As of 2018, 4.8 million Americans have become digital nomads, and 17 million independent workers aspire to one day soon embrace a digital nomad lifestyle. So, if you are hoping to one day leave the office and travel while working, you are not alone.
Many are combining their wanderlust with the willingness to work abroad for a variety of reasons. Many want to see the world, while others want to take advantage of cities or countries with lower costs of living. So, there are a variety of reasons people are embracing digital nomadism, and you can do the same.
If you are wondering if life as a digital nomad is for you, we want to help give you the 411 on working while traveling. Below, we describe the benefits of becoming a digital nomad, the steps to become one, cons to watch out for, and additional tips to help you have the best location-independent working experience.
By the end of this article, we hope you will walk away with a strategy to become a digital nomad.
So, why is digital nomadism a big deal, and how can you benefit? Take a look at these advantages of staying on the move while working.
Working a full-time in-office job makes it challenging to go to far away distances. The current standard of American PTO is two to three weeks off. This situation makes it difficult to plan to travel anywhere out of the country. Fortunately, being a digital nomad gives you the flexibility to travel further distances.
Atlanta-based resident and UI/UX Designer, Liz discusses her travel experience of transitioning from her home base to another country:
I like having a home base at my apartment in Atlanta, but I crave variety in my work environment. For this reason, I'm always seeking new and interesting places to post up with my laptop for a couple of hours. I'm currently a member at a wonderful coworking space in Bali called Dojo for the next month. Coworking spaces provide the stability of a dedicated space to work, attend talks, and meet fellow remote workers. I'm traveling with Wi-Fi Tribe – a coliving travel company catering to digital nomads – and I will often meet up with fellow -Wi-Fi Tribers in cafes."
Unless you choose to drive to a coffee shop or coworking space, you don't have to have a commute if you decide not to. From this, you can save on gas, car maintenance, and even the cost of a car itself (if where you choose to locate has public transportation).
Depending on your work situation, you have more flexibility in your schedule. You can decide to take off a day, a week, or even a month to travel or move around as you see fit. It is hard to maintain this perk if you are working in the office.
Digital nomadism allows you to experience a wide range of new countries, languages, and ways of life. Whether you decide to live in South Africa or Costa Rica, you have the chance to live in a new place where you can experience new cultures, cuisines, and even historical landmarks.
The gig economy has made it possible to make money in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and other western countries while living in a developing country with a lower cost of living. As a result, the money from your home country can go further in a place where rent and groceries are much less money.
Waking up every day near the beach in Bali, or being able to walk to a local coffee shop in Thailand has a positive impact on the senses. Many other countries have a slower and more calming way of life, which allows you to slow down and enjoy the present moment. Also, a decreasing strain on finances due to a lower cost of living, and the ability to see new places can ease stress and improve your mood.
So, you know why people are leaving their offices and even their countries for digital nomadism, it's time to discuss how to become one. Read on for essential things to think about as you step into the life of a digital nomad.
If you already have a job that doesn't require you to work in an office, then you have bypassed the pivotal first step. However, if you are still working the traditional 9-to-5 in office life, don't fret! Let us help you get started in creating a strategy for generating income regardless of where you are.
Now, before you go on the journey of finding a remote work job, see if your company is open to you working remotely. Your company may already be thinking of offering flexible work schedules or will consider extending the option to you if you ask. So, approach your boss about the possibility. If they are not open to remote work, then it is time to find a full-time remote work position. Check-in with family, friends, and former co-workers to see if they know anyone hiring, and be sure to check job boards like FlexJobs, We Work Remotely, RemoteHabits, and Jobspresso.
You may be planning to pare down expenses (which you should already be doing), and you may not need to make as much money. As a result, a part-time remote job is also an option for you. On most remote work job sites, you can filter remote positions by job-type. Also, Indeed and ZipRecruiter are excellent sites to go to find part-time remote work positions if you use the keywords: "telecommute," "remote," "distributed."
Many have stepped into the role of a freelancer to move into digital nomadism. Many times, freelancing has a lower barrier of entry as marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com have made it easier to set up a profile and begin participating in the gig economy. Even if you do not want to freelance long-term, many freelancing gigs can lead to a part-time or full-time position.
Freelancing can also lead to you owning your own online business. You may decide to build your own company to allow you to support more clients and processes. You also have the option of opening an e-commerce business or starting your own online coaching enterprise.
You can do this in addition to doing any of the things on this list. From making investments to renting out your home while you're away, there are a variety of ways to make some passive income. This additional revenue can give you the freedom to move and start your life as a digital nomad.
