Right now, I'm writing this article from a cafe in Seoul, South Korea. Last month I was in Tokyo. And next month I'll be working from Seattle. My life as a digital nomad has allowed me to work around the world while building two companies. Over the years, I've had many people ask me "How can I have this lifestyle too?"
Digital nomadism is possible for everyone but getting started takes a proper plan, the definition of your skillset, and a bit of determination.
1. Find out if digital nomadism is right for you.
I became a nomad accidentally. I had just quit my job in New York City and didn't know what I was going to do next. All I was certain about was that I wanted to start my own company. After taking a look at my bleak savings account, I used my airline miles to book a flight to Spain, where I knew the cost of living would be one-fifth the cost in New York. While working remotely on my company for a few months, I came across many forums and online communities of other people doing the same and learned that travel and work could be a lifestyle, not just a temporary fix.
"Try before you buy," says Michael Young, a graphic designer who became a nomad in 2017. "Not everyone is suited to the digital nomad lifestyle and sometimes you don't find that out until you're suddenly juggling time zones with clients and trying to make new friends. Why not try it for a month first? Talk to your boss and see if you can negotiate a trial, or just take holidays. You could save yourself a lot of hassle in the long run."
2. Start planning as early as you can.
If you are serious about becoming a digital nomad, I would not recommend the path I took. I left the United States with some hefty student loans and lacking a solid plan to make money. Though I've been able to figure it out since, I would do much more planning before initially taking the plunge if I could go back in time. I recommend saving at least six months to a year of rent to fall back on in case your business does not go as planned.
"It sounds obvious but the first thing is to make a decision that you're going to try the digital nomad lifestyle and then start planning," says Young. "Before I took the plunge, it was at least six months' worth of preparation. That gave me enough time to talk to my boss, let my rental lease run out on my house, and get rid of a lot of my things."
After you have your savings account intact and have prepared accordingly, I would spend time researching locations to find those best suited for you. At one point I ended up in Tel Aviv in the summer. Though a great city, if I had done more research I would have found out before I left that it was not a budget friendly city, especially given I had just started off.
3. Determine your nomad working preference.
There are many ways to become a nomad. You can freelance, work a remote job at an established company, or start your own brand. Casey Lau, a digital nomad and Head of Asia for Rise, recommends looking at a site like Remote, which is a job board for remote workers offering virtual positions in a variety of industries. Can't find a job that matches your skillset? It's never too late to learn a new trade if nomadism is your dream.
4. Use your skillset to create a digital product or service.
No matter what your skillset, you can find a way to monetize it online. From creating online courses to share your knowledge to writing to designing, there are a number of ways you can generate income online. You can also sell your services to businesses. One example of a digital good is a training course. A math teacher, for example, could create a virtual training course on a site like Udemy or Skillshare to teach others, which can then be monetized in the form of e-books, blog posts, or a niche website.
5. Line up projects and contracts before you take off.
Before I left for Spain, I set up meetings with everyone I knew and told them I was starting my own marketing agency. This helped me secure work before I left the country. Though it's possible to gain new contracts while abroad, it's much less stressful to start your journey as a digital nomad having secured work to get you started. To sell your new digital service, network as much as possible and create revenue streams before you book your first ticket out of the country.
6. Start downsizing and clearing out your apartment.
In the last two years, I've traveled to over twenty countries. I have lived my life entirely from one big suitcase and nothing more. Before becoming a digital nomad, I sold or gave away all my large material possessions--from my bed to pots and pans. Though you don't need to travel as minimalist as I do, having fewer possessions while on the road will make it much easier for you to travel from city to city. Now I only rent furnished apartments and refrain from buying anything I would not be able to take with me. Though it was hard at first, I don't miss the things I can't take with me. My decrease in consumption has allocated more funds to travel and having fun experiences while on the road.
Though it will take time, dedication, and a bit of luck, a digital nomad journey can be possible if you set your mind to it.