Want to travel without waiting for your holiday or quitting your job? If this sounds enticing, you may be interested in the digital nomad lifestyle. Here are some expert tips on how to make the transition, and how a little piece of paradise can become your new office.
So…what is a Digital Nomad?
It’s no surprise that the evolution of technology has re-shaped the job economy with the internet connecting us now more than ever. More people are turning to the internet to put their skills to good use and make a living. Some jobs just require a WiFi connection and a laptop computer, making it increasingly possible to work from outside the typical office setting. As a result, remote work has become more accessible and people are deciding to live a location independent lifestyle. And with the right knowledge, perhaps you can do it too!
Basically, a Digital Nomad is someone who works and travels at the same time. They use the internet to perform their job duties (and build their portfolio) instead of being physically present in one place. Digital nomads are typically on the move, changing living locations and working from around the world. They also have the flexibility to pick destinations based on the best time to book, and other factors that relate to cheap travel. Below we break down how to become a digital nomad, including tips for work, finances, destinations and more.
Is this lifestyle for me?
Being a Digital Nomad myself, I have experienced the challenges and rewards that come with this lifestyle. It’s not for everyone, but if you’re curious and committed to this fast-growing trend of working remotely, the world could be your new office. Thinking about whether you want to try out the digital nomad life? Know that while this lifestyle may seem glamorous, and certainly has several benefits, it can also be extremely difficult. Consider the below rewards and challenges and weigh what is more important to you.
- Flexibility to work (almost) wherever and whenever you want
- Ability to travel longer and on your own terms
- Your money can go further depending on your location
- This lifestyle can build confidence and lead to career opportunities
- Inspiration and adventure are always right in front of you
- Missing landmark occasions and holidays back home
- Feelings of loneliness
- Burn-out from constant planning, working and travelling at the same time
- You can’t go too off the grid when you need WiFi
“Planning ahead will backfire; the biggest benefit of this lifestyle is flexibility. Use it.” – Michelle of Mishvo in Motion
Becoming a Digital Nomad
So, you want to be a digital nomad! Welcome to this wonderful, growing community of adventure-seekers, creatives, and individuals challenging the status quo. There can be a lot to consider and preparation involved, but we’ve got you covered on some tips and inspiration to guide you on this journey.
How to start working remotely
How do you take the plunge and find work that allows you to live this lifestyle? Unless you already work for a company that allows you to take your work remotely (in which case, great!), you may have to go back to the drawing board in order to find out what work will fit you best. There is a plethora of options when it comes to travel jobs, but breaking into any kind of remote work, whether you are freelancing or starting your own business, is no picnic. Here are some tips to help get you started:
Tip #1: Take your interests, skills, experiences and education all into account
If you’re having trouble deciding on what job or field you should pursue, you’re not alone. The internet is a big place and having so many choices can be overwhelming. It’s best to just start with your past experiences. Reflect and evaluate the skills you have built throughout the years, from education and past jobs. Think about the experiences that you have enjoyed and those that you have struggled with. Write it all down and you’ll start to have more clarity on what direction to go in.
Tip #2: Join social media groups, attend meet-ups and talk to people
Once you have a clearer picture of what work you might like to take on the road, networking and experimenting will be your best friend. Join Facebook groups for digital nomads or people already working in your niche. Talk to people, ask questions and take initiative. Eventually, opportunities big or small will present themselves.
Juha Liikala, a Finnish web developer and digital nomad has this advice that can really apply to any field of interest: “Find a mentor and/or join a group of people who share similar life goals. Try out different ways of working (9-5, freelancing, startups) and you’ll eventually learn what works best for you.”
Tip #3: Work hard and celebrate every step
You may have to hustle on the side of another gig while you are preparing to be a digital nomad. On the other hand, once you start the journey of nomadic travel compounded with remote work, you will be working hard every single day. Whether you are an entrepreneur or freelancer, you will be pouring a lot of yourself into work as a digital nomad. So be sure that you are following something you’re passionate about and celebrate every goal reached along the way.
As Valery Colli, a Social Media Manager and Digital Nomad likes to put it: “When you have your own business you never have a day off, work is an ongoing process. However, it’s always good to look back on how your week was, and what you accomplished this week.”
How do I afford nomadic travel?
The question of how finances are impacted by nomadic travel is undoubtedly crucial. It’s important to be as financially independent as possible. These are a few things you should keep in mind in order to have good money management as a digital nomad:
Tip #1: Ensure you have savings/back-up
Before hitting the road and regardless of having a job or contract, it is wise to have some money saved up first. Ensure you have enough to sustain you for at least a cushion of six months to give you enough time to find other sources of income. You always want to know that you have a back-up in case of emergencies or slower income periods.
