What Is A Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who uses the freedom of the internet and communication to earn a living from any place in the world where they can access an internet connection. Because of the freedom they have they tend to live nomadic lifestyles, moving between cities or from country to country.
However, a digital nomad does not have to constantly tour the world. Many digital nomads embrace the practise of ‘slow travel’ spending 3 - 6 months in one country before moving onto the next. This allows them to have the benefits of some stability while still being able to travel.
In fact, a digital nomad never need leave their own country if they choose. Some even claim the term on the basis that they don’t need to work from one location - even if they chose to work from home or the coffee shop - rather than half-way across the world
The Benefits of Digital Nomadism
- Freedom - Being a digital nomad allows you to do what you enjoy, both in terms of work and in your personal life. In your spare time you can pursue hobbies, take 3-day weekends when you like, do volunteer work and many other things you often don't have the freedom to do in a regular job.. As for your work, you can pursue whatever location independent avenues you like. Many digital nomads are not confined to one 'profession'. They are often skilled in many areas and dabble in different things as they find opportunities they are passionate about. For example a digital nomad might have a popular blog with an e-commerce store and might also sell stock photographs and get sponsorship on a podcast they host. It's up to you what you choose to focus on based on what you enjoy and what brings you the most returns.
- Geographical Arbitrage - This refers to the practice of living and spending in countries where the cost of living is low while earning money in a currency which has far more value. For example, consider that you might be earning a good US income. In the United States that amount of income might get you decent accommodation, allow you to save a little and spend on your hobbies and lifestyle etc. However, with the same money or less, a much higher quality of life can be enjoyed in parts of Asia and Europe where goods and services can be obtained cheaply. What this also means is that it is easy to even greatly reduce your income and yet live a quality of life better than what you experience back home.
3. Travel - For many people the only opportunity they get to travel is during their annual vacation. As a result, many dreams of adventure in foreign lands are never realized. This lifestyle allows for slow travel, or constant travel - if that is your preference.You can work on the road or stay in one place for a few weeks while you concentrate on a project, after which you can travel some more.
4. Global Connections - Despite the existence of the internet, working and living in only one location - as most of us do - can still severely limit your connections. But living and working around the globe you can make amazing connections with other people in other countries. This can have all sorts of benefits for your business.
5. Determine Your Own Schedule - You might find, especially when you are starting off trying to establish yourself, that you have a lot on your plate - and you may even work more than you did in your 9 to 5. But you will have the luxury of choosing when you work. Perhaps you are a night person, or you like to do all your work early in the morning so you can leave your days free. You can also decide where you work: in cafes, in bed, on a ferry, or on a plane - it will be up to you.
Steps to Becoming a Digital Nomad
1. Be Sure - Although it might seem like a way of life that everyone could tailor to suit their own needs, for some people this just would not work. People following this lifestyle need to be self-directed, adaptable and focussed. Some people would struggle with this. In addition, with all that goes into uprooting your lifestyle, selling up and travelling the world, if it is not for you it can be very difficult to re-establish yourself again in the work force if you decide you want to go back to your old life. As a compromise, perhaps consider taking a year off work to travel and freelance before actually committing to a full-time digital nomad lifestyle.
2. Save Money - Whether you already have an internet-based business that is making you money or not, it is a good idea to save for your transition into this new lifestyle. While making this move can drastically reduce your cost of living, it may also hold surprises for you, or your business may face a down-turn. It will give you an added level of confidence and ease to know that, should you need it, you have money to fall back on.
3. Upskill - You will need to acquire location independent skills if you don't already have some. Take a course on copywriting, learn something about web design or brush up on your photography skills. Whatever you you want to get involved in, make an effort to be skilled enough that you can somehow exchange that knowledge for payment. For many, this may mean starting off really small offering services on Fiverr. For others it could mean having an online store on their blog while at the same time doing freelance writing and a little consulting. Whatever combination of skills you want to acquire is up to you, and will need to work for your particular situation.
4. Practise Your Craft - Before you cut ties with your current life, begin working part-time to earn money using your new location independent skills. Many people are able to grow their businesses to the point where they can fully replace their incomes before ever leaving their 9 - 5 job. But for many, this simply won't be possible. However, everyone has the capacity to begin using their skills in exchange for money to some extent - while still at their normal job.
Practise using some of the skills that you plan to use in future. If you want to sell stock photographs, use your weekends to practice taking shots. If you are a writer, write before work and maybe get an ebook out. Doing this will mean that you will find out what works and what doesn't before you leave your current secure situation. You will also find out whether you really enjoy working at these things before you elect to do them full time. In addition you will earn yourself a little cash on the side.
5. Downsize - If you want to move overseas, determine a destination and set about minimizing your possessions. Most digital nomads only own what they can fit in a carry-on bag. While you are still living at home take time to sell or giveaway the majority of your belongings and start the practice of living a more minimalist lifestyle. This will help you to ease into it - or this might just be the point at which you realize that the nomadic lifestyle is not for you. You may instead choose to pursue a more semi-nomadic lifestyle: perhaps 6 months a year travelling and 6 months back in your home country.
Do You Plan To Transition into A Digital Nomad Life?
Drawbacks of The Digital Nomad Lifestyle
- You Are Responsible for Everything - There are no automatic dental benefits, healthcare, sick pay or long service leave that often come with a regular job. These are some of the comforts that you leave behind for the digital nomad lifestyle. But once you get past the initial shock, you realize that these are just things you need to factor in and arrange for yourself. To put it in perspective, your average businessman and other people who work for themselves face the same challenge; it is not confined to only those who follow the digital nomad lifestyle.
- No Work, No Pay - Following on from the earlier point, if you take a day off, you don't get paid for that day off. And if that day off turns into a few weeks or a month that could seriously jeopardize your income and lifestyle. However, it is important to keep in mind that many forms of online income are at least partially passive in nature, and if you set up one for yourself that is not completely dependent upon your participation for it's success, you will not feel the burden of this aspect of the lifestyle.
- Not Having a Constant Social Circle - When you are off traipsing around the world it can be exciting. But there are times you need support from people you trust. This is something that digital nomads have to learn to live without - at least some of the time. After living this lifestyle for awhile many nomads make lasting connections in select cities that are frequented by location independent workers. But generally, this lifestyle means that you will rarely have the supportive presence of friends and family.
More Resources For Those Contemplating the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
- Travel Packing List for Digital Nomads
Long-term traveling is great, but to make it easy and actually enjoyable you need to get rid of the big chunk of your physical belongings and just take the important stuff.
- 5 Destinations for Digital Nomads & Online Entrepreneurs
Best places to live as a Digital Nomad
- 64 Ways Location Independent People Earn a Living
Have you ever wondered how you could earn a living that would allow you to live and work anywhere in the world? Many people already living that dream.
Great Reads That Show You How It's Done
I read this book a few month ago just before I moved to Chiang Mai for my own digital nomad debut!
If you are planning to make Chiang Mai your first stop there is no book out there that I would recommend more than this for practical up-to-date advice.
Learn from someone who ditched his old life in favour of wandering the tropics and being in charge of his own direction.
© 2015 Rota