Being a digital nomad is much more than just sitting on the beach somewhere, sipping cocktails, and glancing at your laptop from time to time.
In fact, that's just one small part of this lifestyle. The digital nomad's life seems like all play and no work, but it is work. It requires dedication, passion, and skill, just like any other job.
So, who are digital nomads? And more importantly, how can an urban adventurer like yourself become one, and can it be everything you ever dreamed of?
Life In A Suitcase
Digital nomads are people who don't have a fixed address; they travel and earn a living by working online. They usually change destinations frequently - every few weeks, or every few months. Some of them are based in one place, but spend at least a couple of months living and working abroad.
There are four things you absolutely need to have to be a digital nomad:
- A location-independent job
- A laptop (or a tablet)
- A reliable Internet connection
- An adventurous spirit
Digital nomads can work from wherever they like, but they need a job that allows them that freedom. They also can't function without technology and a steady Internet connection because most location-independent jobs take place online.
Charging your devices and chasing the Wi-Fi signal are some of the main reasons why working at the beach can get a bit challenging. Although, it's nothing that a good portable charger like the elegant Sparkstone can't solve.
An adventurous spirit is a digital nomad's main drive. Many people work remotely, but digital nomads see it as an opportunity to travel the world and work anywhere they please.
Feet In The Sand, Sand In The Laptop
Saying that you're a digital nomad will usually get you the same, excited but somewhat confused reaction from people. There is a range of prejudices linked to this lifestyle:
Digital nomads hardly do any work; they just relax on a beach somewhere…
Digital nomads make a ton of money and live in the most expensive places in the world…
Digital nomads are all young and single…
Digital nomads are people who moved to work abroad…
Digital nomads are individuals who work from home…
Being a digital nomad requires a job. And if you're not hard-working, you won't be able to keep that job for long. So firstly, not doing much work and just spending your time relaxing will most likely mean that your adventurous life of a digital nomad will be cut very short.
It might take you years of work and experience to be able to move to a more expensive destination such as the States, Brazil or Australia. The truth is, those "dream destinations" everyone wants to visit are usually incredibly expensive. Most digital nomads don't have the finances to afford them, and they often have to pick with more affordable locations (at least in the beginning).
Most stories you read about digital nomads feature the young and the single. In reality, there are a lot of couples and even families that choose to be digital nomads. Most of the time, they simply love travelling and can't imagine living an ordinary life in one place.
Next up, working from home. That only means having a remote job, but it doesn't include travelling. It is a great prerequisite for this lifestyle, but you still need the adventurous spirit to truly become a nomad.
Another thing modern nomads are not is expats. They are not people living and working abroad, they don't have a fixed address, and they switch locations at least every 6 months.
The ultimate goal of a digital nomadic lifestyle is to be completely location-independent.
The Good Ol' 9 To 5
Most digital nomads I talked to have a similar story. The main reason they decided to embrace this lifestyle is that they simply knew that a regular 9-5 job wasn't for them. They couldn't imagine restraining themselves to a small cubicle, rigid work hours and a boring routine.
A lot of them started by working from home because they loved the flexibility. You know the drill - being able to work whenever you want, stay in your pyjamas all day, and even take vacations when you feel like it. In short, enjoying having a job that is not location-bound.
But, what if you could travel and make money at the same time?
The people I talked to have different lives, but they agree on one thing - this is what living the good life actually means.
The best perk for any digital nomad is being able to work from anywhere in the world. That's why this lifestyle is perfect for those that never grow tired of exploring the world. Most digital nomads move at least twice yearly, some of them even more frequently. Besides, living freely allows them to travel whenever they feel like it.
With a durable, sporty backpack like Patagonia Arbor Pack 26L, which has a padded laptop sleeve, you can always work on the go.
And there's another amazing perk, especially for creative digital nomads - the possibility to organize your time however you like, and choosing what to work on.
Writers, bloggers, and designers have the freedom to work when they are inspired, which often happens during different times of the day. Whenever they feel stuck, they can always take a walk, read a book, meet their friends, have something to eat, and then return to their work.
Secondly, being freelancers, nomads often get to choose which projects to work on, as well as the people to work with. That means they get to follow their passion in work and personal life at the same time.
The Call Of The Urban Wilderness
Are you feeling the itch to pack up and go yet? Well, guess what – becoming a digital nomad is easier than you think.
The most successful digital nomads are online entrepreneurs. Having your own business is the best, but also the hardest way, and it would probably take years for your business to take off. So let's talk about realistic scenarios that will help you today.
If you already have a job that you love, ask yourself if you can do it remotely.
A waiter, or a shop assistant can't really leave the workspace. But, if you are a software developer, a writer, or a web designer, chances are you could do it out of the office just the same, if not even more efficiently. Maybe you don't need to quit your job to become a digital nomad. Just negotiate with your boss to let you telecommute.
Of course, not all jobs are created equal. If your current job doesn't allow you to work remotely, let's just find you one that does!
Could you become a writer, a blogger, a digital marketer, a web and graphic designer, a computer engineer, a video editor, an online teacher? You get the picture – pick anything that allows location-independence.
You can start freelancing on the side, and build a reputation on the freelancing websites so you can become financially independent. Or, you can try to find a remote job, because more and more companies are offering telecommuting positions.
If you can't think of one that fits, it's time to get to work. Before you pack your bags, learn, learn, learn. Gain some experience first. Step one is to make sure you can sustain this lifestyle without making too many sacrifices.
While we're at packing, most digital nomads like to travel light. A handy and stylish Herschel Novel 42.5l Duffle bag would be the ideal companion for a nomad.
If you are anxious to pack up and get on the road, you can start by finding a job abroad, moving away and then planning from there.
Corner Of The World
Being a digital nomad, the world is your oyster. You can spin the globe and choose any corner of the world to drop your anchor - at least for a few months.
Here are our favourites:
Thailand holds a special place in the heart of any (aspiring) digital nomad. It's one of the most exciting countries in the world, and even the beginners can find affordable living in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Ko Samui, or other cities in this gorgeous Asian country.
Looking to get the best out of the nomadic lifestyle? Let's just say that Thailand's great weather, heavenly beaches, and the wild nightlife will make sure you never get homesick.
The USA is a destination for more experienced and financially stable nomads considering the high cost of living. $2,000 and above isn't really for everyone's pocket. But let's face it - living and working in Las Vegas sure sounds exhilarating even if it's just for a month.
If you decide to call the US your home for a while, don't miss the opportunity to explore the whole continent. Just try not to go overboard on vacations (or at least bring your laptop).
We know we said that the digital nomad lifestyle isn't just about working at the beach. But if you choose to live in lovely Spain, you won't be able to resist. Digital nomads, I talked to couldn't decide what their favourite destination in Spain is. Instead, they advised dividing your time across several places, all equally stunning.
Spain checks out in all areas: it is fun, safe, tolerant, full of good co-working spaces, and the weather is always incredible. In other words - a digital nomad heaven.
Now you know - that restlessness and urge to pack a suitcase and roam the world don't make you irresponsible or flaky. It just means you're a digital nomad at heart.
Find a job that allows you to work from anywhere in the world, choose your first destination and get your laptop ready. Then let the biggest adventure of your life begin.