How to Become a Digital Nomad

My digital nomad story started the summer I graduated from university. I’d just completed my Mechanical Engineering Master’s, and I couldn’t think of anything worse than diving straight into a full-time role.

Instead, I decided to spend a year traveling Southeast Asia. With no savings, no job, and no real plan, I gave myself the summer to begin a freelancing career, which, in three short months, needed to be successful enough to support myself as I traveled the world.

Now, more than five years later, that year of travel has spiraled and my freelance side hustle has become my main career focus. Although not particularly unique, my story is just one of the many ways that travel lovers can become digital nomads.

In this article, we’ll walk through the exact step-by-step process that you can follow to become a digital nomad. From destination and the logistics to the remote job search and the commitment to nomadism. In this guide, you'll find everything you need to know to start your journey as a digital nomad.

1. Connect with People Who Are Already Digital Nomads

Digital nomad working from a cafe

The first step to becoming a digital nomad is to connect with and learn from those who are in the shoes that you hope to be walking in. 

Online digital nomad communities

There is a wealth of blogs, online resources and fantastic communities that cover all things digital nomad. From remote jobs and freelance opportunities to destination guides and packing advice - you can find everything you need to know online.

Check out the following resources and communities for inspiration and advice: 

The community of like-minded travellers is huge and it’s always growing. If there’s a question or concern that you have about the lifestyle – connect with existing nomads, they’ll always be happy to help.

In-person digital nomad communities

The beautiful thing about digital nomads is that they don’t just live online - they live everywhere (and anywhere!). 

Whether you live in or a visiting a major city, chances are that there’s a nomad community much closer than you think. Meet with like-minded travelers via Meetup.com or scour Facebook for “Digital Nomads in [Destination]”

We’re usually a friendly bunch and would love to meet for coffee, drinks, volleyball, an open mic night, a sunrise hike, or just about anything else. 

2. Understand if This Lifestyle Is for You

Digital nomad working form his laptop

The digital nomad lifestyle isn’t for everyone. It’s hard. But the upside, for me and so many others, is worth the sacrifices.

Before diving into the digital nomad lifestyle, it’s important to take the time to consider if it’s a realistic possibility for you. Check out some of the most notable pros and cons below.

Pros and cons:

Pros
  • The ability to travel the world
  • Professional opportunities not limited to your local area
  • The opportunity to meet wonderful people and communities
  • The chance to chase your hobbies, passions, and dreams
Cons

It may be beneficial to write a personal list of the pros and cons that you can think of. With everything on paper, it’s much easier to see where you stand.

3. Figure Out How to Make Money

Digital nomad working remotely

There isn’t a single fixed path to achieving the digital nomad lifestyle. Nomads are remote workers, freelancers, entrepreneurs, business owners and so much more. Let's go through the most common paths.

Get your boss on board to turn your existing role into a remote role

Upgrading your existing in-office role into a remote one is one of the easiest ways to start living as a digital nomad.

Start by requesting a meeting with your boss and prepare your argument for remote, location-independent work. Emphasize the benefits to the company rather than as an individual, and explain your plan.

Be willing to negotiate (a probationary period of 1-3 months, for example), but be clear in your intentions.

Find a remote job

If your current employer will not or cannot offer a remote or digital nomad position, finding a new remote job may be the next best bet.

Although later stages, like branching out into freelancing or entrepreneurship allow for a true location-independent lifestyle, remote jobs are often regarded as the first step for many digital nomads looking to achieve this lifestyle.

In the post-covid era, there’s a wealth of jobs that can be completed remotely. From UX-UI design, SEO and copywriting to accounting and engineering. The list truly is endless and more companies (such as Google, Dropbox, and Adobe) are becoming open-minded to the remote opportunities.

You might also be pleased to know that not every remote opportunity requires prior experience, a degree, or any other qualifications. There’s a small army of digital nomads working with no experience in marketing roles, copywriting jobs, social media positions and so much more.

But how do you find remote jobs? Well, the answer is remote job boards. The ones specialized in remote jobs for digital nomads include Remote Nomad Jobs, DailyRemote, RemoteOK, Working Nomads, NoDesk, Remote.co and WeWorkRemotely.

Start Freelancing

Freelancing is the second most popular employment form among digital nomads, but before the pandemic, it was the primary method used to become a digital nomad.

Some of the most popular freelancing careers include graphic designers, personal assistants, copywriters, editors, photographers, web developers, and translators. In the remote work world, there’s the demand for almost anything. With the right skill set and solid connections, anything is possible.

