Becoming Digital Nomad, a location-independent person has been a dream of mine for a very long time. I love to travel, and working in the office was the only thing that kept me grounded in one place. I could only take good advantage of every possible day off to travel. Fortunately, in Europe, employers are more generous with the holiday days than in other parts of the world.
But why spend time only in one place because of the work if you can take your work with you and enjoy the freedom of digital nomadism? Especially if you are eager to travel, have a free spirit, and settle down in one place is not your dream yet.
There are many answers on how to become a digital nomad or remote worker and how to succeed as one, and I'm happy to share my journey. My name is Maja, and with my fellow weirdo Leo, we have been digital nomads for a year now. We want to share our personal experiences and everything we went through when becoming digital nomads and building our online business. I will share all the details on preparing for digital nomadism and getting the best out of it.
What is a digital nomad?
Before coming up with a generic quote on who digital nomad is, let me emphasize one thing. Digital nomadism can be defined in many different ways. You can create your unique way based on personal experience.
Now let's go to the generic, core definition of a digital nomad:
A digital nomad is a person who earns a living working online in various locations of their choosing (rather than a fixed business location). lexico.com
For people who love to travel and explore the world is the ultimate form of freedom. You are not tied to any location, season, or environment. The absolute best part of being a digital nomad is that, besides entry and Visa requirements, you can freely select the country. You can choose a country where the weather suits you best, you are treated best and one of the important parts, you can select the country based on your budget.
Besides taking care of your bureaucratical tasks before leaving and during your digital nomad lifestyle, there are no rules on how you can live your life. However, there are some tips to get the best out of it, and we will make sure to introduce them to you in this article to help you get started and succeed in it.
Based on the type of work you will do, you can travel fast or slow, work in fixed hours if you work for a company, or set your working time based on your best productivity hours if you work on your own business.
But like everything in life, living like a digital nomad has pros and cons. Let's look at some of the most important ones raised on our journey.
Pros and Cons of being a digital nomad
Being free to travel the world
Isn't that great! You don't need to calculate how many days off from work you have until the end of the year. You can move to the country that you have always wanted to visit or spend several months in your home city during the wintertime. You have the freedom of being anywhere you want to be, and the only thing you need is a laptop and internet connection.
Working on your terms and having your dedicated work hours
If you can freely select your working hours, you are also free to choose the time zones you live in. All the night owls can work in the evenings or nights, while all the early birds can concentrate all the working hours in the morning to take advantage of your most productive hours.
You can influence the cost of everyday life
You can select the destination country based on your income and improve your quality of life. For example, suppose you live in Europe and have an average income working for a European company. In that case, you will enhance your lifestyle greatly if you move to a more affordable country and continue getting the same salary.
You don't need to exchange your time and freedom for money
This is my favorite pro. When working in an office and sitting there 9-5, you directly trade your time for the money. Even if you can have your work done in 5h, you will still need to sit there for 8-9h to get your compensation at the end of the month. If this raises a question in your head, I would advise reading the book The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. It's a bible that every entrepreneur, freelancer, and digital nomad should read.
You expand your horizon, and you are open to new opportunities
You free yourself from the office environment that can be toxic or limit your creativity. You become more open-minded and open yourself to possibilities of new opportunities. You can surround yourself with like-minded people and grow more in the areas you are interested in, not what you are being told to. You start to accept differences and become inspired by the people and new cultures you get to know.
You can build a new environment without distractions
We are normally in an environment that is known, you are involved with different situations, you know more people, and you hear distracting local news, and complaints from your neighbors. Moving abroad helps you to build your environment based on the things that interest you and focus on your goals. You declutter your things and with right plan, you can also get rid of bad habits easier.
It can become exhausting
Being on the move can be exhausting, and if you are a person that needs a lot of stability, you might miss that a lot. We travel slowly, staying at least a month or even more in one location. This helps us settle down and create everyday life in the new environment. But even with doing that, you have to be aware that this is not the stability you used to have at home, so you need to adjust to it.
It can be hard to manage your time, productivity, and distractions that arise in new, exciting countries
This was the most challenging part for me. Being free is not the best productive environment for procrastinators as I can be. To succeed on your journey, you need to create solid routines and habits around your working days. We will elaborate on this later in the article as we find it very important.
