It helps that the Internet has revolutionised the way in which we work, as it brings employment and new opportunities that have not existed until fairly recently.
Indeed, these opportunities mean that a digital nomad can travel the world while working for money – hopefully, doing something they love while enjoying their need to travel!However, this is where we should mention that not every digital nomad is working from a sun-kissed beach, since the sand and heat are dangerous for the laptop and the tourists will be distracting; most nomads will be working from a hostel bedroom or cheap cafe with Wi-Fi connectivity.
The next piece of reality is that many digital nomads will need to live somewhere with a low cost of living, such as Southeast Asia – where there are many established digital nomads – while those with a better source of income could contemplate living in the UK or Australia, for instance.
Living as a digital nomad abroad
The first step to this lifestyle is to decide what you want to do to earn money when living as a digital nomad abroad.
For many people this will be the first stumbling block if, for instance, they do not have any digital or creative skills that employers will be seeking, since many freelancers in the creative industries do not have to go into a client’s office to work.
If the person wanting to be a digital nomad was a dentist, for instance, their opportunities will be severely restricted. That’s not to say they cannot learn the necessary digital or computer skills that employers are looking for.
For many reasons, digital nomads need to choose a job that can be carried out from a variety of time zones; while they may not need to be in a client’s office, they may need to be in communication so need to be aware of the client’s times and where they are living.
Essentially, this means being prepared for a 3am phone call or Skype meeting.
An obvious way around this is to create a passive income channel, such as creating a blog or specific content for clients, that can be done while travelling and earning money at the same time. Popular blogs make money from adverts, and the ability to travel means that generating content, including videos, becomes much easier.
Another tip is to learn a digital skill employers want, so it might be worthwhile getting a job with an SEO or online marketing firm for instance, before setting off and learning these skills properly.
Earn money as a digital nomad
The reality of having to earn money means the digital nomad must be creative and productive, which can be something of a challenge for many people in any location, especially a new and exciting one.
However, for anybody interested in freelancing there are myriad ways of generating an income while travelling.
It is possible to create a freelancing income by utilising various online job boards and finding clients who want to use a freelancer without them being in the office; by building up this level of workflow it’s easier to move overseas to work as an expat and have a regular income already in place.
There are a range of skills and talents that someone who is looking to become a freelancer, or who is already established within their industry, can enjoy; these range from writing for websites and newspapers to computer programming and other IT skills.
Computer-based skills are in demand
Indeed, most computer-based skills are in demand and the nomad does not need to sit in an office to enjoy the benefits of being freelance in these industries.
The next most important step on the path to becoming a digital nomad is to prepare well. Planning will be key since the nomad will need to decide what they are going to do to earn money, where they are going to do it and where they will be staying to carry out this task.
They will need to inform friends and family and then learn about their planned-for destination, interacting with fellow expats and travellers to find out more before they arrive. It’s also possible to arrange accommodation beforehand and prepare for any necessary medical or even dietary needs.
This step brings us nicely to appreciating there will be regulations in the country where the digital nomad is hoping to work. This is a crucial step since many nomads believe they can touch down in a country and begin working. This might not be legally possible.
This is part of the research and it is always worthwhile to get the correct visa beforehand to avoid any avoidable travel issues; it’s also worth observing the visa limits and not overstaying a welcome.
Rise in popularity of digital nomad lifestyle
While many people want to become a digital nomad the reality is probably very much different to what they hoped it would be, and they should prepare for travelling light. Literally everything will need to fit into a rucksack, including a laptop.
Nomads will need to learn how to pack effectively, which includes rolling up their clothes rather than folding them and investing in quality luggage or a rucksack. They also need to identify which airlines have generous luggage policies and which ones restrict luggage.
Indeed, part of preparing for life as a freelancer working overseas means offloading lots of personal belongings which cannot be carried and won’t be needed. Nomads should appreciate they will be doing their laundry on a regular basis, and be prepared to visit flea markets for items they need whilst travelling, knowing that these items will probably be left behind when they move on.
This new lifestyle also means having to prepare for the unexpected, such as plans that may go awry. They may have to respond to a variety of situations – some of which may be dangerous.
