How to Travel the World as a Digital Nomad (With No Regrets)
Have you always wanted to travel the world, experience different cultures, and explore the unknown? As a digital nomad, as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can work from anywhere in the world. The nomadic lifestyle can be a fulfilling one. Fortunately, there’ve been more digital nomad jobs popping up allowing more people to work abroad and discover what life is really all about.
If you’re the type of person who wants to live a life of freedom and adventure, this article will help you travel the world as a digital nomad while making sure you have no regrets.
So let’s start the adventure!
- What is a Digital Nomad?
- How to Become a Digital Nomad
- 9 Tips for Digital Nomads Who Want to Travel the World
- How much does it cost to travel the world as a digital nomad?
- 9 Digital Nomad Jobs for People Who Want to Travel the World
- Best Countries to Live In As A Digital Nomad
- 10 Digital Nomads Share Their Experiences
- Is the Nomadic Lifestyle Right for You?
- Want to Learn More?
What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who works online while travelling the world. Most people picture a digital nomad as someone who works on their laptop on a beach but that’s not completely accurate. For starters, the sun would probably make it hard for you to see your screen.
Becoming a digital nomad is about creating the perfect work-life balance. The life part is about adding more adventure, fun, excitement and fulfillment to your days. Digital nomads can do this by exploring new countries, experiencing new cultures, and meeting unique people around the world. And the work part involves working online to make passive income to continue experiencing the excitement of exploration and adventure.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
Many people are looking around, searching for the perfect answer to the question of how to become a digital nomad. On just the surface, it may sound like an exciting but frightening experience, but if you have the right tools and the right frame of mind, you can make it work. Here are a number of steps that you can take into consideration before starting your journey as a digital nomad and hopping from one place to another.
Step 1: Be Desperate to Get Away
Many people hate their jobs. But often times, when we hear the stories of digital nomads, we realize that they don’t hate their jobs. They really, really, really hate their jobs. Suffocated. Trapped. Depressed. These are just some of the ways digital nomads feel right before they take the leap. The extreme need to make a drastic change in their lives ultimately leads them towards the nomadic lifestyle. They’re desperate for freedom. This helps motivate them to do whatever it takes to succeed. It’s the desperation that pushes them to go all in. Without this desperation, you might not properly set yourself up for success in your online business. The urgent need to leave your old life behind will also help motivate you during the challenges you’ll face as a digital nomad.
Step 2: Prepare for the Nomadic Lifestyle
Before quitting your 9 to 5 job and packing your bags, you need to make sure that you can do this. In your daydreams, the nomadic lifestyle is perfect for you. It’s all sunshine and rainbows. But all digital nomads eventually face burnout and loneliness from the nomadic lifestyle. It’s a different way of life. But it’s not the cure to all your problems. You’ll have some amazing moments but you’ll also have some unpleasant ones too. It’s all part of the digital nomad package.
The first step in preparing for the nomadic lifestyle is to start creating a side income. Most digital nomads prefer passive income like dropshipping or selling information products. However, there are also digital nomads who work as remote freelancers. You can even find digital nomad jobs by finding positions that allow you to telecommute or work remote. You’ll want to have at least the cost of basic expenses saved up in case of emergencies. That cost will vary depending on which country you’ll be staying in.
The next step is to do a trial run. Take a one or two week vacation from your 9 to 5. During this vacation, you should be travelling to a new place. However, unlike a standard vacation where you relax, this vacation will require you to do some work.
Were you able to be productive while abroad? Did you make enough money from your online projects to pay your bills? Did you run into any issues? For example, some digital nomads experience issues when they’re processing credit card payments in a country outside of where the credit card is registered. That means, if you have an American credit card but are processing cards from Indonesia, you might get flagged for fraud. As a result, you might not be able to process payments.
Step 3: Evaluate – Is being a digital nomad right for you?
The goal of the trial run is to help you learn whether the nomadic lifestyle is right for you. It’ll also help clarify whether you want to be a digital nomad or if it’s just time to find a new job.