You can't bring many things with you
When becoming a digital nomad, you will need to declutter your belongings properly. Leo and I have one check-in luggage, a cabin bag, and a computer bag. So when I buy a new piece of clothing while traveling, it usually means that I need to get rid of one existing one. You want to make your life on the road comfortable and reduce your belongings. It can become very annoying carrying everything with you.
People don't understand what you are doing
My family and some friends still think that I'm just on permanent holiday. Not really considering that I work too. It can happen that you will need to explain yourself a lot. But at the end of the day, it matters that you know what you're doing and why. It’s important that you learn how to protect your time in the beginning, because you have all the freedom all of the sudden.
Missing important events at home
Being thousands of kilometers away from your hometown, family, and friends, will make you miss some events, especially unplanned ones. You need to find peace with that or be ready to jump on a plane anytime to fly in. You have to consider that there can be many happy and tragic events that you would want to be part of.
If pros won and you have the little voice in your head: Hell yea, why not? Then let's look at the best ways to earn money.
Ways to earn money as a digital nomad
Getting a reliable income stream is one of the most important things you need to take care of when becoming a digital nomad.
A good rule of thumb is that you take care of your finances and find a way how you will earn money online while you still have a job. If you are currently not working or finishing your studies, you should see a way to get income beforehand. You don't want to become a 'begpacker.'
Begpackers are western backpackers, most often traveling in southeast Asia, who beg for charity from the locals. theguardian.com
Let's look at some of the best ways to start earning money online or passively.
You are most probably familiar with freelancing, the most known way to earn money for digital nomads.
Freelancing, working as an independent company rather than being employed by someone else, enables you to work in different areas based on your skillset. It's getting more popular for companies to hire remote freelancers and outsource some parts of the job.
Also, Covid-19 opened the possibilities to work remotely for your regular job and your employer. Some of them are continuing to work like this. We see it as one of the (rare) positive outcomes that Covid brought actually.
Here are some most common freelancing job examples:
- Content Writer
- Affiliate Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Blogging (Travel Blogs)
- Freelance Writer
- Copywriting, Editing
- Virtual assistance
- Customer Support
- Social Media Manager
- Digital Marketing
- Web3 Consultant
- Software developer
💡 If you are currently working in a company and are about to leave and start your freelancing career, always ask for referrals. It might help you apply for freelancing jobs and create profiles and portfolios on platforms dedicated to freelancing jobs. You can also include references to your website if you plan to make it.
When starting your freelancing career, you should always spread your voice and use your network to distribute information about your services.
There are a couple of known platforms where you should create a profile and start reaching out and applying for freelancing and remote jobs, like Upwork, Freelancer, We Work Remotely, LinkedIn, etc. Or you can use Fiverr platform that helps you get your services out there by creating small gigs that you can do for others.
In the last couple of years, we have heard much about cryptocurrencies and how some people got insanely rich overnight. While generating income with cryptos and getting rich overnight might be tempting, you need to approach it carefully and know what you are doing. Cryptos are still on the risky side. You need to be careful and see what you are doing; otherwise, you can easily wipe out your money overnight if you make the wrong moves.
For that reason, we at the weirdo.rocks want to educate everybody entering the crypto space to get the knowledge and a good overview of the topic. If you are interested in the crypto world, you can read more in the crypto category of our site here.
With the proper knowledge and understanding of how the crypto world works, you can also invest a part of your hard-earned money to increase your wealth.
💡 Always invest the money you would not miss if you lose it. This means you shouldn't invest so much that you would not be able to survive or pay for food or accommodation. It's easy to get sucked in, but you need to know that investing is an unpredictable space, so don't make mistakes that will cause you damage.
There are different ways to earn money with Cryptos. Let's look at the top ways to make money with cryptos:
- Simply - you buy your favorite cryptocurrency and hold and wait. This is convenient if you don't want to spend too much time researching and thinking daily about it. It is an excellent way for beginners, as you don't need to be directly involved and understand trading.
- The general principle of crypto, or stock, trading is: You buy something at a low price and sell it when the value has increased and then buy back later at lower prices. It's easier said than done, so to do trading, you need to be more experienced, know how to use charts, and generally understand how markets work.
