how to become a digital nomad

How to become a digital nomad

In Uncategorized by Isabella BiavaLeave a Comment

Let’s start from the basics and learn how to become a digital nomad, what it means, and how to travel the world working from anywhere.

This is a new section of Boundless Roads blog where I talk about my nomad life and how it shifted from analog nomad to expat to digital nomad life. And how you can do it too.

I hope this guide will help every woman who wishes to work location-independent make the switch and believe in herself and the universe. Because that’s all it takes, besides hard work.

Read more about my personal journey.

What being a digital nomad really means

Most people get confused on the semantics. So let’s get it out of the way.

The digital nomad

Being a digital nomad by definition means working from a laptop from anywhere, no matter if you work for somebody else or you have your own business.

The main point of being digital nomad is to have the freedom to travel everywhere you wish.

There is a catch though.

The life of a digital nomad can be a very frugal. In fact we don’t need an office for example, we can work from a coffee shop, a co-working space or our temporary home or even a bus. The only MUST is a good wifi connection. This is an essential and cannot-live-without element of the digital nomad life.

The expatriate (friendly known as expat)

But if you work from your laptop from your own home in a foreign country, you are not a digital nomad. In that case, you would be an expatriate who works from home.

The Nomad

The nomad is anyone who travels and live either on savings or on jobs that they would pick up along the way. It’s kind of tricky because it’s usually not legal to work in a foreign country even for a short period of time, with some exception. I have a friend that is below 30 ys old and managed to travel around Australian with a working visa. I found out when I was already in my forty. My bad!

Or there are work exchange jobs that you can easily find online. You don’t get paid usually but you get food and a place to stay in exchange of 30 hours of work per week. I will talk about it more later on.

You can also find jobs where the company pays and arrange your visa, for example on Cruises. I will talk about it in details in another post.

I was a tour rep for about 4 years and I changed destination every 6 months to 1 year and my company would help me arrange my visa and permits.

The Freelancer

The freelancer work for companies on a contract base but it’s not necessarily a digital nomad, as they can easily work from their home.

In this post, we will talk about how to achieve a nomadic life both digital and analog 🙂

Are you still with me?

Before you decide if the digital nomad life is for you, you might want to read about the benefits and the downside of being a digital nomad.

The PROS and CONS of a digital nomad lifestyle

Obviously it’s not the same for everyone. We all have different priorities and we love and cherish different things. Here below I am sharing the benefits and downside of being a digital nomad according to my experience.

The benefits of being a digital nomad

I have been a digital nomad for about 3 years and for me the benefits outnumber the CONs. Here they are:

  • The freedom of working on your own terms, even when you have deadlines, you still decide which part of the day is dedicated to working and which part is to rest or fun.
  • The freedom of being anywhere you want in this world
  • The most amazing feeling that you own your life and your time. This one is priceless.
  • You meet beautiful people some of whom become friends forever
  • You expand your own limits
  • You are free from the toxic environment of the office and all the politics of the corporate world. This one was making me seriously sick.
  • The costs of living can be very low if you want.

The downside of being a digital nomad

  • Not being able to have my own pets – but that’s why I housesit so I can spend time with the furry ones. (More on how to become a housesitter soon)
  • Not being able to bring lots of clothes with me, although I always exceed a reasonable limit and I never understand what traveling light means. I get bored by wearing the same clothes and love fashion. But since I have to optimize space I have to give up on the stuff I love and be practical.
  • Sometimes it’s lonely. I miss having a reunion with my closest friends of a lifetime even if I meet amazing people on the road.
  • Sometimes I don’t have the lure of traveling that I used to when I was waiting for a year to go on vacation because I am always traveling. So instead I can’t wait to have some stability.
  • Being constantly on the move is exhausting. Trust me it’s true. Besides the packing and unpacking part, it’s also the planning and searching for where to stay what to do, and all the things that you read in my blog. And that’s why blogging is a full-time job and really tiring. The amount of research and walking the talk and testing and trying is incredibly huge.

Are you a Digital Nomad? what are your pros and cons? Or would is it that you would miss the most about a stable life if you were one? I look forward to hearing from you.

Prepare for the leap

Once you know that you want to take the leap, you will need to prepare yourself. Make a plan or plan that you don’t want to have a plan. But at least get your finance together.

In other words, save money.

It took me 2 years to decide whether I wanted to leave my fancy 9 to 5 job or not and in the meantime I started to save money…just in case.

I didn’t know at that time that I would want to stay on the road for so long and I wanted to make sure I had enough money to stay on the road as long as possible.

If I could turn back time I would make less mistakes but I am very proud of the way I could save.