To help get started on the path to freelancing success, platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork, Toptal, and BrainTrust are all fantastic starting points. Most freelancers will, however, migrate away from these platforms as they build experience.

Learn more about how to become a freelancer:

How to Become a Remote Freelancer (and Work from Anywhere)
Master the journey to freelancing with our 7-step guide. Explore advantages, challenges, and potential benefits of this dynamic career path.

Launch your own remote business

Launching your own remote business is the most difficult path to becoming a digital nomad but also the most lucrative and rewarding. 

There’s a long list of remote business ideas out there. From eCommerce and dropshipping to affiliate marketing and SaaS services. The opportunities are endless. The execution, though, is the hard part

Many digital nomads often also turn to content creation as a good way to fund their travels as they go. A strong following can lead to lucrative brand deals, partnerships, and even the opportunity to release products. So, if you are a travel lover, you might even use this passion to document your travels and use it as a path to becoming a digital nomad like many do.

4. Pick the Right Destination for You

Digital nomad in a pool in Bali

Once, you've decided that digital nomadism is the right direction for you and you’ve secured a remote source of income, now comes the fun part: planning the perfect destination for you. Sites like Nomad List are a great place to get some inspiration on new digital nomad destinations.

And if you don't know exactly what you should look for in a good digital nomad destination, here are the top criteria to look at.

A place you can afford

The freedom to live anywhere, specifically more affordable places, is one of the main benefits of digital nomads. If you’re just starting, it’s these low-cost destinations that will help you learn the ropes without risking too much capital.

A place you are legally allowed to visit

Legal issues are another key consideration that digital nomads all have to make. Depending on your home country, you may be limited by your passport, visa options (although many digital nomad visas are often available), health insurance requirements, and tax compliance.

Always read up on the government's advice about the country that you are planning to travel to. This will give a good overview of the legal considerations that you must make. If you are instead serious about getting a new base that could be optimized for your lifestyle, you might want to consider speaking to a tax specialist like Heavnn or Offshore Citizen.

Learn more about digital nomad taxes:

Digital Nomad Taxes: How to Legally Travel & Work Remotely
Learn how to navigate the complex tax rules for digital nomads. This guide covers residency, income, tax systems, nomad visas and more.

A place that’s safe to go

The majority of digital nomad hotspots are incredibly safe, friendly, and hospitable destinations.

However, safety isn’t guaranteed globally. Digital nomads should always prioritize safety and avoid unsafe countries, cities, and neighborhoods. Use the Legatum Prosperity rankings to find data-driven information regarding the safety of individual countries.

A place you are excited to travel to

If you’re not excited about traveling to your destination, there’s not much point in traveling at all.

Whether you’ve always wanted to visit Japan, adore Mexican food, or idolize Italian culture, there should be a reason for your first trip. It’s hard to beat genuine excitement - especially when things get hard.

If you’re only in Vietnam because of the low cost of living, you’re almost guaranteed to have a bad time. If you’ve traveled for the culture, the Bánh Mì, the stunning scenery, and for a real, exciting adventure, you’ll get much more out of it.

5. Sort out the logistics and plan your trip

Latop showing the Airbnb website

Once you’ve decided on at least one destination, it’s time to begin planning your trip and dealing with the logistics

Get to your destination and learn how to move around

Getting from your home country to your digital nomad destination is the logical first step. Search for flights with a comparison tool such as Skyscanner to find the best deals.

Before you arrive, think about how you’re going to get around your temporary home. Do you require an international driver's license? Will you hire a car, motorcycle, scooter, or bicycle? Is the public transport adequate for your needs?

Make sure to conduct research, find the best way to move around town, and budget for the transport portion of your trip.

Find a digital nomad accommodation

Among every expense you'll face as a digital nomad, accommodation is typically the biggest, although it is usually well worth the money.

Living as a digital nomad is not like going on holiday – don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s difficult to live in a shoebox-sized hotel room (trust me, I’ve tried). It’s always worth looking for serviced apartments on Airbnb, Booking.com or Agoda, or finding a more community-led coliving on sites like cospace. Alternatively, if you own a house, you could even consider swapping it with other digital nomads using home exchange websites and even getting accommodations for free sometimes!

💡
Pro tip: If you’re traveling on a budget, look for accommodation with good cooking facilities and take advantage of local supermarkets. 

Learn more about the best digital nomad rental sites:

15 Rental Sites for Digital Nomads (The Updated List)
Discover the best rental sites for digital nomads. Find affordable, comfortable, and flexible digital nomad accommodation options around the world.

