I’ve been a digital nomad now for two years. In that time I’ve slow travelled through thirteen countries, and clocked over 203,000 kilometers across Asia, the Pacific, North America, and Continental Europe.
The lifestyle has had a dramatic influence on the way I live and work. To celebrate these past two years, I wanted to share how digital nomadism has impacted my life, and to offer some lessons that I’ve learned along the way.
There are many paths to achieving the skills that I’ve accumulated below, but digital nomadism happened to be the path for me. My hope is that these points inspire others who have the means or ambition to consider living and working nomadically whether it’s for a few weeks, months, or years. Most importantly, I hope these lesson spark a desire to obtain similar skills and traits to enrich lives personally and professionally.
1. Learn to adapt and solve problems quickly
When you live nomadically your surroundings will change constantly. Whether you aim to travel fast (I don’t recommend it), or decide to slowly explore regions in the world (I highly recommend this), each new destination will require adjustments to your routine, habits; and most importantly, your expectations. The transportation you rely on might slowly get worse. Hygiene might be a very loose term in some parts of the world. Constantly being thrusted into dynamic living will force you to adapt to problems or uncomfortable situations as they occur. You can’t ignore the rough bits, and you have no choice but to deal with things head on. I’ve had to translate this to my working life where clients, collaborators, or employers frequently throw fresh challenges that can thwart my momentum. Have a plan in mind, but be prepared to adjust that plan as surprises occur.
2. Organize and prioritize is my core mantra
I cannot see every spot in the world. I cannot act on every idea that pops into my head. I cannot experience everything others have. So, I have to organize what matters most in my life, and prioritize those points to tackle one-by-one. If you want to work remotely, you have to master these two skills. I spread this belief across work and play. When I travel, I only do one activity in my new destination each day. When I work, I only focus on two to three major items each day. This way I never feel like I didn’t see enough, and I never feel like my to-do list got the best of me.
3. Become better with finances
Before I became a digital nomad, I was okay with money but it was always a close call. Two years in and I’d say I have a ruthless discipline around how my finances dictate my happiness. To move so freely and quickly through the world meant having to let go of a lot of little spending habits. I want to point out that it wasn’t about sacrificing a lot, I just focused my money on the goal at hand: saving a bulk amount to get me out my current bubble and into the world. A lot of people I talk to about nomadic living cite a lack of funds as a main setback, but I’ve learned that a laser focus on saving funds (whatever you can put aside) will slowly build into a nest egg for travelling. That can mean cooking all your meals everyday instead of going out. That can mean enjoying a cheaper bottle of wine over something fancy. That can mean wearing the two or three sets of clothes to work even if they start to show signs of wear. I thank this lifestyle for making me thriftier and stretching my dollar. I’m more likely to choose a cheap flight to a new place than splurge on something that will collect dust in my apartment.
4. Always be creating
There was no way I was going to waste these years simply traveling the world. I needed to make sure that I was recording, creating, or contributing something back that was influenced or shaped by my way of living. The idea of being relevant and reinventing oneself is incredibly important. I’m more likely to starve and pummel the pavement to do the work I love than to succumb to good pay for a job I will absolutely hate. And I spent hours and hours writing, podcasting, or producing experiences that touched on my time out on the road, or allowed me to ponder opinions on other elements of technology, business, and culture. I’m lucky that the job I have pursued bodes well for remote work and living, but there are plenty of other options out there for people in different industries looking to go mobile.
5. Spread knowledge and help others
When people ask you for advice and are hungry for your help, that’s an honor and a privilege. Throughout this journey, I’ve rarely had people I could turn to for advice on making digital nomadism work. When I (and the people who have been doing this for much longer than I have) started, information was really just a hodge podge of websites strewn across the Internet. Advice was outdated, vague, or non-existent. That’s why I started diligently writing about digital nomads on Forbes and other platforms to share my knowledge. Turns out it helped a lot of people consider the changes they want to make in their lives, or propelled them into living nomadically. There are folks I’ve met online who are far smarter and talented than me, and I’m proud to say I had a small hand in guiding those people. Always pay forward to others what you are so fortunate to have.
6. Wellness and rest on the regular
I swim laps regularly. I read a book every week, and cook almost three times a day. Some folks do yoga, others hike or boulder or bike or windsurf. I’m not going to tell you what activity to do (that’s for you to find out and enjoy), but I will encourage you to make fitness or hobbies a regular component of your day or week. Do however much or little makes you happy. Step it up when the activity becomes easy. This is known as “active rest”. You’re not working on your job, but you are keeping your mind on its toes as you concentrate on a task that is good for your body and mind. It’s a great way to decompress from constant movement and constant work.
7. Take every challenge (you can stomach)
Hopping in and out of planes, trains, and bikes makes you feel pretty confident about tackling other challenges. And I’ve spent a lot of time these past few years stepping out of my comfort zone to pitch on work I never thought I’d have a chance at doing. That approach meant getting turned down a lot, but learning from those mistakes and working hard to get a yes the next time around. Be hungry and have a pitbull attitude. Don’t be afraid to ask (a cold email can go a long way). This attitude helped me to ask a perfect stranger to write an ebook with me; it has allowed me to find work with a company that employs a fully distributed workforce; and it has motivated me to continually push the boundaries of my skills. I’ve found that this lesson goes hand-in-hand with getting out there and creating relevance through your work.
8. Recognize that mobility is a privilege
Through all of this, I very much recognize the privilege and good fortune that has come my way. It’s a lot of luck but I worked really hard to jump at the moment opportunity and preparation intersected each other. There are far too many people in this world who will never experience what I have experienced. There are many people who don’t want to do what I do. That’s ok. I’ve made it a point to never force my lifestyle on others. Instead, I work to offer an alternative, and to communicate the pros and cons as a digital nomad so others can make their own educated decisions. I’ve said before that no other generation has had the freedom to carve out their own lifestyle, and I stand by it. I hope I can use that good fortune to do something–even if it’s a tiny blip–to help someone take charge of their lives via technology.
These lessons are the main reason I’m writing my book Nomad Bible. Get a copy here: .
Interested in digital nomadism, or have a story to share? Connect with me here: @kaviguppta.