If you’re wondering how to be a digital nomad, you might also be thinking…
It’s a dream job.
They are on perpetual vacation!
They’re sooo lucky.
These are probably the most common things people hear when they tell someone they
have a unicorn job are a digital nomad.
“Ohhh! One of those people sipping cocktails by the pool while on a laptop!”
Yep, one of those people. Except real digital nomads know pools and laptops rarely mix, and actually getting work done usually requires less sun glare and alcohol intake.
I digress… Digital nomad—that buzzworthy word that means people do things on a laptop while traveling. It’s a sought-after lifestyle, but it’s A LOT more than flamingo floaties and posting on Instagram.
Unfortunately, figuring out how to be a digital nomad—who actually makes money while traveling—isn’t that simple.
So, what’s up with this lifestyle? Is it really that amazing? And most importantly, HOW can you become a digital nomad?
So glad you asked. Grab a coffee – this is a long one!
What Is a Digital Nomad? (No—Seriously, This is Important!)
Table of Contents
- What Is a Digital Nomad? (No—Seriously, This is Important!)
- How to Become a Digital Nomad
- 1. Start Saving Your Money
- 2. Downsize
- 3. Figure Out Your Skills and Passions
- 4. Start Searching for Remote Jobs or Other Related Work
- 5. Build a Portfolio
- 6. Research the Best Locations for Digital Nomads
- 7. Get Your Travel Documents Sorted
- 8. Choose the Right Bank and Credit Cards
- 9. Get Travel Insurance
- 10. Take the Leap!
- The Realities of Becoming a Digital Nomad – The Cons
- 1. You’ll Likely Work More Than You Did at Your 9-5
- 2. There’s Always Work to Be Done
- 3. Being Your Boss ISN’T All It’s Cracked up to Be
- 4. Your Work Hours Are Undefined
- 5. Community and Friendships Take Hard Work and Are Fleeting
- 7. Everyone Thinks You’re Living the Dream and on Perpetual Vacay
- 8. You May Not Realize That It Can Be Hard to Start as a Digital Nomad
- The Realities of Becoming a Digital Nomad – The Pros
- What Does Being a Digital Nomad Really Look Like?
- Digital Nomad Resources and Tips
- All of My Digital Nomad Resources:
- More Digital Nomad Resources
- 23 Digital Nomad Jobs: Take Your Desk Around The World
- How You Can Work Abroad Without Experience So You Can Travel Longer
- 18 Digital Nomad Visas for Remote Workers
- The Longest Tourist Visas for U.S.A Citizens, How to Extend Visas and More
- 20 Online Jobs With No Experience Needed!
- 57 Work From Home Websites—Earn Money Outside The Office!
- How to Be a Translator so You Can Work Remotely and Travel
- How to Be a Freelance Content Writer and Turn Your Words Into Money
- How to Be a Social Media Manager and Never Work in an Office Again
- How to Start Freelancing for Beginners—Work Online & Travel!
Let’s define what a digital nomad is first, shall we?
I think when some people hear this word, they just think—a person with a computer, abroad, with a cocktail in hand.
And while this may very well be some digital nomads, it is, of course, far more than that! A digital nomad is someone who works online and chooses to be nomadic because their occupation doesn’t require them to be tied down to a particular country.
Digital nomads all need the internet to some degree to get their work done, a computer, obviously, and that’s about it!
Many people have remote jobs—anyone who works from home/doesn’t go into an office is a remote worker. Digital nomads are remote workers too, but they choose to travel or live in other places around the world, and hence, the phrase digital nomad is a more appropriate way to describe these people.
I am one of these people.
As a full-time travel blogger, I can sit in my
shitty hometown, Tampa, Florida, and work. OR I can travel and work. Hmm… Not a hard choice for me! And by nature, my work also involves travel because… Ya know… A travel blogger kind of needs to travel.
BUT—The one thing you must know and remember—Digital nomads WORK. Just because they travel often doesn’t mean they don’t put in the time to get things done.
