A New Breed of Itinerant Worker

Imagine getting up in a morning, the sun beating through a chink in the curtains, cool fresh air wafting in from the sea, a new glorious day lying ahead. But that day, you have to be in the office. While everyone else is out enjoying nature’s gift, your immediate future will be spent cooped in a box for eight hours, probably staring at a computer or droning away on the phone. It’s a fate that befalls many and is rarely envied.

Cut to the year 2011. The sun is beating through a chink in the curtains, cool fresh air wafts in from the sea, a new glorious day lying ahead…but, this IS your office. In fact, your office can be – within reason – absolutely anywhere. It could be in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, by the beach in Bali or deep in the heart of the most vibrant city on earth (for me, Tokyo, but you can insert your own vibrant city here). Your workplace is where you wake up. No commuting, no defrosting the car, no dreary ‘briefing’ sessions to sit through. You wake up and you are at work.

And what’s more…what is more, you don’t have to work there virtually every week of the year. On a whim, you can jump on a plane and find somewhere equally exotic to live your working life. No work permits required. You are free to do what you want, any old time, as the old Rolling Stones used to say – actually, they are very old now, but I digress.

It sounds like a dream, surely.

But today, thanks to modern technology, this dream has become a reality for some of the more adventurous of our species. It was, until fairly recently, the stuff of science fiction; our future selves, invariably dressed in a shiny space-suit, would plug in our computers and talk face-to-face with our tinsel-haired colleague on the other side of the world. In reality, we can do that now (minus the silly stuff, of course). Skype, FaceTime, MSN – the virtual meeting place is as good as done.  Admittedly, it’s not super-real just yet. We can’t smell the coffee or ask our colleague in Puerto Rico to pass the tortillas. But the virtual world is now a fact and is something, to my mind, some audacious souls can exploit in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Before we leap any further into this fantasy, let’s just get the reality check out of the way. This modern Utopia is not open to everyone. If you have a family, dragging them in tow all over the planet is really not an option. And there are quite a few jobs – okay probably most jobs – that entail actually having to be in a particular place in order for to be able to do it. We can’t, for example, have our police keeping the peace from a small taverna in Crete. But today, there are many jobs – think IT, admin or web-based careers – that could be done from absolutely anywhere.

I think we’re going to be hearing more of this new breed of itinerant workers. What do you think?

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