How to Become a Digital Nomad
You’re ready to give up your day job and jump on a plane right now. You’ve got work planned out that you can accomplish while on the road and you’ve got your application for your passport completed. You are ready to begin your transformation into a digital nomad, a 21st century remote worker.
Wait right there, before you book any flights or start checking out hotels, you need to understand how life will work as a digital nomad. Your normal day to day work and life schedule might not look the same as it does right now. We’ll help you through everything you need to know from packing to finances and even how to find wifi wherever you go.
Table of Contents
- 1 Preparing to Travel
- 2 Where to Live
- 3 Working Nomads
- 4 Networking
- 5 Finances
Preparing to Travel
Once you’ve made the decision to become a digital nomad, it’s time to get things in order. To make your life easier, it’s a good idea to start thinking about the essentials that you’ll want with you on your trip. If you intend on travelling quite a bit, you’ll undoubtedly need to pack light.
What to pack
Think about the things that are most important to you and your everyday life. Choose items that are necessary to help you feel comfortable and happy as you travel, not weigh you down with extraneous bulk. If there’s a way to store items that you don’t want to give away, it’s a great idea that you do so. Each digital nomad has a different plan for their life and of course plans can change. You may find a destination that becomes your forever home or you could decide to come back to your original spot to stay. Either way, you’ll want important items saved in a safe space for you to get them when you’re ready.
As far as what to actually pack in your bag, grab clothes that you wear often, basic toiletries and body care, and a computer (and any other electronics that are crucial to your workday). Basically, you want to pack as light as possible, but make sure that you have all the must-haves that you won’t be able to just pick up at a local store when you get to where you’re going.
How to find cheap flights
If you’re travelling from the US to another part of the world, you’ll want to think of your first flight out of the country in a way that airlines do. Usually cheaper flights are available in the off season for any particular destination. This means, that you’ll need to do some research ahead of time to figure out what cities and times of year are popular for tourists.
You may find that landing in a nearby city instead of your desired location is actually more affordable. When you’re planning on spending an extended amount of time in a single country, taking a cab or bus to another place, instead of flying directly to your preferred location, might be a way to save some cash. Sometimes a flight with a delay of a day or two will be cheaper overall as well, so keep your eye out for options like these. You might even be able to explore multiple locations this way. Not to mention, once you’re there you can start looking at other nearby destinations that you can visit with just a quick flight. The closer you are to your next destination, the cheaper the flight will be.
Where to Live
As I mentioned, every digital nomad is different. Some may choose to stay in a single place for a month or more, while others prefer to travel to a new destination every week. Where you choose to live depends completely on your preference of travel and what type of living environment would make you the most comfortable.
Many digital nomads choose to live in affordable hotels or rentals, like Airbnb. Living in a rented room or apartment has the advantage of giving you everything you need right at your fingertips. You don’t have much, if any, awkward stumbling around to find what you would need on a normal day back home. You can settle in and live like the natives live.
The best cities to work from, and why
Digital nomads prefer to live in cities that can be considered hubs for other remote workers. Usually these places have affordable or free internet, 24 hour cafes and restaurants, and are bustling with all types of professionals and digital entrepreneurs. Many cities that you might not expect are quickly growing popular for digital business owners, writers, marketers, and many more professions. Any place that you can imagine heaps of business people plugging away at a local cafe, is likely a place that you will be welcome.
Certain pieces of nomad life are essential to making your life on the road work. Most importantly, you have to have equipment that allows you to work at any given time and you have to have connection to the internet. When you’re travelling to another country, you might not know the best places to find constant access to the internet. As such, it’s important to start asking questions now.
No matter where you’re staying, you should be able to ask locals about where to find wifi connections. A concierge at the hotel will probably be able to let you know what places are worth checking out. They may even offer cheap or free wifi within their establishment. The same goes for renting a room through something like Airbnb, ask the owner of the apartment or home where their favorite places are to work or if their wifi connection is included with your stay.
Breaking the 9-to-5 workday
Chances are that once you touch down in a new place, you’re going to want to travel around and check things out. It’s important to give yourself some flexibility when it comes to exploring, without ruining your productivity for the day. I suggest that you figure out a schedule that works best for you and stick to it as much as possible. Make sure that the hours that you’re working are without distraction. Your workplace should be quiet and comfortable. Providing yourself with some sort of structure without distractions will help you to get more done in a shorter period of time, which leaves you with more time to travel.
Luckily, many nomads have come before you. Depending on your needs and the type of work you’re doing, you might find yourself favoring a certain type of environment more than others. Check with other nomads and ask some questions via forums to see what has worked for others and where their favorite places to visit are. Connecting directly with other nomads is a wonderful way to gain some real life insight that is certainly invaluable to a nomad beginner.
Before you ever leave, you can check online forums and nomad sites in order to interact with other travellers. Check social media groups and blogs in order to find the most helpful information that pertains to your situation. You’ll likely use all of these resources while you’re on your travels, but you can also try and connect with other nomads in person while you’re on your journey. The beauty of travelling to other digital nomad friendly places, is that you’ll likely run into some that you can talk to and share experiences with.
Money is a scary thing to be unsure about, especially when you’re travelling. So, it’s a good plan to get some money saved up before you ever leave. You never know when an emergency might happen and you need some quick cash. Stock up as much as you can before you take the plunge. This can help ease your transition into your new lifestyle and it could save you from a nasty situation later on.
How to deal with finances while traveling
In fact, saving while you travel is a smart idea as well. Plan to put some money aside every time that you get paid — you never know when you might need it. In addition, taking up a life of travel comes along with a completely new set of responsibilities. One of which, is that you’re going to have to plan things ahead of time in order to be properly prepared. Know about exchange rates in every country you plan to visit. Add up the cost of food, cabs, hotel, and entertainment into your stay before you ever get to your destination. Overestimate costs if you can because there will likely be some unforeseen adventures during your stay.
How to make your money last
Again, planning ahead is really the key to not being surprised by unexpected costs. You’re going to have to dedicate time to being prepared and educating yourself about each and every country that you visit. What’s more, you’ll need to create a frugal financial plan that lets you do all the things that you want, without leaving you broke at the end of your stay.
Set up a balance sheet or a financial goals planner and start jotting down everything you want to do, how much money you have, and how much money you think you need before you set anything in stone. You don’t have to plan out every little detail of your stay, but you’ll need to know that you can afford the basics and then some. Saving a little extra and overestimating your travel costs can really help you to feel financially comfortable in any setting. Just like your work schedule, you’ll need some structure with your finances in order to make it work.
Learning the life of a digital nomad may take some time to adjust, but before you know it, you’ll understand the tools of the trade. As you talk with other nomads and earn some of your own nomadic experience, you’ll be ready to travel the world and take your work with you. With some planning and preparation, you can go anywhere you want, experience the best that life has to offer, and work with no strings attached.
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Trisha is a writer and blogger from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan, an avid gamer, cat lover, and amateur SFX artist.