Nomadic DigiTerpreter


I was recently asked to contribute a presentation to the Innovation in Interpreting Summit organised by the amazing duo Nora Díaz and Josh Goldsmith. I was assigned the topic 'The Nomadic DigiTerpreter', which I thought very relevant for the interpreting community. Covid has created new realities for us – and thankfully, not all of these are negative.


Before I get into what 'Nomadic DigiTerpreter' means, I would like to take a step back and explain the term it derives from: 'digital nomad'. A digital nomad is someone who is not tied to a workplace. In fact, they can work from wherever in the world they want to. As long as they can communicate with their teams and their clients, and they deliver their work on time, it doesn't really matter where they are based.

The restrictions of lockdown turned many of us into digital nomads of sorts. Most of us could not work from our usual bases – places that had previously often involved a lot of in-person contact; we had to work remotely. And this type of work has not really gone away despite workplaces opening up again. Many people still work part-time or all of the time from 'home' – or from wherever they want. And some find working remotely and the freedom that this gives hugely advantageous.

This phenomenon has not escaped the attention of a number of countries, particularly those which have historically been popular tourist destinations and saw a drop in their income when lockdowns meant no tourism was possible. There are more than 50 countries that offer digital nomad visas. In Europe, for instance, you have Cyprus, Spain, Portugal and Croatia, among others. In Africa, you have Namibia and Mauritius. The list includes places that are dream holiday destinations, such as Barbados, Bermuda and Costa Rica.

These countries, spread all over the world, have actively targeted digital nomads. After all, digital nomads are typically well educated. They are high earners, and the countries that offer such visas and such facilities stand to benefit from receiving these people. Some of these countries also expect people staying for a long time to pay taxes in addition to the other ways they are contributing to the economy. And now that the experience of lockdown has provided a crash course in home-schooling and/or online schooling, digital nomads can also include parents of school-age children.


So moving from being a digital nomad to becoming a DigiTerpreter, a nomadic interpreter, an interpreter who can work from anywhere…is this something we can do? There are some good reasons why we certainly can. For instance, if you are working on one of your languages, or if you are learning a new language, living in the country of that language for a while is a good idea. If you are based in Europe, or in a country where the winter time is very dark and the days are short, and you are badly hit by the winter blues, maybe chasing the sun in the winter is something that appeals to you: you can spend time in a country where the sun shines and the weather is better. And of course, given that we are all suffering from the rising cost of living everywhere, you could move to a country where the standards of living are different and things are cheaper, so that you can make your income go further.

If you are considering it, though, there are quite a few things to think through before you take the plunge. I'd suggest that the first thing to look at is the on-site versus online balance of your current work. If most of your assignments are on-site, it may not make much sense to move somewhere away from your regular place of work as this will have implications, especially if you are thinking of staying away for a long time. On the other hand, if most of your work is online, then why not go somewhere else where you can enjoy greener pastures? And the balance of on-site versus online may shift over the course of the year too. Is there a period when your on-site assignments are concentrated, meaning you could actually spend the rest of the year elsewhere? If you are a conference interpreter, bear in mind that you could make use of the fact that we have 'low seasons'. You could travel during these: for instance, combining working remotely with taking a holiday, and maybe completing some continuing professional development as well. In my opinion, that would be a very good way to use your time.


There are also a lot of practical issues associated with this type of work. Over the past few years we have all spent considerable time – and money – perfecting our home offices. We have invested in the necessary equipment, attended training and webinars, and learned about how we can make these offices work best for us. Now you are going to be making the shift from your home office to your mobile office…

Don't assume that you will be able to kit yourself out in your new destination, especially if you're planning to do a fair bit of travelling. You will need to pack up and take all the equipment you will need to work remotely. That means your laptops, headphones, microphones, adapters, Ethernet and other cables ‒ everything. And be sure to take spares too: getting exactly the right new microphone or a cable might not be as easy at your end destination as it is back home. Depending on the country you are thinking of going to, it may also be a good idea to invest in an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device. This is basically a battery to which you can connect your internet router and laptop so, if there is a power cut, it kicks in automatically and you do not lose connectivity nor power on your devices. It can be a vital way to enable you to carry on working even when power cuts strike.

Another thing to think through in advance is internet speed; it's essential to find out for certain if there is good internet speed in the location(s) where you are to be based. Always find this out in advance – and ask for a screenshot from the hotel or rental just to be sure that you have your minimum download and upload speeds (10 MB per second for download, and 5 MB per second for upload). If you're going to be based in a hotel, make sure you're in a room without too much noise – you don't want to be close to the reception or the lift – and check if there are Ethernet sockets in the room. You may decide that, if some of what you need isn't available, it's better to rent a small meeting room or a co-working space (these are often accessible 24/7 and offer good internet).

Think too about the time zone, especially if you are going to be moving to a different time zone from where you are usually based. Installing, for instance, a Google Chrome extension like Savvy Time is a good idea. This is a free extension which is added to your Google Chrome browser, and if you have a meeting, you can enter the city where the meeting is taking place and your own location to get the time in your time zone.


If you're going to be staying for any length of time, some countries will expect you to pay full tax; others have tax deductions or special rates for digital nomads. In other places, even though you won't be paying tax there, you still need to keep your tax affairs up to date in your home country. So do look at your tax situation before you decide, and look at the regulations of the country you are planning to go to.

There are other financial implications too. Some countries have a minimum income requirement (that may be quite high) for anyone staying over a certain period of time. Others do not have such high expectations; it varies from country to country. So this is another area where you will need to do your homework and check out in advance what the expectations will be.

Finally, if you are going to be staying somewhere for a long time as a DigiTerpreter, there will be applications to complete. That means there will be paperwork to do, a timescale to stick to – and of course there are fees connected with that. So do that homework again and look at what the expectations are in terms of applications, the deadlines for them, and the documents you need to submit (and make sure you have these with you before you go!). All these are part and parcel of the process to become a DigiTerpreter, at least for an extended period of time.

So is it worth it? My view is that becoming a DigiTerpreter is definitely worth a try, even if it's only for a short time. Consider the possibilities depending on your on-site to online balance – and if you go for it, enjoy the adventure. The opportunity to explore parts of the world while at the same time helping your clients and earning an income is indeed something to be grateful for.