Don’t you think working should support your travels & leisure activities rather preventing you from doing them?
And since traveling and certain activities entail being somewhere different from home, I’ve always made choice about jobs & studies with that in mind. Being a digital marketing, I can basically work from anywhere. What’s more, if you live in a “western” country like the US or Canada, life will cost you definitively less (you can estimate life cost pretty much anywhere with NomadList), which means one of 3 things: either you need to work less to support your lowered expenses, you can also save money, or you could live like a king!
As I’m writing this, I’m doing a 4-day diving course to get my PADI in this paradise that’s Koh Tao in Thailand as part of a 4-month digital nomad trip! Not to brag but not only is it the cheapest place on earth to get your PADI but it includes a private bungalow on the beach, yup.
Now, if you don’t have a job that is done easily over the internet here is what you can do:
- Adapt it so that it can be done via the internet or locally everywhere you go
- Switch careers and become a blogger, become a programmer or the likes
It’s also worth mentioning that remote working doesn’t have to be a full-time, full-year thing. In fact you should test it out (like I do at the moment) with limited risks (no imminent financial needs) to make sure it suits your career, lifestyle etc. Having lived in Germany, England, France, Canada & Argentina with parents living in Czech Republic, I’ve kind of always been a digital nomad since my 18th birthday without necessarily knowing it! And I can tell you, it’s achievable and really enjoyable!
Let’s see how anyone can become a digital nomad!
1. Figure out the job & money parts first
Living & working from everywhere seems like quite the dream it will be a short one if you don’t figure out the job part of it before all. This is something you want to sort out before you go on with your digital nomad life as you’ll definitely become more focused on enjoying life, planning your travels, accommodations & activities once on the road.
Here are the choices offered to you:
- You have a job you like
Depending on what your current job is, you might be able to negotiate and transform your job into a remote part-time or full-time one. Now, this doesn’t work with every company or job.
The company you work at has to be remote-ready for it to happen, which means that it already has some remote workers or at least uses cloud-based coordination tools like Slack, Trello or the likes and that it can handle timezone differences (I currently have an 11 hours timezone difference with Canada!).
Your job also needs to be remote-ready. For instance, if you usually spend your days in meetings or interacting with your coworkers as I was for the Product Owner part of my role at Yellow Pages, it might be difficult to take on the road. That being said, the Growth Hacker part of my job description would be much easier to execute from the road.
If you realize it won’t be possible because of either the current company you work at or the job you have, you will have no option but quit.
- You have a job that isn’t suited to the remote lifestyle or want/need a change
In this case, you won’t have many options but to quit it. If that’s the path you want to choose I hope you really believe in your upcoming digital lifestyle because it’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my professional life. Especially if you really like your job and colleagues as I did at Yellow Pages.
Once you’ve quit, you will become available and then need to find how to make money on the road!
- You’re available for a remote position, then you have 3 choices
- Find a remote job. If you go this route, I recommend remote job offers like RemoteOK (here are the best 25 remote job listing websites), or look at remote companies like Zapier, Automattic, and the likes.
- Become a freelancer. Freelancing is flexible, and often a location-independent option. It’s not necessarily the easiest option to get started as your experience and personal branding matter a lot, which requires some extra work. It is also a challenging path as you will have a lot of back & forth with potential clients, trials etc. A great resource for beginning freelancers is Epic Freelancing by Josh Hoffman (a digital nomad himself who makes more than 6 figures).
- Work on/create your company or maintain your home-based activities. If you’re already working on your company or are creating one, why not do it on the road where you will have lower life costs? Isn’t the essence of the 4-hour workweek to maintain your existing, automated business from the road as you enjoy life? This is the route I’ve chosen for my trip as I don’t want to work more than 2-3 days per week and focus on making my blog better and better, helping with MTL+ECOMMERCE and work on my newest startup. Life is good.
Either way, make sure you have some money saved up before you embrace the nomadic lifestyle to be able to face any job-drought, your leisure activities and to work on your projects if they don’t already make money.
2. Decide on your master plan
Now comes the hardest question of all: what do you really want to do, given the choice?
