How to Become a Digital Nomad
Dreaming of becoming a digital nomad and don’t know how to start? Take a look at Remote Year’s guide on how to become a digital nomad and get started today!
The Information Age has brought so many opportunities, one of which is the ability to work from any location you want. Most of us have seen pictures of digital nomads relaxing by a beach, earning income with just their laptop and an Internet connection.
The digital nomad lifestyle offers the perfect work/life balance, and if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible for you to live that kind of life, the short answer is YES! The increasing availability of remote jobs – partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and acceptance of remote work visas in many countries – has made it easier for more people to work remotely.
However, becoming a digital nomad is much more than having a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection. The digital nomad lifestyle can be highly rewarding but requires planning, hard work, and dedication like any other career.
You may be spending time in remote locations in the world, often without reliable infrastructure. Therefore, you’ll need to be creative sometimes about finding some of the things you need to work.
If you are ready to swap your current residence for an apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in Southeast Asia, or Medellin, Colombia, in South America, then you’ve come to the right place.
Learn how to become a digital nomad at Remote Year, and discover how to balance technology, packing, money, wellness, itinerary-building, and community – all from working in unique locations around the world.
Being a digital nomad gives you the opportunity to see the world while earning decent income.
Career opportunities for digital nomads span different sectors, including IT, research, consulting, education, and business.
You need more than a laptop and an Internet connection to be a successful digital nomad; it takes dedication, resilience, and hard work to have a successful digital nomadic career.
You can make the process easier and navigate obstacles by joining a community of like-minded digital nomads.
Remote Year offers a community of 4000+ remote workers with programs on six continents and 80+ global destinations.
First, what is a digital nomad?
You have to know the answer to the question “what is a digital nomad?” or “what do digital nomads do?” before you can be one. The term covers all location-independent workers who work online while traveling. If you’ve ever dreamt of working from anywhere in the world, you may want to consider a digital nomad career. Digital nomads are always on the move, usually spending a few months in remote locations before moving again.
Their jobs are typically fully remote, so they only need a computer and a Wi-Fi connection to get things going. Being a digital nomad is more than a career; it’s a lifestyle of freedom, opening you up to exciting possibilities. You’ll meet new people, experience different cultures, and get inspired by the diversity you'll no doubt encounter.
Digital nomads typically earn a decent income for a nice life, especially in remote parts of the world with lower living costs. They also tend to form or become part of a community, getting resources and tips from fellow nomads to help them stay motivated and successful.
Several career choices are available to intending digital nomads. You can pretty much venture into any career or business executable with a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection. Some industries to look for digital nomad jobs include:
Information Technology and Communications The tech industry continues to offer many physical and remote job opportunities. Web developers, programmers, and app creators are in demand, and you can do your job from anywhere in the world.
Content Creation If you've got a flair for creating content or beautiful stuff, a digital nomad career might be one for you. Freelance writers, graphic designers, video producers, bloggers, vloggers, and other content creators have multiple opportunities to become digital nomads.
Online Marketing Online marketers have soared in popularity in the past few years, with more people and companies realizing the necessity of online visibility. You can build your digital nomad career as an affiliate marketer, SEO expert, or social media manager.
Business and Administration If you know and understand how to run a successful business, you could become a digital nomadic business coach or consultant. You can also create and sell courses in your area of expertise. Another popular career path for digital nomads in the sector is becoming a virtual assistant. Virtual assistants help businesses perform remote tasks like organizing work schedules, data entry, responding to emails, and customer support.
Education Tons of opportunities are available for intending digital nomads with a background in education. You can become an online teacher of English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher or a second language teacher if you’re multilingual.
Navigate remote work with the latest technology
It’s no longer uncommon to hear people say they work remotely now or are looking for remote work. A digital nomadic career enables you to travel and work from different coworking spaces or Internet cafes worldwide.
If you’re looking for gigs that allow you the freedom to become a digital nomad, check out online hubs and job boards to get started. Upwork and Fiverr are valuable assets for finding projects and gigs. LinkedIn Jobs and Zip Recruiter are also great resources, especially for people seeking a more traditional work trajectory.
At Remote Year, we offer something quite different to people who want to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle. As part of our community platform membership, digital nomads have access to remote work job listings curated by digital nomads.
