You've read about people becoming digital nomads and traveling the world. You've subscribed to YouTube channels of people living life with abandon, traveling around as if they have no care in the world. You hate your job - it sucks, and you know there is something more in life than the daily grind.
You've decided to be a digital nomad.
Fantastic! Now what? How do you become a digital nomad? What do you need to do? What do you need to consider? What do you need?
We'll answer your questions and show you how you can become a digital nomad in 7 easy steps.
What is a Digital Nomad
The 7 Steps to Becoming a Digital Nomad
1. Change Your Mindset
2. Reduce Expenses
3. Ways to Make Money as a Digital Nomad
4. Consider Logistics
5. Items You'll Need
6. Pick Your Destination
More Advice on How to Become a Digital Nomad
Being a digital nomad is a lifestyle choice - it's not a job, and it's not a career. It is how you choose to live your life. Deciding to be a nomad is just like deciding to buy a house. It is just deciding how you want to live your life.
A nomad is someone who doesn't have a permanent residence and travels regionally or internationally, traveling from place to place. Not all nomads are the same, and some aren't even digital nomads. Some of the nomads are retirees living their life dream of traveling the world.
A digital nomad is someone who relies on an income from working remotely online. They are generally younger (under 40 years old) than retirees and are often single - although there are many families with kids out there who are digital nomads.
So now that we know what a digital nomad is, how do you become one? That's the sixty-four dollar question.
The biggest obstacle to becoming a nomad is yourself. There's a lot of people in the world who want to become a nomad but never do.
I firmly believe that anyone can become a digital nomad. The main reason people fail to become a full-time traveler is that they don't think that they can.
If you want to start traveling the world full-time you need to stop thinking about why you can't do it and start thinking about how you're going to do it. Once you've changed your mindset and have actively started to plan to become one, act on that plan.
According to a famous Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." You just have to take that first step - that's all.
The only thing preventing you from becoming a digital nomad is your mindset. Your skills are not keeping you from traveling. Your lack of experience isn't holding you back. Your age isn't holding you back. Your family isn't holding you back.
You are holding yourself back.
Ok, stepping down off my soapbox now. Let's get into the practical steps you can start taking today to get your journey started.
I've probably mentioned this a time or two on this blog. If you want to get serious about becoming a digital nomad, you need to get serious about managing your expenses. You need to make a budget and stick to it.
Spending money comes naturally - I'm pretty sure most of us were born knowing how to spend money. I think one of the most important things anyone can learn is how not to spend money. No matter what your goals in life are, chances are if you don't know how to save your money you'll never achieve your goal.
That doesn't mean become a miser and live a miserable life but you do need to budget and stick to that budget.
Review your expenses a least monthly to make sure you're sticking to your budget. If you go over, evaluate why, readjust, and then review it again in a month.
Find ways to reduce your expenses. This could be as easy as cutting something you don't need anymore. Do you really need a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+? Maybe you do - it all depends on you. But remember, the first step to becoming a digital nomad is changing your mindset.
If you've looked at your budget and you can't find anything to cut, think of unique ways to reduce your expenses. For example, reduce your car insurance coverage (if you haven't sold your car yet). I was able to save about $20/mo by reducing my deductible from $500 to $750. That saved me $240 a year on insurance - almost exactly what the additional out of pocket cost would be if I needed to use the insurance. I'd rather put that money into my own savings account with the hope I won't have to use it than put it into the insurance's account with little hope of getting it back.
Do you have unnecessary fees on your bank account? There are several travel-friendly banks for nomads that have reduced fees or even none at all. Some will even offer travel insurance and phone insurance, effectively reducing your costs for those items.
There's almost always a way to reduce your living expenses if you look hard enough. Think about your expenses from a different angle. Sure, you might need that service you're paying for, but is there a more affordable way to get that service?
