Digital Nomad

How To Become A Digital Nomad: Your Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re dreaming of a life of becoming a digital nomad and working remotely from any location with Wi-Fi, this guide has got you covered. 

Imagine exploring stunning places, meeting new people, and soaking in diverse cultures. Sounds tempting, right? 

But let’s not gloss over the challenges – fluctuating income, constant changes, and distance from friends and family are part of the package. 

Yet, this lifestyle isn’t just for show; it’s about crafting your own freedom to live, work, and play on your terms. 

Ready for a taste of the digital nomad life? I’ve put together an ultimate guide with 5 easy steps to help you transition smoothly. It’s packed with everything you need to know to follow your dreams. 

Sure, it’s not a walk in the park, but the rewards? Absolutely worth it!

So, let’s dive into your new life chapter with this how-to guide for becoming a digital nomad.

Steps On How To Become A Digital Nomad

Step 1: Map Out Your Nomadic Intentions

Starting your journey as a digital nomad begins with understanding your motivation. Before you even start packing, it’s essential to ask yourself ‘why’ you’re pursuing this lifestyle. 

Are you looking to immerse yourself in new cultures, eager to break away from the traditional office 9-5  environment, or searching for fresh inspiration for your projects? 

Identifying this motivation is key—it becomes the guiding light that keeps you focused and inspired as you step into the world of remote work and global exploration. 

This foundational step is not just about preparing logistically but also mentally and emotionally for the adventures ahead.

IS THE DIGITAL NOMAD LIFE RIGHT FOR YOU?

Thinking about embracing the digital nomad lifestyle? It’s a big decision, and there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. You will need to consider your personality and lifestyle preferences. 

Here are a few questions to ask yourself in advance of becoming a full-time digital nomad: 

  • Are you generally open-minded and adaptable to constant changes?
  • Do you see yourself as resourceful, self-reliant, independent, and motivated?
  • Can you adjust easily to new and possibly chaotic environments?
  • Are you keen on exploring and fully experiencing diverse cultures, with their unique traditions, beliefs, and cuisines?
  • Could you adapt to changes in income, routines, and schedules in unfamiliar environments?

Reflecting on these questions can give you a clearer idea if this path aligns with your traits and goals. It’s not about meeting specific criteria but finding a fit for your unique way of life. 

Ready to dive deeper into preparing for nomadic life? Let’s explore the practical steps to get you there.

How to become a digital nomad

Step 2: Get Your Ducks in a Row

Next up, let’s talk prep. Before I plan my future digital nomad endeavors, I like to scout out what I currently have, what I can let go of, and what I can sell to make extra income. 

Digital nomads generally rid themselves of most material possessions other than the nomad essentials. 

When Josh and I turned to the digital nomad lifestyle in 2022, I sold my car and our apartment in California, sold most of our belongings, and left behind some essential items in a storage unit. 

The matter of fact is this: When you choose to become a digital nomad, you don’t quite have enough space in your backpack/luggage to take everything with you. 

RENTING A STORAGE UNIT

Opting for a storage facility is an excellent choice for those not quite prepared to part with their possessions. 

Ours is located in California, offering us the perfect pretext to revisit our former hometown and reconnect with family and friends. 

It suits our needs, though it might not be the best solution for everyone. Alternatively, if you have relatives with available space willing to store some items, this could also work well.

Simplify your life and maybe make a little bit of cash by selling stuff you don’t need. 

HERE IS WHAT MOST DIGITAL NOMADS CONSIDER TO BE ESSENTIALS

Equipment – Necessary technology such as a laptop (I use this one: MacBook Pro), smartphone (iPhone 14 Pro, camera (I use this one: 4K Digital Camera), charging cables, a universal adaptor (my go-to: EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter), and a tripod (I use this one: 64” Tripod).

Critical Documents – Passport, visa, driving license, debit and credit cards, health insurance documentation, details of emergency contacts, and backup copies of important documents.

Essential Clothing – Outfits suitable for your destination, typically including 3-5 shirts, skirts/dresses, shorts/pants, undergarments, bathing suits, and activewear. Leggings are a staple in my wardrobe.

DISPOSING OF UNNECESSARY ITEMS

The process of decluttering items that have accumulated over the years to embrace a digital nomad lifestyle can be overwhelming. It often feels like you are shedding a part of your identity. This was my experience when I sold my car and left our luxurious California king-sized bed behind.

