How to Grow from a Remote Worker to a Digital Nomad

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There is one thing that separates the digital nomad from the regular ol’ remote worker: location dependency. If you want to fully embrace the opportunities provided by your remote work position, then you should work on achieving digital nomad status through becoming completely location independent.

What is a digital nomad?

Digital nomads are people who rely on the Internet and communication technology to run their life and make a living. They don’t walk into an office everyday—they email, they Slack, they Skype, and do whatever it takes to avoid ever encountering a cubicle. Digital nomads are completely location independent, which means that they aren’t tied down anywhere. In theory, the digital nomad could just move across the world on a whim. They work in coffee shops, libraries, co-working spaces, the back of their VW bus, you name it, and they probably don’t stay in the same place for more than three to four months.

Okay, but why do I want to be a digital nomad?

Digital nomads are the ultimate remote workers. After all, who else gets the opportunity to travel while still maintaining a steady stream of income? And there’s never been a better time than now to give it a try. Telecommunications around the world are increasing in speed and accessibility, meaning Skyping from Thailand to the US can be a breeze.

Being a digital nomad can also be a lot more affordable than you think. Places like Chiang Mai and Bali are hotspots for expats looking to take full advantage of the digital nomad lifestyle because they have a low cost of living and a tropical climate. But the beauty of the nomad experience is that you can shape your location to your needs. If you prefer somewhere more temperate, closer to the ski slopes, less urban, the world is truly your oyster.

Obviously, being a digital nomad isn’t for everyone. You have to be willing and able to travel alone and face all of the potential risks, and you have to be able to work productively despite the temptation of exploring all day. Luckily, there are a lot of resources for digital nomads to connect across the globe.

I’m convinced. How do I become a digital nomad?

While everyone has their own digital nomad style, there are a few essentials to becoming a digital nomad.

Establish your income and your network

Being a digital nomad isn’t going to work out if you don’t have an established skill set and a steady income, whether you work freelance, as a full-time remote employee, or if you own your own business. For those just starting out, it can be hard to find a position that will allow for the amount of freedom needed to be a digital nomad. Digital nomads don’t have the benefit of in-person mentorship and skill development. It might be a good idea to start with a full-time position that will teach you the basics and slowly become more independent from there.

Alternatively, you could start or buy your own business. If you’re your own boss, then nothing can tie you down. However, depending on your business model, it might be a good idea to stick around to establish a customer and employee base before you take off for Mexico City.

Get a good credit card

At first glance, you might think international travel would be a headache financially. Luckily, there are lots of digital nomads and long-term travellers in the same boat as you, and just as many credit card options that cater specifically to your needs. Make sure to pay attention to things like fees on international purchases and opportunities to rack up some airline miles or other rewards. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives you “travel protections” that include emergency medical and dental coverage and $300 in travel credit.

Try minimalism

Do you even need shoes besides one pair of flip-flops if you are working from the beach everyday? If you’re hopping on a plane every 3-4 months, keeping the packing to a minimum is always a plus. You’ll probably need a nice top for Skype calls, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need nice pants. Invest in items that will last a while, like one pair of good leather boots. You might also look into limiting the souvenirs that you will undoubtedly want to pick up on your journeys. Check out this blog post on minimalist travel to start thinking about what you can cut from your packing list.

Plan, plan, plan

A digital nomad experience might look like it’s just 24/7 spontaneous travel and adventure, but a successful digital nomad knows how to plan. In fact, the constant travel can start to feel like you are never not planning. In addition to just figuring out what AirBnB or hotel to stay in, you have to stay up-to-date on things like visa policies, taxes, and recommended vaccines wherever you go. While you might like the idea of not knowing what country you’ll be in in three months, it’s important to think long term so that visa application deadlines don’t pass you by, or plane tickets don’t skyrocket out of your price range.

The digital nomad lifestyle is more accessible than you think, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Check out this quiz to figure out where you should start you nomad journey.

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