Mining - Proof of Work (PoW)
- Mining is one of the safest ways to earn money with cryptocurrencies. You don't need to invest your money, except for the initial investment in hardware. Mining means making Bitcoin or other coins in exchange for your computational power instead of buying it for your fiat money. It's a form of passive income, but the earnings can also be relatively low and slow.
Staking - Proof of Stake (PoS)
- You can buy proof of stake and smart contact platform crypto, e.g. ETH 2.0, $ADA, $AVAX, $FTM, $MINA and join their staking pool to earn interest rate or even run your Validator node if you plan to invest more. You can check the rewards at StakingRewards.com. With staking some coins, normally with higher rewards, you will need to lock your investment for several months, so in case the coins lose the value, you would not be able to sell. So you have to be smart with it.
If you are interested in your first investments in cryptos, plenty of platforms can help you start, like Crypto.com, Binance, Coinbase, Nexo, etc.
Build your business
You can kickstart your business and hit the road to being your boss. You can build your business around what interests you and where you think there is demand on the market and people will benefit from it. As long as you don't create and sell a physical product that you need to store in your basement, you are free to do it on the road.
One great way to earn money is to build your Airbnb (arbitrage) business. We were running our small Airbnb business in Vienna.
You don't need to own the apartments but make cooperative agreements with the owners to take over their apartments. You can create your own Airbnb management platform where you can help people rent out properties.
After successfully acquiring the properties, you can put your Airbnb properties on auto-pilot and take care of the business anywhere.
Good skills to have and learn
Working on your terms and building a business requires different skills than working in a company. Your manager is dictating the schedule and tasks to you.
To become freer and be able to grab any opportunity out there, you should also invest some time into developing and growing as a person. It makes you more independent as you can easily adjust to any situation you end up in. You will empower yourself and take control of your life by learning and nobody can take this away from you.
If you start building your freelancing career, you can start working on some must-skills that will help you to start with a successful career as a digital nomad. Here are some of the skills that will help you:
More importantly, improving your writing skills and developing your writing habit will be a big step toward becoming a digital nomad. There are many digital nomad jobs or possibilities that require good writing skills, like Content Writer, Affiliate Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Blogging, Freelance Writer, Copywriting, Editing, etc.
If you are not used to producing written content, you will need time to get into it. Per my experience, the best is to do it by building a solid habit. Set a minimum number of words you need to write every day to consider it a success. My success limit is 500 words per day, and I have to say this works great for me. Besides that, you should start reading more, learn to focus, and disconnect from the outside distractions when you need to write.
We use some tools that help us to improve the writing style and optimize the content, like Frase.io, Grammarly, Notion, etc.
Many companies outsource their customer support, SEO jobs, managing social media, sales, and assisting jobs to outside contractors. So this is another opportunity for you to shine and kick off your traveling adventure.
Good communication skills will help you do your job and communicate appropriately with the company you work for and all your potential clients. Working remotely means that you will probably never see your clients face-to-face; therefore, good and proactive communication is the key to successful collaboration.
Mastering the skills below will mainly help you have your life in constant movement and help you achieve your short-term and long-term goals.
Organization and planning skills
Besides offering your organization and planning skills as a virtual assistant, you will need them to plan your days and work schedule to be a successful digital nomad. If you are not working for a company with specific working hours, you will suddenly have a 24h per day that you will need to use wisely. And this perhaps sounds great, but it can be tricky in reality.
You should start using your calendar, and plan your day and week ahead to know what your tasks are.
Constant development and flexibility
It's necessary to stay flexible and be ready to pivot your services according to the market demand. You need to learn and grow in the area you work in to be on top of a fast-changing environment.
Your success will be primarily dependent on you. Most of the time, you will not be able to blame colleagues that work is not done. You have to go out of bed in the morning, start working on your tasks and meet the deadlines.
For that reason, you will have to have a lot of self-motivation and discipline to create a productive work environment with a strong routine to know when it's time to work and time to play. We noticed that we have the most productive days when we start the day focused, with a good morning routine and a detailed plan of everything we are supposed to do the following day.
In many cases, procrastination is the main problem of why we are stuck in a certain stage of life, and only when we are aware of it, we can start working towards motivating yourself daily to achieve goals.