After working as a digital nomad for a couple weeks, how did you feel? Did you want to do it again? Were there any things you wanted to better prepare for first? Or did you feel like it wasn’t for you?
Keep in mind trial runs don’t always give an accurate representation of what it’ll be like. There will be some amazing epiphanies you just can’t get in a two week period. However, there will also be some unsettling obstacles that happen over long-term periods as well.
9 Tips for Digital Nomads Who Want to Travel the World
- Start with shorter vacations: Keep in mind that when practicing with a shorter vacation, the focus should be on being productive abroad rather than vacationing. The test runs are meant to help you understand if you’ll have the motivation to work as a digital nomad. A digital nomad isn’t a full-time traveller. It’s a part-time traveller, part-time worker.
- Have a steady stream of income: We wrote an article on money-making ideas that might help you build out your revenue streams. You can also find digital nomad jobs on freelance websites. There’s two main ways to make money: passively and actively. Passive income would be a dropshipping business that you work on that require only a couple hours of work per day. Actively is where you trade time for money such as freelance writing. Ultimately, it’s up to you how much work you want to put in. If you ever run into money problems, digital nomad jobs like freelance writing are usually easy to find for emergencies.
- Have your finances in order + insurance: One of the biggest mistakes I made when I first became an entrepreneur involved money. In Tips for Starting an eCommerce Business Without Going Broke, I share some lessons I learned from making some bad financial mistakes. You might want to check it out before making the same mistakes I did. You’ll also want to make sure you know the laws about taxes for running a business abroad. It’s also a good idea to have insurance for your business and yourself while working abroad. Make sure you also have limited debt and that you have a steady income before taking the leap.
- Practice living out of a suitcase: Most digital nomads practice a life of minimalism. Since it can be expensive to bring all your possessions as you travel the world, most digital nomads only bring their essentials. Practice living out of a suitcase while at home. Put everything you want to bring with you into a suitcase. For at least two months, only use the things in the suitcase. Can you do it? Did you cheat and add something else? Did you miss anything? Many digital nomads feel exhausted living out of a suitcase. Over time, they begin to miss certain outfits and products that they had before they left.
- Join social groups: Digital nomads often experience loneliness. Combat this by signing up for digital nomad Facebook groups, meetups and coworking spaces. You can also join local digital nomad groups for your area to learn more about the nomadic lifestyle from digital nomads in your community.
- Stick in one place for several months: The most exhausting part of the nomadic lifestyle is the constant travel. Most digital nomads prefer sticking in one place at a time. For your first run at it, you might choose to stay in one place for a month to see if you like the area. This also gives you time to get to know the area and determine if you want to maintain the nomadic lifestyle. Since you’re used to being settled in one place, it’s the easiest transition. And it helps give you a change of scenery.
- Create a schedule: While living the nomadic lifestyle, you need to find time to start a successful side business. The side business helps you travel for longer and to afford to cross off items off your bucket list. You’ll also want to create a schedule for yourself. Are you a morning person or a night owl? How do you want to balance your work and travels? Some digital nomads work for two weeks and then take two weeks off. Other digital nomads work daily for a couple hours each day. Some treat it like a 9 to 5 job in a foreign country enjoying mostly evenings and weekends abroad. You need to find the schedule that works best for you. If you’re running low on funds, you need to invest more time finding digital nomad jobs.
- Get the business skills you need: Running a business abroad requires several skills. This means that as a digital nomad you need to be able to adapt to new environments. You need to know how to make money online. Self-promotion is probably one of the most important skills if you’re working as a freelancer. But overall marketing skills are a must for digital nomads. Do you have the skills to run a business online? To succeed as a digital nomad you’re going to need them.
- Go with the flow: Obstacles are going to present themselves throughout your travels as a digital nomad. Don’t become afraid of failure. You’ve got what it takes to succeed as a digital nomad. If you realize it’s not right for you, you still had the opportunity to experience the nomadic lifestyle. You’ll have some interesting stories to tell people. Challenges that you face along the way can be shared to help or even inspire others. Learn how to triumph when you experience a few rocky days. You’re strong enough to handle any roadblock you face.
