If you’ve been thinking about trading your traditional job for a life of freedom and location independence, check out this cheat sheet with tips to help you get started.
10 reasons to become a digital nomad
Be your own boss. The Internet has made it possible to make a living doing almost anything. As a result more people are choosing to work for themselves than ever before. Becoming a digital nomad is a great opportunity to join the 1.1 billion people working as freelancers in the gig economy.
Millions of independent workers are nomadic knowledge workers who offer online consulting services or contract work in their area of expertise. Many digital nomads also combine different online revenue streams to boost their income. When you work for yourself, you decide where, when, and how much you work. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can do your job anytime, anywhere.
Be more productive. Studies show that remote workers are more productive than their office-bound colleagues. When you work remotely, you can protect your time and increase your output by minimizing meetings, distractions, and interruptions. You can also adjust your schedule to fit your best hours for focused deep work. Furthermore, research suggests that travel can boost your creativity and motivation to work as well.
Enjoy more freedom and flexibility. Being a digital nomad is the ultimate form of personal freedom, with limitless possibilities for how to design your day and life. Everything is negotiable, from where you live to what you do for work to when you work and play. Feel like taking a three-hour lunch break? How about a day off to hike a waterfall? No problem! Why not move to Mexico for the winter? Or rent a home office with a view of the Eiffel Tower? Your options are only limited by your imagination. You can even change your tax base, country of citizenship, and adjust your cost of living by moving to a new place.
Meet people and grow your network. The average person has an inner circle of eight to nine close friends. But when you travel, you have opportunities to cross paths with hundreds or thousands of people you would have never met at home. Whether you’re looking to grow your personal or professional network, living as a digital nomad is a great way to do it. The people you meet while traveling can lead to job opportunities, love connections, and enriching experiences.
Imagine meeting your next business partner at a co-working space in Colombia. Or hiking up to the Acropolis at sunset to share a bottle of wine with new friends. Or learning to cook from a local chef in Mumbai. All this and more is possible when you travel as a digital nomad.
Expand your worldview. Living among people of different cultures and places challenges your worldview, expands your mind, and pushes you beyond the limits of your comfort zone.
Being a digital nomad opens your mind to other ways of living, working, and problem-solving. You feel more creative and inspired. You begin to see things from a new perspective. And you realize that there’s more than one way to do anything. You stop fearing the unknown and embrace the opportunities to learn, grow, and enhance your life through travel. With each person you meet, each cultural site you visit, and every event you attend, you learn a little bit more about the world and yourself in the process.
Increase your income. Millions of digital nomads work for themselves, breaking beyond the limits of a paycheck. Freelancers make more money per hour than salaried workers on average, and there’s no limit to the number of online income streams you can create when you work for yourself. Whether you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, or online business owner, you can make (and save) more money as a self-employed digital nomad.
Travel and see the world. There’s no limit to how far and wide you can travel when you can take your office with you. Rather than counting the days until your next vacation, you can see the world as often as you’d like. Living as a digital nomad also allows the option to spend more time in each place, getting to know the people and culture much better than if you were just passing through. You get a chance to learn the language and immerse yourself in the daily life of each destination.
Your life can be like a page out of Travel & Leisure magazine, and that’s not an exaggeration. Even better? You design your itinerary! Becoming a digital nomad is the ultimate form of self-expression. You can choose places to go based on your unique interests and identity.
Save money. You can save thousands of dollars each month by moving to a city or country with a low cost of living. But why stop there? When you live nomadically, you may naturally live a more minimalistic lifestyle, reducing or eliminating many expenses that you’re used to. Commuting, car payments, and monthly utilities are usually the first to go. Many digital nomads have been able to pay down debt by going nomadic or living a van life.
Reduce stress and increase well-being. Being able to control your schedule and work environment makes it easier to stay healthy. You can move to a place with an ideal climate and relaxed pace of life. You can also eliminate stressful commutes and replace eating fast food at your desk with a home-cooked meal. Working remotely allows for better work-life balance (as long as you control your screen time). You can also re-invest time spent commuting or in meetings in more healthful activities like sleeping and self-care.
Take your life in a new direction. Are you feeling stuck in life? Give the digital nomad lifestyle a try! Sometimes, a change of career, scenery, and a new environment can be just what you need to boost your mood, motivation, and creativity. The digital nomad lifestyle offers endless opportunities for a fresh start and can super-charge your personal and professional growth.
Digital nomad technology toolkit
Backpack: Every digital nomad needs a good backpack or laptop bag. Minaal, Nomatic, Nordace, Osprey, and Tortuga are popular brands.
Charging station: Digital nomads rely on technology to get their work done and stay connected. A charging station with ports for your phone, laptop, tablet, camera gear, and USB devices keeps your gear organized and powered up on the go.
