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How to become a digital nomad
A digital nomad is someone who has created a lifestyle for themselves that allows them to travel around the world working remotely, only requiring an Internet connection, a cell phone, and typically a laptop or a tablet to make a living. Digital nomads typically travel light and visit destinations with a low cost of living in order to minimize their expenses and take advantage of earning in Dollars or Euros which are often much stronger than local currencies.
There are many reasons to become a digital nomad with some people deciding to take a break from "real life" and looking for adventure and experience, while others are entrepreneurs who want to reduce their costs while they are building businesses. Everyone has their own reasons for making the decision to live the digital nomad lifestyle but one thing they have in common is a desire to have the freedom to live without being dependent on geographic location.
For most people being a digital nomad permanently is not a forever lifestyle as travelling while working is exhausting and forming meaningful long term relationships can be a challenge. Many younger people become nomads and then settle into a more conventional lifestyle when they get into a long term relationship, and many older people become nomads later in life when kids have moved on and they have more freedom. One thing is almost certain and that is that the experience of being a nomad for a while, digital or otherwise will change the way you think about life.
The best way to prepare yourself for life as a digital nomad is to join online communities where you can meet other nomads, ask questions, and learn. Facebook groups like Digital Nomads Around the world are a great place to start and a quick search in Facebook or Google will reveal many more.
When preparing for a nomadic life you are going to experience uncertainty and these communities are great places to make friends and get information about the things you need to know such as job opportunities, Internet, cost of living, coworking spaces, co-living spaces, places to travel to, meetups and pretty much anything else you would like to know. These communities are a melting pot of ideas and the people that inhabit them are have a wealth of experience and knowledge that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.
The next important thing you need to do is to break your ties to a specific location and distil your life down to the bare essentials, this is where things start to get real and you need to make a commitment to your decision. Unless you already live extremely light, you probably won't be able to take everything you own with you on your travels so you will need to either need to get rid of most of your stuff or store it somewhere, either way, you need to reduce the things you absolutely need to live down to a point where you can carry them with you in one or two bags. A good way to put what you need to do into very clear focus is to get the luggage you are going to travel with and put the stuff you are planning to take with you in it.
A good way to decide what to do with your stuff is to start asking yourself some simple questions well in advance of your planned departure date.
Am I taking it with me? If the answer is yes put it in your luggage.
For everything else.
- Does it have significant positive emotional value and is it irreplaceable? If the answer is yes then you probably want to hold onto it but keep in mind you will need to store it somewhere.
- Can it be consumed between now and when I go e.g. food in the pantry? If the answer is yes then make sure you consume it.
- Can it be sold? If the answer is yes then sell it and use the money to clear debt or fund your trip.
- Can it be used by someone else? If the answer is yes then donate it or give it away.
While you are getting rid of stuff you don't need it is also really important to only buy things that you really need so that you aren't recluttering and spending money unnecessarily. Things that you really need will typically fall into two categories, things you are going to consume before your departure date e.g. food, toiletries etc and things you are going to take with you. Anything else will need to be stored or disposed of before you go so it's much easier to save yourself the trouble and not buy it in the first place.
If you own a house you need to work out what you are going to do with it while you are on the road, you will probably want to consider selling it or renting it out while you are away. If you are going to rent it then you probably should consider putting it in the hands of a property manager so you don't need to worry about it while you are away.
If you have pets you need to make sure they are taken care of, travelling the world with a pet is a very difficult to do so you will need to find them a new home or find someone to look after them for the duration of your travels. Pets are often like family members so this can be emotionally challenging for people to do. If you can't bring yourself to part with your pets for an extended period you could consider taking shorter overseas trips to start with or take them on the road with you within your own country rather than completely abandoning your travel dreams
As well as minimizing the amount of stuff you have you should also work towards minimizing your spending and simplifying your finances. A good place to start is to reduce your phone plans to the minimum you need, get rid of subscriptions to things like video streaming services, and cancel gym memberships. Once you have eliminated any obviously unnecessary spending you should then go through your credit card statements line by line and eliminate any unnecessary recurring payments, many people are surprised payments they didn't know about or had forgotten they were making when they do this.
You should also start to put as much money as you can in the bank as you are going to have a bunch of expenses to cover before you leave and you need to have some money held in reserve to cover unexpected circumstances like losing your source of income, accidents, unplanned trips home etc. This is especially important as many countries require you to prove that you have the means to support yourself during your stay.
If you haven't done it already you will need to establish a location independent source of income, you don't have to quit your current job to do this. In fact its probably a good idea to work from home and build an online income that can support you while you travel before you quit your full-time job. There are many ways to make money online which include taking your existing job on the road, starting your own business, becoming a remote worker, freelancing, and working in the gig economy. One of our favourite ways is to create a popular blog which provides people with the information they need and earn a passive income by monetizing it.
There are lots of places to find online work and the communities you have joined previously will reveal many opportunities. The Digital Nomad Jobs - Remote Work From Anywhere Facebook group is one good place to start your search.
Once you have made these changes you are well on your way to being prepared for living as a digital nomad and the final step is to decide on your final destination and go.
Unless you have a specific destination that you really have your heart set on, you should consider starting with one of the more popular digital nomad destinations like Canggu in Bali Indonesia, Chiang Mai in Thailand, or Medellin in Colombia. There are hundreds of destinations that are well set up for digital nomads and you are bound to be able to find information about them by asking a question in the communities you have joined. You will also need to give some thought to how long you plan to go for and where you are going next, are you coming home after a few months? Are you staying away for a couple of years and moving from location to location?
Once you have decided where you are going, when you are returning, and where you are going next there are a lot of things that you will need to do before you can actually leave which include organising accommodation, Visas, Airline tickets, Travel & health insurance, medical checkups, vaccinations, and a bunch of others. it's probably a good idea to make a list at this point and get really organised.
Once you have done all this there is really only one thing left to do which is to say your farewells, jump on the plane, train, bicycle or other transport you have chosen to get you to your destination and get started on your new adventure.
Your digital nomad experience is likely to have many highs and lows and you need to stay connected to a community so make sure you stay in touch with your friends, family, and the people you meet while you are travelling. They will be the best source of help and support in the lows, and the best people to share the highs of your experience with.