How to Become a Digital Nomad And Work Whilst Travelling the World
Since the turn of the millennium,we have seen the rise of the ‘digital nomad’. Our offices might be great places, filled with lovely people and all the latest tech, but going into the same place day-after-day doesn’t suit everyone. A lot of us are unhappy with our work/ life balance. Just one in four people across the EU have a ‘high level of satisfaction’ in their job. This is coinciding with more and more of us leave the traditional workplace and getting jobs either in the ‘gig economy’ (working for platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo) or becoming freelancers. The overall trend is for more of us to take more control over our work and work life balance.
As more of us than ever before are working for ourselves as freelancers, some are taking new ways of working to the next level by becoming digital nomads. If you can either work for yourself as a freelancer (or consultant) or be able to work for an employer as a remote worker, why do you need to be tied to a single location?
What is a digital nomad?
According to the dedicated Reddit, digital nomads are defined as people who “leverage technology in order to work remotely and live an independent and nomadic lifestyle”. Living in one place, facing a daily grind can lead to stress and grind you down. Being a digital nomad means you can roam the world, working, living and enjoying life anywhere you want. If all you need to work is a laptop and a decent internet connection, why spend your life in a cubicle or an apartment when you could be sitting in a gorgeous cafe or coworking space in your favourite European city, or whilst relaxing on a far-flung beach.
The biggest attraction to being a digital nomad for most people is the ability to live where you want. Do you love exploring Europe by rail? You can work for a different town, city or country each week or month. If you love gorgeous beaches on the other side of the world with lower costs of living, being a digital nomad gives you that option. The most important thing for many digital nomads is being able to have different experiences and relationships in different countries.
Being a digital nomad means you need to have secure enough income stream to live off in your destination(s) of choice. Depending on where you live, being a digital nomad can be expensive to do. If you don’t have savings or a trust fund to fall back on, you will have two main options. The first is having a stream of passive income. This means owning a business (such as a website) which can pay you an income, or having a job which you can do with just a laptop and a connection to the internet.
If you are serious about becoming a digital nomad there are concrete steps you will need to take before heading of to your chosen destinations. Here are our seven things to consider before leaving for pastures new.
1. Find a way to earn money as a nomad
To fund your digital nomad lifestyle you will need an income. There are ways you can make money online but lots of these schemes are not steady enough to rely on. If you are already a freelancer, contractor, run your own business or website or have a role where you can work remotely you are already in a good position to move away as a nomad. If not, look at your current skills set and compare it to what people are looking for on sites such as Upwork, People Per Hour or other freelance sites and start learning the necessary skills. Other great ways to make money whilst travelling include becoming a languages tutor.
2. Pay off debts, get into credit and take out a credit card
Next to getting your income in shape and ready to go is paying off any debts. It is not a good idea to start travelling the world with a lot of debt at home. Paying down debt can be difficult when your mind is drifting off to the beaches of Bali of the canals of Bruges, but getting your head down and focusing on paying debts off will get you there quicker. Aim to start out both debt free and with a good credit rating. This will help you along the way incase you do need to take out any credit. Before you leave on your new life, take out a credit card. Paying for things such as flights and long distance train tickets with a credit card gives you an extra layer of consumer protection.
3. Take out comprehensive travel insurance
If you are from an EU nation and are planning to travel through the 28 member states of the EU plus the 3 EEA states and Switzerland, you can be covered for health insurance through your country’s domestic health service. Taking out an EHIC or European Health Insurance Card covers you for medical treatment either for free or at a reduced cost, on similar terms to your home country. If you are from outside the EEA/ EU countries or travelling outside them, you need to ensure you get comprehensive medical insurance which will cover you for any medical emergency.
4. Cut your life down
If you are planning on travelling for an extended period of time you need to think about what to do with your property. If you own a home, an apartment or house, you need to decide whether it is worth keeping hold of it and renting it out, or whether it is the right time to sell it. This will depend on your own unique situation. Could renting out your property provide an income stream for you or would releasing any capital be better.
Even if your don’t own a house or apartment, you still need to think about what you are going to do with all your possessions. Look through your belongings and aside from the things you will be taking with you as a digital nomad, what do you need to keep. Things which you feel you won’t need for the future could be sold on eBay or through applications such as Shpock. If there are things you want to keep, put them into storage and pay for 6 – 12 months in advance.
5. Get mobile
Get your mobile or smartphone unlocked to work on any network and look towards an international Sim which offers a good data and messaging package. Options could include Lebara mobile or Vectone mobile, both of which offer international packages. If you are from the USA you might also need to change handsets as some US carriers use different bands than those used in Europe and Asia, it is a good idea to check with your manufacturer that your handset will work where you plan to travel.
Along with this, if you are planning on working using a laptop, make sure it is in good working order before going and also make sure your laptop, smartphone and any other equipment such as cameras are all covered for loss and theft under your travel insurance as a basic. If you are relying on them for work, you should also take out breakdown cover.
6. Get virtual
Whether it’s a boring as a bill or as charming as Christmas card, even when you are on the road you will still need to get mail now and then. Not having a permanent postal address can make things complicated for you to maintain things like a bank account or apply for a visa. One popular solution is the Virtual Postal Service. There are several providers who specialise in services for digital nomads. These services can provide you with a real street address where your mail can be sent to. The unopened mail is scanned and forwarded to you. You can then decide whether to have it opened, scanned and sent to you, forwarded to another address or simply destroyed. Theses services are safe, secure and provide you a real world address you can give out when needed.
Another good bit of virtual kit to set up before becoming a digital nomad is cloud storage. If you are working as a freelancer, contractor or remote worker, or even just love taking lots of pictures, you can fill up a phone, laptop and portable hard drive pretty quickly. Unless you want to lug around a backpack half full of flash drives and portable hard drives signing up for a secure cloud backup service where you can backup and store all your date is a great idea. We have reviewed the best cloud backup services for PC and Mac here.
7. Network before you go
One thing you might miss once you are on the road, if you are travelling alone, is the network of friends and family you have at home. Whilst you are still in the planning stage, start looking at ways to build networks in the place or places you will be travelling to. You can often find dedicated groups or communities on social media for freelancers and digital nomads in different locations. Dedicated platforms for people moving to new countries or cities, such as Internations, help you settle in and make new friends along the way.
Moving to a new country, getting to explore your favourite or different places whilst working and living a digitally nomadic life can be a fantastic experience. You just need to make sure you are really ready to take the plunge.