It all comes down to how well you know yourself and what activities you like to do. Are you the hyperactive type like me who always has to have something going on while planning the next thing, someone for which boredom is the opposite of happiness? In that case, you will want to fill your available days (when you’re not working) with local activities like sports, city tours or language classes.
Some prefer to spend their days chilling, getting massages. Either one is ok as long as it suits you.
Next comes when & where you want to go? Is there somewhere you’ve always wanted to travel to or live at? On the practical side, you need to ask yourself questions like how is internet there, if any visas are needed? Again NomadList will help.
What comes next is how you want to mix your time between work & leisure. More on that in part #5.
Also, think how do you want to travel? Do you want to try traveling alone and meet people on the road as I currently do? Do you have digital nomad (or not) friends who want to tag along? Does your lover want to join?
After considering those aspects, the rest should come naturally and you should be able to have an overview of what you want to do/not do, where and how!
3. Planning: Your “home life” on autopilot
You now have work options ideas? Any preferences about why, where and how you want to travel? It sounds like you’re ready to start planning your first digital nomad trip!
The order in which you do it doesn’t matter that much, but you will always have to make sure your life at home runs smoothly without you, I’m talking about anything housing, insurance, banking and more. I trust you with booking your flight tickets, hosting, etc!
I’ve already written extensively about how to automate your life in a previous post which will help you automate your finances (like having your invoices pay themselves automatically, avoiding credit card charges etc), systemize your backups and make sure everything your need will be available for you on the road.
Also, make sure to cancel/reduce any subscriptions that you don’t need. For instance, you can downgrade your mobile phone plan to the cheapest to keep your number while paying less!
Often times, you will also want to rent your place/room while you’re away. If you live somewhere where it’s legal, I suggest sub-letting your place so that you can come back when you end your trip. It’s often easy to arrange if you have nice friends! When it comes to the service to be used, I’ve used both local listing websites like Craigslist and Airbnb. While Airbnb is wide-spread and more secure as you know you’ll get your money on the first of every month, you avoid fees when using Craigslist directly. I usually give an all-included price to the person renting my room as I keep on handling all invoices as they’re automated! You want to make sure you’re still insured and sign relevant contracts with your sub-letter if you need.
Also, make sure you’re properly insured as you’re traveling, especially for anything medical. You want to make sure you have proper medical coverage & repatriation if something bad happens. For Canadians residents, I use Blue Cross.
Also, investigate about your fees & conditions that come with your credit cards as you’re traveling. If you have credit cards from several countries it’s always good to analyze what’s the best deal when withdrawing money and paying things abroad. You can always transfer money from a bank to another for cheap with services like Transferwise. If you can, upgrade to Gold/Platinum credit card as it comes with extended purchase guarantees, rental car insurance and often medical insurance coverage.
Last thing: make sure you’re allowed to travel and come back as you want from and in your country of residence. You Passport & VISAs should be valid long enough so that they don’t become a problem. Also, make sure to have paper & digital copies of your passport(s), working permit(s), driving licenses, birth certificates when leaving on the road. They sure were useful when my passport was stolen in Chile in 2013!
4. Gear up
Before you leave, you want to make sure you’re not packing your whole house with you! Ideally, you want to aim for a backpack that fits as a carry-on luggage in airplanes. My whole backpack weights just above 10Kgs which I’m really happy with! My advice: don’t overpack as you’ll be able to buy clothes, toiletries/accessories on the road, makes it fun and allows you to bring back souvenirs!
Below is the gear I currently have & recommend. As some of those are affiliate links, if you purchase through them I’ll get a very small commission to encourage me, the price stays the same for you!
The PackPack I use is the Osprey Farpoint 55L which is in fact composed of a 40L main pack to which is attached a 15L daypack with a Laptop compartment. Really love it so far especially for the daypack/backpack combination that is handy especially for digital nomads like ourselves! And yes, it works as a carry-on if you unzip the daypack!
As I didn’t want to bring my quite heavy MacBook Pro 15″ Retina for fear of it getting stolen, I went ahead and bought a lightweight Acer Chromebook R11 from which I’m writing this article. Really live it so far as it is cheap, has a great battery (10h), lightweight and I can do everything I need!