You can read more on my post How I saved money before and during my trip around Mexico for one year

I wanted to live on the road for a while without worrying about making more money, so I preferred to stay on a budget and enjoy my freedom, at the very beginning.

However I had some low paying gigs every now and then and I spent a lot of time working from cafes or my Airbnb while traveling, which made me understood that it was the life I have ever wanted.

I also started a business with a few friends but I had to let it go because I realized it was not for me and I regretted spending 2 months of my time working hard for nothing. But, hey, you learn from mistakes.

My take from that experience is that if you know what you ultimately want you set the sail to head towards that direction.

If you don’t know what you want you just go where the wind takes you and you run the risk of running in a circle and not going anywhere. And that was my biggest mistake, in a way.

You can also decide that you just want to go with the flow. Anything works, as long as you know the consequences.

So before taking the leap, have faith but do the math as well.

Also keep in mind the following:

  • If you are scared think that you can always go back, maybe not with the same job, but you can always use your skills to find another one (unless another pandemic strikes in – “facepalm”)
  • The nomadic life is not for everyone, and you might decide after a few months that it’s not for you. Many people do, there is nothing wrong with it. It’s not a failure, it’s about self-awareness and being true to oneself.

How to earn a living while traveling

So now that you have decided that the digital nomad life is for you, it’s time to find out what kind of job will allow you to work remote.

However, before even taking that step I would first figure out what are your skills and, most of all, what you enjoy doing, what you are passionate about.

Basically, what is it that I want to do for a living? Do I work better for a company or do I want to become an entrepreneur?

Of course I cannot tell you what to do, but if you haven’t figured it out yet, here some books that might help you ponder and brainstorm some ideas:

Start with Why – Simon Sinek
Reinvent yourself – James Altucher
The four hour week – Tim Ferri
100 $ start up – Chriss Guillebeau
The happiness of pursuit – Chriss Guillebeau
Vagabonding – Rolf Pott

Mind that they are not manuals but inspiring book that give you food for thoughts.

To help you brainstorming job ideas I also wanted to share with you the jobs that I know of that you can do from anywhere.

Freelance jobs

Now that more and more companies are appreciating the benefits of contracting freelancers there are more and more jobs that you can find and get paid by project or by the hours.

The main one that I can think of is a writer. There are many websites that outsource writers. Mainly are in English but I am sure that any country needs local writers for their sites. It’s a matter of understanding where to find them. Of any topic. So if you are an expert in finance or food, or DIY craft, flooring, painting, you name it, or you are a techy person or an expert of a destination, you can find websites that need writers for their content.

I just hired somebody to write about California on my blog, and I am working as a travel writer for a company who wants Mexican related content.

And so there are many other freelancing jobs, such as photographers, web designers, artists, social media managers, project managers, engineers to name a few.

There is a relatively new professional figure that has become very popular among the remote workers community and it is called Virtual Assistant.

The virtual assistant is basically the person you want to outsource if you want to delegate some aspect of your business that are not your forte so that you can focus on the core business of your company.

One thing could be social media management but also project management or staff coordination, customer service, e-commerce management, to give you a few examples.

Here below is a list of sites where you can find online jobs:

Upwork

Fiverr

People per hour

Flexjobs

Powertofly

Pitchwiz (only for writers)

Full time remote jobs

Differently from freelancers who work on assignment full time remote jobs are basically jobs that are for an undetermined time and have a specific hours and of course they are paid by the hour. Some of them still give you a freelance contract but you are basically treated as a remote employee.

I used to have one for some time before the COVID-19 changed the entire world job panorama, and although it wasn’t exactly my ideal system as I was still tight to a schedule, I still had the freedom to be anywhere as long as I respected my shift and had good wifi in a quiet area since I was talking to clients over the phone. That was a customer service position.

In this case, you can decide your field (in my case it was tourism for example) search for the biggest company in that field you are an expert and search in their Career section if they have any openings in a remote position.

Otherwise the above mentioned links are also good to find this sort of jobs. Just make sure you use the right keywords to search for what you are looking for within the platform.

Blogging

Blogging has become quite a popular way of making money and although the market might be saturated, I believe that if you have the right niche and start in the right way, anyone new in blogging can succeed too.

I have been blogging for about 4 years now, although only in the past 2 years I have treated my blog as a business (part time business) and I am still working hard to making it profitable. But if I had to start from scratch I would have grabbed one of the many online blogging courses in order to avoid so much wasting of time in correcting the mistakes.

