From Zhejiang to the future

From the streets of Zhejiang, China, to exploring the future. That is the life path that Nyameko Ishmael Bottoman has chosen for himself.

Centuries ago, people took to sailing ships to explore their world and to seek a better future. They were brave adventurers. Now, with all the lands known, explorers have taken to exploring the virtual world. They are talented, technically-enabled people and also brave. 

For the next 18 months at least, Bottoman, 37, will be a digital nomad, living in Thailand. Before that, he lived in Ningbo, which gave him a chance to explore Hangzhou.

More accurately, Bottoman is an internet content creator. That means he is testing some of the social trends that define 2024; such as to what extent people read and how willing advertisers are to pay to appear on reading-based internet sites. These are issues Bottoman has to think about and write his way through, in the hope of making a living. The only certainty is that there is much competition from other people globally, trying to make a living off writing on the internet. At the last count, there were 35 million digital nomads around the world, hoping to find a link between their keyboards and their bank accounts.

Bottoman left Khayelitsha at 22.

To start his story at the beginning, Bottoman left Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa, at the age of 22 to conquer the world. Equipped with a B.Com degree in Information Systems from the University of Western Cape, Bottoman went first to South Korea to teach. His intention was to gain overseas experience as a teacher and a writer, and to help his mother and his two brothers back home.

Bottoman is now in his 15th year away from home. Bottoman said: “I’m a digital nomad in the sense that I work fully online. I teach online as well as have a magazine on line, Write Away, and I have my own website. These are the ways that I make money; well hopefully in the future.

“In terms of my website I hope to get a little more not popularity but a bigger audience. Through a bigger audience I will therefore get my name out there and be able to write better and more interesting and engaging stories and somehow change the world.”

Bottoman co-founded Write Away Magazine

Bottoman was a co-founder of the fledging Write Away online magazine.  “In terms of Write Away, I want to empower people to have their voice in South Africa and to be able to share the South African story with the international community and further proliferate the idea that South Africa is a good place to stay.

“Most of my days are spent in front of the computer. If I am not teaching online then I am writing or editing or I am busy with trying to use social media in order to advertise as well as market Write Away and the website. So, you find that I am on social media at least one to three hours a day at the very least trying to keep up with trends, and search engine optimisation (SEO) developments, such as the fact that Google has changed its SEO guidebook recently so have rolled out a new SEO guide.”

SEO is a term for the future.

Search engine optimisation is a term from the future. The theory behind search engine optimisation is that people find ways to have their postings on the internet appear first when other people search online for material they wish to access.

Bottoman has excellent skills in launching online sites for people who wish to publish their work. He has also published two books, a children’s book and one on South African folklore.

“In China I worked in Ningbo as well as Weihai. In Weihai I was an in-classroom teacher. In Ningbo I was both a teacher as well as an editor. In both places I was not in my digital nomad phase. My time in China taught me that if you have the will, then there will be a way. If you look hard enough, you will find the possibility of whatever you want to achieve.

“I have been to Hangzhou multiple times. Some of my favourite places are around the lake. I really enjoyed my time in that area. My time in Hangzhou was always very, very good. I went there for multiple purposes such as tourism to see the sites but also as a means of a writing retreat where I could sit in a quiet, stable relaxed atmosphere and write.

“I intend on being a digital nomad for at least another two to three years. As with any self-owned or self-employed business, digital nomadcy is difficult. It requires a high level of dedication, commitment and belief in your cause. I have learnt a lot of practices about how to get one’s ideas across as well as their message. And how to find the correct audience for what you want to say.”

Digital nomads appeared in the 1990s.

The term digital nomad and the lifestyle appeared in the 1990s. Digital nomads use their computer and the internet to work from anywhere. Digital nomads enjoy more flexibility and freedom in their work than the rest of us might do. Digital nomads seek autonomy and self-determination and reject the nine-to-five routine, commuting, and the office. Digital nomads contribute to reducing carbon emissions, conserving energy and minimizing waste generation. These have become increasingly relevant points as the surface of the planet has become increasingly warm. With the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become mainstream.  During global lockdowns workplace institutions, norms and employee obligations – the office, in-person meetings, and the daily commute – abruptly disappeared.

This is the world Bottoman has chosen to explore. This is the world of the future. Going forward, there will be even more people like Bottoman in the world. They are brave to compete with each other.

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