Are digital nomads one of the first signs of post-materialism?

Are digital nomads one of the first signs of post-materialism?

We live in a great time. Never before has the world seen so little war, we have never been better at curing deceases and the population has better living standards than ever before. Extremely many people around the world have more than enough money, a prestigious job and all the safety, options and material things they want. Having “everything” makes people search for other things, which are not monetary; such as meaning and freedom. At the same time technology is changing how we do almost everything.

One of the results of this development are digital nomads. People who are breaking free from the normal way of living and defining a new way by working on their dream project while traveling. In other words, many of the digital nomads are combining doing something meaningful with living exactly as they want. Digital nomads are mostly entrepreneurs and freelancers who are defining a new way of working, traveling and living. But normal employees are also starting to break free and make special agreements with the companies they work for, to live a life that makes sense for them.

We have had multiple digital nomads join our trips and I consider myself a digital nomad. The last couple of years I have been living longer and shorter periods in China, Spain, Morocco and Chile, while running my business. I find this development in how people are working and living extremely interesting, because I see it as one of the first steps towards what people call post-materialism.

Post-materialism is described by philosophers, socialists and others as a “the transformation of individual values from materialist, physical and economic to new individual values of autonomy and self-expression.” (Wikipedia). This is very much in line with digital nomads, who define their own living and skip the normal way of having a career and living, focusing on experiences instead of old school materialism.

Are digital nomads one of the first signs of post-materialism? CLICK TO TWEET


The rise of the digital nomads

People have always traveled and lived like digital nomads. The difference now is that it’s getting normal. By the way, is it a coincidence that people started searching for this shortly after Tim Ferris published “The 4-Hour Work Week”? I don’t think so!

Interest in Google searches for "Digital Nomad"

New services for digital nomads is such as blogs, foras etc. pop up all the time. This is really becoming normal and I only see this trend continuing in the future. We already mentioned some of the reasons why people are changing to this livestyle, but another one is that more and more people are working freelance or working multiple smaller jobs. In the US one in three is freelancing, which is completely changing the way we work and it will also change how companies recruit.

The rise of digital nomads: One out of three in the US is freelancing and how we work, travel and live is changing. CLICK TO TWEET


Could big companies have digital nomad programs?

With  work changing, old school companies will be challenged. Before talent could be recruited and retained by salary and titles, but with digital nomads and freelancing becoming the new normal, more and more will not be satisfied with just money or a title. Their work has to be meaningful and it has to be on their own terms.

There are already popping up startups that runs completely with remote teams having employees spread over a lot of different countries and time zones. But will the same happen in old school companies?

I hope and think that some companies will start offering digital nomad programs of some kind. My idea is that it could be implemented in the agreement between the company and the employee, that the employee could work remotely for example 3 months per year. This would give the employee a chance of living and traveling in a way that 3-4-5 weeks of vacation could never do. At the same time the company would have an competitive edge towards attracting the best talents. Who knows, maybe they would even get more productive employees making better results for the company.

Could big companies have digital nomad programs? CLICK TO TWEET


Post-materialism will not happen anytime soon, but could happen sooner than we expect

The thought about post-materialism, a new time where money and material values are a thing of the past, is extremely difficult to imagine. Bu if we look back the shift from a world based on agricultural work and knowledge to the industrial world and again to a society focused on knowledge og technology went extremely fast and we don’t have to look that many years back in the history books. When considering that and that development is happening faster and faster, post-materialism could happen sooner than we expect.

But this is actually not really about a complete change of our world, but about a good change in the way we see work and life in general. Digital nomads are for me a sign, that people are valuing living a life that they define more and more. And I think that’s the way to become really happy. To define how you want to live life.

In all modesty, I think Refuga is an example of this. I could have done projects or work for clients that would pay a lot more. I could build other startups that had better business models. But Refuga makes sense for me and it gives me much more than money. It gives me a life where I can travel wherever I want whenever I want and I get to meet some extremely cool people.

I couldn’t be more positive about the time we are living in now and the future ahead of us.

