What To Consider Before Becoming A Digital Nomad

December 4, 2018 · 10 minute read

Starting the journey to becoming a successful digital nomad takes several thoughtful considerations before just diving into the deep end. It requires that you take a full and honest audit of your life.

You'll be asking yourself questions such as why do I want to be want to be a digital nomad? What is currently missing from my life, and what is my current overhead? After completing this self-inventory, you will be able to see if the life of the digital nomad is the best suited for you. If it is, the good news is your in exactly the right place to help you get there.

Photo Credit: @RawPixel

What Is A Digital Nomad?

Digital nomads use digital technologies, such as the internet, social media, and monetized blogs, to support themselves while they live nomadically or are location independent. Typically working remotely from anywhere they see fit, be it their home, cafe/coffee shop, library, or their vehicles. They exchange the standard way of living to allow themselves more freedom to experience life on their terms. Read more about this type of lifestyle via What is a Digital Nomad.

Understanding Your Why

The first question and most important question you need to ask yourself is why you want to pursue the journey of becoming a digital nomad. This is going to take some honest self-reflection. Take out a sheet of paper and put your thoughts on the page. Start broad and put down anything that comes to your head. Once it's all out on the page you'll be able to really tease through your thoughts to find the core reason behind "why".

Ask yourself questions, such as:

  • Why does a nomadic lifestyle appeal to you?
  • What is missing from your life that a nomadic lifestyle could bring you?
  • Have you researched the types of problems digital nomads face?
  • If you have a family, have you talked through this lifestyle with them?

In order to become a successful digital nomad, realizing your "why" is key. The why will help you find what really matters to you.

Type Of Lifestyle

When you are thinking about this transition, you need to consider what kind of nomadic or remote lifestyle you are seeking. Are you more interesting in working remotely from a house in the country or suburbs? Travel the world and work from cafes and hotels in different countries? You may even want to buy an RV/Bus/Airstream to travel, working among nature, with a national park, or sandy beach as your office.

Our Escape camper van, that we rented on our road trip across the West from San Francisco to Colorado.

For example, we decided to buy a vintage Airstream and will be traveling around the US, visiting National Parks, States & Cities along the way. We decided to go this route because at the end of 2017 we rented an Escape Camper Van. The trip took us across the American West, starting in California and ending in Colorado. We ended up visiting 5 states and 4 National Parks along the way. It was a truly awe-inspiring trip and we wanted a lifestyle that would allow us to recreate that trip full-time.

The best thing about choosing your lifestyle is the flexibility for you to choose how you want to live. Do your research, see how other people are living, and then decide what is right for you. There are many great examples of individuals, couples, and even families living the nomadic lifestyle. Make sure to check out some of the examples we've included from Instagram. Remember, you can always change up your lifestyle at any point. It's more important to find what feels right for you and adjust along the way.

An escape camper van parked in a camp ground in the Grand Canyon.
Our Escape camper van that we rented on our road trip across the West from San Francisco to Colorado.

Physical Belongings & Stuff

If you decide that being a digital nomad is appealing, next we must tackle the subject of "stuff." We rack up tons of belongings over the years, and if you're going to have a lifestyle with smaller living quarters (as is typical of the digital nomad), then you have to plan what you will do with your belongings. This is a new and scary challenge for most people, as many of us have an apartment/house, car(s), furniture and a million other things around us. When you live in one place for so long, it's incredible how much stuff you accumulate.

By switching your lifestyle you'll need to figure out what you will do with all of it. It can be initially uncomfortable, figuring out how to reduce all of all of what you have, to only want you need. If you have overhead in terms of mortgage or auto payments, it becomes even more complex. It's not impossible, but it can be hard figuring out what actually adds value to your life and what's not needed. Depending on what kind of lifestyle you end up wanting, this will affect how much of your stuff you can keep.

Working Remotely From Home

If you plan on going remote and not necessarily living nomadically, you have more options with your belongings. Many remote workers still live in a house or apartment but live outside of cities where the cost of living is cheaper and no commute. If this is what you choose, the good news is you may not need to downsize at all.

The RV/Bus/Van/Airstream/Tiny House Life

This type of lifestyle gets a more complex. If you are considering downsizing to one of these, you have to realize that the amount of space you have to live will be much less than a standard house/apartment. You'll easily be trying to fit your 800 to 2400 square foot house/apartment into a smaller space that ranges from roughly 50 to 450 square feet. You'll have to very conscious about what you will take on the road, then either sell or donate the rest.