However, parting with non-essential belongings is incredibly liberating! They are, after all, just objects. The sense of relief and lightness that comes from minimizing is unparalleled. 

Embracing minimalism is necessary for anyone embarking on a digital nomad journey.

LEASING YOUR POSSESSIONS FOR ADDITIONAL REVENUE

An ingenious strategy for securing additional, steady revenue as a digital nomad is leasing out your primary residence or apartment until your return.

Leasing offers an excellent opportunity for those experimenting with digital nomadism but not yet ready to commit fully, ensuring a secure home base is maintained.

Conversely, selling assets like your home or car beforehand can be beneficial for accumulating savings and earmarking funds for your nomadic lifestyle. 

The preference between leasing and selling depends entirely on personal lifestyle choices and preferences. Neither option is better than the other! 

Ronda's water mine under the Casa del Rey Moro

Step 3: Map Out Your Journey

Embarking on the digital nomad lifestyle means it’s smart to draft an initial blueprint of your journey. I refer to it as a ‘draft’ because, as many of us understand, life’s plans don’t always pan out. In my view, planning is essentially gearing up for the unexpected!

WHERE DO DIGITAL NOMADS LIVE?

First off, digital nomads need a reliable internet connection to thrive. So, it’s not as simple as following wherever your whims may take you.

The bright side is that there are numerous fantastic cities and countries perfectly suited for digital nomad living!

While this list isn’t comprehensive, here are some of the top digital nomad cities

  1. Bali, Indonesia
  2. Chiang Mai, Thailand
  3. Lisbon, Portugal
  4. Tulum, Mexico
  5. Oaxaca, Mexico
  6. Mexico City, Mexico
  7. Barcelona, Spain
  8. Medellin, Columbia
  9. Prague, Czech Republic
  10.  Santiago, Chile 
  11. Budapest, Hungary
  12. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

This lineup is just a glimpse into the myriad of amazing destinations open to digital nomads.

SUSTAINING YOUR DIGITAL NOMAD LIFESTYLE

Let’s set the record straight: being a digital nomad isn’t about constant travel or daily beach relaxation.

In reality, there’s a significant amount of unseen effort involved in maintaining the nomadic lifestyle (we’ll delve deeper into this aspect shortly).

Figuring out your potential earnings as a digital nomad is crucial for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, you wouldn’t want to disrupt your life only to discover you’re unable to sustain yourself after a couple of months. Secondly, stepping into the digital nomad realm does require some degree of risk management.

If you’re fortunate to have a job that transitions smoothly to remote work, that’s excellent. However, many newcomers to the digital nomad lifestyle initially lack specific skills and may find themselves juggling various temporary gigs before securing something more permanent. (More on this aspect to follow).

SECURING YOUR ACCOMMODATION AS A DIGITAL NOMAD

After settling on a city or country for your digital nomad journey, pinpointing your lodging is the next step.

Securing a place to stay tends to be straightforward in locales favored by digital nomads—after all, their popularity has to stem from ease of living, right?

Locating local lodgings as a digital nomad:

Each time we transition to a fresh locale, our first step is to scout for local lodging options. Our strategy includes:

  • Participating in local Facebook groups (For instance: Bali Cheap House Rent or Bali Digital Nomads)
  • Connecting with locals or existing digital nomads in the vicinity.
  • Searching on platforms like TrustedHouseSitters, Airbnb, or Vrbo for attractive offers.

Another route is exploring digital nomad community accommodations, such as shared apartments and co-living spaces. NomadX stands out as a prime choice for digital nomads (Think of it as the Airbnb for digital nomads).

OPTIMAL TIMING FOR DIGITAL NOMADS TO RELOCATE

While it may sound straightforward, aligning your relocation with the country’s peak and off-peak, as well as its dry and wet seasons, can significantly enhance your experience.

For instance, relocating to Mexico during its hot, humid, wet season might not be the most comfortable choice!

Planning with the seasons in mind not only prepares you for the climate but also opens up opportunities for early bird specials on flights, lodgings, rentals, etc. Arriving just before or right after the tourist season can also help you avoid the masses and land a great deal on accommodation.

In summary: A thorough investigation of your intended destination before arrival is key to avoiding foreseeable issues.