There are also many blogging groups on facebook that allow you to mingle with other bloggers and exchange ideas and there is always one expert blogger that is willing to help and share some precious pearls of wisdom. However remember that there is always a catch and the founder of the group is selling something. Normally a blogging course or a book. Sometimes it’s worth it, but always make sure it’s a good fit for you. There are so many experts and so many courses out there and it’s really difficult to understand right from wrong. And sometimes even if many other bloggers have benefited from them it might be not a good fit for you.

I know for a fact.

I have bought three courses and two blogging books and I managed to get a couple of insights from each of them but definitely not worth the outrageous amount of money I have paid.

In both cases, it was because a trustworthy person suggested the course, and in both cases, I fell and it was not a good fit for me. So keep it in mind when you choose. Ask around, ask specific questions, and if there is a refund guarantee, use it without fear. I didn’t, because I felt bad and now I regret it.

Also please consider that blogging can be fun, I still love it after 4 years of ups and downs, but it comes with lots of frustrations and there are days when you just want to throw the laptop off the window.

But I guess it’s like any business, there is a lot of trial and error factor but if you love what you do and you believe in what you are blogging about, you will always fall on your feet and carry on.

Just take these blogging tips that I have also gathered from other (successful) bloggers:

  • Chose your niche wisely and make sure you are an expert
  • Learn the technical part and the WordPress basics from the beginning so you don’t waste your time correcting the mistake after. (If you are not a web savvy hire a web designer from the beginning)
  • learn SEO right away, you need it.
  • Read free blogging guides such as Briand Dean’s Backlinko, in my opinion, the most complete and professional.
  • Join FB group for bloggers to exchange opinions and updates from the blogging world.

Become an enterpreneur

Bloggers are entrepreneurs but I wanted to leave it as a category on its own for some reasons.

Marketing agents, virtual assistants, translators, photographers, to name a few, can either work as a freelancer or open their own business as “solopreneurs” or contracting collaborators. It is a possibility and, as usual, it always depends on what you want.

I do believe there is a subtle line between the two positions but a huge difference in terms of taxation I guess. That depends on your country of residence and you should talk to a financial consultant to make sure you do things right.

Non-digital jobs

If you are not like one of those persons who love to spend all day in front of a laptop there are also tons of jobs that require you to travel.

For example you can find a job on a cruise, or on a sailing boat.

There are tons of jobs out there and even if you don’t have an experience, if you know a couple of languages and you are a people person you can surely get a change as a firs-timers.

Yoga instructors can travel the world and ask to collaborate with different yoga centers or hotels. Many luxury hotels offer yoga and fitness teachers an exchange for a week or two stay in exchange of yoga classes. Not a bad deal.

English teachers can find jobs online in different teaching platforms.

What skills do I need to become a digital nomad?

Well, that depends on what kind of job or business you are interested in.

By now you might have already identified your area of interest but you might not have the skills or you feel like you want to improve your knowledge.

Worry not. The queen of courses (me) will help you.

I love to take online courses and develop my skills, well, my problem is that I want to learn too many things and I get overwhelmed.

But if you are more disciplined you can check out the below sites that offer amazing online courses where you can develop the skills that you are more interested in.

Creative Live – it’s a great platform with very professional courses – I especially took photography and photoshop courses, illustrator and a couple of art courses and they were very professionally put together. Also if you keep an eye on it, sometimes you get amazing deals and also the chance to watch the courses on streaming for free.

Udemy is another interesting platform with thousands of courses of every sort. It’s not so selective as creative live, but it’s much cheaper and you will have many comments to browse through to help you understand whether the course is worth the money. From Social Media to UX Design and art, you name it.

Domestika.  I love it because the teachers are really professional and they give you so much information and also tips on other sources and inspirational competitors of theirs. However, the courses in themselves are pretty basics and the majority of them are in Spanish with subtitles in English.

Coursera is an American online learning platform since 2012 that offers massive open online courses, specializations, and degrees from many universities across the US.

Courses on Coding – Learning how to code, is a very demanded profession. It’s a long journey but you will never be left without a job. And the better you get the easier it will be to find employment or work as a freelancer. This site offers free courses from the basics. But there is a catch. You need to really like it. If you are not passionate you will get lost along the way. It’s super freaking difficult. In fact, I gave up after a week. It was not my thing.

Lettering course with Loveleighloops – I have recently started a new addiction to procreate, the iPad app to create amazing drawings and lettering. The amount of artwork that you can do with that is unimaginable and I love it so much that I  made myself believe that one day I will make such beautiful works that I will live on that. Crazy right? watch me!  In any case, whether you want to become a pro or just kill time if you like drawing and coloring this is an amazing tool that you can use.

For those who don’t know, lettering is a kind of calligraphy but more creative and artistic.