If you need to develop new skills, you can connect with members of the Remote Year community who have become ESOL (English as a Second Language) teachers or virtual assistants that give them more flexible work hours.
The logistics of nomadic life – How to prepare
If you’re dreaming of living a digital nomadic lifestyle, you’ve probably wondered how to get started. The reality is becoming a nomad doesn’t have to take a definite route; you simply have to find your path.
Anyone can succeed as a digital nomad with the right mindset, attitude, and digital nomad tools. We’ve put together the following steps to guide you on how to be a nomad. These steps are not set in stone, and you may find that you have to skip over a few or start over more than once:
Reduce location ties and expenses
Becoming a digital nomad means you cannot be bound to a specific location. The first thing you want to do is to identify the things in your life that tie you to your current location. You can start by sorting out any long-term leases on your apartment or cars. It may also be time to settle outstanding loans or set up a payment plan to cover them. You may need to terminate subscription services, gym memberships, and other similar expenses to free up funds for your new way of living.
Digital nomads are light travelers, so you may want to identify and get rid of unneeded possessions that take up space without serving any essential purpose. You may also consider selling your car, since you won’t be using it for a while, plus you get to cut out related expenses like gas, insurance, and maintenance.
Map out your perfect itinerary
“Spend some time thinking about what you want to get out of the experience, be in places you want to go or things you want to try. With so many options to choose from, it can help with planning and budgeting.” – Griffin Glaze
Trip planning and itinerary are exciting and integral to being a successful digital nomad. Organizing your travel calendar will help you maximize your budget, foster a community, and help you find the best places to work remotely. An itinerary takes out the hard work and allows you to focus on working online and exploring.
At Remote Year, we take care of your accommodation (you don’t need to worry about hidden Airbnb charges), coworking spaces, excursions, and community by organizing 1-week wellness retreats, 1-month, 4-month, or 1-year programs around the world.
Another reason to map out your itinerary is it helps you determine whether you need to apply for a digital nomad visa or a tourist visa. Some countries restrict how long you can visit, so it’s important to have a flight or train to travel outside the country within the visiting time limit.
Join a digital nomad community
Like any other career or pursuit, connecting with a community of like-minded individuals is essential. There’s a lot to consider when selecting a destination, and connecting with other digital nomads helps make the process easier. Whether online or in person, a community of digital nomads inspires you and offers you the opportunity to forge mutually-beneficial friendships and connections.
Popular digital nomad destinations like Colombia, Mexico, Canggu, and Bali have thriving digital nomad communities. You can also check out online forums and Facebook groups for digital nomad communities specific to your destination.
How to pack your bags for worldwide travel
“When you’re packing, think about what you’ll wear on an everyday basis. You’re probably not rocking stiletto heels every day (so they shouldn’t be added to your suitcase).” – Susan Paredes
Living out of a suitcase can be a challenge to some and a fun and exciting adventure for others. Luggage fees add up quickly, and dragging your stuff on side trips can be difficult, so it’s crucial to learn how to optimize your suitcase to be light and resourceful. You have to stick to neutral colors and master the art of layering when packing clothing.
“Less is more – and more is heavy” is a rule of thumb for travel packing. It’s also worth noting that you can purchase essential travel items – toothpaste, soap, and shampoos at your next destination. However, some items must always be part of your digital nomad packing list – passport, visa requirement information, travel insurance, and health insurance documents.
Managing your money as a digital nomad
Full-time traveling can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. It can even be cheaper than taking out a mortgage or paying high-cost rent in major cities around the world. Learning to travel on a budget is an art that Remote Year community members have perfected. They share some insights and helpful hints below:
Join a 1-month program in a country with a lower cost of living. Remote workers loved working remotely in Chiang Mai, where dinner-out costs $2.50 and dental cleanings with X-rays only cost $35.
Remote Year community members recommend banks like Charles Schwab, as they waive all ATM fees, no matter the country, making local currency withdrawals easier than ever.
Sign up for an international credit card that waives all foreign transaction fees.
Learn about taxes while traveling; your home country may have a tax break or incentive for those traveling outside the country for extended periods.
If you have valuables back home, you may consider giving someone you trust power of attorney to act on your behalf.