Ahau Eco Hotel, home to the Ven A La Luz statue

Step 4: ENHANCE YOUR SKILLS OR UTILIZE YOUR EXISTING TALENTS

Is having online skills a prerequisite to becoming a digital nomad? Absolutely not. Is it possible to quickly acquire new skills? Definitely! And can you secure well-paid employment using the skills and experience you already possess? Without a doubt!

BECOMING A DIGITAL NOMAD WITHOUT SKILLS OR EXPERIENCE

In the digital age we live in, acquiring new knowledge is feasible for virtually anyone, anywhere. Curious about starting a YouTube channel? There are over 100,000 free tutorials available online to guide you towards becoming a successful YouTube influencer.

Indeed, embarking on a digital nomad lifestyle without a wealth of skills or experience is entirely possible. Everyone starts from somewhere, and numerous roles can be mastered swiftly without prior experience.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR ASPIRING DIGITAL NOMADS WITHOUT SKILLS

To illustrate the potential for those new to the digital nomad scene and lacking extensive skills, here’s a brief overview of actual positions listed on well-known freelance platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Flexjobs, and RemoteWomen:

  • Social Media Manager
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Copywriting/Article Writing
  • Proofreading/Editing
  • Transcription

If you have proficient English reading/writing abilities, can accurately transcribe audio, can assist with someone’s digital tasks, can edit texts, can organize resumes or draft cover letters, or can manage social media profiles, you’re already on the path to earning online and moving closer to a full-time digital nomad lifestyle.

Remember, initiating your digital nomad journey is often the most challenging step! My own path began on Upwork as a freelance social media manager. Initially, I accepted numerous lower-tier jobs to accumulate 5-star reviews. With a solid review base, I could then pursue higher-level opportunities aligned with my skills.

Freelancing offers a ladder to climb, from starting points that might seem modest to positions that provide sustainable income. The key is simply to begin!

MAKING YOUR EXISTING JOB REMOTE

For those among you with solid skills, countless companies are seeking to outsource their tasks online. It’s very possible to find a role identical to your current one, but with a company that provides the flexibility of remote work opportunities. The fantastic part is that if you possess transferable skills, you don’t need to begin from zero in the world of location-independent employment!

JOB OPTIONS FOR DIGITAL NOMADS WITH SPECIFIC SKILLS

A prevalent role I’ve noticed among digital nomads is in illustration/graphic design. Additionally, freelance writing is my go-to for supplemental income alongside my blogging ventures. Below are some leading job categories for leveraging your skills and experience in the digital realm:

  • Writing (Including article writing, ghostwriting, e-books, creative writing, product descriptions, etc.)
  • BLOGGING – as I do for Aqua Apple!
  • Graphic/Logo Design
  • Translation (excellent for those who are native bilinguals)
  • Education/Training
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Computer + IT
  • Project Management
  • WordPress Development
  • Data Entry
  • Administrative Tasks
  • Consulting
  • Marketing
  • Accounting
  • And much more!

Working in a coworking space

Step 5: TAKE THE PLUNGE AND ADJUST

After careful planning and preparation on how to transition into a digital nomad, it’s time to embrace the lifestyle and venture into the world.

EMBRACING DIGITAL NOMAD LIFE

The moment you start taking steps towards your goals is when your dreams begin turning into reality, and believe me, it’s an exhilarating experience!

However, it’s essential to acknowledge the less glamorous logistical aspects that need attention. Here’s a list of logistical considerations. Don’t be daunted by this checklist; remember, it’s manageable, and you’re more than capable!

VISAS + VACCINATIONS

The requirements for travel visas can differ greatly from one country to another, depending on your nationality. It’s important to research the specific visa requirements for your destination country well in advance.

You may find countries where obtaining a tourist visa upon arrival is straightforward (like Mexico) or others where you must apply for a visa beforehand (like Vietnam for U.S. citizens).

The U.S. benefits from numerous agreements worldwide, facilitating easier access to tourist visas.

Planning around visa regulations is crucial as it determines the duration of your stay. This is a significant reason we’ve chosen Mexico, where, as U.S. citizens, we are granted 6-month tourist visas.

Vaccinations are also vital, particularly if you’re traveling to regions such as Southeast Asia and South America for the first time. Ensure you’re vaccinated well ahead of your planned travel dates.