Are digital nomads one of the first signs of post-materialism? CLICK TO TWEET

Lessons From Kilimanjaro

Lessons From Kilimanjaro

This article is written by Steffen Hedebrandt. Steffen is a Country Manager at Elance-oDesk in Scandinavia who joined our trip in 2014 to Kilimanjaro. He wrote an excellent piece about his experience on the trip for is blog on the website of Denmark’s biggest business media, Borsen. We have translated the piece and we’re really happy to bring it here on the Refuga blog. The piece was very well-written in danish, so we hope we get the feel of piece in english also. Don’t forget to check out Steffen’s personal blog (in english) right here.

Steffen will be joining our trip to Elbrus in July. We hope he will write an excellent post like this after that trip too. There is still time to sign up for Refuga Elbrus. Check it out here.

Lessons from Kilimanjaro

The concept was simple. Take a group of interesting people. Place them in amazing surroundings. Complete a big challenge with them. That was the description for Refuga Kilimanjaro.

The group consisted of creative Danish entrepreneurs. It all took place in Tanzania. The challenge was to climb the highest mountain of Africa, Kilimanjaro.

The result was 10 days with memories for life and a huge amount of inspiration for future work and projects.

With the backpack stuffed with everything from pills against Malaria and altitude sickness to a safari uniform, the 13 Danes flew from Copenhagen to Kilimanjaro Airport.

We experienced it all. From 30 degress celcius at the bottom of the mountain to -20 degrees at the top. From light rain to a snow storm.

Lesson from Kilimanjaro – What I learned from climbing Kilimanjaro with other entrepreneurs. CLICK TO TWEET 

Lessons From Kilimanjaro

Up Kilimanjaro

The trip up and down again of Kilimanjaro is undoubtedly unique. It’s a challenge and a personal journey for each participant. Our trip on the mountain was 7 days. Five and half days up and one and a half day down.

For every day that went by, we saw new sides of Kilimanjaro. The first day was jungle. Huge trees as far as we could see. A crazy humidity. On the second day the jungle ended. From here the vegetations were only around the height of us. We ended the day over the clouds, where just small bushes and grass grow. A scenery taken from a fairytale. From here we could see the top. Four kilometers down was the bottom of Kilimanjaro.

It was this night, where Brian had to be evacuated. During the night he had left his tent to visit the toilet. The next thing he remembers is regaining consciousness laying on the ground. His face against a rock. There was no doubt. He had been hit by the altitude and had fainted. He had to be evacuated. 10 African people from the crew and two of the participants helped him 1,5 hour down the mountain to an emergency road. Here he and one of the guides were picked up by an emergency car, driving them to the nearest hospital.

A bad accident, but the journey continued. That was also what Brian wanted.

On the third and fourth day the vegetation slowly disappeared. Our bodies, our minds and our group slowly got use to the thin air. The fifth and last day heading up to basecamp, placed just before the last, very steep part, offered us a windy desert-like landscape.

For every step here, you climb out. For every step the air gets thinner. You have to walk slowly. “Pole pole” as Yoda-look-a-like our guide-in-charge, Mr. Minja kept saying again and again. Mr. Minja is a legend on the mountain. All other guides and staff know and greet him on the mountain. You can understand why, when he said he had been to the top between 6-800 times. He didn’t speak much, but when he did, we listened.

You experience that some days you’re strong. Other days you need the help from your team mates. Some times you need energy. Other times more water. A pill against the altitude sickness. A raincover. A hand. A smile.

To the top – Through darkness, thunder and lightning

On the last day, the summit day, we we’re woken up at 11pm after just a few hours, if any, sleep. The basecamp had the day before been filled with sunshine and a light wind, but that had changed completely. Lightning and the following thunder was our new surroundings. And it was close. You could just count a few seconds between lightning and thunder. But that was not all. When we opened our tents, we could see a layer of snow covering everything. And more was coming. There was snow, wind, lightning and thunder coming down over the dark mountain.

The hopelessness of the situation was a mental challenge for us all. Optimism, chatting and smiles could still be found in the big tent where we met for one last briefing before departure at midnight. I’ll admit that I had a good amount of scepticism at that time. The nature surrounding us was in a crazy mood. It made me focused. Concentrated. Determinated. Others had energy to joke. I didn’t. We had gotten so far. We we’re so close.

