10 Tips for Living a Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Trading out the traditional office 9 to 5 for a traveling remote position is becoming more and more desirable to many, and becoming a digital nomad is a viable way of doing this. Digital nomads are employees with work privileges that allow them to travel and work in different spaces remotely. The exact parameters vary depending on your job and its requirements, but generally, all you need is a place to work and some sort of wireless internet connection. While this way of life may seem appealing to many, it is important to consider a variety of factors prior to jumping in.
1. Estimate the Costs
You want to consider the costs of remote work before you decide to become a digital nomad. The two primary costs you want to consider include:
- Travel: When you travel, you need to think about the money it takes to get to your location, the money it takes to purchase food, and the money it takes to pay for lodging. Some choose to purchase or finance a van or school bus in order to mitigate lodging costs, but you need to consider the cost of your monthly payment (if you are financing) and the insurance for the vehicle, the cost of sites that you can stay in, as well as the costs behind keeping the vehicle maintained;
- Equipment: If you work while living life on the road, you will want to make sure that you have the proper technology and equipment to support your job. Digital nomads should factor in some form of digital equipment (laptop, tablet, etc.), a personal hotspot, and possibly a Wi-Fi booster.
2. Invest in Good Equipment and Tools
If your livelihood depends on digital work, you need to invest in good equipment and tools. You will likely want some sort of portable digital device such as a laptop or tablet, unless you can work exclusively from your phone. If you plan to travel abroad and continue working, you want to make sure that your technology will work outside of the U.S. Make sure you have the right travel adapters and converters.
It may seem like a good idea to save money by purchasing cheap equipment and tools, but more often than not, there is a reason behind the low price tags. Invest in quality equipment.
3. Carefully Maintain Your Schedule
Ensure that your organization skills are up to par prior to becoming a digital nomad. Use the following tips for setting up and maintaining a schedule/routine:
- Write down your schedule — whether it be on a calendar or a sticky note;
- Set daily/weekly/bi-weekly goals;
- Stay consistent and avoid large fluctuations in your plans;
- Keep track of your efforts and assess how effectively you stick to your routine — creating an assessment plan (e.g. every two weeks) is a viable way to go about this;
- Revise your schedule as necessary. If you are someone who moves locations often, you may need to revise your schedule according to your location.
4. Create an Emergency Fund
The life of a digital nomad can be extremely unpredictable, so it becomes increasingly important to create an emergency fund. You should put enough money in your emergency fund to cover one to two months of living expenses. Some common reasons for digital nomads to create an emergency fund include:
- Travel hold-ups;
- Car troubles;
- Technology issues;
- Losing your job.
It is important to be safe rather than sorry. A good way to ensure that your emergency funds remain untouched is to plan out as much as you can in advance and to create a separate account for your emergency fund.
5. Set Realistic Goals
You want to set realistic goals for yourself. Avoid agreeing to excessive amounts of work, but make sure that you have enough work to maintain your various costs of living. It is important to balance your work with your play. When you are traveling and you get excited to see new things and places, it can be easy to forget about the things that you need to do — such as work. Setting goals will help you stay on track.
6. Choose Accommodations and Workspaces in Advance
One way to prioritize work responsibilities is to make sure your workspace and necessary work accommodations are taken care of before hitting the open road. If you are traveling in a van, RV, or bus, you may not need to secure a physical location, but you do need to consider accommodations such as power and Wi-Fi. Research locations you are interested in online. Look at customer reviews, online ratings, and anything specific about the area.
If you struggle to find locations, search for things like: “public Wi-Fi near me” or “campgrounds in (location).” Libraries and coffee shops are often great options for this. You can also take advantage of online listings to help find vacation rentals for comfort and security, as well as longer-term rentals.
When you choose to work in public places like a coffee shop or library, you need to consider the following etiquette:
- Be considerate: Be aware of the space you are taking up, avoid talking on the phone, or loud noise (e.g. videos, conference calls, etc.). Reading the room is a vital skill to possess;
- Follow establishment rules: Some establishments have rules or general etiquette for their customers. For example, some coffee shops only offer up their Wi-Fi passwords to individuals who purchase a drink from them.
7. Don’t Let Your Health Take a Backseat
As you balance traveling and working simultaneously, it can be easy to lose focus on your health. MedicineNet recommends the following health tips for healthy living:
- Physical Health: This should include a balanced diet (3 meals a day, primarily whole foods), regular exercise (thirty minutes, 3-5 times days a week), giving your body the rest it needs, and avoiding unhealthy contaminants (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, drugs);
- Mental Health: It is easy to let your mental health get out of your control with the uncertainty of life on the road. This should include making intentional time to focus on your mental health, talking to mental health professionals, taking care of yourself physically, and keeping in touch with friends and family.
8. Consider Time Zone Differences
As you move around it can be challenging to navigate the different time zones. When you conduct digital business, it is even more challenging because you need to consider the time zone of both your clients and those you collaborate with/work under. It can be easy to lose track of, but when you are planning your workspaces, goals, and schedule, factor this in. For example, if you are flying to Costa Rica, you are going to want to not only factor the time of the flight, but also the time changes you are going through when flying to feasibly make your work plans. There are time zone maps available online.
9. Take Serious Security Precautions
As you work digitally, it is important to protect yourself as well as your clients. Avoid using unprotected applications, and create an understanding of the dos and don’ts of using public Wi-Fi. Be sure to use cybersecurity professionals to assess risks, and learn about solutions from them such as network and data encryption, secure applications, cloud security, and other preventative security measures.
10. Sign up for the STEP Program
Being prepared to travel can be hard enough without trying to keep up with current events as well as social norms and etiquette in an unfamiliar area. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is designed to provide U.S. citizens with viable information regarding all things travel, specifically safety related to traveling abroad. If you are a frequent traveler, it may be a good idea to create an account online. Once you create an account, you need to register the trip(s) you are planning on taking (location, dates, purpose of travel) and then you will immediately receive a page with specific information for the country you are planning to travel in. For example, things like driving in Costa Rica, or tattoo etiquette in Japan.
Life as a digital nomad can be extremely rewarding as long as you take the time to become informed and prepared before taking the leap. If you’re able to balance work and play in your new setting you’ll be set for a truly rewarding experience.