INSURANCE ESSENTIALS FOR DIGITAL NOMADS

Securing both travel and medical insurance is critical for the digital nomad lifestyle, safeguarding against accidents and emergencies. Among the myriad options, SafetyWing stands out as a highly cost-effective choice, designed specifically for digital nomads by digital nomads. 

I recently secured approximately 90 days of coverage for just $108! The catch is that it’s available for purchase only once you’re abroad (outside the U.S. for me). So, make it a point to acquire it upon arrival in your new destination for immediate coverage.

INTERNET ACCESS + MOBILE SIMS

A dependable internet connection is paramount for digital nomads. Without Wi-Fi, working becomes a major challenge. The importance of both a stable internet and an inspiring work setting cannot be overstated for every digital nomad. 

While portable Wi-Fi devices like the Skyroam Solis X exist, they can be quite expensive. A more economical alternative is purchasing a local SIM card upon arriving in your host country, offering cheap data plans and superior local coverage. 

Plus, switching to a local SIM or eSIM allows you to forgo your pricey plan back home. Josh and I use Airlo eSIMs

COWORKING SPACES FOR DIGITAL NOMADS

In digital nomad hotspots such as Bali or Mexico, you’ll find coworking spaces designed for digital nomads, offering high-speed Wi-Fi for a monthly fee. 

The concept involves renting a desk or space in a cafe or coworking area, guaranteeing you a daily workstation similar to an office. (Josh and I joined one in Tulum for about $100 per month.) 

If the monthly fees aren’t feasible, working from home is always an option. We aim to change our scenery by working from cafes once a week, though this can vary based on our travel mode, budget, and current inspiration levels. 

Best coworking spaces in Tulum: Selina Tulum

HANDLING TAXES

Your tax obligations typically follow you, regardless of your new nomadic lifestyle. 

Unless you’re operating a business, you’ll likely file taxes as an individual or a sole proprietor. 

While I won’t delve deeply into tax matters here, it’s crucial not to overlook tax responsibilities in your home country, especially if your income meets the threshold requiring you to file.

MANAGING FINANCES AND CREDIT WHILE ABROAD

Prior to embarking on your journey as a digital nomad, it’s crucial to sort out your banking and access to funds for seamless financial management overseas.

Be aware that ATMs internationally often incur withdrawal fees in addition to any fees your home bank might charge. Moreover, preemptively informing your bank of your travel plans can prevent your account from being flagged for suspicious activity—a situation I’ve encountered more than once!

Investing in a travel credit card can be a smart move to avoid foreign transaction fees and earn bonus air miles. The market offers a diverse range of travel credit cards to choose from.

FINANCIAL TOOLS FOR DIGITAL NOMADS:

  • Wise: This service allows you to send money internationally across different currencies at very low rates.
  • Revolut: A digital banking solution offering a debit/credit card feature, ideal for money management, sending payments, and making transfers while abroad.
  • PayPal: Facilitates online payments and money transfers between friends, family, or businesses.

HANDLING A RESIDENTIAL / MAILING ADDRESS

Securing services overseas, such as mobile plans or monthly rentals, typically requires a permanent address. Despite living abroad for many years, my legal residency remains in the United States.

 If you’re without a permanent base (for instance, if you’ve sold your property), consider using a family address (e.g., parents, siblings, or grandparents).

Ensuring the reliability of this address is key, especially for receiving essential mail (like my student loan notifications).

For local deliveries or shipments abroad, simply use your current overseas address. My mailing addresses have varied greatly over the years, from New Hampshire to Virginia and elsewhere.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR ASPIRING DIGITAL NOMADS

Beyond logistical preparations, what else should be contemplated in the transition to a digital nomad lifestyle?

REVISITING VISA REQUIREMENTS

Emphasizing the importance of visa arrangements for digital nomad living is essential. Tourist visas are a necessity for each country visited.

Countries typically demand at least two blank pages in your passport. Arrival visas aren’t always guaranteed, with some nations requiring advance applications. Additionally, extending your stay may alter the visa application process.

Here’s a snapshot of visa stipulations for popular digital nomad destinations for U.S. citizens:

  • Visa-free access for 30 days: Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Belize (with possible extensions, some of which must be pre-approved).
  • 90-day stay: Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Malaysia, and countries in the European Union that are part of the Schengen Agreement.
  • 180-day stay: Mexico, Canada, Panama, Peru.

