Do you dream of becoming a digital nomad? On paper, it’s the dream job. Traveling the world with a laptop in your backpack, working from a cafe or while sipping a cocktail on the beach, and discovering several new destinations each year, it seems ideal.
And it’s now much more accessible. With Covid, remote work has significantly expanded. The opportunities to work from anywhere are much more abundant, whether as an employee, freelancer, or entrepreneur.
So, how do you take the plunge and become a digital nomad? And most importantly, what do you need to know before diving in? Because this lifestyle also has its limitations, of which one should be aware. Find out everything you need to know.
A digital nomad is someone who takes advantage of technological advancements and the ability to work remotely to adopt a mobile lifestyle.
Digital nomads rely on the benefits of remote work to generate income regardless of their geographical location.
What Nomadic Lifestyle do you Dream of?
There are different reasons why people adopt this lifestyle. However, expectations and understandings of this lifestyle can vary from person to person. Some concessions seem easy for some, but insurmountable for others in the long term.
I have come across many testimonials from individuals ill-prepared for the digital nomad lifestyle, leading to negative experiences.
In their minds, they were embarking on a world tour. They wanted to visit as many countries as possible, staying there for a short time, in order to satisfy their craving for discoveries. Living in hotels or youth hostels because it’s more economical… but also noisier…
And, at the same time, they had to manage contracts efficiently to ensure the online income that supports this lifestyle. It’s hard to have an entrepreneurial spirit when, at the end of the day, you’re exhausted.
Then there are those who have idealized the daily life of a permanent traveler far too much. It’s a misconception to think we just spend our days sipping cocktails by the pool…
On the other hand, when your digital nomad life project is well-constructed, you have wonderful possibilities at your fingertips. And it’s up to you to decide how you spend your days.
YOU. ARE. FREE. These three little words have such power!
This is why it is important to prepare well for your change of life. To fully understand the challenges of digital nomadism. This holds true whether you’re embarking on this journey alone, as a couple, or with family.
The Motivations Can Vary
- Travel and discover new destinations: Some digital nomads frequently change destinations with the ambition of traveling around the world, while others settle for longer periods in one country. It’s also possible to work part of the year from home and regularly enjoy short stays abroad (this is the concept of a “workcation”).
- Find a better work-life balance: An increasing number of people are seeking a better balance between their private and professional lives, as evidenced by the rise of the 4-day workweek. Becoming a digital nomad offers the opportunity to rethink one’s relationship with work and reconcile work and leisure.
- Meet new people: Communities of digital nomads are emerging, with co-living and co-working spaces abroad. Many events are also organized to allow digital nomads to meet up. This is an opportunity to expand one’s circle and meet people from different backgrounds.
- Find inspiration: It’s not easy to work from home, especially when prone to procrastination. Working in different places can help one be more efficient, more inspired, and more productive.
What are your Motivations?
Let’s begin by examining your motivations to discern why you’re inclined towards the digital nomad lifestyle.
- Want to travel a lot?
- Spend more time with family?
- Try new things?
- Get away from the same old routine?
- Run from problems? (This might not be a good idea, but we’ll talk about that.)
- Maybe it’s all these reasons?
✍️ Take a moment to jot down your reasons for considering the digital nomad path.
Being a nomad goes beyond just traveling. It’s about embracing the experience of living and working in various locations.
However, this lifestyle isn’t always a walk in the park. While it certainly has its perks, it requires planning and effort, especially if you don’t have substantial savings. It’s not just about visiting tourist destinations all day long.
Just like in any other lifestyle, there are things to consider:
- Making sure you complete your work tasks effectively.
- Planning and organizing your travels.
- Finding accommodations wherever you go.
- And possibly, addressing the needs of your children, if you have any.
Constantly moving from one place to another can be tiring. Maintaining such a fast pace for a long time can be tough.
So it’s important to think about why you want this lifestyle, what you hope to get from it, and how you can make it work best for your situation.
Tips from a Digital Nomad on Living the Digital Nomadism
According to Martina Russo, a travel-loving translator with whom we discussed her nomadic lifestyle, the question to ask isn’t “How to become a digital nomad?”. Instead, one should consider a set of other questions: “What skills do I possess? What do I enjoy doing? Is it an activity that can be managed online, remotely, while allowing me to finance my lifestyle?”
Martina explains, “There are no specific skills needed to become a digital nomad. It’s enough to have expertise in a particular field and be able to sell your services (or products) online.”
So, how do you become a digital nomad? To transition to digital nomadism, here’s what you need:
- One or two sources of income that can be fully maintained online.
