Every person alive has dreamed of ditching the grind of a 9-5 workday, packing up and heading off for destinations unknown. The reality that you can’t live on anything but hopes and dreams soon intrudes though, and you give it up. But digital nomads are proving that it is possible to have your cake and eat it too.
They’re combining the freelance or remote work lifestyle with international travel. And there are dozens of success stories that have inspired others to follow in their footsteps. Life as a digital nomad is not all pristine beaches and a life of sun-drenched relaxation. There are as many stories of people who haven’t been able to make it work and returned home with their tail between their legs.
Life as a digital nomad is by no means an easy one, but if you’ve decided that this is the thing you want to do with the next few years of your life then here are a few tips you should keep in mind.
Research Before You Even Start Packing
There are a lot of things that you’ll only really be able to figure out once you’ve actually arrived and lived in your destination of choice for a while. But there is a ton of research you can do beforehand as well. Some things are obvious. Such as the current exchange rate and where exactly your local embassy is located.
Other things such as where to exchange those traveller’s cheques for cash, how easy it is to find places with WiFi, and if there are any coworking spaces near your chosen accommodation are not as obvious but vitally important if you want to make the digital nomad lifestyle work for you.
Use Technology To Your Advantage
From apps that make keeping track of your travel itinerary and work to dos easy, to the best portable devices for a life on the road, to which cloud-based platforms are best for your needs. To be a digital nomad you need to know which tech is best suited to you, and then also know your tech well enough to troubleshoot any problems on the road.
Your laptop needs to be sturdy enough to withstand the rigours of travelling, and it needs a powerful antivirus, malware protection, and a robust firewall. Also, learn to back up every single important document to the cloud. You’ll often be using public WiFi to do your work and keeping your devices safe is essential to success. If you’re not comfortable using public networks, look at personal NBN plans with unlimited data to stay safe and connected.
This doesn’t just mean your work documents, but all your travel documents as well. Certified copies of your passport, identity documents, visas, plane tickets, travel itinerary – anything and everything that might be even remotely important. And make backups of your backups in different locations. Just to be safe. You’ll be thankful if your passport is ever misplaced, damaged or stolen.
Find Your Work Style
When you’re on the road, it can be very easy to let the lines between work and play get blurred. You’re too tired after long flights; the weather is too amazing to be wasted stuck behind a laptop; the day is long enough for you to get to that job later. And then you realise you’re out of funds and spend the next however long working like a demon just trying to catch up.
This is the fastest way to let the digital nomad lifestyle burn you out, and pretty much guarantees failure. So find a system that works for you. What time of the day are you most productive? How much time can you safely set aside for fun and still afford your lifestyle?
Do you need the complete isolation and privacy of a hotel room to be productive or are coworking spaces and coffee shops better for you? These are all things you’ll need to find out for yourself because no amount of research can tell you what is going to work for you.
Insurance Is Absolutely Essential
Your life as a digital nomad is completely dependent on your digital devices. And many of the destinations with favourable exchange rates and stunning landscapes are riddled with petty crime. So the last thing you want is for any or all of your devices to be stolen or damaged. Leaving you with no way to earn a living and continue on your journey.
There is also health insurance to be considered. You’re not going to be covered by your countries national health schemes, and as you’re working and living in your destination standard travel insurance doesn’t always apply either. So do your research, and find the most comprehensive insurance you can. Because you never know what might happen when you’re a thousand miles from home.
Take It Easy
A lot of people who want to be digital nomads think this means they must travel to as many destinations in as short a time period as possible. But that’s pure insanity and means you’re going to spend all your time in transit or catching up on deadlines because you’ve been in transit and couldn’t work.
Of course, you want to travel. But you also need to work. So plan on staying in each destination for at last a month. Three months is the average for most long-time digital nomads, but you can decide what works for you. In fact, it would be a good idea to make your travel plans as flexible as possible. If you find you like a particular spot or, heaven forbid, get ill – then you can extend your stay without too much trouble.
Life as a digital nomad is not an easy one, and you should be positive that it’s the right decision before packing up and catching that first flight. But if you’re lucky enough to have skills that make freelance or remote work a viable option and you’re sure it’s what you want – then go for it! Remember to enjoy and actually live while you travel though, because you can survive just as well at home!