Assess internet options 

A stable, reliable internet connection is imperative for digital nomads. Relying purely on public WiFi networks is almost always disappointing. 

Instead, digital nomads will always have backups to keep themselves connected to the internet. Whether that’s a reliable eSIM, mobile hotspot, or pocket WiFi - everyone has their preference. Make sure to choose the most suitable for you to stay connected everywhere you travel.

Learn more about the best internet options:

Digital Nomad Internet: Best Wi-Fi Options for Remote Work
Explore top internet solutions for remote work. Learn about portable hotspots, eSIMs, coworking spaces, and more for reliable internet on the go.

Workspaces

Depending on your chosen destination, you could have a long or short list of potential workspaces. 

Although I tend to work best in an apartment (free from distractions), I always recommend venturing out to work from a coworking space twice per week. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, socialize in a casual environment, and even build your professional network. A great place to find a coworking space near you is cospace, which lists the best coworking spaces available worldwide.

Alternatively, head to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. Be wary though that some coffee shops – especially smaller independent cafes – aren’t the most thrilled about digital nomad communities. If in doubt, simply ask at the counter. And don't forget to adopt a respectful behavior by consuming every 1 hour or two when working from these types of places.

Travel Insurance 

But even before booking anything, we would always recommend investing in travel insurance for the peace of mind that you’re covered if anything goes wrong. 

Genki and SafetyWing are widely regarded as the best insurance for digital nomads, but they are not the only providers. Make sure to check out insurance reviews around the web to find the best for your needs.

Online Banking

Travel insurance shouldn't be your only essential. A suitable bank account should be, too. This is because regular banks just don’t cut it when living and working as digital nomads. So, managing finances, dealing with fees, and juggling multiple currencies can prove to be quite an unexpected problem

That’s where digital nomad-specific banking comes in. The best banks for digital nomads usually offer zero ATM fees, multi-currency accounts, and 24/7 support. Consider opening an account and making the change before setting off on your first trip.

Health Requirements (Vaccines, medicine kit, etc.)

If you’re planning on traveling to more exotic destinations, there’s a handful of health considerations that must be also made in advance. From country-specific vaccinations (yellow fever typhoid, etc.) to specific medication (antimalarials, etc.), it’s worth checking your government's guidelines well in advance.

We would also recommend packing a small medical kit full of essentials that you may need on your travels. Painkillers, rehydration sachets, antihistamines, and antacids are all good to have alongside any required prescription medication. Sure, you can pick up medicine when you’re away, and most recommend this - I always like to have a small selection of essentials on hand.  

Make sure you have a home base

A base that you can call home isn’t widely talked about in digital nomad circles, but it’s so important.

Whether it’s for tax purposes or simply for a break once you’ve spent months away, a permanent place to call home is underrated. Your body and mind go through a lot when traveling, especially when stitching multiple countries on the same trip.

If you’re not careful, burnout can be a very real problem. It’s something that most nomads have encountered - myself included. I like to take small, month-long breaks from travel 3-4 times per year. It’s a good opportunity to catch up with friends and family, reset from the fast-paced life, and schedule appointments with doctors, dentists, accountants, etc. Don't understimate the benefit of having a home base. 

6. Go Nomadic

Digital nomad traveling

You’ve got all your ducks in a row - now it’s time to pull the trigger. It’s time to go nomadic!

This is the scariest part - but it’s only scary the first time you commit. You should be proud of the work that you’ve put in to get to this point and the sacrifices made along the way.

You’re officially a digital nomad.

7. Find Your Tribe at Your Destination

Digital nomads mingling at a coworking space

Once you've arrived to your first destination, moved into your new temporary apartment, it’s time to get out there and find your tribe.

Head out to the markets, bars, restaurants, and cafes, and meet the locals. Visit coworking spaces, find digital nomad meetups, and meet like-minded remote workers.

Get involved with the community and make lifelong friends with some of the most unexpected people. Trust me, you won't regret it.

8. Enjoy your new nomad lifestyle

Digital nomad working from a tropical location

All that’s left to do is to enjoy your new life as a digital nomad

Live like a local, stay productive, build a routine, maintain a work-life balance, travel slowly, and work on your digital nomad mindset

Before you know it, you’ll have mastered the digital nomad lifestyle. 

Learn more about our top tips to master your digital nomad lifestyle:

17 Tips to Master the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Get inspired to take the leap and become a digital nomad. Learn the essential tips on how you can make your nomadic lifestyle work.

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