Out we went

On one line. One guide in front. 12 Danish entrepreneurs in the middle. 3 guides in the back. Up, forward, up. Through endless darkness. Pole pole. Break. Snow. Thunder. Energybar. Frozen drinking bottles. Up. Darkness. forward. Pole pole. Endless darkness.

That’s how it went.

Up. No idea about where we had started. No idea about how long was left. A six hours long hike. In darkness. Towards Stella Point. The point where Kilimanjaro’s plateau is reached and the climb decreases.

At the exact moment, where the first sunshine of the day hit Africa, we reached Stella Point. It was the culmination. A liberating feeling. A moment of joy. It was overwhelming. Some were hit hard by the altitude. Others were extremely tired after the 6 hour marathon in darkness. The emotions were difficult to control. Tears in the eyes. We all admitted that. We saw the sun rise over Africa.

Not at the finish line yet

The absolute top, the top of the plateau is called Uhuru Peak and it’s 5.895 meters above sea level. There were still 45 minutes walk to that point. Everybody was hurting. But this stretch was easier. Over the plateau. With the clouds under us. Gletchers on both sides. And the sun rose higher on the sky. Now we could see where we were going. We could see Uhuru Peak.

We made it. We raised our arms. Cracked big smiles. Hugged each other. Took the mandatory pictures. Enjoyed the moment. Reached the finish line. Our goal. The top of Africa.

Lessons From Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro is a tough physical test. But it’s possible for everyone in a reasonable shape. Mentally, you also have to be strong. But you won’t make it without good team mates. We all had 12 of those.

The talks. The sharing of ideas. The sharing of emotions. The helpfulness of the others was big. The inspiration was enormous. Every day.

The learnings and value of a trip like this, as individuals and as a group, is impossible to describe in words.

We all reached some conclusions from the trips. Some lessons learned.

Bye bye comfort zone

If you want develop, it’s important to challenge and push yourself. For example by climbing a mountain. It can also be other things.

You have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone. Pushing your limits. Accomplish something that is at the edge of your capabilities. That is something that gives you energy. To be in a tough situation and to have completed it. Energy that can be used in busy day to day life.

Forgetting the trivialities of the everyday

The combination of being in nature for a week, moving from A to B every day, often during many hours, towards the same goal. That lays the foundation for incredible conversations.

Suddenly, all the noise of our normal lives is gone. No push notifications, no e-mails and no phone calling. If you have food and water the only other important thing, is the content of the conversation you are having.

These clean and undisturbed conversations removes the facade that can normally be found in everyday conversations. The facade that makes you answer “fine, thanks”, when asked how you’re doing. Even though you might be in a situation where you partner just left you, a family member is sick, your business is having a hard time or if you are lacking direction and meaning in your life.

These conversations are mental bootcamps. It’s like a cleaning. You sort things. You arrive back home with more balanced thoughts about yourself, your friends and your colleagues.

Now and here

Focus on the task right in front of you. That was a lesson repeated a lot of times on Kilimanjaro. Busy people, planning and execution-specialists, is what a lot of us are and we want to know what’s the step after the next step.

When asking our African guides, we always got the same answer. Focus on the next thing. Not what’s after it. Don’t overthink. It’s too much to comprehend. Let’s start with the task in front of us. Then we will tackle the next thing when it’s there.

Both in life, when doing projects and in entrepreneurship in general, being present is crucial to solving the situation in the best way possible.


One of the trips most overwhelming experiences was saying goodbye to our African helpers. We had over 50 of them. Cooks, carriers, guides. Every day they moved our camp from one place to another. With 20 kilos on their backs, they went before us. To set up the camp. To get water. To purify the water. To cook. Morning. Midday. Evening.

When we were about to say goodbye and thank them for their help, they all gathered. We thought that we were going to shake their hands. To say thanks. Instead they bursted out in singing. They sang and danced to a song about Kilimanjaro. How great it was, that we had taken the trip. Our payments for a weeks work, would last for 3 weeks of food.

We were all overwhelmed. Almost a bit embarrassed. They thank us. We should thank them. What a level of gratitude. Of working. Of being together. Of the moment.