RELATED: How To Work Abroad & Travel the World.
Naturally, this is the next question.
I’d be one rich b*tch if I had a dollar every time I saw someone in a Facebook group or at a bar or *insert any other random place on earth* ask, “Oh! I want to do that! How can I be a digital nomad?”
One doesn’t really “become a digital nomad.” Being a digital nomad is NOT a job.
I repeat: A digital nomad is NOT a job… It’s a lifestyle. And there are TONS of ways to achieve this lifestyle. I’ll tell you exactly how…
1. Start Saving Your Money
The best thing you can do when trying to figure out how to become a digital nomad is to set yourself up for success. And the best way to do that is to make sure you have an emergency fund.
As much as you may want to, you can’t just say f-it to your job and start trying to make it as a digital nomad (well, you could, but you’re making life harder than it needs to be).
It takes time to build your own business (which is essentially what you’ll be doing), and in the meantime, you’ll need cash on hand for, well, life.
If you have the time, you can definitely start your digital nomad adventure while you’re working your other job, but don’t quit that job until you have a solid safety net. This number will vary from person to person, but at the very least, you’ll want to have at least a couple paychecks worth of money in your savings.
This one is tough. And it’s not really necessary unless you’re going to be traveling a lot. But for most people, half the fun of becoming a digital nomad is the nomad part, and you can’t take all your furniture and other bulky belongings with you while you galavant around the world.
I’ve basically been living out of a suitcase for over a DECADE with just a few things stored at a loved one’s place back in the US, and honestly, I love it! You save so much money by not purchasing cheap trinkets and souvenirs from every place you go, and it’s honestly so freeing to own less stuff!
3. Figure Out Your Skills and Passions
You’re learning how to become a digital nomad for a reason, I assume?
While the lifestyle is enticing, I don’t advise that you do something just for the sake of becoming a digital nomad.
Find something you love, and work for it. Sure, you may do things that aren’t your favorite in between, but overall, you’re working towards a goal—being location-independent AND enjoying your work. Right?
So with that said, choose your path carefully and strategically. It’s going to take you a while to “get into this” job, so don’t waste time gunning for something for all the wrong reasons. Don’t pick a job because it seems easy, or you think it will “look and sound cool” or something.
Certain jobs have appeal, but unless you’re passionate about gunning for them, or at the least know you’ll be content doing it, avoid them like the plague. For example, most blogs fail because people don’t realize how much work goes into them and probably also figured out nothing in life is free! (Doh!)
Find something you really want to do or don’t mind doing. Something you’ll love (or like enough). Something that can sustain you in the long term.
4. Start Searching for Remote Jobs or Other Related Work
There are so so many ways to make money as a digital nomad. So many, in fact, that it may be difficult to decide where to start. Here are some tried and true ideas to get you started.
- Find a job that “speaks to you” that you think you’d want to do. It actually doesn’t need to be remote at first! I started with a job abroad first, then went remote. Here’s a list of over 70 travel jobs abroad you can use as a starting point.
- For Americans, one of the easiest ways to get abroad is to teach English abroad and work abroad in Australia. They are not remote jobs, but starting abroad can lead to remote work/test the waters to make sure you like living abroad. Teaching English abroad can lead to teaching online (good income while you work towards something else), and working in Australia can lead to you saving some SERIOUS cash to help support you while getting started.
- Get into freelancing. It’s a great way to get side gigs, work up your portfolio, and eventually build yourself up to gain better more long-term jobs. It’s a bit of a slog in the beginning, but when the ball gets rolling, you’re good!
- Look through my blog, where I have TONS of resources for jobs abroad and remote work and how to get started.
- Get temp and seasonal work now to save money so you can build a cushion while you get yourself started in the remote work area. Or use these ideas as your side hustle if your remote work isn’t paying the bills yet to keep you afloat.
- If you have a job now that has the potential for being remote, ASK! You could literally stay at the company you’re with, and become a digital nomad overnight. It’s happened.
