What is a digital nomad?
‘Digital nomad’ is a very trendy expression. You find it quite often in magazines for the last few years. Every day, new Instagram accounts are created inserting these two words. It seems that everyone is working and traveling at the same time. This lifestyle can be a dream for many of us, but it is imperfect. If you want to know if it could suit you, let’s start by finding out what is a digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is a person that works traveling. It means they sell their skills and expertise to a company or clients in exchange for money and can do their tasks in a different workspace than the one where the company or clients are.
*They are generally from the US or Europe. They make money in dollars or euros, so they have a high purchasing power and make the most of it in cheaper countries. On average, they make $30.000/year.
*There is still a majority of men following this lifestyle. And most digital nomads are in their 30s. 40–59 years old are also well-represented, so if you wonder if you are too old, it is definitely not too late to start!
When you ask ‘What are digital nomads?‘, you certainly imagine they are all freelancers. It is a very commonly accepted idea. But it is not the only option to work and travel at the same time:
- Freelancers: they are self-employed and work for one or several clients.
- Remote workers: they work for one company that allows them to be anywhere.
- Business owners: they own a business and manage it remotely.
If these kinds of digital nomads are the most common, it is also possible to find artists that perform in the streets and travel with the money they collect. Other people own flats or houses and can travel thanks to the money they make renting them.
If you follow many digital nomads on Instagram, you may think they don’t work a lot but have a ton of free time. False perception: they approximately work 40 hours a week.
Is digital nomadism only a trend?
Actually, by the year 2035, we expect to have 1 billion digital nomads around the world. So it is definitely not an ephemera trend, but a lifestyle that many people are about to embrace.
The worldwide pandemic we were all forced to live had a lot to play in the new phenomenon. In 2020, the number of traditional workers operating as digital nomads grew by 96%.
The pandemic also taught us an important thing: everything can stop today. This great learning pushes many people to switch to this lifestyle to enjoy life and improve their living conditions.
As proof that digital nomadism is here to stay, we can speak about the fact that more than 45 countries offer digital nomads visas or, at least, make conditions easier for them to legally stay in their countries.
Which jobs to become a digital nomad?
When people want to know what is a digital nomad, they often wonder what jobs permit to have this life. Well, marketing, information technology, education, sales, finances, consulting, and coaching are very interesting sectors.
Here is a short list of jobs that you can do as a digital nomad:
- E-commerce owner
- Social media manager
- Web writer
- Yoga teacher
- Sport coach
- Graphic designer
- Customer service assistant
- Virtual assistant
- Language teacher
- UX specialist
- Project manager
- SEO expert
Many jobs can allow you to live the life you want and make money at the same time.
Where do digital nomads live?
To be clear, you don’t need to go to the other side of the planet to be a digital nomad. You can perfectly decide to travel to the city next door. On Instagram, you might have the impression that a requirement is to live in faraway and exotic places like Bali or Medellín, but you really can be a digital nomad in a small village in Arkansas if you want.
However, most digital nomads indeed choose the same places. Here are some popular nomad digital destinations:
- Chiang Mai
- Mexico City
- Buenos Aires
Normally, digital nomads can work remotely in almost all countries, but if you want to stay longer than the usual 3 months granted to tourists, you can select a country that proposes visas for digital nomads. Every year, new countries offer it.
Digital nomadism is not a perfect phenomenon, it also comes with gentrification and mass tourism issues as everyone is going to the same places. So don’t forget that the Earth is huge and there are many lovely places with good Wi-Fi.
The lifestyle of digital nomads
Each digital nomad has its own lifestyle. Anyway, these are the more common features:
- What are digital nomads without a good Wi-Fi connection? Desperate ones! And it makes so much sense since they depend on the Internet for work.
- They often work in coworking places or cafés to meet other fellow digital nomads and be more productive.
- They regularly took advantage of traveling to learn a new language and local skills, like cooking.
- They are minimalist, since most travel for long periods with only a backpack or two.
Benefits of being a digital nomad
Everyone becomes a digital nomad for different reasons, but let’s see the most common ones.
Discovering the world
It is obviously the main advantage of becoming a digital nomad. You can discover the world, or maybe your own country. And you can do it for very long periods, and also you don’t have to limit yourself to only one destination.
Traveling when you want to
Indeed, you don’t have to wait for the approval of your boss to take your week of holiday and explore the world. You don’t either have to limit yourself to only 4 or 5 weeks of days off a year.
Traveling at your own pace
When you have only a short period to travel, you feel the pressure to do a lot in little time. You also only discover a place in a very superficial way. Nomads can stay longer in one city or change their plans according to the people they meet on their way, for instance.
Being more productive and creative
We all know that changing the environment of work is a great way to enhance productivity. It is another reason why digital nomads also travel: to be in places that are more beneficial for them than the 4 walls of a gray office.
Working the way you want
As (almost) no one checks on you, you can decide to organize your time the way you want. You can do it according to the moment of the day you are the most productive, but also according to your travel plans. Another great benefit is that if you feel sick, you don’t have to crawl to the office, but just take the time to rest.
Meeting new people
If you are the kind of person who loves practicing new languages and meeting people from different cultures, you know that it is not easy to do it at home. And it is getting worst after 30 years old. But people who travel are in the same mood as you, so it is easy to meet new friends. Local people will also be happy to connect with you and make you discover their daily life.