How much does it cost to travel the world as a digital nomad?
The cost to travel the world as a digital nomad will vary based on the countries you visit. The most affordable places to travel to are within Southeast Asia such as Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. By choosing to travel in those countries, you’ll have a low cost of living and you can continue charging USD or Euros depending on where you’re from to make even more money since the exchange rate works to your advantage. Keep in mind that while working abroad you’ll still need to pay taxes so you’ll want to set aside at least one-third of your earnings to save for taxes but the amount you’ll owe will be based on how much you make.
If you stay at one place at a time, it’s more affordable than travelling constantly. Buying from local grocery stores instead of restaurants will also keep your costs low. Renting a home or staying at a hostel will also keep your expenses lower than if you stayed at a hotel. Taking public transportation instead of renting a car or taking uber will also be more affordable.
Create a realistic budget based on the countries you want to live in. Which countries can you afford to live in based on your earnings from your digital nomad jobs? Then create a plan to either make more money or do whatever it takes to stick to your budget. Travelling the world doesn’t need to be expensive. It’s not about creating a luxury vacation. It’s about seeing the country through the local’s eyes to gain perspective.
9 Digital Nomad Jobs for People Who Want to Travel the World
- Dropshipping: Sell physical products online without carrying inventory. You might want to check out these business ideas for your store.
- Writing: Create content for other brands trading time for money
- Blogging: Build your own content asset and monetize through ads, coaching, information products
- SEO Optimization: Helps brands optimize their websites for search
- Affiliate Marketing: Drive traffic to other brands’ products and make a commission
- Website Design: Sell website themes or modify websites for bloggers, store owners, etc
- Ecommerce Tasks: You can help ecommerce store owners with their tasks
- Product Photography: You can take pictures of products in landscapes around the world
- Remote work: You can check out Craigslist, ProBlogger or Upwork for remote opportunities
Best Countries to Live In As A Digital Nomad
Deciding where you should live is tough when you’re a digital nomad. Which place should you pick when you’ve got so many options to choose from? There are a number of factors to consider when making this choice as a digital nomad. And the factors you consider may be different from what other people value to be crucial. Maybe some people have a higher tolerance for rainy days than others, some people might need a place where there’s exciting night-life, whereas others might just want a small town feeling. Here’s a list of top countries we’ve compiled that could best fit your needs as a digital nomad.
- United States
Kelly Chase, a digital nomad and digital strategist at The Content Factory, shares her experience of the nomad life with her best friend and colleague Kari DePhillips. She says, “Creating a sustainable work-life balance can be tricky when you’re traveling all the time. Traveling, though fun, is both physically and emotionally taxing, and it’s easy to get distracted by everything there is to see in a new city. Kari and I have seen more digital nomads burn out than we care to count.
One of the main keys to our success is that we’d already been doing this in smaller doses for years. We knew what we were getting into, and we understood from the beginning what it was going to take to make it work. I always recommend to people who are starting out in the digital nomad lifestyle that they try a few smaller trips first to see how they like it and to get used to juggling the demands of work and travel.
It also really helps to stay in one location for a longer period of time and avoid moving around too frequently. When Kari and I started we thought we would do a different location every month, but we quickly figured out that that was not realistic and started staying for at least 6-8 weeks. Not only does that cut down on the amount of time that you spend feeling jet-lagged, but it takes the pressure off. If you find yourself bogged down with work for a few days, it’s easier to stay focused because you know that you still have more time to explore.”
Jeff Moriraty, owner of Mothers Family Rings, “I travel about 6 months out of the year. The inspiration to travel came from my father. Being a gemologist growing up I watched him travel all over the world. He would bring back amazing things and the pictures made me very curious about what was out there. Before I started traveling extensively I made sure I had a job that would allow me to do the thing I wanted such as travel, but also supplied me with enough money to experience everything I wanted. I started an extension of my family’s business, which is done totally online. This allows me to work from anywhere and bring in an income.
