Elgan: I'm a digital nomad (and so are you)

New technology enables almost everyone reading this to live and work with more freedom and flexibility. Are you missing the boat?

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The most common objections feel like showstoppers, when in fact they are merely expressions of preference.

For example, some people say they can't work abroad because they might make less than they make now. But that's an expression of preference: They prefer the security of a higher salary to the freedom of working abroad.

And there are people who say they can't work abroad because they have young children. In fact, raising your kids in your home country and keeping them in conventional schools is a preference.

Digital technology gives us options, enabling us to make choices. But these choices involve trade-offs: money vs. freedom; spending time with existing friends and family vs. making new friends; stability and security vs. adventure; and so on.

But what about money?

There's a myth about foreign travel that's so pervasive that it must be addressed here. It's the belief that living abroad is expensive and threatens financial security.

When you live a conventional life in a highly industrialized country, your biggest costs tend to be fixed costs: There are the expenses that go with living in a building -- rent or mortgage, plus utilities, trash, Internet, water etc.; then there are transportation-related expenses, usually car payments, insurance and gas; and then there are taxes, payments on debt and some others.

If you have fixed costs like those but your income isn't stable, you can end up in financial trouble if your pay suddenly drops, as many found out the hard way during the Great Recession.

However, when you're living abroad and renting a room somewhere, you have more flexibility and you can dial down your expenses quickly. If, for example, you're living it up in a fancy rented house in Europe and suddenly lose your biggest client, you could probably move quickly to Eastern Europe -- or somewhere else where the cost of living is much lower -- and rent more modest accommodations until you replace that client.

When you're living abroad as a digital nomad, your costs are as flexible and variable as your income might be.

Why now? And with what technology?

I enjoyed two major digital nomad trips -- four weeks with my wife and two kids exploring Mayan ruins in Central America and southern Mexico in 2006; and four months living in Greece with my wife in 2008. In both cases, I maintained my normal workload, finding Internet connections where I could.

Since then, the number and quality of products and services that facilitate life on the road as a digital nomad -- and foreign travel in general -- have increased radically.

Here's what's new.

Alternative housing sites. A new generation of websites help you find rental housing. The leader, Airbnb, lets you plug in a city and add your criteria, including price. If you want to be stunned, check out what you can rent in Spain for $40 per night or less (include Wi-Fi).

Much of the rental housing is available at steeply discounted weekly and monthly rates.

Note that you can use these sites not only to find accommodations abroad, but also to rent out your own home to offset your costs.

Social networking. Yes, social networks existed in 2008. But most people weren't on them. Now they are.

By far the hardest thing about moving abroad is being away from family and friends. Social networks like Facebook and Google+ keep you in constant contact.

Google+ in particular is great for people who want to live and work as digital nomads, in part because of Google+ Hangouts, in which 10 people can engage in a free, unlimited video chat. This lets you take part in meetings, give presentations and keep in touch with colleagues, family and friends.

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