By even considering becoming a digital nomad you're already thinking outside the box. Often, traveling full-time is more affordable than living a settled life. When you become settled, you have a home with home insurance, a car to get you to and from your work, insurance to protect your car, fuel expenses, etc. Those expenses add up significantly.
Don't wait till you start traveling to reduce your expenses. Learn how to cut expenses and stick to a budget now before becoming a nomad.
I know this is probably the section of this article you were looking for. But if you don't accomplish the steps above this step then determining your income source is irrelevant. If you don't address the prior steps to becoming a nomad, it won't matter what your income source is because chances are, you'll never go.
I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, I'm just being honest. Make sure you change your mindset and learn to budget if you want to be successful.
There are many ways a digital nomad can find ways to earn an income remotely. You can either work for yourself as a freelancer or work for a company that offers remote work. You could also travel for work by finding jobs in the places you want to travel.
There are plenty of ways you can make money as a freelancer. If that's the path you're going to take, you'll need to find something that you enjoy doing and can do well. You don't want to do something you hate or you'll hate becoming a nomad.
Blogging is a great way to make an income while traveling. It takes a lot of work upfront, but it can pay dividends once you have it up and running. Blogging isn't for everyone, most people start and quit because it can be exhausting.
However, I believe the rewards of blogging are worth it. It can be lucrative and you dictate your schedule and where you work. In my opinion, It is the ideal job as a digital nomad.
Other freelancing options include copywriting, design work, or web development. Many other options are out there - you just need to find what suits you and your skills. Upwork is a great place to start in finding what skills are in demand and what you can do.
You don't have to be a freelancer if that isn't your thing. If you prefer to work for a company offering remote job positions, there are options out there as well.
The following job boards are dedicated to helping people find remote jobs and are a great place to start in your job hunt.
If you don't think you have any skills that are marketable as a freelancer or to search for a job, then start learning some skills now - don't wait. If you want to succeed as a digital nomad you'll need to make changes to make that happen. Again, remember the first step: change your mindset.
Lastly, if you can invest funds from your investments can passively finance your travels. Real estate is a fantastic way to invest your money for a passive monthly income source. You can manage it remotely or hire a manager to take care of it for you.
A digital nomad is a lifestyle, it isn't a job. Just because you're gallivanting around the world does not mean you can disregard the basic tenants of finance - saving. You still need to save for the future and retirement! If you don't have the money to invest yet, you can start investing as you save.
Get creative on how to make money and travel. The tools are out there to do it, you will just need to find what fits you and your style and then put it into action.
There are a lot of things "attached" to you that you don't think about because you live in one location. Like an address, for instance, you don't have to worry about that because it doesn't really change that much.
A few things you'll need to think about and plan for before you become a digital nomad are:
If you're going to travel internationally, a passport is not something you want to leave until the last minute to take care of. In the U.S., it can take up to 6 weeks to process your application and mail your passport back. If you already have one, make sure it doesn't expire while you'll be traveling.
You can go to the State Department's website for information on how to apply for a passport.
Finding a travel-friendly bank is probably one of the most important things to think about logistically. You'll be in quite a pickle if you find yourself in Morocco without access to your funds. Luckily, we've put together a list of the best banks for digital nomads so you wouldn't have to go at this blind.
The main things you need to consider in a bank are foreign transaction fees, ATM fees, and online access.
How are you planning to communicate while you travel? If you are traveling internationally, you'll need to consider phone service. There are a few options: you could get an unlocked phone and switch out the sim card or you could purchase a phone plan in the U.S. with an international plan.
Ultimately, the option you choose will depend on where you are traveling and how long you'll be in each location. I am not a big fan of purchasing a U.S. based international phone plan unless you'll be in the U.S. often. Phone service is almost always cheaper in other countries than it is here in the States.
If you are considering an international plan, Google Fi is probably your best option. While international texts and data are the same rates as in the U.S., international calls while outside the U.S. will still cost you 20 cents a minute.