I don’t have just one moment that I remember while traveling, but I absolutely love getting lost. Sounds strange, but that’s when you feel the most out of your element, but you also find the most amazing things.
I have traveled to China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Tibet, Egypt, Honduras, Mexico, Peru, Greece, Jordan and more. I plan to leave again shortly starting with Israel.
I don’t think the digital nomad lifestyle is for everyone. You have to be comfortable away from family and not having a central place to call your home for long periods of time. If you want to get into this lifestyle, I recommend starting small. Go away for a month. Did you get homesick? No, next try two months and on from there. This will help you see if you are really ready without giving everything up beforehand.”
Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at Maple Holistics says,“I personally became a digital nomad a while ago after my digital eCommerce business took off. Since going through with the decision to run my business by proxy, I’ve been free to travel and innovate as I go, finding gaps in markets around the world and opportunities too.
The whole idea of the internet is to connect humans from around the world. By being able to physically travel from one country to another, you get a more realistic idea of what their culture is like, which markets or products are likely to succeed there and how to market your brand or service in the region effectively. First-hand experience is always the best and no Skype call or email chain comes close to that.
I spend most of my time travelling around parts of Asia as this is where a large majority of my suppliers are based. Personally, I find that spending personal time with suppliers is a good way to ensure that I get the best quality products at a fair price and have more room to negotiate with in general – as establishing a professional relationship beyond the internet tends to generate a greater sense of trust.
While I love this lifestyle completely (it’s allowed me to reclaim the time of my life and enjoy it while minimizing overheads), I wouldn’t prescribe it to everyone. Unless you already have enough of a financial cushion to protect you in case of an emergency or have a stable business, trying the nomadic lifestyle may be too much for some to handle. It requires a great deal of personal responsibility, as living on holiday and trying to work at the same time may become too much for some to balance.
However, my advice for those embarking on this way of life is to ease into it. Take a holiday before you set off on your venture – so that you get the desire to do nothing out of your system. I personally found that I was far more effective in my work once I found my groove. Depending on your personality type, that may come sooner than later – but so long as you have a stable bass on which to do so, or can ensure you’ll have enough of an income to survive in the interim, you should be fine.”
Ryan O’Connor, owner of One Tribe Apparel, “From 16 to 24 I was in a band and I hoped to travel the world that way. When the band ended I knew I still didn’t want a traditional career path so I found online marketing, worked at an agency for a few years and then left to start my digital nomad journey.
My first time in Asia I was taking client calls at 3 or 4 AM if I had to but it pays off in other ways. I also like to focus in for a weeks at a time working long hours and then reward myself with an adventure.
For instance this February I went to Carnival in Brazil and didn’t do any work all week except reply to a few time sensitive emails. The year after I started my business we rented a big house in the mountains of Thailand for a photo shoot. After the photo shoot we had a big group of friends around and were having a celebration. I took a moment to look out over the hills and it just struck me like a lightning bolt how incredible it was that I was standing here and how if you told me where I’d be two years earlier I wouldn’t have believed it.
I’ve been to Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Philippines, Tahiti, Ireland, England, Scotland, Hungary. I used to try and talk my friends back home into coming along with me but I’ve since given up on that. I think it takes a unique personality type as it’s not all glitz and glamour and can be lonely and racked with uncertainty. One month your with good friends on a beach and the next you move onto a new location and are alone in an ugly motel room surrounded by insects. You have to be able to take the bad with the good and because of that it has to be for people who really love it. Don’t take the “nomad” part too seriously, some feel like they have to move on to a new spot every month or they lose their nomad cred but I think that’s ridiculous. If you want to do this long term then your business has to be a priority and sometimes that means settling into a more normal routine.”