However, the ability to be spontaneous and respond positively to changing situations is one of the benefits of being a digital nomad. Embracing an unexpected event may, for instance, deliver an incredible experience.
The ability to be spontaneous will help make travelling overseas a wonderful learning opportunity for those who are prepared to go with the flow, but also means that a digital nomad will need to prepare mentally for the experience ahead.
Many of those who decide to enjoy their wanderlust don’t always appreciate the reality of travelling light, and some traditions, customs or infrastructure in other countries may not meet their expectations.
This could mean travelling on dangerous public transport or not enjoying the trappings of the home they previously had. They may also come across people with a radically different world view to their own.
Everyone looking to travel will experience some of these things and many more, but they are part and parcel of travelling the world and enjoying new experiences and people.
A digital nomad needs to learn how to stay productive in meeting their deadlines and delivering work, so they can focus on their downtime to appreciate the new location, learn new skills and enjoy experiences.
Why many digital nomads decide to travel the world
Let’s not forget, the ability to experience new and exciting things is the reason why many digital nomads decide to travel the world and they may want to learn how to surf, scale an active volcano or fly over mountains. Everything is possible but the nomad simply needs to learn discipline and how to balance earning money and enjoying themselves.
Another downside to this aspect of enjoying life overseas as a digital nomad is that, in reality, it cannot last forever. The expat will need to appreciate that they may be gone for several months or several years and will eventually either return home or settle in a new country.
For this reason, it may be best to test the waters as a digital nomad by travelling as a backpacker for a month or two first before making the switch to becoming a fully dedicated digital nomad.
Other ideas for digital nomads to succeed is for them to undertake an online university course of study while living in various places around the world – it is cheaper than attending a real world university and will deliver extra skills as well.
Digital nomads can also buy an online business that generates money or delivers a passive income, ie the nomad won’t have to do much to earn their money, which will bring peace of mind. There are sites that offer businesses for sale with an idea of how much income the site generates. Buying a business will be easier than starting one from scratch.
Begin life as a digital nomad
It’s also possible to find a job overseas and it may be possible to convince a current employer that the nomad can work remotely – the boss does not have to know exactly where the nomad will be so long as they keep delivering the work on time.
The life as a digital nomad will, inevitably, offer up unexpected and new opportunities that the nomad should embrace.
Obviously, it’s also possible to have a real world job too such as working behind a bar for tourists or teaching English in a far-flung location or on a cruise ship, for instance. This is part of the nomadic lifestyle and while it’s not digital it will generate income for the nomad to continue with their lifestyle when necessary.
Digital nomads should also be prepared for setbacks, for instance their computer may break or they end up in a location without Wi-Fi or even an internet connection. This will be a major handicap for those who have regular online work commitments.
There may be personal issues too that need to be dealt with and which may involve an emergency trip home, so the digital nomad needs cash savings to help pay for these unexpected events.
The reality of living this life may also be that while the newfound friends are out enjoying themselves in bars and clubs, for instance, the nomad may be working through the night to meet a deadline or resolve problems, but these will not be regular occurrences.
What to do as a digital nomad
Also, while planning on what to do as a digital nomad it should also be appreciated that they will not be working 40 hours every week since the aim of travelling is to gain more life experience and enjoy their new locations.
It’s also important to have a bank account setup that can be accessed from overseas; some banks offer accounts that will accept more than one currency. The digital nomad will need to research these accounts to find one suitable for their needs.
Finally, and perhaps the most important piece of advice, is to simply jump straight in.
So, here are the Expat Focus 7 ways to set yourself up as a digital nomad:
1. Decide on how you will earn a living
2. Prepare and research well
3. Learn the relevant regulations and visa requirements
4. Learn to be spontaneous
5. Try something new jobwise
6. Be prepared for setbacks
7. Jump in!
While many others will look enviously at the lifestyle of a digital nomad there’s no excuse for the dreaming to stop and the reality to take over; simply buy an airline ticket for a wonderful destination and go for it!
It’s only in recent years that the digital nomad tribe has grown in popularity because technology is on their side and helps them to realise dreams and aspirations they’ve held for a long time. They managed to set out and become a nomad and so can you. Do it now!