that we won’t jump.”
When all its salaries are tallied up — including the maestro’s $1,200 a month, peanuts for a major conductor — the orchestra costs the state about $85,000 (€73,000) a year.
The sum is a pittance compared to the exorbitant figures siphoned off by ministers and high officials who have either fled or been arrested.
The conductor, his daughter Noor, a timpanist, and his sons Hossam and Islam, who play the cello and viola respectively, have all been without a salary since January.
But according to Raed Allawi, the head of administrative affairs at Iraq’s Culture Ministry, there is no reason to panic — the wages will soon be paid.
“The Finance Ministry has asked for a regularization of contracts. Verification measures are underway and this explains the late payment of wages,” Allawi said.
“The orchestra is one of the country’s cultural showcases (and the ministry) respects its artists and their talent.”
For the symphony’s musicians, however, these are empty words they have heard already.
Saad Al-Dujaily, a professor of medicine and a flutist, thinks the measure is regressive. “I’ve been an obstetrician and a flute player since I was very young,” he said.
Because of the directive, the 57-year-old practitioner — who teaches at Baghdad’s Al-Nahrain University and plays in the national orchestra — is now entitled to only one salary.
“In Iraq, we’re proud to have more than one job, to have more than one love, to practice two professions with the same love and passion,” said Dujaily, who plans to continue with the orchestra to help preserve its quality.
Further along into the rehearsal, the studio’s electricity cuts, a common occurrence in a country plagued by power outages.
The orchestra cannot afford the diesel to fuel the building’s generator.
But the musicians play on in the windowless room, using their cell phones to illuminate the sheet music. “There have been crises in the past, but this is the worst,” said Doaa Majid Al-Azzawi, an oboe player.
“Especially since my father and I are musicians. We don’t know what will happen, but if the orchestra has to stop, it’s culture in Iraq that will be dealt a deadly blow,” the 25-year-old said.
When the studio’s lights eventually make a flickering return, so too does the players’ enthusiasm, and the music swells.
“As long as we live, music will live. It’s our culture,” said Noor, the conductor’s daughter.