As a digital nomad, there were things I knew before starting this journey, some I expected, and others I wish someone had told me. I actually transitioned into the digital nomad lifestyle unintentionally.
Now, after a few years of traveling as a digital nomad, I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you and what I believe everyone should know before becoming a digital nomad.
Before Becoming a Digital Nomad, Keep in Mind the Following:
1. Be Flexible in Your Travel Plans
As a digital nomad, your life will be full of exciting adventures and new experiences. But remember, things might not always go the way you plan. Flights might get delayed or canceled, accommodation plans may change, or you might face unexpected challenges in a new place.
What can help is if you are either good at adapting or keep a list of backup options for accommodation, transportation, and workspaces in case your first plans don’t work out.
Also, it might be wise to have a safety net. Save some money for a return flight home in case you need to return unexpectedly due to personal emergencies or other reasons.
When I think about my first trip out of Europe in February 2020 – yes, a year we all remember because of COVID-19 – it’s a good example. After three weeks of traveling around Vietnam, things changed unexpectedly. Places to stay didn’t want people from certain European countries, talking to locals became hard, and borders were going to close.
At that point, we had two choices: go back to Europe or take a flight to Mexico. We didn’t realize how serious the pandemic was, so we went to Mexico. Looking back, it was the best choice.
The big life lesson is this: things won’t always happen how you plan them. Being okay with changes and being patient when things surprise you are super important !
2. Pack Only What can Carry Easily
As you take steps toward becoming a digital nomad, remember this: bring only what you can carry comfortably without any trouble. This means being practical and smart about what you pack.
Try not to overload yourself with heavy bags or too many things that could become a problem. For instance, if you’re heading to the beach, you probably won’t need 5 pairs of high heels. Also, you definitely don’t need 15 different outfits – laundry facilities are available all around the world, I promise.
Honestly, I’m still working on getting used to this idea myself. I tend to be the “you never know” kind of person, but I’m getting better over time. The moment I packed some workout weights because I wanted to keep exercising, I realized I had gone too far. It was so heavy that it stopped being funny.
3. Take it Slow and Easy
Becoming a digital nomad means learning to slow down and relax. In our fast-paced world, it’s important to find a balance between work and leisure. Love the freedom of your lifestyle, but also make time for self-care and well-being.
I think the best way to travel long-term is to travel slowly. Running from one place to the other is not my thing. This helps avoid travel fatigue, enjoy moments more and connect with people and places.
When becoming a digital nomad, there is no real need to rush, you can just decide whenever you are somewhere, if you want to stay longer or not.
4. A VPN is a Good Investment
Getting a VPN is a wise decision when becoming a digital nomad. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) provides essential benefits that make your online stuff safer and more private when you’re traveling and working remotely.
With a VPN, you can protect your sensitive data from potential cyber threats. It encrypts your internet connection, ensuring that your communications and personal information remain private and secure, even when using public Wi-Fi networks.
Also, a VPN lets you get around rules about where you can go online and see things that might be blocked in some countries. When becoming a digital nomad, you will certainly travel a lot, so this is a must if you want to watch your favourite series on Netflix or football games when you’re out and about.
5. Connect with the Other Nomads
Getting in touch with fellow nomads is a smart move. You can share stories, pick up useful advice, and make buddies who get how you live.
Online forums, social media groups, and co-working spaces are great spots to find and connect with like-minded individuals. When I reach a new place, I often scroll through the Facebook groups linked to that country or region. It gives me a good first impression of what to do and so on. Also, cafes where you can work are awesome for meeting people when becoming a digital nomad.
You don’t have to be super social, but having some friends matters. I miss my friends back home a lot and it’s nice to hang out with people for more than just a day or two. That’s why meeting other digital nomads or people who live the same way can make a big difference. It stops you from feeling alone, which many digital nomads talk about.
6. Diversify your Income
Putting all your money hopes in one place isn’t the safest idea. That one thing might not always give you enough money for your traveling life. It’s smart to have different income streams so you’re stronger financially. And if one thing stops making money, the other things can help you stay okay until you fix it. This is more important when you work for yourself than when you have a boss.
Consider exploring various remote work opportunities, such as freelancing, consulting, or online businesses. Look for projects or gigs that align with your skills and interests, giving you a diverse set of income sources. Also, when becoming a digital nomad, you can invest time in creating passive income streams, like affiliate marketing, e-books, or digital products.
Having multiple income streams not only provides a financial safety net but also opens up new opportunities for growth and learning. You will be able to adapt to changing market conditions and explore different avenues for success.
7. Stay Tax Compliant
As you move around and work in different countries, it’s super important to know and do what the tax rules say. Every country has its own tax laws, and it’s a big deal to follow them so you don’t get into trouble or have to pay fines.
First thing, figure out if you’re a tax resident in your home country and the places you go to. This helps you know where you have to pay taxes and how to handle the money you make while you’re in other countries.
It’s smart to talk to a tax expert or accountant who knows about taxes in different countries. They can guide you through the complexities of tax regulations and help you optimize your tax situation while staying compliant.