If you are like me and are cold below 20 degrees Celsius, digital nomadism is a great way to avoid winter and cold temperatures. You just have to book a flight to a warm destination and work from there in a crop top and mini shorts.
Downsides of being a digital nomad
Like everything in life, digital nomadism is not perfect and has disadvantages. Let’s see some of them.
Losing your friends
Even if you stay long in the same place, it always comes a moment when you leave or your friends leave. Losing people you like and who make your whole experience way better, filling it with good memories, is never easy.
Dating is not easy
Also, because you are going to leave at some point, dating as a digital nomad is very difficult. It is especially true if the other one is a local and can’t follow you at all.
Separating professional and personal lives
When you can work anytime and in your bed, it can become very difficult to separate your professional life from your personal one. It can also be very challenging to focus and do your work when you are excited to discover your new place.
When you move quite often to places, it is tough to stay healthy and maintain a routine. It includes doing sports and eating well. Also, if you meet people and want to enjoy a late beer on a terrace or a party on the beach, your sleep quality can suffer.
Wi-Fi problems, electricity cutdowns
It is important to keep in mind that Wi-Fi can have many issues in some destinations. You also have to think that you could face electricity cut downs. It can complicate a lot your work and also play with your nerves.
Different time zones
This one can be pretty challenging, especially if you have meetings with clients, or you need to work with another workmate. It is also complicated to communicate with friends and family at home. It is critical to consider it when you choose your destination.
When you travel, you may spend more money than at home. It makes sense since there are more temptations like trying these new food specialties or having a beer with the people of your dorm. Also, you spend more money exploring the places you are, their monuments, museums, experiences… So you need to manage your money correctly.
How to become a digital nomad?
The next decades will see the rise of digital nomads. While you are reading these lines, you might ask yourself how to become one. First, you need to be sure it is a lifestyle you will enjoy. So don’t put pressure on yourself, if you find out it is not for you, it is fine. There is nothing wrong with feeling better working in an office and having a stable life.
Nevertheless, if you feel deep inside that this lifestyle will make you truly happy. I give you the steps to jump into it!
Contact experienced digital nomads
Contact experienced digital nomads that can tell you their stories. It could be a great way to get inspired for your journey and also to take advantage of their tips.
Find the good option
As we saw sooner, there is not only one way to become a digital nomad. If you like having a paycheck at the end of the month, it will be better for you to work remotely for a company. If you have money to invest, buying and renting real estate and using the money to travel can also be an option.
Find your profession
Maybe you already have a job that can allow you to work remotely like an SEO expert or social media manager. If it is not the case, you can find something in which you are good and turn it into a job that allows you to work at a distance.
Find a job
If you have decided to work for a company, send your curriculum to companies that hire remote workers, or even try your chance with companies that don’t do it. If your curriculum is good enough, they could change their mind. Once you have the job, buy your tickets.
If you decide to be a freelancer, you should first find your first clients and work for them for a while. My advice to you is to save money before you book the flight to the country of your dreams. Freelancing is not stable, and you don’t want to worry right after having landed in a new place. Try to have 6 months of savings in case you lose one or two clients. This way, you would be able to enjoy your trip and look for new opportunities without too much stress.
Do a test
If you open Instagram, you can think that being a digital nomad is easy and great all the time. Well, it is not… It can be pretty difficult sometimes. So be sure that it is for you. My tip is to do a test in your own country and work remotely there for a couple of weeks.
Start in an easy country
Even if the test has been positive, you still don’t know if it is really going to be a life you like. So start with an easy destination. It can be a longer stay in your own country.
If you decide to go abroad, choose a country where you speak the language, where life is not so different from what you know, where the weather is ok for you, and where Wi-Fi is good and stable. And stay at least 1 month.
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My tips to be a digital nomad
As a digital nomad expert… No, I am kidding while I am writing these lines, I only spent 1 year working and traveling at the same time. So there are still many things I haven’t figured out so far, but here are my favorite tips.
It takes time to find a routine in your new place, explore the city, meet new people, and enjoy the nightlife. Also, remember that if you work from Monday to Friday, you only have 2 days a week to explore. It is not a lot.
If a place really attracts you, but you know Wi-Fi or electricity issues may happen, skip it. It is better to go there for a weekend or during your holidays.
Meet local people
Too many digital nomads stay with other digital nomads. The richness of traveling is to discover the place you are. Local people also know cool places where you can work or accommodations where you can stay. They have so much to teach you!
Organize your schedule according to the weather
When you are in a very hot country, for instance, you can feel very tired and have some difficulties focusing. So you can adapt your schedule to work when it is easier for you.
Get travel and health insurance
Health issues can happen everywhere. You can also get stolen or have other problems. It is why you need to have travel and health insurance to avoid any issue that could ruin your experience.
Choose accommodation with a real workplace
At the beginning of my digital nomad journey, I did a big mistake: I booked hotel rooms with no table. So I have no other possibility than working in my bed, which is a very bad idea to be productive.
Get several debit cards
It can happen that one of your cards doesn’t work or that Visa is not accepted in some ATMs, and you need to use a Mastercard. It is also very useful in case your wallet is stolen.
Now that you know what is a digital nomad, you might want to become one. So if you have questions that you would like me to answer, you can hit the comment section. And if you want to share this article on Pinterest, be my guest!
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