If you heard the internet buzzing about “Digital Nomads” and you’re wondering what is that and how do you take advantage, you’ve come to the right place.
Or, scrolled Instagram wondering how people travel constantly. What are they doing and how can you do it too?
Kyle and I embarked on our digital nomad journey 9 months ago and we couldn’t be happier with our decision. While it’s not perfect, we love the life we are building.
If your curious about traveling long term, continue reading for everything you need to know about Digital Nomads.
Table of Contents
What Does Digital Nomad Mean?
To start, what are we even talking about when we say “digital nomad”? What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who is location-independent for work. Meaning, a digital nomad can live and work anywhere they want with an internet connection.
The definition is really a combination of digital + nomad. Helpful – right? A digital nomad must be connected to the world digitally (or electronically) to be a good internet connection around the globe.
This could be working from a hostel in London or a villa in Bali or a co-working space in Medellin. Really anywhere with access to reliable internet connection.
Pros of Being a Digital Nomad
While being a digital nomad isn’t for everyone; it is an excellent lifestyle with many benefits. Are you craving more freedom than your current job offers? Do you feel stuck? Do you love traveling? And wish you could do it more often?
Becoming a digital nomad just might be the right move for you.
The first major benefit to being a digital nomad is more freedom. And the reason, I choose it.
Freedom to manage your time. Do you want to work for a few hours in the morning then lay by the beach in the afternoon? Do you want to sleep in past 8 am? Do you want to not work on Mondays? Do you want a week off to celebrate your birthday?
Since there are no rules, you can create the lifestyle that you want. Depending on what you do for work, all of these options are possible.
We were able to spend a week in Patagonia hiking. By the time we fly to Patagonia, we wouldn’t have been able to spend another week hiking. Well, before we became digital nomads.
Freedom to manage your location. Do you want to spend the winter on the beach surfing? Do you hate the snow and never want to see it again? Do you want eternal spring weather?
You can have all of that with a digital nomad lifestyle.
I believe travel draws most people to working online. You can visit the most remote and most foreign parts of the globe easily.
Prior to going, we had no intention of visiting Colombia. After traveling to South America for 5 months, we impulsively decided to also go to Colombia. In the past, we planned our travel specifically for a destination, now we go to new destinations whenever we want.
Meeting People and Learning about Different Cultures
With travel, comes meeting new people in these destinations. I love meeting new people from different backgrounds than myself.
When you begin your digital nomad journey, you’ll meet many more people. From other digital nomads to local business owners. And everyone in between.
In Colombia, we met another girl from the UK who had been traveling for 5+ years. She shared her story and some practical tips for us.
Unlimited Financial Gain
The next benefit is unlimited financial gain. This is a little different because freelancing and entrepreneurship is the real reason why this lifestyle provides the potential for unlimited income. If you chose to keep your corporate job while traveling, this may not apply.
Before I quit my job, my manager told me in a meeting that I made too much money. I didn’t feel like it! But, he refused to adjust my salary (adjustment for inflation and cost of living increases every few years).
Now that I own my business, my earning potential is unlimited based solely on how I serve my community.
If you are unsatisfied with your current salary and salary projections, I encourage you to look at starting a business run online.
Cons of Being a Digital Nomad
I’ve said it already a million times that I love being a digital nomad, there are some cons associated with this lifestyle. Don’t let Instagram fool you into thinking that its only
over-edited beautiful photos and unrealistic sunsets.
There are aspects of my old life (it feels like another lifetime), that we better then.
Discipline and hard work
The first disadvantage is that it is HARD WORK! I work more hours and harder now than I ever did.
In the past, my job responsibilities were clearly laid out and I always made a point to turn my computer off at 5 o’clock sharp.
If you struggle with self-discipline, this may not work for you. No one is going to looking over your back to see if you are doing your job. No one will cover for you if you mess up. Which is a good transition to my next point.
Life on the road can be lonely. Odds are most of your family and friends are not going to travel with you. Luckily, I travel with my husband but there are many single women who travel alone.
Chances are your community is not coming with you.
If you are living and working our of Bali, Indonesia, the time difference will mean limited time talking with family and friends back in the US.
In addition, your work is going to be quite different. You may even miss your co-workers. I am the writer, editor, web developer, and marketer for The Baileys Go. I don’t work on a team with others. I spend most of my time alone behind the computer.
Making less money than at home
I know that I previously said that there’s potential for unlimited income. And that’s still true. However, depending on your skillset, you may make less money initially. It takes time to perfect your offering or finding new clients.
Luckily, if you chose to continue working for a company remote, this won’t be the case.
Kyle and I chose to build new businesses from scratch and we are still below our old incomes. We are still experimenting on different ways to make money online.
It’s a learning process. Don’t be discouraged because the opportunity to make a lot of money is still a possibility.
Constantly Moving and Finding Apartments
This last con of being a digital nomad is more of an inconvenience and annoyance – Constantly repacking and moving.