Notably, U.S. citizens can enter Schengen Agreement nations for up to 90 days without a visa, ideal for those considering digital nomad life in cities like Madrid, Budapest, Prague, or Belgrade.

Countries requiring advance visa approval: Vietnam, Australia, and Cuba.

Navigating visa requirements is a complex yet important aspect of planning your nomadic lifestyle, influencing everything from accommodation durations to overall travel plans.

EMBRACING LOCAL CUSTOMS, TRADITIONS, AND VALUES

Venturing abroad for the first time? Brace yourself for a spectrum of culture shock—ranging from mild to extreme—depending on your destination.

It’s essential to approach this experience with an open mind and do your homework on local customs to sidestep any social missteps. The last thing you want is to inadvertently disrespect the cultural practices and beliefs of others.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES, SAFETY, AND ADAPTING TO CHANGE

Contemplate the kind of digital nomad lifestyle that appeals to you. Are you dreaming of seaside living or the hustle and bustle of urban life? 

Reflect on your ideal lifestyle before making the leap. Safety, too, should play a significant role in your decision-making process. Generally, if an area is popular with digital nomads, it’s perceived as safe. 

Flexibility is the golden rule for digital nomads: being able to adapt and “go with the flow” is vital, as the lifestyle you’re embracing may be vastly different from what you’re accustomed to. 

Always adhere to safety measures as you would back home, maintain a positive outlook, stay open to new experiences, and don’t hesitate to seek local insights.

WEIGHING THE PROS AND CONS OF NOMADIC LIFE

If you’ve made it this far (and I’m grateful you have!), let’s touch on another aspect of digital nomadism—the inherent advantages and disadvantages. 

Despite the glamorous depiction of the #laptoplifestyle on social media, the reality involves regular to extended working hours, often including weekends. 

The unpredictability of not having long-term plans, not knowing where you’ll be next month, week, or even the next day, adds a layer of spontaneity. 

Whether this uncertainty is a perk or a drawback is subjective. 

Here are some personal pros and cons I’ve identified with the digital nomad lifestyle, capped at 10 each to keep the list concise, though I could easily extend it.

PROS OF BECOMING A DIGITAL NOMAD

  • Steering your own career path as a #BossBabe.
  • Enjoying the freedom to balance work and personal life harmoniously.
  • Experiencing personal development and a boost in self-reliance.
  • The privilege of living and working in breathtaking locales.
  • Immersing in diverse cultures and forging connections globally.
  • Sharing spaces and ideas with inspiring, goal-aligned nomads.
  • Flexibility in scheduling holidays and vacations.
  • Embracing minimalism, prioritizing experiences over material belongings.
  • Expanding perspectives, challenging preconceptions.
  • Economizing by living in cost-effective digital nomad hubs.

CONS OF BECOMING A DIGITAL NOMAD

  • Constant uncertainty regarding plans.
  • Periods of isolation, loneliness, and discomfort.
  • Distance from family and friends back home.
  • Frequent adaptation to new surroundings, finding comfort only to relocate.
  • Fluctuating monthly expenses complicate budgeting and savings.
  • Uncertainty about your next living situation.
  • Experiencing digestive discomfort (“travel tummy”) from new cuisines.
  • Transient friendships, the bittersweet cycle of farewells and new encounters.
  • The struggle of overcoming language barriers, and feeling conspicuous.
  • Misconceptions of laziness or perpetual vacationing by others.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

Embarking on the digital nomad journey, crafting your own path to freedom and personalized life plans, is immensely fulfilling! Like all aspects of life, it comes with its share of highs and lows.

It’s important not to get swept up in the often idealized portrayal of this lifestyle on social media. While the digital nomad life can be incredibly enriching in many respects, it also introduces unique challenges. However, for those ready to embrace risk and navigate the uncertainties, the digital nomad lifestyle could be a perfect fit.

Should you be earnestly considering this lifestyle shift, I encourage you to share any questions or reflections you might have in the comments below!

What are your thoughts on living as a digital nomad? If you’re inclined towards this lifestyle, the best advice I can give is to begin your journey TODAY!

LIKE IT? PIN IT

How to become a digital nomad

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!