I understand many people don't have an emergency fund as it is. However, if you want to become a digital nomad and travel internationally, an emergency fund is a must. I don't want to hear any and, if's, or but's about it.
If you are serious about traveling full-time, start saving for your emergency fund today. Show yourself that your serious and start saving. It doesn't have to be a lot, but you never know what you might need. There might be an emergency at home and you need to take a last-minute flight back to the U.S. and the only one available is $2,000.
If an emergency fund is important while you're living a settled life then it is even more important while you're living a nomadic life.
Get an emergency fund.
Often, when working remotely, you will not have access to employer-provided health insurance, and, if you do, chances are it doesn't cover international healthcare. Health insurance is complicated as it is, traveling and living abroad makes it a little more tricky.
You'll also need to consider travel insurance. It is generally pretty affordable and covers medical emergencies, medical evacuations, trip cancellations or interruptions and delays, and lost or damaged luggage. Depending on how often you move from place to place and your method of transportation, it can come pretty handy in a pinch.
You've made it this far. You've overcome the major hurdles to becoming a nomad, you've cut expenses, made a budget, and you know how you're going to make money as a nomad.
Now, what do you need as a digital nomad to be successful?
First and foremost, you'll need to find the best laptop for digital nomads. This is your money maker, it will be hard to make an income off a cell phone. I suppose you could work off of a tablet but laptops generally have more functionality. You're looking for something for business use, not personal use.
You will want to document your travels as well, and a good digital camera is a prerequisite. You can use a phone for this or you can buy a camera specifically for it. Just keep in mind, you need something that can travel well - something small and compact unless you're planning on making money as a photographer.
Another item you'll need is luggage. This will be dependent on how you travel. If you're RVing around the U.S. you might not need luggage. We chose to sail, so we don't need a suitcase.
However, a good backpack is pretty important. There will be times when you'll want to go somewhere and can't take your boat or RV. Or you'll need to fly home and need a good carry on. So at a minimum get a backpack.
If you need additional luggage make sure it is easy to carry. There will be times when you'll have to carry it for long distances. Sometimes, you won't be able to wheel it. Ideally, you'll want a bag that has wheels and is easy to carry.
The remaining items you'll need will depend on where you'll be going. Electrical plugs are different depending on where you are and you'll need adaptors to charge your electronics.
A packing list of essential nomad gear is coming soon and we'll update our list when it is complete.
This is probably the easiest step in becoming a digital nomad. But, don't take it lightly. Put some thought into it and think critically about what you want to get out of being a nomad.
You might already know exactly where you want to go. That's great! You're ahead of the crowd!
Where you go isn't your forever home (unless you want it to be). If you want to travel to 50 different countries, then do it. But determining where you want to go first is important. Come up with a plan and be prepared, don't wing it.
Your destination is dependent on your method as well. For example, we sail. Traveling to Mongolia for an extended period is probably out of the question for us unless we put the boat in storage. We are pretty much limited to countries that are not landlocked.
Consider how you're making money when choosing a location. Do you have the internet access you'll need to make money? If you are a traveling photographer, for instance, do you have clients in that destination?
Wherever you end up, make sure it is compatible with how you are making money.
Finally, just go.
You've completed everything, you know what you're doing, how you're doing it, and where you're going to do it. Just go.
Nothing is holding you back but you. Make your plan, follow these steps, and live your dreams.
The path to becoming a nomad is easy, taking that path is the hard part. If you truly want to become a digital nomad, you'll need the courage to act and just go.
Family and friends may not be happy. They might not be fans of the fact that they won't be able to see you at a whim. That's ok. It is normal. What is important is that you're achieving the goals and dreams you have for your life. That will take courage.
We believe in you. You got this.
We're dedicated to helping others become digital nomads and living their dream of full-time travel. If you want to become a digital nomad we would love to help. Drop us your email address and we'll send you tips, advice, and lessons we've learned along the way in our journey to becoming digital nomads.
Until next time, Happy Coddiwompling!