Most digital nomads travel on tourist visas and must move between countries every 1-3 months. Packing up all of your belongings every month gets old very quickly. I HATE packing.
Every time you travel to a new country, you have to go through the process of finding a new apartment and hoping that is nice and clean.
It takes work researching areas and finding reasonable apartments every month or 3 months.
Note: An expat is a person who moves long term to another country on a work visa or residency visa. The difference expat and digital nomad is that expats live and stay in one country.
How do Digital Nomads Make Money?
There are really 3 main ways to make money as a digital nomad. The three ways are remote jobs, freelancing, and starting a business.
A lot of people work with their corporate jobs in to remote positions. In 2020, most jobs moved to online during the pandemic. If you’ve been working from home for the past 3 months, consider working with your manager to permanent work from home role. Twitter moved to allow their employees to work from home indefinitely.
If not, there are a lot of jobs that you can do from anywhere in the world. Flex Jobs is a job search company where all of the jobs are remote.
Many digital nomads choose to teach English online because the schedule is very flexible. The most popular company is VIP Kid.
Freelancing means working for clients for a specific project or timeline.
Although it seems like a job for creative types, there are many options for creative and non-creatives. If you have a specific skill set that people are looking for, you can become a freelancer.
Some examples of freelance jobs are writing, designing websites, making apps, analyzing data, managing social media, marketing, and copywriting. The possibilities are endless.
The best place to find freelance gigs, is Upwork.
Entrepreneurship is my favorite way and the path that I chose. Being an entrepreneur means you get to create your own job.
The most common businesses for digital nomads include consulting, blogging, and selling products. Again, the possibilities are endless.
What do you need to be a Digital Nomad?
Besides a marketable skill and work ethic, you only need a few things to be a digital nomad. Some additional items could be specific to your business or income stream. The basics are:
- A computer: The first thing you will need is a computer since your work is online. It helps to have a good computer. We both use MacBook Pros. Everything we do, we do it with our computers.
- A smartphone: Similar to a computer, a smartphone allows us to be connected to our clients no matter where we are or what we are doing. We use iPhone 11 Pro Max because of the great camera too.
- A Passport: If you plan to travel internationally, you will obviously need a passport.
- Extras: good travel rewards credit cards, Charles Schwab debit card, and coworking space. These are all extras.
Overall, the entry into being a digital nomad is very low – making it accessible for everyone.
Places around the world for Digital Nomads
So now that we have everything we need to be a digital nomad, where will you go. When you have the whole world at your finger tips, where do you go. When you have too many options, it’s easy to get into analysis paralysis.
The best way to determine where you will travel is based on the cost of living, the weather, and the types of activities you enjoy.
How much money do you make per month? Do you enjoy warm weather? Do you participate in winter sports? These types of questions will help you determine a starting point for locations.
For example if you enjoy warm weather and have a limited budget, it wouldn’t be wise to more to NYC in December.
After two months in Medellin, Colombia, I was ready to be near a beach. The weather is “eternal spring” meaning that the weather is close to spring temperatures without the rain. But, I wanted some beach scenery. Our next destination will be closer to the beach.
The top locations for digital nomads are:
- Bali Indonesia
- Chaing Mai, Thailand
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Medellin, Colombia
- Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Budapest, Hungary
- Lisbon, Portugal
Before you begin your travels
To prepare for a life style change, there are several things to to prepare. This the exciting part for me. The planning leading up to your digital nomad journey – difficult but worth it.
The first thing to do is join communities on Reddit or Facebook for digital nomads. You will learn so much from current and future nomads. They are the best places to ask questions and get advice. Even if you aren’t sure if you want to become a digital nomad, you can join these communities.
Next, you should talk to family and friends. Don’t let anyone talk you out of becoming a digital nomad. If you don’t know anyone doing this personally, there is a whole lot of us out here. It can be scary talking to friends and family because they might try to talk you out of it. This lifestyle is risky and your friends and family may be scare – but they may also be really supportive.
The next step is to create a budget and a saving plan. If you are taking your corporate job remote, you may not need to save up as much money as someone starting a business. Either way, you will need some extra money for initial costs and in case of emergency.
The final steps are small touches that make your trips much more enjoyable that need to be done before leaving the country. The steps are to back up all important documents before you leave, get travel insurance, get a Google Voice number, unlock your cell phone, apply for travel rewards credit cards, and get an international driver’s license.
You’ll be well on your way!
Digital nomads are people who are location-independent for work and life so they can live and work from anywhere. While there are some downsides to being a digital nomad, the benefits are worth it.
Digital nomads only need a compute and reliable Wifi to succeed.
When selecting you destinations, consider cost of living and type of activities that you enjoy.
The main ways to make money are working remotely, freelancing, and starting a business.
I really believe that this lifestyle can work for anyone willing to put in the work.
Are you interested in living the digital nomad life?
Are you thinking of leaving your 9-to-5 for the lifestyle of a digital nomad and still have questions? Let us know in the comment section. We want to hear from you.