There isn’t a right path or an easy path. There’s only your path, and because there are so many possibilities for work, you have to find and make your own way.
RELATED: Best Digital Nomad Jobs
5. Build a Portfolio
This is especially relevant if you get into freelancing, which is one of the most popular ways to become a digital nomad.
There’s a lot of competition for online jobs, so you’ll need to prove that you’re really worth your salt if you want to stand out to potential employers.
Even if you have no experience in the field you’re hoping to get into, you can upload your photography, write an article on your personal blog or site, or even just show an introductory video of yourself so that clients can get a feel for who you are and what you offer.
6. Research the Best Locations for Digital Nomads
You may have your heart set on a certain area or region, but please please please do some research before you buy that ticket!
The dreamy backdrop may seem like the number one goal, but there are other things you’ll need to keep in mind, including:
- How’s the wifi?
- What are living expenses like?
- Is it safe enough?
- Where in that country would it be easiest for me?
This is an important step, and one I learned the hard way.
I failed to realize how bad the wifi was in the Philippines, and, unfortunately, I lost clients while I was traveling there because it was so bad (this was when I was freelancing). So making sure this doesn’t happen to you is important.
Using something like Nomadlist and Numbeo to start is helpful. Not everything is 100% accurate, and the estimates are, of course, a bit rough as everyone lives and travels differently. BUT it’s a good resource for starting out, and it does offer some insight into the wifi availability.
Finding places that are on the cheaper end of the spectrum is a no-brainer, especially for those who are just starting out their lives as digital nomads. The cheaper the better! That’s why Southeast Asia is such a hub for digital nomads. It’s so cheap, and the internet is pretty damn good! (Except you, Philippines…)
Where will you vibe? Where will you enjoy yourself? Where will you LIKE THE FOOD?! Do some research, and pick a place that seems like a good fit.
Of course, once you go, you may realize a place is not for you, but definitely don’t go to a place just because it’s cheap/people told you to/it’s popular, and all the while, you’re there hating the food, the people and the culture… that makes no sense.
7. Get Your Travel Documents Sorted
Okay. So you have the job, you have your safety net, and you have an idea of where you want to go. So now you can book that ticket and live your digital nomad dreams, right?!
While you’re researching which country you want to move to, you’ll also need to research visa info and make sure you’re legally allowed to live and work there. This info is pretty easy to find in this day in age, and a quick Google search should get you sorted fairly easily.
You should also know about visas in general for travel, work, and beyond! It’s a good thing I got you covered with a guide to visas for Americans.
You could get a digital nomad visa or simply pop in on a tourist visa… It will really depend on what you’re looking for out of this experience. Read my visa guides to get a better idea.
8. Choose the Right Bank and Credit Cards
If you’re going abroad, you’ll also need to do some research into the best travel cards and credit cards.
The handy dandy debit card may work for your everyday life in the States, but you can rack up hefty ATM and international fees with these babies while you’re abroad.
Getting a good travel credit card will help you avoid these fees, and if you’re smart, you can earn points and put them towards a flight, hotel, and other travel-related purchases.
Here’s everything you need:
RELATED: The Best Travel Cards (For Any Traveler) That Save and Earn You Money!
9. Get Travel Insurance
Finding the right travel insurance can be a bit of a pain in the butt, especially if you’re in it for the long term.
The main issues with travel insurance are:
- How long is your trip? This is tough to answer as I pretty much never know when I’m coming back to the USA. I usually go once a year for a visit, but beyond that, I don’t know when! I typically buy coverage for a bit over a year and “waste” some months sometimes when I come home earlier/I’ve been left insuranceless when it ran out and I couldn’t renew abroad, which brings me to…
- You can’t renew when you’re abroad. This one really SUCKS. While some insurances do allow you to do this (I think World Nomads does, but they can get expensive!), most insurance companies don’t allow this. This means you can only buy travel insurance to extend your trip when you’re in your home country. Uhm, this kinda defeats the purpose of being a digital nomad, doesn’t it?
