The rise of digital nomadism has only intensified in the Covid-era. Being able to work remotely online has allowed many people to escape local lockdowns and relocate to places where the virus is either non-existent or at least under control, rewarding them with the freedom to live more freely.
If you’re not familiar with the term, a digital nomad refers to an individual who chooses to work remotely while traveling. They have the ability to work from anywhere and make the most of their free time by experiencing different parts of their home country or other regions of the world.
Of course, there are many challenges that digital nomads face like finding accommodation and securing the appropriate travel permits or work visas if they are required. But one definite benefit that has come out of the pandemic is that employers are now more open to offering their employees the flexibility of working remotely.
So, if you’re ready to ditch the 9 to 5 routine and upgrade your office view to a tropical beach shaded in palms, check out these top things you need to know before adopting the digital nomad lifestyle.
12 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a Digital Nomad
Make Sure You’re Insured With …
Most travelers understand the importance of having comprehensive travel insurance, and this becomes even more relevant for digital nomads who are constantly in the air or on the road.
While regular insurance policies will cover your normal two to three week holidays, you’re going to need a Long-Term Travel Insurance Policy in place if you plan to be traveling for six months to a year or more.
It goes without saying that the risk of accidents or something not going according to plan increases the longer you are traveling. Travel insurance helps cover digital nomads in the event of travel cancellations and delays, natural disasters that may impact your travel plans, lost or stolen luggage and belongings, or when overseas medical treatment is required.
If you’re planning a bit of domestic digital nomadism, revisit your health insurance policy to make sure you have adequate coverage.
Traveling to parts of your home country you’re not familiar with presents new dangers you may not be aware of and you don’t want to find yourself requiring medical care and not being insured, especially in countries like the U.S. where hospital care can be quite expensive.
If you’re planning on driving your own car around your home country, you may want to increase your protections on your auto insurance policy since you’re likely to be spending much more time on the road than usual.
Your car insurance policy will generally provide coverage throughout the various states or territories within your own country so you can drive freely knowing you’re covered. However, it’s important to note that you may be required to purchase a new car insurance policy if you are permanently relocating to a new state since your policy and its associated premiums are usually specifically calculated based on where your car drives and is parked most frequently.
Your current policy will generally cover you in the short term, but you will want to get car insurance quotes from new insurance companies after you relocate as you may be able to negotiate better rates.
If you are planning on renting a vehicle, understand that standard motor insurance often only covers the vehicle listed on your policy and may not provide coverage for your rented vehicle. If your current policy does offer coverage for rental cars as well, know that this coverage may be much more limited than when driving the car listed on your policy.
Home and Contents Insurance
If you currently own a home that you plan on keeping and leaving vacant while you’re traveling as a digital nomad, make certain to know how long your home can be left vacant and still be covered by your homeowners insurance.
You may need to arrange for someone to live in your home or rent it out to retain coverage for your home and contents. You may also want to look into portable contents insurance in order to cover your expensive personal belongings that will accompany you on your travels.
This can provide 24/7 coverage for items like your smartphone, camera, laptop, and jewelry up to a set amount determined by your policy.
Choosing Travel Destinations
One of the most exciting aspects of being a digital nomad is deciding where you want to travel. This requires a bit more attention than simply deciding on a holiday destination, as you are not only looking for somewhere to have fun but also one which will allow you to remain online and create a productive work environment.
You want to select destinations that are safe and will allow you to remain in the country for the duration of your stay. As a digital nomad, you will most likely be planning to spend an extended period in each place and you’ll need to make sure there is a visa that will allow you to do that.
Avoid places that are experiencing civil unrest, are prone to natural disasters, or may present other situations that could affect your online business and your ability to work. It’s all about finding a place that hits the right balance of providing excitement and entertainment while also making a good working location, where the local living expenses match your budget.
While it’s important to develop a rough itinerary for your journey, try not to overplan. The digital nomad lifestyle is all about breaking out of the strict 9 to 5 work schedule five days a week.
Learn to go with the flow and have the flexibility to remain longer in a destination that you are finding enjoyable or to up and move from a place that isn’t living up to your expectations.
Being a digital nomad working for yourself means you get to set your own schedule which doesn’t exactly have to be a rigid schedule at all. Depending on your finances, you can choose to work as much or as little as you wish.
Not having a boss telling you what needs to be done does come with responsibility though, as you need to learn how to manage your time wisely to create a work-life balance that is effective and works for you.
Outline a Detailed Budget
Travel costs including accommodation, fuel, parking, food, and transportation can add up quickly. Before you begin your digital nomad journey, outline a detailed budget that accounts for all the expenses that you may experience along the way.
If you choose to not look at your finances in detail, you can easily find yourself in debt which can force you to end your digital nomad career much more quickly than you’d hope to.
Although this lifestyle may seem affordable, especially when you see nomads traveling backpacker-style, costs can add up quickly if you do not actively manage your expenses.
The last thing you want to do when constantly on the move is weigh yourself down with tons of luggage. Life as a digital nomad is all about embracing minimalism.
You of course want to travel with any essential items you need to live and work, but many items you may need on an ongoing basis may be readily found in your various travel destinations.
Items that should make the cut when analyzing your packing list include your laptop and accessories since these are your money-makers while traveling as a digital nomad.