Skillshare is another amazing learning platform that offers any kinds of online courses, from digital art to painting, social media management, coding, photography, you name it.

Learn a new language with Duolingo. I use it to learn Portuguese. The app is super funny and friendly.

Legal aspect of being a Digital Nomad

I am not going to get technical here because I am not in the position of offering advice on this subject, besides every country has its own rules. However, in order to make sure you are acting according to the law of your own country, I am just suggesting to find a financial counselor or expert of your country of residence and do all the necessary paperwork that will keep you out of jail when you go back 🙂

Meaning that if you have your own company register it and pay your taxes, or if you are a freelance do whatever you need to do to play by the rules. If you hate this part of the business, I hear you, find somebody who does it for you. That’s the best spent money for your sanity.

Where to travel as a digital nomad?

Now that you know you want to join the digital nomad’s life and you are planning your departure, you might want to decide where to go.

This Travel Resources guide will help you organize your trip.

However before deciding where to go as a nomad, you must understand a couple of things.

Read on.

Traveling on a Tourist visa

Here comes the tricky part. When you enter a country as a tourist, technically you are not supposed to work, but since you are a digital nomad and work from your computer it’s difficult for the local authorities to control. Besides, you are not stealing jobs to locals because you are working on your own business or you have your own clients so, even ethically you should be good.

However tourist visa expires, normally every 3 to 6 months.

If you want to stay longer, in some countries you can go out for a couple of days and enter back in. But rules change and it’s different for each country and it also depends on your passport.

So it’s very important if you check the country’s immigration laws before even traveling there.

Also, some countries require that any visitor shows a return ticket to make sure you are not overstaying. So you must check that out too.

Digital nomad visa

There are many countries that are ahead of the game and have just instituted a visa for digital nomads that allows you to live in the country legally for a year and working as a digital nomad.

This is cool and it feels like the digital nomad style has finally been globally recognized as a real thing. I am expecting more and more countries that will put in place such visa in the near future.

So far, here are the countries with a Digital Nomad Visa and where you can apply.

Estonia – I have never been to Estonia but I have heard about many remote workers who chose it for many reasons, among which, it’s relatively cheap. The visa has a cost of 100 USD for a 1-year stay.
Barbados – I love Barbados and I am happy to hear that it’s now welcoming digital nomads to live and work on this beautiful island and enjoy the Caribbean vibes, the sun, surf, and good food, the music, and the lovely people. But bear in mind that the cost for the visa is 2000 USD and you have to provide proof of a yearly income > 50k USD. Besides, the island is definitely not the typical cheap digital nomad destination. It caters to an upscale market, even if you live like a local. Also, you will need a car to move around, as local transportation is unreliable and won’t take you anywhere. Taxis are expensive too. Just to give you the heads up.
Bermuda – Think about a fairytale place where everything is just perfect. Perfect houses, perfect vegetation perfect beaches. It looks unreal. That’s Bermuda. One of the most upscale destinations. But if you want to live there and work as a digital nomad now you can. Rules apply. Beware! 😉
Georgia – A recent decision made by the government to help the local economy that has been seriously hit by the COVID. They are still working on an application form as I am writing this. So check their site for updates if you are interested.
Croatia – Also for Croatia there is a new visa for digital nomads in the making.

Please consider that this list is not conclusive, I am sure there are more countries with digital nomad visas but all of them have an application process and need proof of a certain income that varies from state to state.

In my opinion, it is convenient to apply for a visa if you intend to stay in the country for more than 6 months. Otherwise, it will definitely be easier to travel on a tourist visa.

For more information on other countries with a digital noma visa, you can read this post.

Digital nomads favorite countries

Since I have entered the digital nomad world, I have joined different Facebook groups for Digital Nomads and Entrepreneurs to familiarize with the lifestyle. One of the things I have realized is that there are particular destinations that for some reasons are dear to Digital Nomads so I am sharing them with you just FYI.

Bali – Indonesia
Chang Mai – Thailand
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Barcelona – Spain
Lisbon – Portugal
Tallinn – Estonia
Playa del Carmen – Mexico
Oaxaca – Mexico

I have never been to Asia but I know that Chang Mai is particularly cheap and has a huge digital nomads community. It’s been the starting points of many nomads that I know (virtually) and a great place to start your new life if you have a low budget.

Playa del Carmen in Mexico has mid-range costs compared to the Asian destination but Digital Nomads love it. It’s a great place to mingle, meet up, go to the beach, awesome party scene and food, and a great getaway to the Yucatan Peninsula and the rest of Mexico.