Melissa Dailey, Freelance Traveller at You Can Culture Leap, says, “ I have been working for myself as a digital nomad since April 2016. My work-life balance is far healthier since I quit my previous job. The stress and time spent was taking a serious toll on my physical and mental health, so I knew I had to make a change. I was also preparing to move abroad within the next 6 months, so I figured I should quit and get ready. I decided to use my savings to build up a business that would support me during my travels.At first, finding myself with a suddenly-open schedule made it difficult to stay motivated. But now I use a to-do list app to track all tasks that must be completed during the day, or by the end of the week or month. I also work a little bit each day–just a couple hours or so. This regular, light schedule reduces stress and makes it easier for me to make progress on larger tasks over time. And of course, I have plenty of time left for more important things, like friends, food, exercise, and travel!
Speaking of travel, that’s the whole reason to become a digital nomad, isn’t it? So while I recommend settling down in a single location for a stretch of time, it’s especially important to get a change of scenery every 3-5 months. Do this by either moving on to a new location or by taking a vacation. Either way, take a few days to do something different, no work required. This will recharge your batteries and help you keep going.
My best moment was during my solo road trip through Yosemite. After taking sunrise photos of the tufas at Mono Lake, I saw signs leading to a volcano that I hadn’t heard about. Before I knew it, I had followed the signs and hiked to the rim of a baby volcano. At the time, I was full of hope, with two months left before I moved abroad. And then, watching the sun rise from the top of a volcano, my hope only grew. Though I’d just started my freelance career, I already had one client and knew more would come. In the meantime, I reveled in the fact that climbing a volcano is something I’d always wanted to do! And, without even planning to, I’d crossed it off my bucket list!”
Leah McHugh, creator of Get Dirty With Me, a range of all natural powdered cleansers, says, “I was a backpacker for many years when I was younger. I tried to come back and live a “regular” life, but within a few years I got bored and wanted to travel again. This way I don’t have to choose between travel and a career, so it seemed like the obvious next step. Sometimes I’m really busy with projects, and other times are quieter. I try to make the most of the quiet times. And I try to remind myself that I work better when I take a break. There’s no point in being somewhere new if I don’t stop and enjoy it! I traveled a lot before I was a Digital Nomad. But since 2014 I’ve been to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, England, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Ireland, Canada, the Canary Islands, Thailand and the Philipines. It doesn’t take as much money as you think to get started. Spend longer times in each place to really get a feel for it, and so you don’t get burned out moving all the time.”
Sarah Sloboda, a photographer, says “After living in NYC for 10 years, I wanted something “new,” but I couldn’t imagine what place would be as cutting edge as NYC in terms of stimulating new ideas for me as an artist. So eventually, I got the idea that I wouldn’t have to be tied to one place. I put my stuff into storage, and I started looking at short-term Airbnbs and house-sitting gigs, and the next thing I knew, I had been a digital nomad for over 2 years. I recommend the lifestyle for anyone feeling like they want to scratch the itch of having the freedom to work/live where they want. It showed me that there really are no “rules” of how life should be, and that I don’t have to be bound by the clock — I started to think in multiple time zones so it was impossible to always be tied to 9-5.
As someone with some chronic health issues, it was a bit challenging to do it as long as I did — it is NOT like a long vacation. I still worked my usual hours, but also had to spend time each week or month planning and organizing my next travel, accommodations, packing and unpacking, and marketing for my next string of gigs as a freelancer. So, it was fantastically freeing, but more work to maintain than people realize. Interestingly, “re-entry” into the atmosphere of the “living in one location” world took longer and more effort than I would have expected! Once I got started in the digital nomad realm, it became easier to just keep at it, than return to regular life. That power of inertia made me ponder how some people don’t conceive of giving up their usual routine for something like nomading because it seems “easier” to stay home and live life as usual. I found out, rather, that I really can get used to anything, and whatever one gets into the habit of is easy to continue — even the habit of not having one’s name on a long-term lease.” (Photo credit: Gary Ashley)
Steph Lagana, digital nomad and owner of Mythical Entreprises, “I felt the hunger to become a digital nomad from the first time I heard of it, at least a decade ago. After a series of events which included a 6 month stint in Afghanistan, I decided to leave my career in national security to become a life coach (if you think that’s nuts, you should hear my parents perspective!).
