Whether you mean it to be or not, the act of migration is always political. That’s according to Dr. Parag Khanna, an internationally renowned expert in geopolitics and globalization. His latest book, Move: The Forces Uprooting Us, explores how mass migration will reshape the world as we know it in the decades ahead.
During a Plumia Speaker Series session on January 19th, Khanna argued that when people move across borders, they are essentially voting with their feet: “You don’t build affordable housing? I’m leaving. You don’t have free internet access? You don’t have an LGBT-friendly culture? I’m leaving!”
Being a digital nomad, then, can be considered a form of activism. Through where they choose to go, nomads express their social and political preferences and fearlessly act on them.
Some nomads hit the road due to a lack of job opportunities and the rising cost of living in major cities worldwide. Others simply prefer a more global lifestyle because their identity is tied to more than one place. The reasons for becoming location-independent may vary, but most are motivated by the opportunity to pursue new experiences and a higher quality of life. This is what travel and migration can offer.
Yet cross-border movement has become an increasingly divisive issue, especially since the turn of the 21st century. The US government points to terrorism and illegal border crossings as reasons to limit migration. In Europe, harsh restrictions are the response to waves of refugees from fleeing nations in crisis across the Mediterranean.
“The governments of the world will agree on how to colonize the moon,” says Khanna. “But never will they agree on a common migration accord.”
The majority of the world’s population is made up of people under 40, and younger, digitally-mobile generations are becoming a hot commodity. Nomad visas and tax breaks are the most prominent examples of this trend: countries are battling it out for global talent in a world of remote work. The digital nomad demographic represents a unique opportunity for governments that engage.
It’s never been more appealing for individuals to express their desires and improve their prospects by moving between geographies. In the years ahead, as climate change and aging populations continue to drive migration, attracting nomads will become an essential metric for nations’ long-term survival.
As Khanna says, digital nomads can now claim their political voice and enact real change simply by moving: “It’s the most powerful vote in the world.”
The Plumia Talks is an ongoing series of public talks about creating a borderless world through technology. The sessions feature expert guests such as academics, authors, technologists, policymakers, founders, and activists. Register for our next event.
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✍️ About the Author
Leanna Lee is a British-American writer covering digital nomads and the future of work. She’s also co-host of Bettermental, a wellness podcast for business owners. As a content marketing writer, she’s developed strategic thought leadership content, blogs, and resources for startups and Fortune 500 companies around the world. Follow her @LeannaLost.