Before you pack your bags and head out of the country, here are some must-dos and essential details that need to be a part of your plan.
One of the main benefits of being a digital nomad in another city or country is taking advantage of the lower cost of living. If you are making revenue in the United States or another western country, then you can thrive in a location where it takes less money to live.
For example, Chiang Mai, Thailand, and parts of Australia and Colombia are popular locations. However, they have very different costs of living standards. According to Numbeo (a must-visit site for digital nomads), rent in Chiang Mai is $372, over $1,700 in Sydney, and over $240 in Medellin. Numbers like these can help you get a sense for how much you need to make in these locations.
Having access to the internet is crucial for your livelihood. Therefore, you need to find a location that has stable Wi-Fi connectivity. Nomad List is an excellent resource for digital nomads to learn about popular digital nomad locations, and this website lists out Wi-Fi connectivity information for these cities.
Ultimately, Wi-Fi can determine where you can live and travel. For example, Sarah, a digital marketing manager traveling by RV, lays out how finding stable internet connections plays into picking locations to visit:
I think one of the biggest challenges of working remotely from an RV is that my Internet connectivity is limited to Verizon's coverage map (unless the park Wi-Fi happens to be amazing... spoiler alert: they typically aren't the best because everyone is on them and streaming Netflix).So, if there is a location that we want to travel to, but it's not in Verizon's coverage map, then we can't visit unless it's over a weekend when I'm not working."
Make sure you are checking the visa requirements of each area you want to go to. For example, Americans can stay for 90 days in the Schengen region of Europe, no questions asked. However, you are required to leave the area if you do not have a long-term visa in the country you want to stay in after 90 days. So, be sure to know how long you can stay in a country, and acquire any visas that are needed to stay longer.
Check to see if Airbnb is operating where you are. If Airbnb is not an option or you are looking for affordability, be sure to check the country's local Craigslist listings, and even check to see if there are local sublet or rental websites. For example, locales like Spain, Portugal, and Italy use Idealista to put up apartment listings. So, be sure to ask around and do your research.
Are you working with a company that requires you to be available specific hours of the day? Do those hours match up with your new availability? Make sure you take this into account when you are selecting your new country or city. If you are a freelancer located in Vietnam, and most of your clients are in Canada, you might want to re-assess how this can work.
How long are you looking to stay in your new locations? If you only want to visit for a month, your lodging options may be limited, so you may have to resort to hotels or hostels. You will also need to pack less. On the other hand, staying for a more extended period of time will give you some stability, but may also cost a lot more. Again, visa requirements also come into play here. Some countries, like Mexico, will allow you to stay on a tourist visa for six months, while places like Japan only give you 90 days. So be sure to check on living accommodations and visa regulations concerning how long you are looking to stay in each country or city.
While you can always find a good deal here and there, traveling can bring a variety of unexpected expenses. Therefore, it is crucial that you reduce the money you owe out as much as possible. Before you make the leap try to pay off all credit cards (you may want to only keep one for dire emergencies that may come up), sell your home or rent it out, sell your car, and get rid of most of your clothes and furniture. The more money you save and start out with, the better position you will be in to travel.
For more information on cities that are excellent for digital nomadism and remote work, check out this guide by Highspeedinternet.net
So, now you have an idea of what to do to prepare for your life as a digital nomad. What do you do when you get there? Check out the next section.
As a digital nomad, life can get lonely and isolating. It is exciting, but you also realize that you are spending a long period of time away from family and friends. So, it is crucial that you have a plan for meeting others and staying connected. Here are a few resources to look into:
Online Groups – There are a wide range of forums and Facebook groups out there for digital nomads. Here are a few to plug into as you prepare for life as a digital nomad:
Meetup Groups – Meetup.com events can be found in most major cities around the world. So, search in your local area for activities to meet other digital nomads, expats, and locals.
Digital Nomad Travel Groups – Many people enjoy traveling and coliving with a group of people. There are a variety of groups that allow you to do this (most do require a fee of some kind). So, check to see if any of these groups fit what you are looking for:
Whether you want to have an organization take care of the details or set your own rules and meet others along the way, there are options you have to help you find the community you need while you work as a digital nomad.
NOTE: Travel group and resource recommendations have been made due to the perceived relevance to our readers. We cannot personally vouch for these resources, so we encourage each individual to conduct their own research to see if these groups and resources are best for them.
Whether you are spending a summer in London or Montreal, you still have to find a place to get your work done while traveling. Here are some tips for optimizing the space that you choose.