So travel insurance when you travel a lot and don’t visit home often gets to be confusing. However, have no fear, Safety Wing is literally a travel insurance company for digital nomads. This is what I’ve been using for a year now.
The two issues I stated above are nonissues. They work like a subscription, so you pay monthly and then cancel when you don’t need them anymore. It can be for two months or two years.
And if your insurance plan is about to run out, and you’re reading this abroad, you can sign up through Safety Wing this second and get coverage, yes, while you’re NOT in your home country.
Two other things you might be asking yourself, so I’ll answer!
- What about emergencies?! That’s what travel insurance is for! It’s cheap and will cover the catastrophic stuff. Of course, you could pay for more expensive insurance to get more coverage, but it’s generally not needed because…
- What if I need other care abroad?! You’re probably fine! If it’s not an emergency, most countries offer good and affordable care, and you can easily pay out of pocket (If you’re American, I know this is wild to hear, but it’s true). Even many prescriptions are available over the counter abroad. If you’re generally healthy, Safety Wing plus some out-of-pocket cash for the small stuff is all you’ll need!
Not a bad deal, right? Check here to see if this insurance is for you.
Related: A Guide to Finding The Best Long Term Travel Insurance
10. Take the Leap!
Okay. Now that you have a solid plan in place, it’s time to take the leap of faith! This can be the hardest part for some people, but in all honestly, you’re never going to feel 100% ready.
It can be scary to start a new lifestyle, but there’s a reason you want to learn how to become a digital nomad, and if you don’t pull the trigger, you’ll always wonder, “what if.”
As long as you have your safety net and all the proper paperwork, what is there to lose? Even if you fail, you can be proud that you gave the digital nomad life a try. Your old life will be right where you left it if you feel like returning to that reality!
I always told myself if worse came to worst, all I needed to do was buy a plane ticket back home. That’s it. And that’s not that bad, hey, at least I tried! But it’s never come to that for me.
Related: 100+ Best Travel Tips After 11 Years of Traveling
Okay, now that you have an idea about how to become a digital nomad, let’s get into some of the nitty gritty. There are pros and cons to becoming a digital nomad—but let’s start with the negative aspects so we can end on a happy note.
Don’t get turned off—I’m just trying to be real here, guys. Being a digital nomad is great, but it’s not all sunshine, puppies, and rainbows. Here are some things to realize about this lifestyle, what people will think and say, and overall realities that you need to know before diving head first into this life.
1. You’ll Likely Work More Than You Did at Your 9-5
Oh, sorry, did you think you were just going to sip cocktails behind a computer screen for a few hours a day and call it a day?
Reality: Digital nomads (usually in the first few years) are working way more than the standard 40 hours a week.
Particularly those who are just starting to figure out how to become a digital nomad, trying to start their own business, or are building up their reputations and portfolios.
When I first started working online, I was working around 3-4 remote gigs at any given time and about 50-70 hours a week. I learned a lot and thankfully work more “normal” hours now but…
RELATED: BEST Digital Nomad Jobs: Take Your Desk Around The World
2. There’s Always Work to Be Done
For most digital nomads, your to-do list is never complete. There’s rarely an “I’m done!” moment.
Particularly as a blogger, for every one thing I check off my list, I add about five more. For those entering the entrepreneur lifestyle or those who freelance, it’s sometimes hard to accept the fact that you are never done.
3. Being Your Boss ISN’T All It’s Cracked up to Be
Some digital nomad jobs have bosses and even set hours too! These can be great because you can draw a line between work and non-work hours.
However, many of these digital nomad jobs afford you the luxury of being your own boss to some degree/altogether. SCORE! Right?
Yes! It’s a great thing. I LOVE being my own boss. But other people? They don’t know how to manage themselves. I even get sidetracked from time to time.
It’s very easy to give yourself the day off because you can. But that could cost you a client, put you even more behind in your work, and, if it gets out of hand, cause you to run out of money.
Being your own boss is great if you’re a good, reasonable, and at times, an austere boss.
