Being a ‘digital nomad’ is by no means a new idea anymore, but only a few have managed to adopt the lifestyle and still many more want to know exactly how to do it.
A ‘digital nomad’ is someone who travels full time, living and working anywhere they like. Generally, a nomad will travel slower than a regular tourist, as they need to sit and work, in addition to enjoying the experiences of travel. It’s common to find that nomads will pick more affordable destinations than the regular vacationer… renting an Airbnb for weeks on end in Manhattan or London can be something of a drain on your wallet.
I only started as a full nomad a few months ago, but I’m already enjoying every minute of it. Here are a few things to consider and some steps to take if you’re thinking about giving the location-independent life a shot.
A big part of the nomad lifestyle is being minimal. This is partly because you can only keep on you what you can check onto a plane, but also because the entire idea breaks down if you own a car and house back home. If you’re wondering how nomads afford their lifestyle, it’s all about buying less.
Ownership is becoming less and less necessary. With the rise of ride-sharing services and co-living spaces, owning a car and house is no longer a necessity. There’s also a lot to be said against the consumerist culture of the western world, but that’s not really the topic here. The long and the short of it is that travel is expensive. Even cheap travel is expensive. To make it work, you’re going to need to cut costs wherever possible. You can’t be paying thousands on rent on your apartment back home while you aren’t actually living there.
You can’t expect to be in a new city every other day. You need time to sit and get some real work done, too. Nomads generally travel a fair bit slower than most. Don’t think of this as a bad thing, though.
Travelling slowly and spending extended periods of time in different parts of the world has made for some of the best experiences of my life. For the first few days in a particular destination, I’m a tourist… but after that it’s almost as if I’m actually living there – you get to know the staff at the restaurants you frequent, you wave at the familiar food cart operator as you walk down your street. I’m not talking about spending months in one place, but you should at least be spending a couple of weeks there rather than just a few fleeting days. I try and stay for as long as the visa will allow me.
Keep on your person only what fits in a backpack or single piece of luggage. I travel with a hiking pack which has just enough room for all my clothes and personal affects, in addition to a day pack containing my laptop. I like the idea of being able to fit everything into a single unit, but it wouldn’t be all that much more inconvenient having two pieces of luggage.
Staying light doesn’t just relate to how much is in your bag, but also what is in there. I’ve taken this idea to something of an extreme, but I’ve always been of the opinion that carrying too many gadgets on your person will make you a target. After all, if you really give it some thought you don’t need to carry a pile of camera gear, a smartwatch, a drone and whatever other tech items you may have. I know because I had all these items, and I cut it down quite simply to an iPhone and a laptop.
Tools to help you on your way
There are heaps of apps and websites out there that will help make life as a nomad easier. I’ll refrain from mentioning the obvious ones akin to Uber and Airbnb here.
Nomad List – nomadlist.com
Browse the best cities to live and work in remotely, and join a community of 10,000+ nomads. Living remotely can get lonely at times. Nomad List has a Slack group of thousands of nomads and you can even see when other people in the community are in the same place as you
Skype – skype.com
OK, stay with me here. Skype has a service where you can buy a phone number in whatever region you like and make and receive calls on it. This way, when you’re abroad and constantly swapping SIM cards, you can keep the same phone number.
NordVPN – nordvpn.com
Working abroad means all your internet traffic will be happening on other people’s networks, and a lot of the time public ones. A VPN will anonymise your browsing, meaning you can surf the web without the stress of having your accounts compromised.
Stay on top of your clients while on the move. Since joining Rounded, it’s become the core of how I run my freelance business. Being able to view my income at a glance and send off invoices in a matter of seconds has been crucial in allowing me to travel without having financial stresses weighing me down.
Being able to travel and work at the same time will be one of the best experiences of your life – it’ll open up doors you never thought were there, not to mention the people you’ll meet along the way.
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