Tips to start your digital nomad life
When deciding to become a digital nomad, the first and foremost important tip is: Take the time to prepare for it! It took six months for us. We didn't want to rush and make some fast decisions that we would regret later. Perhaps this is also age-related. It's different to give up the apartment and stability of your environment when you are at the end of your 30ies, the beginning of your 40ies, or in your 20ies.
All the arrangements can be overwhelming, so I would advise writing a detailed to-do plan. We didn't think about any timeline initially. Still, we just had a brainstorming session, where we went through everything that is part of our life and how we will handle everything while traveling.
Let's look at some of the essential parts that you should plan and take care of:
Financial planning and preparation
Your financial planning should include the estimations of how much you will need and what are your income expectations vs. reality. Also, you will need to have a plan on how to make savings and make sure that you have a good cash flow as you want to have some financial freedom and stability.
Becoming a digital nomad can mean getting rid of some running costs that you have with taking care of your apartment, rent, and all the expenses. But traveling around and changing the location permanently means going higher on your costs without evening knowing, like plane tickets, short-term rental prices, trips, etc.
The positive part is that you are free to choose a more affordable country based on your income, meaning you go to Thailand and not to New York if your earnings are not so high in the beginning.
Depending on the type of job you will do, you need to take care of bureaucracy. For example, to do contract work, you will need to establish a company in your own country or decide on any international solutions like opening an LLC in the US or opening a company in Estonia.
There are knowledgeable consultants out there, that can help you set the best company structure. We scheduled a call with LifestyleSolutions, which helped us a lot on how the company setup should look like and the timeline of transition.
Besides the company setup, you also have to check if there are any Visa requirements in the country you are traveling to and prepare accordingly.
Banking and credit card solutions
Moving from your home country means taking care of banking solutions to support your nomadic lifestyle. It would be best if you found reasonable international solutions to avoid paying high fees when transferring your money internationally or withdrawing it abroad.
Many fin-tech banks started offering their international banking services in the last couple of years. One of the most known is Wise or Revolut, and N26, and if you want to use your cryptos in real life, then Crypto.com or Binance card are good solutions. emphasise
Insurance is the following essential task for which you need to find a solution. Depending on keeping your insurance in your hometown, you need to add travel insurance. On the other hand, suppose you plan to cancel your insurance in your home country. In that case, you will need to find proper international insurance to stay safe.
There are plenty of travel insurances with different packages adjusted for digital nomads like Safetywing, PassportCard Nomads, World Nomads, Allianz Care, etc. We opted for April Insurance.
Solutions for receiving your mail and packages
For receiving packages, you have different options; if you order something from Amazon, you can easily use the address of the Airbnb that you are staying in. You can consult with the owner beforehand to make sure it's ok.
For a more permanent solution, you can subscribe to a virtual mailbox, like ipostal1, or Anytime Mailbox. They offer email forwarding, local pickups, scan mail content, etc.
Taking care of your belongings
Depending on the living situation in your home country, you will need to take care of your belongings. For example, you need to decide what to do with the apartment you live in. You can keep it, rent it out, or give the contract away if you are renting.
We were renting our apartment, so we decided to cancel our contract and sell the things. For a year, we also used a Your Store Box, a storage room that you can rent and pay a monthly subscription. You could also ask your family or friends who have enough space in their houses or apartments to keep some of your most essential things.
Create a Packing List
When preparing the packing list, we thought that we would carry the luggage with us, so we made sure to take only the things we needed. The bags and backpacks have to be good quality and comfortable to carry. Some people like to buy more quality and durable clothes that will last for longer. I'm different in this way, I want to change and buy something new in other countries, so I leave my older clothes behind when I do. You can put it for charity, for example.
Besides the clothes and other necessities, you should also prepare a list of tools and services that we need to do our job. We'll talk about this later on in the article.
Tips to make your journey successful
Build routines and habits
When having all the freedom of location and schedule, you need to put routines and habits in place to succeed in what you do and enjoy the journey. We strongly believe that planning can bring more freedom to your life, even some people think the opposite.
