What is a Digital Nomad?

With many companies and startups ditching the office space embracing an entirely remote workforce, and even more companies offering flexible “work from home” policies, the idea of being able to travel AND work is now becoming popular among individuals.

Being a digital nomad is becoming more of a reality for so many workers globally, but there are a lot of questions surrounding the digital nomad lifestyle, how it works, and what kinds of jobs make up the remote workforce.

What is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is someone who works remotely and travels around while they’re working. Although the stereotype pegs digital nomads as freelancers or entrepreneurs, the digital nomad community is also made up of individuals who work for companies that have a remote workforce.

When there are plenty of coffee shops, coworking spaces, and other locations with reliable wifi and easy ambiance, it’s easy to see how the change of scenery could keep you motivated and inspired.

Why Many People are Turning to the Nomad Lifestyle

There are many reasons why more and more people are choosing to be digital nomads. Here are a few benefits to this lifestyle.

Increased productivity

Not everyone is cut out for the standard 9-5 workday. Not only that but when you’re working in an office, you’re often distracted by unproductive meetings or chatty coworkers. Being able to set your own hours, work at your own pace, and take inspiring breaks when you need to, can all lead you to be more productive and allow you time to enjoy the city you’re in.

Better work/life balance

With better productivity and the ability to set your own schedule, you leave yourself more time to explore and decompress. This will not only circle back to sustaining your productivity by allowing yourself time to reset, but it will also give you the opportunity to network, find other nomads and pick their brains, and maybe even take a dance or cooking class to blow off some steam. 

You get to see the world 

Now, this one is a bit of a given, but with the proper planning and research, you really can see as much of the world as you’d like. Some nomads choose to stay in one country and travel around in vans while others might hop from one continent to the next depending on the month. So long as you have an internet connection and a job to do, you can genuinely go anywhere.

You save money

If planned correctly, you can easily live in or visit cities with low costs of living. This, along with a well thought out budget, can help keep the costs of your travels down, allowing you to save money in the long run. So long as you’re strategic with your budget, saving money should come easy.

Job satisfaction

In a recent study, it was found that 79% of digital nomads are either very satisfied or satisfied with their incomes while traveling. The adventure that comes from being in a new city, or simply at a new coffee shop, can keep you inspired and eager to continue working. Also, for those who are freelancers or entrepreneurs, the work that you’re doing that allows you to travel is work that you choose, which makes it particularly satisfying.

Common Jobs for Digital Nomads

Freelance

There’s a reason why 56% of digital nomads are freelancers. Being able to work project to project and make your own schedule creates the perfect work environment to travel and not be tied to an office. That being said, be sure you have your own network of clients to ensure a steady workflow while you’re traveling. This will help avoid any stressful situations if one of your clients is slow on projects or short on budget.

Fully remote full-time employee

As previously mentioned, more and more employers are starting to embrace the remote workforce lifestyle. In fact, 44% of remote workers work for traditional companies. There are plenty of roles in which a remote job could work with the right resources. These roles include:

  • Design
  • HR/Recruiting
  • Customer Service
  • Marketing
  • IT
  • Healthcare
  • Quality Analty (QA)
  • Writing/Content/Editing
  • Virtual Assistant
  • Teacher/Tutor
  • Accounting/Finance
  • Sales
  • Software Development

The key to working remotely for a larger company is communication. Be sure to set standards, goals, and best practices before you begin your travels, just to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

Entrepreneur 

If you’re self-employed or are working to start your own business, it could potentially be very easy to travel while you work. You essentially set your own hours and schedule. Just be sure to have the discipline and organization to keep everything you need in order with your clients or investors before you take off on your travels. 

Travel Nurse

A lot less “digital”, but still in the nomad lifestyle, the job of a travel nurse is also becoming increasingly popular. These nurses get to travel around in intervals of 3-4 months at a time and get to experience new cities while taking care of the local community while they are at it. Now, there are some instances where a travel nurse certification might only allow you to travel within one country, however, with the right paperwork you can travel to many international countries that are in need of nurses.

5 Things to Know Before You Step Into the Nomad Lifestyle

Get travel health insurance

This might be something that you overlook if you’re insured by your employer, but if you find yourself in a foreign country and desperately need to be seen by a doctor for any given reason, you’ll be thankful that you’re covered by travel health insurance. Do some insurance shopping and find the right plan for you depending on where you’re going and for how long. 

Invest in a reliable VPN

When you’re working out of a location that has public wifi, it is important to keep your computer secure. VPNs, or virtual private networks, work as an extra layer of security to your computer and phone when you’re using wifi that many others have access to. Having a VPN will not only keep your work and proprietary information safe but will also keep your personal information safe as well.

Unlock your phone

If you’re going to be jumping around to different locations for extended periods of time, you’re most likely going to need to get a SIM card to get mobile phone access. If you call your current cell phone carrier, they can “unlock” your phone, which will allow you access to use your phone with a SIM card from any international carrier as needed. There is also a new technology called an “e-sim” that you can download to your phone that will allow you to keep your US-based SIM card and get data in another country. 

Create a budget 

Much like living in one place where you need to budget for rent, food, bills, etc., you need to make a budget and stick to it during your travels. Travel expenses like accommodation, transportation, and any bills related to the internet, VPNs, and insurance should be accounted for, along with daily food budgets and anything set aside for fun and exploring. 

Join a nomad community

As a slight downside to being a nomad, you may find yourself feeling lonely or a little lost at times. Fortunately, joining a nomad community can introduce you to new friends that can help guide you along the tough times. Whether you’re looking for travel advice, a meet up for other like-minded nomads, or you just want to feel connected, nomad communities can help you find whatever it is you’re looking for. 

Visit with a travel nurse

Depending on where you’re traveling, you might need to get some shots or provide a bill of good health. It’s also good to have a check-up before you leave, just to make sure you’re in the best health to be exploring. Visiting with a travel nurse or your primary care doctor to receive vaccinations and get some advice on how to treat any travel bugs you might pick up will save you some time and future hassle. 

Pack a converter 

Sometimes it’s the small things we forget, and converters are 100% necessary when you’re a digital nomad. If you want to charge your devices around the world, you’re going to need an outlet converter for the country you’re in. You can find a good number of converters that will work for multiple countries, but it’ll take some looking around. Be sure to prepare yourself with a backup in case you lose or break one.

Digital Nomad FAQs

Where should a digital nomad travel to?

This question is an extremely personal question. That being said, there are some locations that are safer than others, and some that have a better internet connection. So take some time to do a little research first. If you really have no idea where to start, there are plenty of places to look to get some inspiration and recommendations. You can find some great resources with insights on costs, internet, and safety here:

What should I pack as a digital nomad?

Really and truly, less is best as it’s extremely easy to overpack! Think about how long you’re going to be gone and what climate changes you might experience. Remember that it’s easy to find a laundromat and stores for toiletries on the go. As far as your clothes go, try to pack items that can easily be mixed and matched to reduce items that might not be of use to you. As a good rule of thumb, pack your suitcase, then get rid of half of that. It’ll take time, and you probably won’t get it right the first time, so just learn from your experiences. 

How much do digital nomads earn?

How much you earn is entirely based on what it is that you do and if you’re working part-time or full-time. According to FlexJobs, 40% of remote workers make over $50,000 a year working full-time. In fact, 18% of those remote workers made over $100,000 a year. That means that with the right mindset, plan, and career path, you can definitely make a comfortable living while being a digital nomad. Planning is the key here. 

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