- A laptop and a good internet connection where you plan to work.
- A good understanding of personal finance management to live within your means.
Thanks to her freelance translating activity, Martina can finance her digital nomad lifestyle. She maintains her residence in Milan, Italy, and spends extended periods in the Galápagos Islands, Cambodia, Ecuador, and other parts of the world, translating from English, German, and Spanish to Italian and Swiss-Italian.
She claims she hadn’t planned on becoming a digital nomad. However, her studies in translation allowed her to establish a freelance activity that could be fully managed online, offering her the chance to work from anywhere while traveling.
Additionally, she runs an e-commerce store, “Freelancer At Work”, which sells unique laptop stickers. These stickers indicate the field in which the freelancers work remotely.
She started this supplemental sticker-selling activity when working from a coffee shop in Croatia. People would give her curious glances, trying to guess what she was doing. That’s when she decided to create a sticker, “Translator at Work”, and put it on her computer to let people know she wasn’t just surfing the internet or watching movies. She was working.
Her product resonated with other professionals in her network — who also worked remotely — when they saw it (copywriters, community managers, web editors, developers, etc.). This encouraged her to create an e-commerce website and collaborate with a reliable supplier willing to handle orders remotely.
This naturally leads to the next question: do you have a job suited to digital nomadism? I mean a profession that help transition into a digital nomad lifestyle!
Do You Have A Job Suited To Digital Nomadism?
Let’s be clear: this isn’t about backpacking around the world, making things up as you go. To truly enjoy the freedom to live wherever you want and dictate the pace of your life, you need a steady remote income. This means you need to have a clear understanding of your professional standing.
Which of the following best describes your situation?
- Do you already engage in an online job (like freelancing, running an online business, or receiving annuities)?
- Can your current job be adapted to be done remotely?
- Is your job impossible to carry out online?
- Are you considering leaving your current job to become a freelancer or start a business?
- Are you currently without a regular income (maybe you’re job hunting or retired)?
We’ll dive deeper into best professions opportunities.
The Best Professions to Become a Digital Nomad
To embrace the lifestyle of a nomad there is one requirement; the capability to earn an income through online work using a computer or mobile device, like a tablet or smartphone.
If your company operates remotely giving you the freedom to work from any location transitioning into a nomad becomes relatively simple. However you can also opt for this way of life as an entrepreneur or freelancer. It may come as a surprise that numerous professions well suited for embracing the nomad lifestyle.
Digital Nomad E-commerce Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurs can easily become digital nomads by outsourcing certain aspects of their e-commerce business that typically require their physical presence: order processing and shipping.
Some choose to go for dropshipping. Anass, for instance, managed to find a reliable supplier willing to ship orders to customers. Others succeed in selling digital products that don’t require managing a physical inventory.
With a solution in place, e-commerce entrepreneurs can manage other facets of their business—from marketing to customer support—from anywhere in the world (outsourcing more tasks as their business grows to continue having free time).
Web Writer, Editor-in-Chief, Translator
Almost all tasks related to words can be performed remotely. Whether it’s content creation, proofreading books, drafting a website’s promotional content, or interviewing someone for a story, you can accomplish the work for your clients even if you are on the other side of the world.
You could try to find an employer who understands the benefits of remote work, or set up your own business and brand as a freelancer or by creating an agency.
Developer or Designer
Job postings for developers and designers on advertisement sites are predominantly remote positions. If you’re an experienced designer or developer, you could also create your own apps, themes, or widgets and turn them into revenue streams.
A marketer can access all the tools they need from their laptop. And since the outcomes of most marketing initiatives are measurable, it’s easy for clients and employers to gauge the performance of marketers even if they work as digital nomads from the opposite side of the globe.
Customer service jobs were among the first to advocate for remote work since all related tasks can be performed via phone, email, or chat.
Customer service roles are especially suited for remote work since companies aim to have teams around the world to provide 24/7 support.
The jobs mentioned above are the ones that immediately come to mind when discussing remote work. But increasingly, professionals are leveraging technology to engage with consumers and clients remotely. This trend was accelerated by the health crisis, with a shift towards an all-digital approach. There are even new professions that have been specifically crafted around remote work – such as the role of a full-time virtual assistant.
“There are people who engage in activities that seemed impossible for me to manage online,” says Anass Habrah.
The Best Destinations for Digital Nomads
One of the first choices you’ll face as a digital nomad is where to start working to experience this lifestyle. Naturally, some countries will be more suited to your preferences and income as a digital nomad than others.