Lesson from Kilimanjaro – What I learned from climbing Kilimanjaro with other entrepreneurs. CLICK TO TWEET 

Lessons From Kilimanjaro


This post was written by Steffen Hedebrand, a Country Manager at Elance. Steffen will also be joining our trip to Elbrus – The highest mountain of Europe in July 2015. You can join him. Check out Refuga Elbrus here.




We’re hiring a Content Marketing Manager

We’re hiring a Content Marketing Manager

Update 10th of April 2015: This opening is closed. We’re currently going through the applications!

We want to invest in building our community bigger, by providing something of value to all entrepreneurial minds out there. That’s why, we are super happy to announce that we are hiring a full time Content Marketing Manager in the Refuga team.

If you want to work and live wherever you feel like and if you want to help us take Refuga from a small project to a real business… well, then we might just have the opportunity for you!

Want to create awesome content and work wherever you want? @refugacamp has the job for you. CLICK TO TWEET

A bit about the job:

With this position you will be overall responsible for content at Refuga, with a focus on our blog, but also including other marketing tasks. The job can also consist of others areas where content is needed (news letters, social media, content for other sites, etc.). The job is location independent. That means no office. You can be based where you want and travel around (we do). Depending on where you will be working from, we will agree on the hours you are online and working.

The job will contain the following areas:

  • Researching for new content
  • Doing interviews
  • Collecting data
  • Writing posts
  • Putting together graphics for the posts
  • Marketing of each posts
  • Work will include doing posts completely from a-z, but sometimes also finishing and editing other people’s posts.
  • Approx. one day per week will be focused on outreach, working with bloggers and media (including establishing contact, communication and providing them with content)

The topics are aimed at all entrepreneurial minds and will be in the following three areas:

  • Insights into the Refuga journey
  • Resources on growing you company
  • Experiments in getting most out of life


Who we are looking for:

We are hiring the right person, so feel free to apply. Here are some of the areas we will be looking at:

  • Have a really high sense of quality. The content we will publish is going to be the best within it’s field.
  • You have to have experience curating high quality content.
  • Be productive. We are a startup, so we work fast and get things done, so should you.
  • Be absolutely fluent in English.
  • Be proactive. We want someone with ideas.
  • Someone that doesn’t like being micro managed. You have to be able to make things happen your self.
  • Of course you have to dig the concept of Refuga. We couldn’t imagine anyone not digging it :), but this is not just a job, but something you should be proud of and passionate about. We are and we want to build a team that has the same spirit.

In general we are looking for someone who wants responsibility and a great chance. The perfect candidate could be someone with the dream of starting up their own company in the future and a job at Refuga could be the next step towards that.


How will it work?

We are a location independent project and, due to the nature of the project, we often travel. This also means that this job is location independent, meaning that you can work from where you like.

We communicate daily using Trello and Skype.

We are a company that works with processes. This means that every recurrent task we have in the company is associated with a process – a specific way we do that exact tasks. We document everything via Trello, so we can work without any problems even though we run things remotely.

You will be part of a project that has been going on since 2012 and since the end of 2014 as a full-time project. The team consist of 5 people; the two owners, two assistents and one developer. You will be the first full-time employee in the project (YEAAAH).


What do I get paid?

The pay is set at $2.000 per month.

You also get

  • Full access to the two owners, including feedback on your own project
  • One yearly Refuga trip where we will also be
  • Access to the Refuga network

We know the salary isn’t much. This job is perfect for someone who is living or want to live as a digital nomad or is permanently living some where cheap. We travel around ourselves, living on a smaller budget than we would back in Denmark.


How do I apply?

Update 10th of April 2015: This opening is closed. We’re currently going through the applications!

First of all, you have to be 100% clear if this job is something for you. Think about both the pay and that you will be location independent.

We get a lot of emails each week, so please only apply for this job if you are serious, have the qualifications and want to start asap.

If you have read all of this and it sounds like the chance of a lifetime, then don’t hesitate to apply, by sending your information (including CV and motivation for working with Refuga) to Nikolaj Astrup at

We will pick a few persons out who will be doing a piece of content that we will evaluate. You will of course get paid for the test, no matter if we end up working together or not.

Apply for the Content Marketing Manager job at @refugacom and work wherever you want. CLICK TO TWEET