Sitting in an exotic café far from home, watching the most beautiful sunset you have ever seen, you marvel that you actually get paid to be there.
You have been to more countries than you can count, while eating amazing local dishes, meeting new friends, and participating in fascinating and strange customs. You are not on vacation: you are earning a living while doing all of this. How? As a ‘digital nomad,’ a new breed of entrepreneur or employee working remotely from laptops.
Does being a digital nomad sound like a fantastic idea? Would it work for you?
If you are in web design, marketing, social media, bookkeeping, consulting, e-commerce, writing, online teaching, billing, virtual assisting, transcription or almost any work that primarily uses a computer, you can indeed travel the world while making a living.
Most digital nomads don’t actually sit on the beach and work (it’s too bright, sand will ruin your laptop and there are many distractions), but plenty of nomads work out of cafes, hotel rooms and beach bars.
Seasoned ‘desksurfers’ often prefer to use co-working locations around the world.
At these co-working spaces you rent desks and have access to high-speed internet, printers, and lots of free coffee. These offices are generally available 24 hours a day so you can set your own work schedule, making it easier to connect with bosses, clients and vendors on the other side of the world. There are some extra bonuses to these co-working locations, too: meeting like-minded people, a variety of work areas both indoors and out, and the local nomad community who can help you get settled.
Becoming a digital nomad is not for the undisciplined or those who need regular routines. Getting and staying motivated is very difficult when the ocean is calling and those around you are all on vacation.
Where you go as a digital nomad depends on how much money you make.
If you’re not earning much, you’ll probably find yourself traveling through less expensive regions where a little incomes goes a long way. Desksurfing in Europe requires a higher income stream than setting up digs in Southeast Asia.
If you only want to be a digital nomad to travel and have fun, well you might want to rethink that. Working while traveling can be hugely stressful, especially if you have a job or business that has due dates or deadlines. In other parts of the world things don’t always go as planned, and you will encounter many obstacles to getting your work done. In that case, there are other options you should consider, like organizations such as Workaway, where they match you with open volunteer positions all over the world. You only pay travel expenses and get free accommodations and food while helping out and learning about other cultures.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- First, a word of caution: ‘digital nomads’ lie in a gray area with regards to work visas in many countries. Technically you might be breaking immigration laws if you work in a foreign country without a work permit, even if your clients or employer are out of the country. Some countries don’t care; others are cracking down. Use your best judgment and don’t ‘flaunt’ working remotely online in a public forum or platform. Chat online with other nomaders in the country(ies) you plan to visit and see what they say.
- There are many helpful articles and blogs online dedicated to becoming a digital nomad. Read as much as you can. Connect with co-working spaces before you hop that plane. They can usually help you find accommodations and give you helpful tips that will make your stay easier.
- Use apps to make working over different time zones from your employer or clients easier, offline mapping to save data charges, finding free WIFI connections, see currency conversion rates, etc.
- Get immunized, create a backup- and emergency plan, and buy travel insurance. Research the types of credit cards used (if any – many remote cities use mostly in, so watch those foreign transaction fees at ATMs).
- Make your first stop somewhere with a lower cost of living and a large community of digital nomads to help you, like Chiang Mai in Thailand, Ubud in Indonesia, or Prague in the Czech Republic.
- Don’t sell all your things back home and hit the road. Try the nomadic lifestyle first and see if it’s a good fit for you. If it is, cut some ties (and expenses) with your hometown and head back out. If it’s not, then you’ll have something to return to. Trying something new and discovering it doesn’t work for you is not failure. Not trying something you really want to do is.