Don't feel like you need a lot of furniture or equipment to be comfortable. As a nomad, you are going to be limited regarding how much you can carry with you. So, be sure to find accommodations with desks, Wi-Fi, and outlets. It also wouldn't hurt to find places with natural lighting.
These locations are excellent ways to be around people without having to have constant interactions. However, be sure that you select a place with Wi-Fi, outlets, and an atmosphere that allows you to concentrate.
Unless you are going somewhere that is off the beaten path, most major cities are home to coworking spaces. In addition to offering space to work, many also provide workshops and opportunities to network. So, do a Google search for your chosen city and coworking spaces in the area. You can also use this map resource from carrentals.com to find coworking spaces in your area.
The main thing to remember about your workspace is always to be flexible,
My physical workspace changes depending on where I am. Last year, I had an office in my home with a desk. When I was abroad earlier this year, I worked at an amazing coworking space. Right now, as I'm visiting friends and family, I mostly work at dining room tables. If there is a surface that fits my laptop, I'll make it work." – Hannah, freelance writer
Much like any remote work situation, you need to select the right tools for your digital nomad working experience. Here are a few categories of tools you need to consider:
You may be working with clients thousands of miles away, so communication and collaboration tools are going to be critical to your workday. Invest in asynchronous communication systems like Slack, and consider combining these tools with collaboration systems like Google Docs or Dropbox.
Whether you are traveling to new sites, meeting new people, or planning out the logistics of your next destination, distractions are going to arise. Therefore, it is crucial that you invest in a tool to help you stay productive. Tools like HeyFocus can keep you off distracting apps, while Zapier can help you automate many repetitive tasks you have to do within the day.
Whether for business or leisure, social media has become a regular part of our lives. So, just to prepare for work or personal-related posts, invest in a social media scheduling system like Hootsuite or Buffer. Trust us; it will save you the time of having to keep a daily eye on social media.
As an additional helpful resource, take a look at this remote work guide on the Best Apps and Tools to Increase Productivity by HighspeedInternet.net
While there is a lot to be excited about concerning digital nomadism, there are also some disadvantages that can come along with this lifestyle. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare for dealing with these potential roadblocks. Below are some common issues, and some helpful tips for dealing with them.
Loneliness Associated with Location Independence: Make a solid effort to build your digital nomad tribe. Use the resources above to find likeminded people, but also don't overwhelm yourself. Even if you attend one event a week, or drop in at a coworking space every other week, it can help you get to know others.
A Lack of Professional Development: Many coworking spaces host workshops and companies like General Assembly have online courses that can help you develop new skills. So, take advantage of these offerings when you can.
Avoiding Burnout and Distractions: Productivity apps can help you stay focused on the task at hand. However, don't forget how essential breaks are to your workday. Be sure to plan time away from the computer throughout the day.
Handling Internet Connection Issues: This may put limits on where you can travel, but it is crucial that you pay attention to where you can find reliable internet connectivity. Pick cities with stable Wi-Fi networks, and use forums to find out about living accommodations within these cities that also have reliable network hotspots.
Missing Family Members and Friends Back Home: Invest in tools like Skype to speak with loved ones, and plan to either visit or have someone come see you every three or six months.
Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: You will likely have to adapt to a culture that is not your own in a foreign country. It is best that you realize this before you even leave your home. So, mentally prepare yourself for the changes you will face. Talk with people and expats that already live in the country you want to live in and get some insight into the location's cultural experience.
The more you know, the more you can prepare for this experience. So, understanding these disadvantages can help you create a plan to combat them.
The new rise of the gig economy has made it possible for professionals to see the world while they work. Everyone can now thrive and embrace a nomadic lifestyle. Also, many countries are increasing their physical and digital infrastructures—as well as adding new visa categories—to welcome digital nomads. So, now is the best time as ever to step into the digital nomad lifestyle.
Taylor, a marketing manager, discusses how embracing a life of digital nomadism has allowed her to thrive as a remote worker:
I love that my life dictates how, when, and where I work, and not the other way around. It's a fundamental perspective shift, and I don't want to go back. In more practical terms: I love that I can move to NYC and then back to Durham without changing jobs. I love that I can book a last-minute trip to the Bahamas just because I'm cold and not ask for permission. I can then work from the Bahamas since I don't have to take time off.
If you adequately prepare for this new lifestyle, then you can successfully travel while working full-time or running your business.
We hope this article has put you on the path to do so.
We wish you the utmost best in your digital nomad journey!
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