External hard drive: An external hard drive (or two) is a must for any digital nomad. It serves as a back-up for important work and a place to store heavy files.
External keyboard: An external keyboard helps you create a versatile and comfortable workspace in airports, coffee shops, and co-working spaces. You can use it to connect to a laptop, desktop PC, or for ease of typing on a tablet.
External monitor: Two monitors are better than one! Research has shown that having a second monitor can increase your productivity by up to 42 percent. Check out Mobile Pixels for a range of portable monitor options.
Extension cord: Traveling with an extension cord helps you always find a way to plug in your laptop, even if the outlet is far away. Great for crowded airports and coffee shops!
Cable organizers: Digital nomads travel with a lot of technology. Cable and headphone organizers prevent your laptop bag from turning into a harried mess.
International Wi-Fi hotspot: Fast Wi-Fi is a lifeline for digital nomads. Experienced nomads know to bring their Wi-Fi with them, rather than relying on public networks or sluggish cable connections at hotels and rental properties. Try an international hotspot with daily or monthly plans, such as Solis or TravelWifi. Or buy an unlocked mobile hotspot on Amazon that you can use with local SIM cards from any country.
Laptop with a webcam: Make sure your laptop has a webcam for all those video calls and meetings you’ll probably be attending! You can also buy an external webcam on Amazon.
Laptop stand: A laptop stand helps you maintain good posture while working — key for long hours spent in front of screens. Try the Roost stand and the ergonomic, bamboo stand by Coffee Shop Hero (also known as Ergotree).
Noise-cancelling headphones: Noise-cancelling headphones come in handy for working in loud environments, such as airports, coffee shops, or working outside. They’re also great for long plane rides.
Packing cubes: Packing cubes can be used for keeping your clothes, toiletries, and electronics organized and handy. They’re a must for any digital nomad!
Power strip: A power strip with a surge protector keeps your devices charged, accessible, and protected.
Ports and dongles: Adaptors, ports, and dongles help you turn your laptop into a multi-tasking remote office. You can use them to connect printers, scanners, monitors, hard drives, A/V equipment, and more.
Universal travel adaptor: If you change countries often, a universal travel adaptor helps you charge your devices in 100+ countries.
Universal adaptors don’t always fit recessed sockets. In those cases, consider buying a travel adaptor set, instead.
Unlocked smartphone: It’s hard to conceive of a digital nomad (or any human, for that matter) without a smartphone. Buy an unlocked phone before you hit the road or ask your telecommunications provider to factory unlock it.
Wireless mouse and mousepad: An external mouse is a must for productivity.
8 things to consider in a digital nomad destination
Climate and seasonality: Too hot, too cold, or just right? Consider the climate as well as the time of year in advance of your trip. Tropical climates can be nice, but bugs, heat, and humidity can also take a toll on your productivity. Likewise, check if your destination has four seasons or a rainy and dry season. Weigh the pros and cons of traveling during peak or off-peak times as each has benefits and drawbacks. The price and availability of accommodations can vary widely throughout the year. Traveling to Iceland in the winter is cheaper than the summer, but it’s much colder.
Cost of living: It’s no coincidence that the most popular digital nomad hubs are also some of the most affordable places to live in the world. The cost of living for one month in Thailand can be less than the cost of a shared one bedroom apartment in California or New York. Websites such as Expatistan, Nomad List, Numbeo, and Teleport offer cost-of-living data in thousands of cities worldwide.
Community: Strength in numbers! Humans are social creatures and connecting with other people is key to coping with the occasional loneliness of a traveling lifestyle. Search for Facebook groups in the places you’re traveling to, browse popular destinations on Nomad List, try out co-living, or join meetups or international organizations such as InterNations.
Internet speed: A digital nomad without an Internet connection is just a nomad. Always ask for an Internet speed test before renting a property, travel with a back-up hot spot, and download an app such as WiFi Finder to find public networks.
Safety: While all countries can be safe places to visit, some are safer than others. The Global Peace Index gives you a good overview of a country’s overall of safety and security. Also register with your embassy to receive alerts and news.
Time zone: Living in the South Pacific sounds great, until you realize that you might be working the remote night shift. If you work a fixed schedule, make sure the time zone in your destinations aligns with your work hours.
Visas/length of stay: Check with the government, embassy, or consulate in your home and destination countries to look up tourist and long-stay visa requirements. The number of days you can enter a country vary according to your passport (usually 30–180 days). Many countries offer digital nomad visa programs that allow remote workers to stay for up to a year or more, so check those out, too.
Work environment: Once you arrive in your destination, where will you work? Check out cafés and coffee shops in your area on Google Maps or TripAdvisor. Use Coworker.com or the Regus app to find co-working spaces worldwide.