Build a community – all over the world
“The best part about the people you meet through the program (Remote Year) is that they have similar spontaneous thoughts about travel. We forever now have a community of family that is down for anything – anytime, anyplace. Mostly because my new community prioritizes experiencing the world as a major life priority.” – Paige Jewel
One of the best parts of being a digital nomad is connecting with like-minded individuals in 80+ global destinations. Remote Year allows you to surround yourself with people from all over the world. We have over 4,000 members worldwide aged 21 to 77, 57% of our members are people of color, and 14% are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Digital nomads may feel isolated and lonely sometimes, and being a part of a community can help combat this feeling. There’s never a dull moment when you’re part of a collective of remote workers. The human diversity available means you’ll always find someone with whom to explore and have fun.
There are several ways to connect with a new travel community – and they remain in your life forever once you find them. Travel programs and social media are one of the easiest ways to meet and connect with people in a new country.
Brands like Remote Year build online community platforms to engage travelers. We help join people in different local excursion activities and even networking events pertaining to remote work – especially helpful for people on the road looking for work.
Fostering wellness and practicing safety while traveling
“What’s awesome about traveling is that your excursions can be your exercise! Want to do a sunrise hike of Lisbon’s skyline? There are my steps. A community class learning local Croatian dance? I’ve got down my cardio.” – Elizabeth Blasi
Like with any other career, you must protect your mind and body as you travel and work remotely in a new city. Your new lifestyle may alter your routine, and your body may struggle to adapt. For your wellbeing, it’s essential to check in with members of your traveling or home community regularly.
You can do more for your physical health by eating healthy and exercising. You may be able to purchase cheap workout equipment in your new location or consider exercises that don’t require special equipment – pushups, squats, jogging, yoga, etc.
Tons of mobile apps and workout videos are available online for inspiration and guidance. For your mental well-being, remote therapy offers access to telehealth and other options for counseling while traveling – even digital nomads satisfying their wanderlust have things to wade through – traveler burnout and lack of stability can take its toll.
While the idea of being a digital nomad can feel like the stuff of dreams, it can very well become your reality. You can make money online while experiencing new cultures, building an amazing community, and forming lifelong memories. The decision to become a digital nomad is a big one, and it can alter your life in more ways than you can imagine.
If you’re interested in living the digital nomadic lifestyle, reach out to Remote Year and join our community of 4000+ remote workers, entrepreneurs, and creatives. With programs on six continents and 80+ global destinations, you’ll always find exciting cultures, adventures, and remote working opportunities to explore.
Is it legal to be a digital nomad?
Yes. It is legal to be a digital nomad as long as you have the right to work in the country you are in. Digital nomads who hold a US, UK, or EU passport can enter most countries on a simple tourist visa and leave when their tourist visa is about to expire. Some countries also issue digital nomad visas, which allow remote workers to live in their country for at least a year if they fulfill specific requirements.
How many digital nomads are there?
There are 35 million digital nomads worldwide, with over 15 million from the US alone. The number of digital nomads has doubled over the last few years, according to the MBO Partners 2021 state of independence study.
How much does it cost to travel the world as a digital nomad?
How much it costs to travel as a digital nomad depends on specific factors like your destination, accommodation, transportation, and your lifestyle preferences. You can reduce the cost of being a digital nomad by staying in hostels, cooking your meals, and planning your trips around low-cost destinations and travels.
Is it hard to become a digital nomad?
Like any other career, being a digital nomad requires a bit of drive and dedication. You have to figure out paperwork, visas, health insurance, travel documents, and other boring stuff, which can get you discouraged if you’re not motivated enough. The joy of fulfilling your dream makes all the effort worth it if you’re determined to see the process to the end.
Can you be a digital nomad with a full-time job?
Yes. You can be a digital nomad with a full-time job conducive to digital nomadism. Jobs in IT, education, consulting, research, marketing, and coaching can free you to work full time while living a digital nomadic lifestyle.
How long do digital nomads stay in one place?
Surveys show that 80% of digital nomads stay in a location for up to nine months, while two-thirds may remain there for three to six months. Only a third of digital nomads linger in one place for up to a year.
*Remote Year is not a financial institution and should not be solely relied upon as financial experts when it comes to budgeting, managing money, or sourcing credit/bank accounts. Instead, we provide guidance and tips given from previous Remote Year members on what has worked for them.
Cover image shared by Tyler Taboada, Remote Year Product Lead