The working world is changing. As new technologies create new opportunities, innovative thinkers have taken advantage of these evolving trends to transform the way they earn a living. One of the most striking examples is the rise of the digital nomad.
Realizing that “working from home” can translate (with some imagination) into “working from Thailand,” digital nomads spend months at a time traveling the globe while working remotely. It’s an attractive proposition, and many dream of learning how to become a digital nomad in order to follow in their footsteps.
It’s easy to see why. Insecure work is one of the things that plagues Millennials, with the drift towards more freelance work and temporary contracts meaning that it’s hard to guarantee an income. Simultaneously, a 24-hour working culture – borne from technology ensuring that we are logged in for every 3am email – can lead to burnout when work is steady and available.
Digital nomads have taken these trends and used them to their advantage, with the flexible nature of freelance work and the technological capability to conducts meetings, interviews and pitches from anywhere helping them form a new lifestyle.
It’s a lifestyle to envy, with palm-fringed beaches, adventures through jungles and tours around ancient cities defining the experiences of these loose-footed wanderers. Not being tied to an office every weekday (or even a particular location) is something most people find deeply appealing, and using remote working to facilitate a travel lifestyle isn’t the unachievable prospect it may seem.
Becoming a Digital Nomad Takes Planning
While most people’s picture of a worry-free existence leisurely seeing the world may be quite at odds with the idea of detailed preparation, it’s pretty likely that this is going to be essential in order to make a success of the digital nomad lifestyle. While some exceptionally brave and lucky people might make it simply by setting off and playing it by ear, the majority will have to think ahead.
This could mean convincing your employer that you can work from home, and if you can work from home, that you can also work from the other side of the world. It may mean upskilling and taking the plunge to go freelance, or if you already are freelancing considering the impact on your clients.
The presence of a beautiful tropical beach outside your window won’t make your work commitments any less real, so knowing how and when you’ll deal with these things could make or break your plans.
Digital nomad hubs – such as those that are found in Bali, Chang Mai and European freelance communities – can provide good places to settle for a few weeks or months as you get your head round your new life. You’ll also have to ensure that wherever you’re heading has a good Wi-Fi connection, and whether there’s another close by if that should fail you.
Where Will You Stay?
The aforementioned hubs such as Hubud in Bali provide a great working space, and perhaps even more importantly a chance to meet likeminded travellers from all over the world. They will even help you find a home, something that could come in very useful if you feel inexperienced or intimidated by the move.
Away from communities such as this – which are unfortunately still fairly few and far between – there are a myriad of options to consider as you hop from country to country. You could book a hostel (which are often complete with internet access) in order to keep your costs down, or even sign up to house sitting or couch-surfing websites for accommodation that is completely free. Renting locally could also work if your income is secure, and you plan to stay in an area for a while.
The digital nomad lifestyle isn’t only the preserve of the budget traveller, however. At the other end of the scale there’s a small set of wealthy wanderers who also work while they travel, such as location independent entrepreneur Mark Manson. If your one of those people who have the budget to support it, schemes such as The Hideaways Club cater to this market, giving you access to luxury holiday homes all over the world.
Whatever you choose, access to the Internet will be vital, as will a space where you’ll be able to concentrate on work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, digital nomads often report that the temptation to put off work and do other things is particularly intense for them, so a place where you can minimize distractions will come in useful when you really need to get stuff done.
Pragmatism and Practicalities
If you want to become a digital nomad, there will be practical considerations to think about alongside all the visions of sun-drenched wandering. It can be just as easy to mismanage your work/life balance somewhere beautiful and far-away as it is in your home town, and the last thing you’ll want is to find yourself working constantly and never seeing any of the places you visit.
This means setting strict work times, scheduling calls in blocks so you aren’t being contacted by clients at all hours, and avoiding procrastination so you can stop working exactly when you planned to.
Time difference will be a factor, so adding the World Clock to your Google Calendar will be essential, and you may find yourself conducting meetings at odd hours on occasion. This may also make your schedule idiosyncratic (very early mornings, a long break, and a few hours in the evening, for example) and subject to change, so if you may want to start by traveling to a place where the time difference isn’t too drastic, if only to ease you in.
There’s also blogs from pioneers of this lifestyle that will help you find out how to become a digital nomad, such as Making it Anywhere. These can give you a real insight into the reality of living this way before you decide whether you really want to set off on your adventure. As much as it’s characterised by freedom, working remotely and constantly travelling takes real commitment, and a willingness to stick it out when the challenges of becoming location independent arise. But with a dream way of life on offer, you could find that facing these challenges is well worth doing.