According to Nomad List, a platform that brings together an online community and a database of the most suitable countries for digital nomadism, the top 10 destinations for digital nomads are (based on the reviews of the community members):
- Lisbon (Portugal)
- Bali (Indonesia)
- Bangkok (Thailand)
- Berlin (Germany)
- Warsaw (Poland)
- Mexico City (Mexico)
- Porto (Portugal)
- Belgrade (Serbia)
- Istanbul (Turkey)
- Ljubljana (Slovenia)
Note: This list is constantly evolving as it is based on the reviews of the digital nomads who are members of the Nomad List community. A few years ago, Barcelona and Budapest were on this list, while these cities seem less popular today.
Regardless, keep in mind that each city has its own pros and cons beyond the most obvious indicators, like the cost of living.
The members of the Nomad List team also gather reviews from their vast network of digital nomads and collect information on a wide range of aspects – such as cultural differences around freedom of expression and locals’ attitudes towards foreigners. Nomad List will even tell you the price of a coffee and the best coworking space in the destination you’re interested in.
We recommend checking out Nomad List if you’re considering working abroad. It’s a very handy resource for remote workers and entrepreneurs looking to get informed before choosing a new destination as a digital nomad.
What are the Cons of Digital Nomadism?
The digital nomad lifestyle isn’t always luxurious, especially if you’re used to working comfortably from your office or from home.
In the beginning, it’s really hard. You have to be resourceful and manage to generate a monthly income. The best way to go about it is to create passive income sources.
Are you a self-employed entrepreneur or freelancer? Anass advises you to have enough savings to cover your expenses for several months and, where possible, diversify your income sources. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned, and you might not find a new client for months; this can be a tricky situation if you don’t have enough savings to fall back on.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I’ve been through a tough time where I couldn’t work for 6 months.
As a freelancer, you need to have a plan B. It’s crucial to save. Even if I’ve never saved in my entire life, I’ve now come to realize the importance of putting money aside.”
Time zone differences are another significant factor to consider, so you don’t end up working in the middle of the night or at unusual hours — especially when there are deadlines to meet and client meetings to schedule. It’s something to think about before choosing your next destination.
The environmental impact of digital nomadism is increasingly under scrutiny. The activist media outlet Bon Pote recently published an article on the subject titled: “The Digital Nomad: A Climate Nightmare?“. This is why more and more digital nomads are favoring European destinations, thus limiting their carbon footprint. Others choose to travel within USA and engage in activities like “Work and Surf” retreats.
In addition to what I mentioned above, these are other disadvantages:
- Feeling isolated in a foreign country;
- Missing loved ones and friends;
- Spending extended periods in front of a computer screen;
- Financial instability, especially if you’re freelancing;
- Dependence on reliable Wi-Fi;
- The constant need for self-discipline.
However, each of these challenges can be overcome. If they couldn’t, we wouldn’t have thrived living this way for so long!
How to Start Becoming a Digital Nomad
So, you’ve decided to become a digital nomad? To increase your chances of success and make the transition smoother, here are 5 steps:
- Start with a short trip
To test out the nomadic lifestyle, begin with a short trip. This will allow you to gauge how you feel and compare your expectations to the reality. It also gives you the opportunity to determine what you need to work comfortably. Remember, the primary goal is to work while traveling!
- Establish routines
Working from a new country can throw off your usual patterns. The digital nomad life can also blur the lines between work and personal time. To overcome these challenges and find your rhythm, establish routines. For instance, decide to start your day at a fixed time. Also, allocate specific time slots for work and others for relaxation.
- Set a budget
As mentioned, budgeting is essential. Determine the amount you need to live each month, always erring on the side of caution. Also, consider work-related expenses: co-working spaces, internet connection, etc. Finally, don’t overlook specifics of the digital nomad life, like the need for health insurance while traveling.
- Connect with other digital nomads
Building relationships is also vital for thriving as a digital nomad. Living abroad can be lonely, especially if you don’t know anyone in the area. To break this isolation, seek out fellow digital nomads. You’ll quickly identify common hangout spots. Some cities also host afterwork or networking events catered to digital nomads.
- Stay open-minded
Lastly, success as a digital nomad requires an open mind. You probably won’t have control over everything and will face surprises and unforeseen challenges. Embrace them and seize any opportunities that arise!
Digital nomadism is a fantastic opportunity that’s becoming increasingly accessible. Remote work continues to grow in popularity, making geographic freedom a reality.
If you love to travel but can’t stand waiting for vacations to break away and recharge, draw inspiration from the tips in this article to craft a unique lifestyle as a digital nomad.