Tip #2: Have more than one stream of income
If you’re working for yourself or on a contract, the stream of money coming in might not always be predictable. Source out the potential for other work and projects so that if one work outlet is giving you fewer opportunities, you have another way to sustain yourself in the meantime.
Tip #3: Cutting off unnecessary costs
Nomadic travel is usually compounded with having no ties anywhere. Cancel any prepaid subscriptions, bills, and outgoing finances. If you were paying rent before, consider ending your lease or sub-letting while you are gone. You also don’t need to be paying for a phone bill if you plan on getting SIM cards as you travel. It’s best to be free from as many bills as possible. Okay, except for maybe one (or two) streaming services!
Tip #4: Choosing destinations for your budget and dollar
Pick your destinations wisely. By choosing destinations where the Canadian dollar goes far, you will be able to travel slower and longer. There are many places where it’s possible to live comfortably on about $1000/month. Research and think about where to go before you book! Once you know where you are going, it’s super easy to find the best time to book with our cheapest month search tool.
What Are the Best Places to Travel as a Digital Nomad?
Looking for destination inspiration? The most ideal places for digital nomads have good WiFi, are cost-effective and plenty to see and do. Check out these digital nomad hotspots!
Chiang Mai, Thailand
How to Live Your Best Digital Nomad Life
1. Maintaining a work/life balance
While you may need to pour your heart and soul into your work to maintain income or clients, you won’t serve your job responsibilities in the best way if you’re working around the clock 24/7. Carve out work and non-work time and set those clear boundaries as strictly as you can. While it may be easy to plug into work on your laptop before you go to bed, it’s not necessarily healthy.
2. Figure out your habits and stick to them
It’s trickier to maintain a routine while you are a digital nomad, and sometimes that may be what you were trying to escape! But in order to cultivate some productivity, you need to stick to habits that help you, not hinder you. Discover what ideal working conditions are for you. Do you work better in the morning or in the afternoon? Do you need time to workout? Or journal? Whatever it is that fuels you and keeps you motivated, carve out time in your schedule for it.
Taylor Wallace, a Digital Nomad and entrepreneur has this fantastic piece of knowledge on honouring your habits: “Habits are an extremely part of building a successful…anything. Business, relationship, healthy lifestyle, you name it, habits have helped you get there and they’re what allow you to streamline certain processes of your life so that you can focus your attention on more pressing things.”
“Is there something you currently do EVERY day that helps you to dominate your productivity? Honour this habit and maintain it, no matter where you physically are in the world.” – Taylor Wallace
3. Find a community
When you work online, you lose that social circle that comes from going into an office or workplace every day; as such, this can be quite isolating. Circumvent this by cultivating community within the digital nomad space. Use social media groups and attend meet-ups in your new destination where you can make connections with fellow digital nomads.
Michelle of Mishvo in Motion puts it perfectly: “The magic of travel is almost always about the people you meet out there on the road. Feeling like you’re a part of a community or something bigger than yourself is key to staving off loneliness as a digital nomad.”
4. Use co-working spaces
But one of the best aspects of this growing trend is the increase in co-working or co-living spaces in cities around the world. These spaces mimic an office in a way, providing desks, chairs, meeting rooms, reliable WiFi and sometimes a free flow of coffee and tea! These are perfect places to meet other like-minded individuals, make connections and form community. This website is a good tool for finding a co-working and even co-living spaces wherever you plan to be in the world.
5. Pack only what you need
Minimalist travel has its perks, and especially when it comes to starting life as a digital nomad, it’s best to travel light. Trust me, when you are nomadically travelling and don’t necessarily have a base to come and go from, you want to keep your luggage as light as possible. Hold on to only the essentials and things that are most important to your lifestyle.
6. Enjoy yourself!
This one may be an obvious one but sometimes digital nomads are so focused on work duties that they forget to take advantage of the fun opportunities, inspiration and adventure right at their fingertips. So peel yourself away from your laptop every once and a while and roam your new surroundings. You’re in the position to be more exposed to different cultures, people, food and beautiful scenery, so make the most out of it!
Ultimately, being a digital nomad is an umbrella term for a variety of intersections of work, travel and lifestyle. That means it won’t look the same for everyone; there is no right or wrong way to do it. But your own fulfilment should be your main indicator of success. Ready to take the leap into a new and thrilling chapter? Take Juha’s inspiring words and go:
“Draw your own road map to the place you want to go and follow it. Often times, we get lost in following (or trying to copy) someone else’s life path, because that’s what we think we want. Take inspiration from others but then go and carve your own path! You alone know what that looks like for you.”
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