Keep detailed records of your income, expenses, and any applicable deductions. This makes it easier and more accurate when you have to do your tax paperwork.
8. Focus on Reliable Internet and Pick Smart Credit Cards
Becoming a digital nomad means that you will be working remotely and that you need to always have a good and stable internet. Before you get to a new place, check what internet choices you have. You might want to get a small Wi-Fi device you can carry or a SIM card from that place with a data plan.
I do this everywhere I go (at least outside of Europe), it’s always smart to have a backup data plan in case your wifi isn’t good. This way, you can stay connected on the go, whether you’re working from a co-working space, a cafe, or even a remote area.
Also, choose credit cards that are good for traveling. Look for cards that don’t charge extra fees when you use them in different countries. These fees can become a big deal when you’re traveling all around.
One card that I use is the REVOLUT bank card. With the free plan, you can take out up to €200 from ATMs and exchange up to €1,000 in money for free. If you go for the premium plan (€7.99 a month), you can get up to €400 with travel insurance and unlimited currency exchanges. Now, in 2023, they even released an ULTRA plan with even more benefits ! Of course, there are other cards out there, so look around to find what suits you best.
9. Avoid Setting High Expectations
When becoming a digital nomad, don’t set your hopes too high. Even though the idea of working and traveling sounds amazing, it’s important to stay grounded in reality. Enjoy the surprises of traveling and be okay with how each place is different.
Remember that work-life balance is key, and not every day will feel like a vacation. Sometimes, you might feel a bit alone or face problems. But on the bright side, you’ll also have great moments and chances you didn’t expect.
If you take it as it comes, it will be way more easier if something goes wrong. And you will end up appreciating more things in life. That’s one big lesson I learnt while travelling and becoming a digital nomad. It also helps to reduce stress in difficult situations and always see the positive in everything.
10. Plan a Healthy Daily Routine
I would say that if sticking to a healthy routine is a challenge in “regular life”, it won’t get easier while you’re traveling. People’s routines are all different because we all need different things. Some daily routines can include:
- Waking up at the same time every day
- Doing some exercise
- Deciding when you’ll work and when you’ll relax
- Creating a work area and taking regular breaks
- Avoiding screens before sleep and getting enough rest.
Adapting this plan to fit you will make your nomad life better. It’ll keep you healthy, productive, and successful as a digital nomad. Here are more tips for staying healthy when becoming a digital nomad.
11. Prepare for Busy Days, but in a New Way
We’ve all heard about those supposed 2-hour workdays, right? Well, let’s clear that myth up. Digital nomads do work a lot, sometimes even more than a regular job. But it’s a different kind of busy – more exciting! The freedom they gain is the ultimate game-changer, making it all worth it and even easier.
Picture this: you’re sipping coconut water by the beach, typing away on your laptop, and taking breaks to explore stunning landscapes. Yes, work is part of the deal, but mixed with fun. Isn’t there a saying about work and play?
12. Digital Nomad Life isn’t Running Away
Becoming a digital nomad doesn’t mean avoiding responsibilities or the real world. It’s about welcoming the possibilities and the beauty of life beyond usual ways. Digital nomads aren’t escaping; they’re explorers, creators, and adventurers who decide to work and live in their own style.
It’s a conscious choice to design a life that fits with what you love, taking advantage of technology to stay connected while traveling. So, if you’re hoping to escape problems, I’ll tell you now that this isn’t the solution. And honestly, even if you tried, those problems would likely catch up to you anyway.
13. Becoming A Digital Nomad Can Get Overwhelming
Not everyone might believe it, especially if you follow digital nomads on Instagram (kind remember, what you see there isn’t always how things really are), but becoming a digital nomad can sometimes feel like a lot to handle. Yes, it brings cool freedom and adventures, but it also brings its own tough moments.
Constantly moving around, adapting to new cultures, and keeping up with work can make you feel like you’re in a whirlwind of feelings. You have to balance work and fun, handle internet that’s not always good, and deal with missing home or feeling alone. Plus, handling different time zones and staying focused with lots of distractions can be hard.
But, knowing about these challenges is the first step in finding solutions when becoming a digital nomad. If you set realistic ideas, stick to a routine, and get help from other nomads, you can manage stress. More about the Good, the Bad and the Reality of Digital nomadism here.
Life as a digital nomad isn’t always super easy. But think about it, is life back home always perfect? I think everything in life has good and not-so-good parts – you just pick what suits you better.
To Wrap it Up
These small tips and practical things to know might be obvious for some, but they could be entirely new for others. I genuinely hope that these insights can assist you on your path to becoming a digital nomad. Learning is all part of the journey, but why make things harder when you have this list to guide you?
Wishing you all happy and fulfilling travels!
For some DOs and DON’Ts while traveling, check out these travel tips here.
Disclaimer: While I make an effort to snap my own photos, some folks out there are just naturally better with a camera. So, in this article, you’ll see that most of the pictures, except for that awesome sunset shot in Bangkok (I must admit, I’m quite proud of it), are thanks to the talented Unsplash community.