If you’re a lazy and lax boss, you’re going to be in trouble because it’s YOU who is in charge of getting the hours in for the day. No hours equals no pay, and no pay means no more flights to faraway places unless it’s your last flight—to live in mom’s basement again. Womp womp.
4. Your Work Hours Are Undefined
Some days I’m working, and I PROMISE myself that I’m going to leave a few hours in the day to get something else done—like, non-work related.
Next thing I know, I’m still staring at my screen, it’s 10 pm, and I haven’t even eaten dinner yet.
Sometimes I promise myself a day off, my first one in about ten days… Just ONE day that doesn’t involve staring at a computer, Nina. Come on; you can do it!
Instead, I get anxious about having work and end up working half the day or longer.
Then there’s the opposite side of the spectrum where I take six days off in a row, my inbox has runneth over, nothing has been done, my VA is wondering where I am, and I’m now forced to dig myself out of this hole.
Digital nomad hours get murky quickly! You have to stay on top of it, and it’s just another “added responsibility” of being a digital nomad.
5. Community and Friendships Take Hard Work and Are Fleeting
The whole point about being a digital nomad is the whole “nomad” part, right?
With this comes the repetitive convo—where are you from, what do you do, where are you traveling next…— if you’ve ever stayed in hostels and had this same conversation one million times, you know that gets very very old. But what’s even worse is the inevitable goodbye that comes with making friends while traveling.
For those on vacation, it’s fun!
For those who have been traveling for years and years, these goodbyes, the lack of community, and perpetually fleeting friendships get a little hard.
You have your friends back home (not many will stick around, just the true ones), and you’ll make friends abroad, but your day-to-day will involve nobody else. No real friends around you.
If you choose to stick around and live abroad in a particular place, you’ll undoubtedly make friends, but then you’ll be less nomadic… So there’s always something you’ll need to “give up” a bit on.
I’ve made some awesome friends via the internet since this is where “I am,” and we have fun when we meet up around the world, but the real community like one has when they live in one place for a while is something you’ll have to get used to not having, at least not often.
7. Everyone Thinks You’re Living the Dream and on Perpetual Vacay
About this unicorn job… Right. Everyone thinks you’re on vacation, swimming around on swan floaties, with a coconut in hand, and quite literally… on vacation.
You may have a laptop that you open here and there, magically making money somehow, but otherwise, you’re just relaxing poolside, right?!
This false notion is perhaps the most annoying of them all because, as we learned, we digital nomads are likely working harder than the people making this crappy assumption.
Sure, our Instagram is on FIRE with exotic waterfalls, epic viewpoints, a few new countries a year under your belt, and beaches that people only see in postcards.
But who the hell wants to see pictures of a laptop screen and like, a plate of half-eaten chips and my third cup of coffee (girl dinner, IYKYK)? Nobody. So it doesn’t get posted (although I post this on Instagram stories sometimes just to drive home the “I’m not on vacation” notion!).
In fact, I don’t recall the last vacation I took. I know some will laugh and scoff at me, but really, I don’t take vacations. My travels are always in between my work, if not FOR my work, and I get anxious about taking time off!
So get used to people thinking you’re on vacation when in reality, you’re slaving away behind the computer and happen to post a pic of the waterfall you went to between emails because your legs may forget how to walk if you don’t remove yourself NOW from the seat your butt has melted into.
8. You May Not Realize That It Can Be Hard to Start as a Digital Nomad
On that note, people don’t get that digital nomads work really hard, sometimes before they actually figure out how to become a digital nomad successfully!
When I was starting out freelance writing, I spent just as much time doing the work as I did APPLYING for the work. Applying for some of these remote positions (some of which are not long term but one-off type of things) can be so time-consuming.
When you job hunt, you are never paid. Now imagine starting off trying to figure out how to become a digital nomad and finding work online, which is typically project-based or temp work—You’d need to apply a lot more frequently, and those hours applying don’t always equal a payout.