Carry a hard-drive to store all your important work-related data unless you have access to cloud storage. Pack an extra laptop charger/power cord in case one stops working, as power cords specific to your computer may not be readily available everywhere.
Noise cancelling headphones are a lifesaver when working from airports and cafes, while travel adapters and converters may be necessary when traveling internationally where electric outlets and voltages may be different.
Pack clothing that is comfortable and low maintenance, remembering that you still may need work outfits for virtual meetings in order to look presentable and be taken seriously. Also keep in mind that standard dress codes may vary by country, meaning what is acceptable to wear in the U.S. may not be appropriate in places like the Middle East.
Always Have a Back-Up Plan
When you are traveling through many different cities, states, or possibly countries, it is likely that parts of your itinerary will be forced to change over time.
For each destination, have a back-up plan in place in case an unexpected situation occurs whether it be travel delays or a natural disaster preventing you from reaching your next destination.
Having a Plan B is not only a good idea when it comes to arranging your travel itinerary, but also having one in place that will allow you to opt out of the digital nomad lifestyle should you find it becomes too stressful for you. This sort of lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
Determine the Non-Negotiables
Whether it’s climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa or engaging in Spain’s La Tomatina tomato fight, decide what the big ticket items are on your travel wish-list and craft your entire itinerary around these non-negotiable experiences.
You should also determine if there are any important dates where you need to be somewhere at a specific time such as a family member’s wedding or exiting a country before your visa expires. Make sure to allow yourself plenty of extra travel time to make certain you can be where you need to be in case there are unexpected delays.
If you are sticking to a strict budget, decide what amount of debt will be the red flag that you need to quit the digital nomad lifestyle or adjust it so it becomes more effective or successful.
Live like a Local
As a digital nomad, acting like a local as opposed to a tourist will be far more enjoyable and rewarding. Learn to speak a bit of the local language when traveling internationally and respect/adhere to local customs.
Engage with locals to find out the best places to eat and most unique places to visit that aren’t in the popular travel guides. Speaking with locals will give you insight on how to adjust to local living expenses and local rules you need to be aware of.
When you are staying in a foreign place for an extended period of time, you need to learn things like best times to avoid traffic, the best supermarkets to shop, and unsafe parts of town to avoid.
Sharing Your Travel Plans
If you are planning on traveling solo as a digital nomad, it’s a good idea to inform a family member or close friend of your travel plans. Provide them with dates of where you expect to be and when, and check in with them if plans change.
Not only is it good safety advice to keep loved ones informed of your whereabouts, but they can also provide you with a ton of emotional support during your travels. Traveling solo can be lonely for many and having someone that you can count on to talk things through can mean the difference of continuing on with your travels or feeling the need to return home.
While it’s important to inform people you are close to of your travel plans, refrain from posting photos and stories to social media that announces you are traveling and where you are at any given time. You never know who will see these posts and what they will do with the information.
Document Your Journey
Traveling the world is an experience of a lifetime. Your experiences as a digital nomad are something you won’t want to forget. It’s important to document your travels and remember to make them personal.
All too often in today’s society, travelers seek out experiences they were told were “must do” or “must see” and take and post photos which they believe others will like and enjoy. This may be done to gain followers or simply to get validation that what they are doing is exciting.
While it may be fun seeing a ton of likes on your selfies, try to remember to document the things that are actually bring YOU joy during your travels.
Take along a journal where you can write down how places made you feel, describing the sounds, smells, and sights that intrigued you. Travel is all about growing as a person and learning about different cultures so we may better understand and respect each other.
Travel isn’t about following what others say we need to do and posting the almost identical travel images that get posted to social media feeds on a daily basis.
Budget Enough Time for Each Destination
With so many places around the world to see, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the many options at your fingertips. Many digital nomads new to the lifestyle are too quick to jump around from place to place and often get burnt out.
Although travel is fun, it can become quite stressful when constantly on the move, checking in and out of accommodation, getting on flights, and constantly trying to get a lay of the land in each new destination.
You also have to remember that you will be spending a great deal of time working while traveling as a digital nomad, something you probably aren’t used to while on previous holidays.
You need to be sure to allow yourself enough time to see and do all you want to in a destination while accounting for the time you will be tied to your laptop working online.
Follow the Local Rules
Before your life as a digital nomad can begin, there are already a number of documents and other requirements that may be needed, especially when traveling abroad.
Depending on your nationality and chosen travel destinations, you may be required to get special visas, vaccinations, or specific permissions in order to be granted entry into a country.
Depending on the amount of time that you are planning on staying in a country along with what activities you are planning to engage in such as employment may require additional approval. Always research the requirements of each country before you craft your itinerary.
You will also need to learn the local laws which begins with knowing what items or substances are prohibited from being brought into the countries you will be visiting. Crimes that may considered petty in some countries where minimal fines or punishment may be imposed may get you landed in prison for a long time in other countries.
Being a digital nomad can prove to be an opportunity of a lifetime. With this new remote office culture that has been introduced to the world, many people have the unique chance to get to see the world while still earning an income that can support their travels.
With adequate research and planning, you can not only maximize the time you get to travel but also enjoy the lifestyle at its full potential.
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