Read also my Mexico travel guide

Getting Around

You can move around either by plane bus or I love to rent a when I switch into the explorer mode. I tend not to use flights if not necessary because I become a digital nomad in order to travel the world and if I travel by plane I feel like I am missing out in the landscape.

However sometimes flying is necessary and to find my ticket I use aggregators, which means sites that compare rates from different airlines, which is great for you to see all prices on one page.

Skyscanner
Kiwi.com 
Google flights
Scott’s cheap flights 

Compare prices among the aggregators but also on the airline website as well, at different times of the day or night, so you will make sure you are really getting the best possible fare.

If you see a rate that is reasonable to you, book it without hesitation because you never know when the offers end.

Always search from an incognito window.

Finding Accommodation as a digital nomad

Airbnb is my best friend when it comes to finding a place to stay. When I am working on the road I like to travel slow and have the time to create a balanced life between working and exploring. On Airbnb I always find great apartments and if you book for an entire month you can get great deals up to 35% discounts.

I wrote a step by step guide on how to make a booking on Airbnb, where I explain in details how to land the perfect place for your stay on an Airbnb.

Booking.com is another favorite site of mine, especially when I am exploring and need short stays. In this case, I might use hotels instead of apartments

The platform is super user friendly and straight forward, it offers reviews from the previous clients and has a thorough description of the properties, not to mention the great deals that you always get.

I normally use TripAdvisor to check reviews of places and tours, however, it has also become a booking platform for the past few years that you can use to compare rates.

Many digital nomads love to stay in hostels for the social life but I am an introvert and I love to have my own space.

A new kind of stay that is getting popular among digital nomads is a coliving, fully furnished, and high-end private apartments with common areas where people can interact and socialize.

Become a housesitter – many digital and nondigital nomads do it. It’s a way to save money on rentals and spend some time with pets, which you can’t have if you travel the world (some travel with pets but the majority don’t). I do a lot of housesitting and I will write more on this topic very soon.

To understand whether you are a hostel-kind of traveler or not check out my post “10 signs that backpacker style is not for you

If you feel lonely

Living as a digital nomad and traveling alone is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world but I know that sometimes it gets lonely.

I am a very introverted person and I love my loneliness, however, love to virtually connect with likeminded people on FB groups and sometimes it happens to be in the same city and actually meet, which is kind of awesome (sometimes). Among the groups I love there ar Digital Nomads girl community where you can connect with lovely ladies and also networking for your biz, asking questions exchange ideas. Also Digital nomads around the world.

If you want to connect on a different level there are always dating sites such as Tinder and Bumble, among others. I prefer not to comment on it. I might do a post one day when I feel inspired.

Digital nomad insurance

Just like for every trip, I always suggest having travel insurance. No matter how much it costs, it’s always less expensive than paying hospital fees in case of an accident or a serious illness. I am not being negative. But things happen even if we are extra careful. So we need to prepare for the unexpected.

There are many different travel insurance companies out there.

The two I have been looking into, and used, are Safetywing and World Nomads.

Safetywing also covers for Covid-19, World Nomads is more expensive but its explorer plan also covers for scuba diving and other outdoor activities and your electronics.

Safetywing has now a new type of insurance for expats which is called remote health. It doesn’t travel-related issues such as lost bags and missed flights but it might cover pre-existing conditions in some cases and in case you need to go to your home country for some time. It’s worth checking it out.

For further reading about travel insurance:

Is it easy to become digital nomads? Final thoughts

I don’t think there is a general answer to this questions.

It all depends on your skills first of all, if they are a match with digital nomad lifestyle and with the works available.

Whether you are starting a business or you want to work as a freelance it takes time to build an authority for yourself.

With some exceptions, of course, it requires lots of trial and errors, patience and determination, but as in all the things in life and for all professions if you put your heart and soul into it and you are working hard and smart I assure you that you will get there eventually.

It might sound cheesy but an important asset for your success besides hard work is the mindset. If you set your mind to making it and you work towards your goal, you will.

100% guaranteed.

Bouns resources

To thank you for reading this long post until the very end, here some mindset books that will help you achieve your goals whatever they are.

Man in search of meaning – Victor Frankl
The four agreements – a practical guide to freedom – Miguel Ruiz
The power of Now – Eckhart Tolle
You are a badass at making money – Jen Sincero
The seven spiritual laws of success – Deepak Chopra
The war of Art – Steven Pressfield

You are welcome 🙂

I am reading more inspirational books right now so I will update the list. stay tuned.

I hope this article will help you find out if you want to live the digital nomad lifestyle and how to start.
I will write more specific posts on each and every topic of this post so that you can have more specific insights.

If you have any question in the meantime. Please do not hesitate to ask.

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