Harnessing Your Wanderlust: How to Be a Successful Digital Nomad

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Have you been daydreaming of the big world out there? Become a digital nomad and take your career with you. Here's how.

The "digital nomad" keyword has been tossed around quite frequently these days.

Being a digital nomad means being afforded location independence, allowing one the freedom to earn a living from almost anywhere on the planet (with the help of a stable Internet connection, of course). It's not just about being a successful entrepreneur, but it's also about living the life that you want and going on one endless, epic adventure.

Are you coming along, then?

Why Becoming a Digital Nomad May Be the Best Decision You'll Ever Make

You'll see so much more of the world

Digital nomads love traveling the world because they are able to widen their horizons. There's so many things to see, learn and do, that you'll wonder why you waited so long just to start your journey.

You'll learn to be 100% accountable

You chose to be here. You want to be here, and because you've tasted freedom and the irreplaceable smell of the gentle sea breeze as you work on your latest project, you know that you'll try your darndest to make things work. It's not fun and games for sure, but the rewards and the ensuing satisfaction will be great.

You'll be able to retire young

Being a digital nomad lets you focus on your career as an entrepreneur on the go without being tied down to a dismal job and confined within the four stifling walls of a cold, colorless office. Take Winnie and Jeremy from Go Curry Craker!, for example. They made wise investment decisions (along with a good dose of travel hacking), took the plunge to be digital nomads and retired young with a baby in tow.

You'll learn that money is best spent on experience, not material things

Years ago, before being a full-time digital nomad, I would lust after a coupe and dreamed of the day when I would be able to afford it. Today, I would gladly put down money in the blink of an eye to learn diving in the waters of Con Dao Island.

Grow your company, grow yourself

There are tons of untapped opportunities for personal growth as a digital nomad. Some have expressed just how enlightening it was to take a year's sabbatical to traverse the infrequently traversed paths of Tibet, while others have immersed themselves helping nonprofits empower women in Cambodia to achieve zero hunger.

You'll unearth new career choices

Jodi Ettenberg, the enterprising young woman behind LegalNomads.com, revealed that she used to practice law before discovering her talent as food writer and travel photographer. Like her, you'll never know what other talents and career choices await you as a digital nomad until you take the plunge yourself.

Most Inspiring Digital Nomads to Learn From

Nomadic Matt

All it took for Matt to fall in love with his nomadic lifestyle is the beautiful city of Chiang Mai and several insightful backpackers who convinced him to leave a boring office job. Now, he made it his life's mission to show other people just how possible it is to travel without a lot of money.

Colin Wright from Exile Lifestyle

Colin is a traveling entrepreneur and author who moves to a new country every four months based on his blog readers' votes. That's like playing Wheel of Fortune but landing on something good at every turn!

Mat Newton, founder of TourismTiger.com

A true traveler at heart, Mat has found time to see more than 30 countries over the last 3 years while working on his tourism business. He is now based in Chile and enjoys being location-independent while networking with fellow digital nomads.

Useful Resources: A Digital Nomad's Best Friends

#1: oDesk

Acquire a small army of minions here as you grow your business. A large percentage of the world's freelancer population congregate here, and for a good reason too. The freelancing portal is user-friendly and provides a wealth of opportunities for both online workers and entrepreneurs looking to expand their empire.

#2: ShareDesk.net

Getting a co-working space across 686 cities in 82 countries has never been easier. While it won't be free, you'll get the opportunity to network with startup founders and pick their brain.

Tips and tricks to being an accomplished digital nomad

Tip #1: Find out which countries have the best Internet connections

Let's face it. A fast Internet connection is a digital nomad's bread-and-butter. Finding a city with lightning speed (yet stable) connection is like finding treasure at the bottom of the sea. Tip: always equip yourself with a USB Wifi dongle which allows you to insert a local sim card - it'll be a little bit pricier to use in the long run but it's quite reliable. Otherwise, learn this useful hack on how to boost your Wifi signal using a soda can!

Tip #2: And which are the most cost-effective countries

Topping the most affordable cities to live in Europe are Kiev, Bucharest and Krakow. However, there are other cities to consider, as you'll see from the list here.

Tip #3: Add the World Clock Google Calendar widget

If you find it difficult to schedule meetings across multiple time zones, try adding the World Clock Google Calendar Widget so that you'll see the correct time(s) in one glance when planning meetings and events across multiple timezones.

Tip #4: Never leave home without two bank cards

Apply for two checking accounts with your bank before embarking on your journey. Ensure that the cards are linked via online banking. Bring one card with you at all times while the other should remain in your hotel/apartment.

When and if you do lose one, log in to your online banking account and transfer money to your backup card. This way you'll always have money while waiting for your bank to mail you the replacement card.

Tip #5: Compare the cost of living

Use this tool to quickly get a rough idea of how much it would cost for you to move to your next destination.

Tip #6: Compile essential work gear to fit in a single bag

And by essential, I've shortlisted it to these things:

  • Moleskine notebook: Do not underestimate the power of pen and paper; the pen is, after all, mightier than the sword. And yes, while people would rely on their smartphones (coupled with apps like Evernote) to do so, there's always a chance that you'd be stuck without adequate power, and you don't want that to happen, not when what might seem to be a million-dollar idea is brewing inside your cranium.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones: Whether you use it to communicate with clients and co-workers or simply wear it as chatter-deterrent, you should never leave home without it.
  • Laptop: a lightweight one would do wonders to alleviate strain on your back and shoulders.
  • Universal power adapter: stow a couple away in your bag and you're good to go.
  • Power bank: for when you need to get work done, but can't find an outlet. 

How to afford a digital nomadic lifestyle

Sell your possessions, or at least have a little nest-egg before leaving

And that means selling your car, apartment, and everything including the kitchen sink! There's no use being attached to possessions, unless they're your favorite books, in which case you absolutely must bring them along (and indulge in overnight courier shipping while you're at it). Be prepared for a lag of payments of up to two months, so if that does happen, you can turn to your savings to make the best of things.

Create a popup agency

Lukas, a skilled media professional from Good Things Everywhere, shared how he was inspired to start a popup agency after realizing that expats around him had trouble finding good providers of design and online services. He now travels the world (he's been to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Portugal, Holland and Brazil) and barters his skills to both the locals and nonprofits as a web developer, designer and photographer in return for food, accommodation and other necessities. 

Conclusion

Having a location-independent lifestyle can be a very thrilling but not without its downfalls. You may miss important milestones in the lives of friends and family back home. Another pitfall for digital nomads is seeing the lines between work and leisure blurred together; it can be rather depressing to have finally arrived at a beautiful tropical paradise only to shut yourself in a dismal room to meet deadlines.

The key here is to set priorities straight. It also helps to be with other digital nomads and exchange thoughts, and perhaps if you're lucky, at least one of them will drag you away from your laptop long enough to frolic on the idyllic beach outside your window.

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