Becoming a Digital Nomad. What do you need to be aware of?

Staying at one of the Airbnb’s

igital nomad. Why this has been a topic of discussion lately and what led to this? I think everyone might have a different approach to this, but let me express my opinion: the world is not the same anymore.

Old approaches to living life is still a thing, but we have been seeing a new trend of people becoming more self-aware and trying to understand more about themselves and their true path.

They want to achieve a much better balance of life and work environment that their parents ever had. Is it good or bad? None of it, it’s just different!

Who exactly is a digital nomad?

A digital nomad is a person who lives and works remotely. His or her office is a coffee shop, Airbnb/hostel or maybe even their motorhome! Their friends are either scattered across the internet, live inside the apps or meet them person to person in different locations.

Camping in Nevada

They have no specific plan of living their life in a single spot. In fact, their true plan is having a good time and being able to work productively at the same time. And that might happen in one timezone today and the other timezone tomorrow!

We have already discussed what you might need to know before becoming a nomad and how to save money while traveling, this article is specifically about being able to work and travel.

What do you need to become a digital nomad?

Here we are at the main point. What are the things that you need to have to be a digital nomad?

It all starts with a mindset. And it actually works both ways. Sometimes that mindset comes from the inside and the other times you get it once you are in.

I’ve been hopping across the world for 2.5 years and I feel like this is only a start. There have been so many more ideas in my head! It all has started with watching Youtube videos about van life and then it was hard for me to believe that I can live my life otherwise.

Inspiration is good, but what about the things that you will need along the nomad route itself?

Source of income or savings

Without a doubt that a person starting as a digital nomad needs either a portable business, savings or at least an actionable plan of what they want to do sustain their lifestyle.

You might leave an office job without a backup plan and find a remote job along the way, but it’s better to at least have some savings before doing that.

Don’t get me wrong, though! If your office job gives you nothing but migraine and strong depression the time to leave is “now” until it does more damage to you. In that case, though, taking another job along the route might be the option. You don’t lose a thing here.

Stable internet connection

Slow internet connection speed I had while nomading

Internet connection is like a blood vein for a digital nomad. When there is no internet connection you have no way of making money and staying in touch with your colleagues or friends.

Don’t underestimate the need for stable internet and research your options before going to a new location. Don’t assume that the location you are going to will have a good internet connection by default. Better ask a hotel or Airbnb place before booking that place.

And in case there is no good connection there — a co-working space might be an option.

Place to work from

Co-working meeting room that I’ve rented

There are multiple options when looking for a place to work from, typically those are:

  1. Your accommodation where you stay at
  2. Coffee shop
  3. Co-working space
  4. A park, library or other public space

Everyone decides for themselves what is their favorite option. For me, it depends on the place where I stay. If I’m satisfied with the internet connection at my accommodation and there is a desk to work from — most likely I will just work from there.

However, if I feel a bit lonely and want social life then I would pick a coffee shop or co-working space.

Place to stay

We have already discussed places to work from, but what about places to stay?

At the end of the day no matter how many places you’ve been to, you will need a place to re-charge and get a comfortable sleep.

In that case, there are many options too. The most popular are:

  1. Airbnb’s. Especially for long-term stays it was my number one choice. You can read here about my experience with that platform. The main advantage of it is that you have access to the kitchen and save money that way by cooking.
  2. Hostels. That’s my second choice. Hostels might be cheaper, but they lack privacy. At the same time, co-working spaces might go great together with hostels since you could spend most of your time there and sleep at a bunk bed in a hostel.
  3. Hotels. The most expensive option most of the time, but you might find good deals, especially for long-term stays.
  4. Volunteering. Here is how you might stay for free. Well, not exactly for free. You volunteer at the hostel/hotel and get free nights in exchange.

There are various options. Pick the one that works best for your budget and level of comfort. It’s always a balance between both. I have a more detailed overview of each of those options here.

Phone number

Yes, it might be the 21st century and we use emails and video-chats to connect with people, but having a phone number is a necessary thing when it comes to communicating with people. Many of them might ask to provide a phone number so they could call you in that old fashioned way.

Just have it. Especially since services like Google Voice or Skype provide that opportunity. Research what your options are and pick what works best for your online business.

Virtual Mailbox

Mailbox is needed to either confirm your identity by some services (e.g Google Adsense) or to be able to ship something to your address. For example, you need that address to be able to:

  1. Receive checks
  2. Receive new credit or debit cards
  3. Receive any necessary documents

Since you are a nomad and not actually living at your home address the virtual mailbox is an essential way of having a reliable place where to send things to.

Having a relative and sending those to that address is another option, but it might not be as reliable.

Virtual mailboxes are usually not that expensive and there is a wide range of plans that you could select from. They will process, scan and even forward a mail when you want to.

Credit and debit cards

This is one of the most important aspects. When you travel most likely you will use a credit or debit card from your home bank and home country. To be able to use it consistently you will need cards that meet those criteria:

  1. Without international transaction fees if you go abroad
  2. Visa or Mastercard systems. Other systems might work, but they are less popular internationally
  3. The expiration date should be sufficiently away
  4. Your cards should have an option to block or disable them fast while away (e.g cards are stolen or lost)
  5. ATM withdrawal fees should be low

Here is the thing. Always have backup options when it comes to money. Even better to open a second bank account and have money stored there just in case.

You never know if your bank locks your card or something like that happens. Backup is a key, especially in international travel. Carry some cash as well just in case if cards are not accepted.

Health insurance

Health insurance is a part where we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. When it comes to international travel having health insurance is important.

You never know what might happen and what’s worst that being in another country and having to pay expensive bills? That’s when health insurance comes into play. There are quite affordable plans available for international travel.

People to get inspiration from

Last, but not least. Travel as a digital nomad might be an exhausting experience at times. Especially if you travel alone.

It’s best to join nomad groups, talk to people who share your lifestyle and just be open to another opinion. Without inspiration, it might feel dull at times and you might feel that something wrong is happening to you.

Don’t feel like you are alone. There are hundreds and thousands of people who want to leave their nest, but there is something holding them. Family, responsibilities or maybe just a fear of exposing themselves to something new.

They might catch a “travel bug” and get inspiration from you at some point too.

Nomad lifestyle writer. Passionate about breaking software— QA Engineer. My Travel & Tech YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/nomadicdmitry

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