On the surface, becoming a digital nomad looks incredibly easy these days. Just buy a one-way plane ticket, grab your laptop, and set off for a life of 4-hour workweeks from the comfort of your beach hammock, right? Well, not quite.
It’s true that, thanks to advances in technology and a changing attitude toward remote work, becoming a digital nomad has never been easier. But being a digital nomad isn’t as simple as being able to find free wifi. To make sure that you’re set up for long term success instead of sitting on a plane back home in 6 months, there are a few things you need to do before you begin your location independent journey. Each of these will save you something – time, money, frustration – in the long run.
1. Eliminate Debt and Reduce Expenses
Paying down debt and saving money should be your first priorities when becoming a digital nomad for a few reasons.
For one, the startup costs for a digital nomad can add up very quickly. Between purchasing things like new digital nomad gear for your journey, travel insurance, and plane tickets, you’ll already be spending a considerable amount of money before you even start packing your bags.
Additionally, most digital nomads either work as freelancers or on a project basis. This means that a paycheck isn’t always guaranteed. Having money saved to keep you afloat during these times will ensure that one bad month doesn’t shatter your dreams of becoming a digital nomad.
We’ve already suggested a few ways to start saving money for travel, but aspiring remote workers should also:
- Eliminate recurring, location-based expenses. This includes things like your gym membership, subscription services that are sent to your home, and cable TV service.
- Automate payments to avoid costly late fees and high-interest rates
- For car owners, consider selling your car before becoming a digital nomad.
- For home or apartment renters, consider moving your important things into storage. The rest can be sold on sites like OfferUp, Facebook Marketplace, and Letgo. The money made from selling things you’d otherwise forget about can be a tremendous help in the early stages of becoming a digital nomad.
2. Identify and Develop Your Skills
Simply put, to become a digital nomad, you need to have skills that other people (or companies) will pay for.
When becoming a digital nomad, the goal isn’t to develop every skill or even to focus only on the skills that pay the most. The goal is to develop the right set of skills that you can continue to build on.
Common skills in the digital nomad world include writing, coding, marketing, and design. More recently, online teaching and virtual assistant jobs have seen a surge in popularity amongst working nomads.
If you feel that your skills aren’t strong enough to offer your services yet, sites like Skillshare and Udemy are a great way to learn specialized skills at a fraction of the cost and time of a traditional degree.
Once you’re ready to take the leap and begin working remotely, check out sites like Upwork and Fiverr to see what kind of freelance work is out there.
If you still need help choosing a path, check out our list of the top digital nomad jobs to get started.
3. Choose a Digital Nomad Destination
Once you’ve mastered the steps of becoming a digital nomad, where will you go? Will you start your journey in Thailand or Bali like so many other digital nomads before you? Or will you flock to one of the new digital nomad hotspots such as Lisbon or Budapest? Choosing the right city for your first destination is crucial to your success as a digital nomad.
The first step in choosing your destination city should be determining the cost of living. This includes finding out the cost of things such as an apartment, food, nights out with other nomads, and a coworking space. This will help you create a budget ahead of time in order to determine how much money you need to make in order to be able to afford to live somewhere.
Sites like Nomad List and Numbeo are excellent resources for comparing the cost of living in different cities. Nomad List is especially helpful because it crowdsources input from other digital nomads on a variety of other factors, such as safety, healthcare, nightlife, and internet speeds.
Another way to get insight into what digital nomad life is like in a certain city is to read a digital nomad blog post about it. Most popular destinations have been written about and reviewed by other digital nomads already and they’re a great resource for insider tips and tricks.
To speed things along, we’ve taken some of the guesswork out of it for you and compiled a list of the best digital nomad cities.
4. Join a Digital Nomad Community
Life on the road can be lonely. Even if you’re fortunate enough to have a partner join you on your journey toward becoming a digital nomad, it’s still nice to be a part of a community of like-minded individuals. These are people that you can bounce ideas off of, learn from their digital nomad mistakes, or just grab dinner with after a long day that the coworking space.
But since digital nomads don’t have traditional in-office coworkers, these relationships can be a little harder to come by.
Fortunately, whether you’re looking for friends or networking opportunities, there are plenty of ways for digital nomads to find each other.
Just about every popular digital nomad city has Facebook groups for resident expats or digital nomads. This is probably the most popular way I’ve seen for connecting with other digital nomads. These groups are also great for asking questions and getting help navigating life in your new city.
Though not specifically for expats, meetup.com is another great way to meet people in your new city. Meetup is great because a lot of the meetups are centered around different hobbies like cooking or hiking, so you’ll be meeting people with similar interests to your own.
If you’re into the old fashioned method of networking in person, a lot of coworking spaces hold free social events and educational workshops for members. So when choosing a coworking space, be sure to inquire what kind of community they have.
Now It’s Time to Make It Happen
The life of work and travel is a rewarding one. But successfully becoming a digital nomad requires planning. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and opportunities out there for aspiring digital nomads and this movement is only growing larger by the day.
As long as you can budget carefully, sharpen your skills, market yourself, choose your locations wisely, and surround yourself with other like-minded people, you’ll be on your way to finally becoming a digital nomad.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.