What Is a Digital Nomad and How to Become One
In late 2012, I left the U.S. to travel and work around the world and have been moving from one beautiful country to another every few years. How was I able to hop on all kinds of adventures while maintaining a steady income? Well, I became a digital nomad!
Right now, I’m looking over the turquoise-blue water at Railay Beach in Thailand. It’s one of the most alluring beaches I’ve ever been to. It’s a place where I like to get creative and work remotely. If you are filled with wanderlust but would still like to keep a stable job, you may want to follow in my footsteps and take on the digital nomad lifestyle. But what is a digital nomad, and how can you become one? Here’s what you need to know!
What Is a Digital Nomad?
First and foremost, a digital nomad is not a profession or a job title. It’s a lifestyle that suits millions of individuals who have an urge to travel. Choosing this lifestyle will allow you to work from anywhere in the world. It makes use of our current technological possibilities. In fact, all you really need is a laptop and an internet connection!
For example, I work as a graphic designer. I only need to depend on my MacBook, my phone, Wi-Fi hotspots, or wireless internet packages for my job. With this, I can be on the move constantly while still earning enough money as a digital nomad. That’s how I’m able to avoid the traditional 9–5 and turn the world into my office!
If you like to explore new cultures, cuisine, world music, busy cities, stunning displays of nature at work, and much more, this lifestyle is definitely for you. However, note that it’s not suited for every profession.
Actually, you’ll need to have some experience in jobs that you can complete remotely and as a freelancer. That could include writing, design, programming, and project management. It can also involve marketing, social media, editing, etc. Still, even if you aren’t a writer or programmer, you could learn to make use of the knowledge that you already have to start a freelancing career.
The Perks of Being a Digital Nomad
One of my favorite perks of this location-independent lifestyle is that I get to choose my own work hours. This makes my job incredibly flexible. It also makes me more productive! For instance, I work for several clients and on multiple design platforms. On most days, I can simply work whenever I want to. However, to get the full benefits of this, you need to be disciplined and complete your deadlines in time.
Nevertheless, the fact that I’m almost always on the move is a great motivator. If you’re a digital nomad, your new surroundings will push you to complete your work quickly. Then, you can simply move on and explore some gorgeous places or meet new people. And when you adapt to new surroundings each day and engage with different cultures, your ideas will become much more creative!
I’ve been living in Thailand for a year now, and I’ve moved from Bangkok, Pattaya, to Chiang Mai. Currently, I’m located in Krabi, which is close to the Railay peninsula. It’s a stunning location with several beaches and plenty of tropical vibes. My experience in Thailand and in other countries like Spain, Indonesia, and Malta has taught me a lot. I’ve learned that digital nomadism is a fantastic way to organize your life, manage expenses while bypassing extraneous costs, as well as make new connections. And that’s just my personal experience. You can reap multiple other perks of digital nomadism based on your personality and the way you live and work!
How to Become a Digital Nomad?
To be honest, I fell into the digital nomad rabbit hole when I was traveling around the U.S. My boyfriend broke up with me, and so I went on a trip around the country. I hooked up with a friend who worked online, and he inspired me to do the same. Dissatisfied with my office job, I started researching the digital nomadism trend and talked to some remote workers who have done it before. Then, I realized that this lifestyle takes a lot of preparation and persistence. That’s right. You have to jump through some hoops before you actually take off on your adventure.
Personally, I focused on money first and saved up a lot of cash by cutting off some financial ties. This was actually fairly simple because I canceled my gym memberships, any loose subscriptions and paid off most of my debt. Starting off like this will give you a budget as well as some extra funds in case of emergencies.
What’s more, since I was already an experienced designer, I didn’t need to focus so much on my skills. I managed to find remote jobs quickly, but if you have trouble during this step, then you should wait a while until you hone your skills. After that, it’s a matter of planning your trip and choosing your destination.
Digital Nomad Challenges and How to Overcome Them
It’s natural to be a bit worried if you want to take on this lifestyle. There are many challenges, and the first is to actually find a profession that encourages nomadic work. For example, if you sell cars for a living, you can’t exactly do that from a remote location. So meditate thoroughly on your career and the types of services you would be able to provide remotely.
Another big challenge is the fact that you’ll need to adjust to your new environment. If you’re not a good traveler, and if you can’t get along with new people from other cultures, the digital nomad lifestyle may not work out for you. Yet, you don’t have to move to Thailand right away. You can try digital nomadism in your home country and travel around some cities to see what that’s like for you. A helpful tip is to visit digital nomad corners and coworking spaces or find digital nomad communities in your new location. That will connect you to other nomads and will make your trip much easier.
What’s more, other challenges include health care access, which you could solve with travel health insurance. And when it comes to managing expenses, you’ll have to pick a job that is profitable enough to allow you to live like this. You will need to take good care of your finances and minimize any loose costs of living or unjustified spending.
What if You Just Want to Live in One City?
If you find a place that you really like, it’s perfectly fine to live in one city. However, that might defeat the purpose of digital nomadism. Choosing one city could be a good idea if you need a gateway to other destinations.
For example, many nomads settle in one city and rent an apartment. From there, they travel the world and come back to that city. You could, for instance, settle in Bangkok and use it as your home base as you explore the rest of Thailand. Having a home base like this might make your life easier, but it can be a bit more expensive since you’d always have to spend money on renting an apartment. I used to do this in Spain, but it was too expensive at the time. My solution was to find a friend in Bangkok and stay with her every time I was there. Now I travel around Thailand and still know that if the traveling wears me out too much, I can just return to my friend in Bangkok.
Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference, and that’s the beauty of digital nomadism. If you don’t like one city, you can spend a few weeks in it and just move on. Right now, I’m very comfortable while exploring Thailand, and I plan to stay for at least another year. But you could choose a totally different country like Poland. In the end, this lifestyle will give you the freedom to make your own choices and live your dream!
So did my story inspire you? The only true way to become a digital nomad is to pack your bags and embrace the adventure. Good luck on your travels!