When I finally realized blogging could be a job (yep, took me a few years to realize this) I spent countless hours (and still do) teaching myself how to make this a real business.
Luckily, I was successful in doing so, but my learning is NEVER done. And all the hours I was teaching myself, those were never “paid for.”
Learning, applying, and then actually getting the work done while still trying to further your business and career is A LOT of work. Again, it’s often more work than a regular 9-5.
It just looks more glamorous when the “nomad” part of being a digital nomad comes into play.
Again, those who become digital nomads with a “regular company and have regular hours” might have it easier, but many digital nomads are entrepreneurs or freelancers, etc.
RELATED: How to Be a Freelance Content Writer and Turn Your Words Into Money
Your Shortcut to Living Around The World
No, seriously, I’m not joking! I made this e-book JUST FOR YOU! No need to figure everything out alone.
I GOT YOU!
Live abroad like a pro from the start.
I hope the realities of being a digital nomad didn’t turn you off! Tons of people are constantly trying to figure out how to become a digital nomad for a reason… It’s awesome! It’s just not as glamorous as it’s made out to be.
You should also know if I was given the chance to do this all over again, I would. Without hesitation, I’d go back to the days when I was figuring out how to be a digital nomad and do it all over again.
So, let’s talk about the good stuff!
1. Location Independence
Being a digital nomad means taking my time in countries, finding my favorite grocery store, getting to know the streets around my apartment or home, having conversations with the cashier at my local convenience store, smiling and saying hello to my neighbor, and essentially living a “normal” life in another country.
I’ve had “offices” in over 30 countries, stayed in countless hotels, Airbnbs, and apartments, learned at least the basic words and phrases in at least 20 languages, and have had the privilege to REALLY get to know areas because my style of travel is slower and deeper.
No other path has made me feel more free, in control, and happier. I love that I work for myself, I love my flexibility, and the fact that I CAN jet off to anywhere I so please with little notice or care while I still get work done.
This is the best part of the digital nomad lifestyle in my eyes. It will be different for everyone, but one thing is for sure, if it’s what you truly want in life, it will be the best step you ever take.
2. Better Quality of Life
It may be hard to see it on the inside, but the US is seriously lacking when it comes to quality of life. Everything is expensive. Food, health care, your car payment, filling up your car, breathing… seriously, like everything.
One of the best things about becoming a digital nomad is that it has allowed me to experience so many different ways of life. And it’s been so eye-opening. I’ve learned to navigate public transportation, figure out local systems of government, see what cheap health care is like, and let me tell you, it’s been amazing.
Local doctors have apologized to me since they have to charge because I’m not a citizen because, of course, for them, it’s free! As an American, I gladly shell over the cash because it’s still ten times cheaper than it would be been in the US.
I go over some costs of health care abroad in this post if you want to scroll a bit and find it.
3. Flexible Hours
I mentioned this as a negative above, but being your own boss and setting your own hours can definitely be a plus! You just have to stay organized and on task when you are actually working.
This definitely gets easier the longer you do it, and once you have a more “normal schedule,” it’ll be easier to plan your weeks in advance and pencil in your free time.
4. Experience New Cultures
I’m guessing you want to learn how to become a digital nomad so that you can work from anywhere in the world. Tacos in Mexico, festivals in Thailand, and history across Europe are all part of the deal here if you want them to be!
This is what is exciting to me! I love living a thousand different lives. ADHD? Excitement? Curiosity? Who knows why I’m like this, but I’m OK with it.
5. Simplified Lifestyle
While it may be hard to live out of a backpack at first, you’ll likely appreciate the simplicity of having few possessions in the long run.
It might sound cliche, but the fewer things you have, the more you realize you can live with less (and actually enjoy it!). Of course, this also helps you spend less money, which is huge!
6. You Meet New People
It’s not easy to make friends when you’re constantly traveling. But don’t overlook short-term friendships! Befriending a local or someone who has lived in the area for a while has TONS of benefits.