The most important for us is to have a healthy morning routine that helps us start the day correctly. A morning routine can consist of short, little habits of anything that can help you to kick off the day. E.g., I do a little yoga exercise to stretch the body, power exercise to fill my body with energy, and language learning with Duolingo application, to start moving the brain. All this doesn't take more than 30mins. So for me, it mustn't take too much time from my morning.
Sometimes people think that you might need to do an hour of exercise in the morning, but they don't find the time and decide to do nothing instead. Doing 10 min practices continuously is far better than doing nothing at all.
Routines are essential when it comes to your work. You need to create your schedule and make sure to work in your core hours when you are the most productive and to block yourself from distractions.
We love to build habits in routines with the help of an accountability partner.
You can travel fast, meaning changing your location and apartments often, or you can take it easy and stay longer in one place.
This is a very personal decision and depends on the business you are doing; however, we would advise traveling slowly from the perspective of staying productive. We prefer it like this, and it works better if we can settle down in a city or country for at least a month or several months. This helps us not feel in a rush, we can get to know the place better and have time to explore during the weekends more, so we can keep the weekdays for work.
Research location beforehand
We like to research the location beforehand, especially to find the optimal place where we want to live for a couple of months. We like to be in the city center, close to it, or close to the public transportation to move around freely without a car. We want to have some good restaurants and places to go out quickly, without long commuting.
We usually stay in the Airbnb apartment, which we book in advance when coming to a new city. Hence, the research helps us not be disappointed and remain in a place that we don't like or is inconvenient.
Research, being flexible with dates, and booking longer in advance help to save money as you find the more affordable offers. For example, some of the most known digital nomad hubs with significant digital nomad communities are in Thailand, like Chiang Mai, Playa del Carmen in Mexico, Canggu in Bali, Lisbon in Portugal, Medellin in Columbia, Costa Rica, and so on.
Have a good system for finding accommodation
We usually use Airbnb or Booking.com to get our accommodation. However, we always compare the prices as they might differ on different platforms. E.g., if we book a place for at least a month, we will most probably choose Airbnb as they have good discounts for monthly stays.
Suppose you plan to stay longer in one apartment, like three months+. You should also join some Facebook groups in the area you stay in. Then, you can get reasonable offers directly from the owner and avoid paying extra fees on the platforms.
You can read more about 3 ways how to find an apartment as a digital nomad for couple of months.
Know how to find cheap flights
Flights and airports will become a big part of your life. Knowing some tricks will help you to save a lot of money. You can also save a lot when traveling regularly by collecting miles and other benefits.
There are a lot of tips on how you can find cheap flights and save money. I wrote a more comprehensive guide with 13 tips to find cheap flights (with fact checks), so you can check it out if you are curious about this topic. Here are some that you can easily follow when booking a flight:
- Be flexible with your dates, especially if you are not bound to the exact time when you need to be somewhere. Avoiding flying during peak season and holidays will also help you save more.
- Don't search for direct flights only - that's a no-brainer. Usually, you can get way more affordable flights when booking a flight with a stop-over than direct ones.
- Search for budget airlines - Depending on the continent you are flying in; you can take advantage of numerous budget airlines that offer flights at a reasonable price. Some of the most known are Ryanair and Wizzair in Europe, Airasia in Asia, etc. Make sure to check them out.
- Collect miles and fly for free - with constant flying, you can collect miles when buying tickets with certain credit cards and airlines. Make sure to check the offered programs to take advantage of these benefits.
If you travel alone, especially if you are not used to being alone, you can get lonely. There are great ways to overcome loneliness and surround yourself with great people.
- Join Facebook groups and create profile on meetup.com
Almost every bigger city has its Facebook Expat group, where foreigners gather and organize meet-ups to get to know each other. Suppose you have a specific hobby or recreational sport that you do. In that case, you can almost certainly find related groups or forums to meet like-minded people.
Meetup.com is a platform that helps you to meet people in different parts of the world, make friends, and grow a business.
- Use co-working space
As a digital nomad, the world becomes your office. You can freely choose where you want to work if you have a good internet connection. We often work from home or coffee shops, less in co-working spaces, but using co-working spaces is a great way to connect with like-minded people worldwide. Not only that, you can open new business opportunities when talking and sharing your world with others.
Suppose you are single and looking for new people for friendships and romantic relationships. In that case, you can join dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Tripr, etc., which are some apps, especially for travelers. or join groups on Facebook for singles.