My best moments as a digital nomad include sitting on the beach in Goa, India having breakfast and finding out my writing was being published and sleeping under the stars on a camel safari in the Thar Desert.
I would definitely not recommend this lifestyle to everyone. It can be discomfiting to downscale enough that you can live out of luggage. It can also wear terribly if you are regularly on the move.
I recommend taking chunks of time, at least 4 months, and exploring different areas. That way you can build connections, develop routine, and not be expending so much energy moving around that you are too taxed for business. If you haven’t engaged in long-term travel before it’s definitely worth trying out before deciding to sell your house and make other permanent transitions. I was fortunate in that I simply let go of my apartment lease and pushed the bulk of my goods into storage while I explored.”
Jenna Rose Robbins, a freelance writer, says, “I’ve been a digital nomad for the past five years — and it happened by accident. I went on a vacation/business trip to Europe and ended up staying for nearly four years. Although I’m now back in the States, I’m driving around the country visiting friends and family — 15 states and counting since August. I had worked from home before, now home is anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. I had a client for a few months who didn’t realize I wasn’t in California, where I used to be based. She told me she was going to be in Berlin the following week and I said we should meet up for coffee. She was shocked when I told her I’d been in Berlin the whole time. The funniest part about this is that most people hire me because they think I’m in LA, and few ask to meet me in person anyway.
In the past five years, I’ve been to more than 25 countries, bringing my grand total to just over 50. I’ve spent the most time in Germany, France, Spain, and Sri Lanka. My tip for anyone considering the digital nomad life is make a list of everything you need to get your work done (Wi-Fi, suitable working space, VPN, etc.) and make sure that you know how to work all of it, even when you don’t have the manual in your native tongue. Get involved with sites like Meetup where you can find other nomads. The expat community in most countries is very welcoming, plus you’ll probably meet people who can help you navigate your new temporary home.”
Silvia Christmann, a growth coach and digital nomad says, “No matter where I go or what happens I always feel the world is my oyster and I can go anywhere I want. Every time I get to a new place where I make myself at home I get that same feeling. This is nice…for a little while and then I’ll see what comes next. This lifestyle comes with a fair amount of uncertainty and that can be really stressful and unsettling for some people. Not everyone can thrive in it. And that is not a bad thing. If you love consistency and value physical closeness and quality time with your friends and family! This lifestyle is not for you.”
Is the Nomadic Lifestyle Right for You?
The fantasy of relaxing on a beach, drinking a fine wine without having a care in the world can cloud what being a digital nomad is all about. So, let’s breakdown if the nomadic lifestyle is right for you.
If you love travelling, being alone, constant change, and are a pro at jumping over obstacles, you might fit into the nomadic lifestyle. Digital nomads will be exposed to loneliness so you need to be able to cope with that. Keep in mind loneliness isn’t only about the absence of people. It’s also about feeling alone in your mind. A lack of true connection. You’ll also need to be prepared to deal with change and challenges. Each country has its own set of laws that you’ll constantly need to be aware of as you travel within them.
The digital nomad lifestyle might not be right for you if you’re family oriented, need routine, crave constant social interaction and require stability. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t find those things as a digital nomad. You might connect with strangers in ways that you haven’t before. There are coworking offices around the world for you to meet new people and create a routine for your work-balance. There are also digital nomad groups and events so that you can travel the world with new friends.
The truth is, there’s good and bad within both lifestyles. Whatever you decide to do, the reality is that the nomadic lifestyle is almost always temporary. Digital nomads eventually do settle down. They might choose to go back home to their friends and family or create a new home somewhere abroad. Maybe you need to escape the 9 to 5 for a year… or 10. But ultimately, you’ll find a place that you can call home. And more importantly, you’ll discover that you really can life live on your own terms.
Want to Learn More?
- 10 Remote Work Statistics That You Need to Know in 2020 [Infographic]
- How to Start a Business: A Guide to Starting a Business
- How to Run a Business Whilst Travelling the World
- How to Turn a Side-Hustle Into an Adventure Around the World
Do you want to be a digital nomad? Let us know where in the world you’d love to work!