You’ll get the inside scoop on all the best local spots, and even if it’s not a friend for life, having someone to go grab a drink with or go on a day trip can be a huge bonus when you’re feeling lonely.
Most cities have Facebook pages for people living there, and it’s a great place to seek out connections. Your mind grows as you meet people from around the world!
7. Anyone Can Do It!
There’s no doubt that figuring out how to become a digital nomad and then actually succeeding at it is hard work. But it’s not impossible, and almost literally anyone can do it.
Let’s set a few things straight:
- As we know, a digital nomad isn’t a job; there are tons of avenues to take to become a digital nomad. So SURELY, there’s a job that could “speak” to nearly anyone out there wanting to become a remote worker, AKA a digital nomad.
- I’m a regular person. Literally, I have no special talents; no money is coming from the Bank of Rich Parents because nobody in my family is rich or in the business of handing over something (hard work only in this family!). I can’t think of ONE thing that makes me special. So what’s really stopping someone from doing this?
- My travels, where I am in my career and my online business, and how I got to this exact place in my life have absolutely ZERO to do with luck. Sure, I’m lucky to be a native English speaker, and I’m lucky to have an American passport… But millions of other people have this luck too! Nothing about my lifestyle is luck, I worked for it. And so did pretty much every single other person living this lifestyle.
- WARNING: Cheesy and cliche line alert… “If I can do this, so can you.” I hate myself for saying that line, but there’s no other line out there that says what it is. Almost anyone can do this… If they really want to. If you don’t have the drive, then just give up before you start. Becoming a digital nomad DOES take an insane amount of drive.
RELATED: 20 Online Jobs With No Experience Needed (So You Can Travel More)
8. It’s Cheaper to Live This Way
I’m not sure if this will 100% be your case, but it is for me. After living this lifestyle and seeing how much less I needed to live on while being abroad, I realized it’s literally cheaper for me to live abroad than in the US!
Yes, I know this sounds wild, and maybe you don’t believe me—but a huge reason I continue to live as a digital nomad is because my monthly costs are significantly less.
Now, I, of course, choose not to live in Switzerland or Japan because obviously those places are pretty spendy, but generally speaking, in most countries around the world—I live for less!
Read more about how I live abroad for cheaper than existing in the US.
What Does Being a Digital Nomad Really Look Like?
So what’s the digital nomad lifestyle really like?
Well, it’s different for everyone.
For me, the “digital” part is…
I wake up early because I want to, I get work done, and then I schedule my free time for the week to travel and have fun.
I have the ability to work from pretty much any country on the planet that has decent wifi.
I love the challenge of furthering my career and business to places I didn’t think I could take it. Making money in a way that took me years to understand and build. Getting paid to do something I really truly love and sometimes, to my own detriment, can’t tear myself away from.
It’s the freedom to be able to make money without actively working. I personally worked towards working for myself and learning how to make (semi) passive income, and I can take a month off and not lose a dime nowadays. (This doesn’t apply to every digital nomad job)
I find what I do addicting in the best possible way. I can’t look back, and I’m grateful and thankful to MYSELF for taking on the risk of becoming a digital nomad and the very hard step into the land of blogging (seriously, choose another remote job, this one is the hardest lol).
In terms of the “nomad” part, to me, it means…
Living a regular life but abroad while switching it up throughout the year.
This is what I do:
- I land in a country (one that I’ve researched heavily in terms of internet infrastructure, the cost of living, and lifestyle).
- I work, I work, I work some more…
- Then, I schedule in some play time.
How much you work and how much play time is up to you and your job. But one thing is for sure; you don’t want to be beach hopping while trying to get work done. If I could give any advice to someone who wants to learn how to be a digital nomad, this would be it:
When you’re working, work. When you’re traveling, just travel.
It’s the only way to actually get shit done AND enjoy yourself. I often work like a normal person for a month or two and then take a few weeks to JUST travel. My job is very flexible since I’m Ms. Boss, so I can do that. But you’ll never catch me attempting to get work done on a windy road on a bus to somewhere or poolside at a resort.
