It’s been almost 5 months since I left London to embark on a somewhat experimental life as a digital nomad. If you don’t know what a ‘digital nomad’ is, then head over to CoWorker before reading on.
The two years prior to my exit from London I was reading countless articles and blogs on Medium about people leaving their city lives for a new life on the road. It eventually became my bedtime reading and I was constantly waking myself up through pure excitement. I mean, if I was to sell you this life I’d talk about the endless travel, meeting new people, tasting new foods, trying new experiences… constantly, without an end date.
If you’re thinking about venturing into this world, or you’ve just taken the leap – then this article is for you. If I’ve missed something or you have a specific question, feel free to reach out on twitter @ThisIsZackYoung
First of all, I should say this life works beautifully for me as I’m an experienced digital marketer with a track record, case studies & strong personal brand. If you are completely new to the world of freelancing then my advice would be to waituntil you have figured things out. You need to master what value you can deliver and ensure you have a strong professional network. The alternative is to source a remote job which you should do before you make the leap. You can find some great remote jobs at RemoteOk.
You’re going to meet some amazing people and make some lifelong connections. Get ready to meet people from literally every corner of the world, they’ll make you question it all – they will challenge you and everything you have come to know. You get to know people much faster on the road – you’re given the opportunity to ask questions and uncover things which can take much longer at home. Most of the people you meet will be travellers of some kind; they’ll be passing through and will likely be very confused by your lifestyle – it’s a challenging one to get your head around. You’ll likely meet people on holiday for their annual vacation – they’ll be keen to do anything and everything and you may need to pass them up on some of the offers. You’ll also meet many locals who will be fascinated by your lifestyle and somewhat envious that you have the opportunity to live such a life. Prepare hard for the goodbyes, for they will come often and may leave you feeling empty and confused.
You’re going to have to be resourceful and constantly be seeking opportunities for new work. Your pipeline can never be too busy – the more work you have, the more you can learn to relax. I recommend you read ‘The Entrepreneur Revolution‘ by Daniel Priestly; discover the secrets to spend most of your time outside of your ‘reptile brain’ and not in survival mode – you’ll be far less stressed when you have a long runway.
There is some amazing accommodation options available around the world and for far less than you would think. I would recommend splitting your time between hotels, hostels & Airbnb apartments. It’ll give you the opportunity to get productive, get comfortable but force you to connect with people around you. We need connection – we’re only human so get yourself to the hotel bar, or hostel common room… wonderful things can happen.
Getting around the world is so inexpensive and I find it shocking when people are surprised by this. If dates are flexible then you can work your way from Europe to Asia for as low as £80 (one-way). I’d suggest using the ‘monthly search’ function on Skyscanner and always be flexible with the airports – you may need to book 2 flights to get to your destination but at a 300% saving it is likely very worth it.
One of the most essential things you’re going to need to live this life is Wifi or 3G/4G. It’s going to be important to factor this in to your plans so search ahead to get an understanding of the connection speed. I would always recommend buying a local sim card as they are usually very inexpensive. Also be sure to buy more data than you need so you don’t have to worry about it. I have tested local sim cards in many countries and the speeds are very impressive – more than enough to work on. A handy app to become friends with is ‘Speed Test’ which will enable you to test the speed; anything above 2Mb should be just fine.
If you’re moving around regularly my advice is to buy small robust luggage instead of using a backpack. I have a 30l case plus a backpack for my equipment – it’ll save your back and make the journey much smoother if you opt for wheels. Go for a case which is designed for extreme sports and aim for nothing bigger than 30l – enough for essentials and a very small selection of clothes. You’ll be dressing for function, not fashion so plain clothes work best.
You’re only human and with that comes mistakes & emergencies. Be sure to prepare properly with good insurance & some additional savings. In five months I’ve lost a pair of Bose headphones & had emergency root canal surgery, both weren’t too much fun but as I had prepared they didn’t cause too much trouble. I’d recommend always having a 20% contingency fund to be safe.
Budgeting is essential on the road so ensure you do a weekly check of your finances. I’d also recommend opening multiple bank accounts so you have multiple ways to access your money. Also, take a look at a FinTech startup calledRevolut which enables you to spend your money overseas with the best FX rate & without fees. Check them out here.
You’re going to be lonely sometimes and that’s okay. One way I combat this is by being part of the wider community over at NomadList where I access the #Nomads Slack group several times a week and meet up with other digital nomads. I couldn’t recommend the community enough.
You get fairly comfortable in your own skin as a digital nomad – you discover your needs as a human, you discover your desires and what you seek from connections. You also discover your insecurities, weaknesses & what you fear most. Although for me this lifestyle is still experimental I know it’s a huge growth period. When else do most people get to be this resourceful, independent & free?
‘You have within you right now, everything you need to deal with whatever the world can throw at you.’ – Brian Tracy
Embrace the uncertainty – it’s quite beautiful when you’re lost in the limbo of life. Brain Tracy’s quote always gets me through when times are tough.