Tools to manage your digital office
As digital nomads or remote workers, you are limited with the tools you can fit into your luggage. Since you are reducing your equipment, you will have fewer things to invest in their quality. As a result, it makes your life easier, so you don't need to look for a service for your computer constantly.
We also use many online tools and services that we need daily for work. Depending on your type of work, you will need different tools. If you are filming and producing visual content, you need, besides the online tools also, physical equipment like cameras, tripods, etc., which is a bit bulkier to carry with.
Here are some of the tools that we use to manage our digital office that we use, and you will need no matter the type of work you do:
VPN (Virtual Private Network)
Your online safety is important, so investing in a good and reliable VPN is almost a must. A VPN connection creates a secure connection between you and the internet. With that, all your data is routed through an encrypted tunnel, making the location invisible to everyone. This protects you from attacks and safeguards the information you use and send through different apps.
We are currently using two different VPNs, ExpressVPN and NordVPN; however, we will fully move to NORD soon.
You will need to create more apps to become a digital nomad, and your online presence will increase. Hence, you need good password protection as you can't carry all of them in your head.
We use 1Password, and we are delighted with it. We don't only store our passwords but also banking information and other secure notes that we need to keep in a safe place.
We use Dropbox and Google Drive as our cloud storage. We store all the needed documents and photos there, and we can also easily share them when needed.
Most important factors when choosing your destination
Good internet connection or mobile hotspot
From personal experience, a good internet connection is the most critical factor when choosing a location. Maybe spending a couple of months on a remote island sounds excellent. Still, it would not work for a digital nomad as you need stable internet.
Nowadays, you can get good wifi or mobile internet from almost everywhere. However, it's still important to check this before selecting your next destination. We also use NETGEAR Nighthawk MR2100 mobile router, as a backup if we lack of WiFi.
We like the convenience when choosing the destination. We want to have a comfortable place, with shops, restaurants, and necessities nearby. We usually don't have a car, so we mostly walk, so we like to choose walkable places.
All this makes our life easier and allows us to focus on work better.
Take your budget into consideration.
Especially at the beginning of your travel lifestyle, you should consider your budget. Then, make a simple calculation based on your income and select a destination where you will have a comfortable life.
How to stay productive to meet your goals?
To make your nomadic lifestyle the best and most successful time of your life, you must build systems that help you stay productive.
Here are a couple of best tips that work for us and are helping us to stay on top of our tasks:
Build routines and habits
We already talked about this earlier in the article, but we have to emphasize building routines and habits here as well as we can’t imagine having high productivity without building some systems that keep you sane.
There is a great book that we would recommend reading Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Set long and short-term goals
Effective planning and following the plan will bring you forward and help you succeed. One of the most basic but effective strategies you should have is to set short and long-term goals.
While long-term goals are somehow your dream and idea of where you want to be, the short and mid-term goals are more tangible and measurable. In addition, they give you a clear picture of each step you need to take.
When you systematically set your goals, you will be able to break down your 1-year goal into achievable weekly/monthly goals and work slowly towards it.
OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)
This is our favorite companion on the road. We have been working with OKR for several years now, even before we were digital nomads. We will continue using it as we see how our productivity increases.
Using a structured approach like OKRs is one of the most secure ways to work on the goals and systematically achieve the best results. In a nutshell, this is how we do it:
We break down our long-term (yearly) goals into quarterly (smaller goals), bringing us closer to this long-term goal. Then, we create Objectives, short, inspirational, and achievable statement that describes what you want to achieve, and Key Results, specific and time-bound, ambitious but realistic, measurable actions, and combined; they will allow us to achieve our Objectives.
We set this up at the beginning of each quarter and work on them with supporting Action Items to make progress and have a successful quarter.
If you are interested more in how you can plan your work and personal life with the help of OKRs, you can check our Ultimate Guide to OKRs (with OKR examples), where we describe the process in detail.
Final thoughts on how to become a digital nomad
We hope this detailed guide helped you to get a better idea of how the process of becoming a digital nomad can work for you. We'll create more articles around this topic to help you start with it.
If you have any questions, just drop us a comment below or reach out to our email, and we'll be happy to talk with you!