RELATED: 33 Pros and Cons of Living Abroad—From A Pro
After figuring out the right laptop for your work, here are all the other lovely bits about becoming a digital nomad that you may not have thought about, along with some hopefully awesome resources to get you started!
1. Finding the Right Balance of Work and Travel—Going Slower
It will be very tempting to want to go to ALL THE PLACES and see ALL THE THINGS! That’s why you’re choosing this lifestyle, right? BUT I can’t stress enough the power of traveling slower.
First, you get to know a place better which is a special feeling you will soon find out about, and second, you’ll be saving tons of cash. Moving around a lot means you’re spending a lot of money. Slow down, enjoy a single country for a bit longer, and then move to the next.
My happy place is spending around 2-3 months in one country. Usually, visas only last for 90 days anyway (for Americans), so it’s a good amount of time to get to know a place without getting “stuck” there.
I’ve seen LOTS of people get burnt out very quickly because they are moving to a new place every few days. Plus, you can’t get a lot of work done when you’re constantly on the go.
You think it sounds fun at first to be on the move, but I can’t stress enough how going slower will be so much better for your body, mind, and pockets.
2. You’re Not on Vacation
Remember how I said that everyone is going to think you’re on vacation no matter what? Well, it’s OK for them to think that as long as you’re not actually living like you’re on vacation!
Remember—there is work to be done, you’re likely you’re own boss to some degree, and you have bills to pay.
These realities won’t go away, and if you spend like you’re on vacation, guess what? You’ll be flying home in no time.
Just like traveling too much, spending too much will drain you if you live like you’re on vacation—AKA ordering tons of cocktails, eating out for every meal, and lounging all day at the pool. Live like this, and again—you’ll be flying home in no time.
Vacations are expensive.
Traveling actually isn’t!
And yes, there’s a HUGE difference.
3. Travel Takes Work
I could go on forever about this one, but in case there was any confusion, traveling actually takes a lot of work. You’re not on vacation, so nothing is planned out perfectly to the T, and all you need to do is follow the motions.
Finding the best flights, how to get to your hotel, what to do when you get there, finding a place with good wifi, searching through countless Airbnbs and hotels, finding out how not to get scammed, where is the best cafe to work from, learning the basic phrases of a new language, getting used to your new neighborhood, finding out how the public transport works…
Should I keep going? All that figuring out takes time and kind of is work! I happen to love this. It’s part of the reason why I LOVE traveling but… make no mistake, it takes time and effort, and it’s hard work to figure out. Over and over. Every time you move to a new place (see the point above about traveling SLOW!).
RELATED: How To Plan a Trip Abroad: 13 Step-by-Step Instructions
4. Keep Learning and Updating Your Skill Set
Part of being a successful digital nomad is excelling in a certain field. And this usually involves staying up to date on your skills or evening learning new skills that will help you stay on top.
Not sure where to start with learning a new skill?
How about two FREE months where you have unlimited use of a library of information to get yourself the knowledge you need to succeed?
That’s what I thought! Click here and start learning (fo’ free!)
5. Stay Connected
Staying connected is one of the biggest things you’ll need as a digital nomad and a traveler in general. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best international SIM cards to use.
To get data anywhere in the world, I use this eSIM.
All of My Digital Nomad Resources:
- 26 Digital Nomad Jobs: Best Remote Jobs for Travelers!
- 73 Travel Jobs—How to Make Money While Traveling!
- 56 Work From Home Websites—Earn Money Outside the Office!
- 20 Online Jobs With No Experience Needed!
- 17 Free Online Tools to Make Your Work Life Easier
- How to Start Freelancing for Beginners—Work Online & Travel!
- ALL articles about living and working abroad!
Nina Ragusa is an adventurer, messy bun master, breakfast fan, and full-time travel blogger. She’s been abroad since 2011 and blogging on Where in the World is Nina? for nearly as long. Nina helps people like you move around the world while making money. She loves talking about how to work abroad and online to travel longer!