It’s tactile, 11″ and bends up to tablet position to suit your needs!
- Earplugs vs. Headphones
If you’re struggling between packing your big headphones vs. in-ear earphones I’ve been there. While I enjoy the comfort of my Audiotechnica ATH-M50 headphones at home, I’m really happy I didn’t bring it with me. You have a much easier time with cheaper in-ear earphones as the sound quality can be great, they’re better for the head and my 17 $CAD Panasonic RP-TCM125-K feature a mic & remote!
While traveling having a good smartphone makes all the difference in my opinion. It’s what you will keep you while when traveling, getting around, listening to music and calling your customers, friends & family!
I’ve chosen the OnePlus 3t mainly for its horsepower, great battery life, fingerprint unlock, and dual-sim option (handy when you’re traveling).
Even if you’re working on the road, you’ll still be a tourist doing tourist stuff no matter where you go and need a great camera. You’ll also want to be lightweight! I chose to go with the Sony RX-100 III as it’s a compact yet professional camera used by many YouTubers for its versatility, numeric pointer, great Zeiss lens & video capabilities. Its screen also rotates up to “selfie mode”, you can synchronize your pictures via Wi-fi and it recharges via USB, sweet!
- Portable battery
This one is a life-saver! Who’s never had a phone die on them at the worst moment possible or wanted to charge their phone on the go? That’s why I got a portable battery before leaving. It’s 10’000 mAh (about 3 full phone charges) has 2 USB ports, one support high-speed recharge, which means you can use it as USB duplicator. I also made sure all my gear except my laptop (another USB duplicator) can charge via USB!
I simply can’t live without music, so it only seemed natural to me to pack a Bluetooth speaker to use either in the shower, to throw a beach party or just enjoy a movie/TV show with great sound! I chose the Bose Soundlink Color 2 which is waterproof, has a 10h battery life, what more is there to say!
5. Enjoy life (& work) on the road
All geared up and ready to hit the road but still wondering how it’s like to travel & work at the same time?
Luckily for you, my friend Alexandre du Sordet contributed a guest post my blog about How to Mix Travel & Work While Staying Productive as a Digital Nomad, I highly recommend you give it a read if you haven’t already as it clarifies this aspect quite well!
As some digital nomads have made a trend of taking pictures of them on the beach with their laptop, it’s not what life as a digital nomad really looks like! You’ll ruin your laptop while not being able to look at the screen, get a nice sunburn and won’t be productive at all! Usually, you’ll rather work from cafés, coworking spaces or your Airbnb/Hostel/Hotel.
Now, time to live the dream. Your Dream, not matter how you define it.
Tips & Resources
- Useful Apps/websites for getting around
- TripAdvisor to get a glance of what there’s to see in a specific place and get food/activities recommendations (offline download with the app)
- Google Maps App for public transportation/walking itineraries/keeping a to-do list of things to see. It also allows you to download offline maps which are a life-saver
- Uber to get cheap, safe & reliable taxis almost everywhere! Also nice to estimate a taxi ride fare when negotiating your next taxi or Tuk-tuk with a local! 15$ rebate on your first ride with this link.
- Rome2Rio is the easiest website I’ve found to get transport options and price estimate between a point A & B.
- Wifi & Networks
- Getting a local SIM can save your ass and be pretty cheap. In Thailand, my 4.5Gb data + call + texts SIM card cost me about 20$CAD (3 times less than my regular Canadian monthly subscription!)
- If you plan on working from there, you can always ask you Airbnb host/hostel support what the internet speed is. Send them this link (fast.com) and they’ll easily be able to tell you how fast it is.
Becoming a digital nomad sure is a trend and the dread of many people. While it is possible to achieve, it most certainly requires sacrifices and a lot of planning, organization & the right gear to be enjoyable! Here is what we have seen in this post:
- You need to figure out the job & money side of things first
- Decide on what, where and how you want to do things
- Plan your trip and automate your “home life”
- Find the right gear to make the most out the road
- Embrace the digital nomad lifestyle
Are you a digital nomad or planning on becoming one? What are your questions/fears? Let us know in the comments on Twitter 🙂