A Total Nomadic Lifestyle

The total nomadic lifestyle is the hardest of them all. For this type of lifestyle, people tend to move from place to place and work wherever they can get wifi. More often than not they are living out of a backpack and maybe a suitcase. Unless you make a lot of money, you probably won't be able to keep much of the stuff you currently own. You may end up with a small capsule wardrobe, technology such as a computer, phone, & camera gear, and self-care items. One positive is when you start to reduce your items, you can sell the remaining of it, therefore giving you extra money to add towards living expenses.

Making A Living

Next up on the list, is how are you going to make a living while pursuing your dream lifestyle. If you have a typical work lifestyle currently, you'll need to come up with ideas on how to transform that into what you are looking for. Here are a few ideas that can get you started on ways to get you out there living differently:

  1. First, if you work in a standard office environment is to ask your manager/boss about remote work! Depending on what you do for a living they may actually be open to the idea. Even getting to work at home one day a week to start and if it works, slowly move to full-time remote. It's the easiest of the options and the worst thing that could happen is they say no. But hey!, you at least took the chance.
  2. Second, start looking for remote jobs. There are many job boards out there now where you can start to see if there are any roles for you. Especially since more and more jobs are revolved around computers, there is less of a reason to have to be in a standard office. Check out a few of these job boards to get started, Remote Ok, We Work Remotely, Working Nomads
  3. Third, you can start taking online classes for roles that seem like a good fit. Maybe you've dreamed of becoming a wedding photographer or learning to build apps for iOS & Android or design websites. If you are really passionate about it, you may be able to develop the skills to get a role in that field within 3 to 6 months. It all depends on how much time you can dedicate to your studies.
  4. Fourth, you could use your skills to develop classes/products that you can sell online. Companies like SkillShare, are examples of people creating courses and using the SkillShare platform to have access to their audience. It could also mean passive income as long as the classes are up there.

Those are a few ideas of how you can start to approach the topic of working nomadically. It's much easier nowadays to find roles that are remote friendly, take advantage of it!

Money & Financials

Discussing money can make anyone uncomfortable, but let's be honest; we all have to think about money and make sure we are managing our expectations. We can't pick up and travel the world without seriously considering the money that it will require. Even if you sell everything you own, that will only get you so far long term. You need to make sure the lifestyle you choose makes sense financially.

  1. First, I'd suggest you do is audit your current monthly overhead. Calculate all your expenses, such as rent/mortgage, auto payments, phone bill, utilities, debt, etc. If you are selling and getting rid of certain items, like your car or house, you drastically reduce your overhead. You'll want to take that into consideration in your audit. The lower your monthly overhead, the longer you can travel without having to worry about your finances.
  2. Second, research what the lifestyle you want costs on average. For example, if you are going to travel around to different cities and work remotely, you have to figure out how much flights cost, your living costs such as renting Airbnb's/hotels/hostels, travel insurance, grocery costs vs. eating out, and any other activities you'd want to explore.

When you have a rough idea of what your lifestyle will cost and your current monthly expenses, you will have a better picture of what your digitally nomadic standard of living will be. The more you can reduce and get rid of, the easier it will be to live long term as a digital nomad.

Going Alone Or With A Partner/Family

Are you planning on making the journey alone or with a partner/family? Even if you are going it alone, you will still end up telling people who are close to you. Not everyone will understand why you are taking on such a lifestyle. It's something to be aware of, especially since others will tend to impose their insecurities onto what you are doing. As long as you understand your why and have done your research, anyone with hesitations will come around in their own time. On the other hand, others may be completely supportive and even jealous that you are chasing your dreams!

If you have a family or partner, you need to express to them your interest, sooner rather than later. Making huge lifestyle changes like this require clear communication and expectations, and how it will work for you all. Again, help them understand why you want to explore this. You can research together, collaborate on ideas, and design this new life together! There will be challenges to work out but you should be able to have fun while planning all of it.

A vista from Zion National Park in Utah.

Get Your Journey Started!

You are embarking on a new journey to find a lifestyle that works better for you and what you want out of life. While it is exciting to start something new, you'll want to make sure you consider all that it entails and then make active steps toward your goal. Being a digital nomad or working remotely can be incredibly freeing, but no matter what kind of lifestyle you live it will always have its peaks and valleys. Remember to enjoy the journey along the way, and we can't wait to hear what your story will be.