As I was looking through my blog’s archive, I realised that I haven’t written much about what I’ve been doing to sustain my travels. Yes, I’ve been posting a lot about my trips abroad and what I do on the road, but never about the technicality of it all. As you all know, being a digital nomad is not just something that works out overnight. You generally have to work on it for a long period of time. It’s no joke and it takes a lot of passion and dedication. It really does.
I’ve done a poll via Instagram and I asked the lot of you if you wanted to know more about the in’s and the out’s of being (and becoming) a digital nomad. Obviously you said yes since I’m actually writing this blog post. So here we are, I guess.
***Before we start, I just want to say (or write) that these are my experiences. These are the things that worked for me and I’m trying to share with you all what I think works and what I think doesn’t work. So don’t come at me if your experiences are different. Instead, let’s connect in order to help more people who want to dive into the digital nomad lifestyle.
So basically I wanted to write about this now since we’ve slowly realised that working remotely is actually quite possible. If this pandemic has brought us any good, it’s that we finally realised that creativity, progress and discipline aren’t contained in an office’s four walls. Now is the perfect time to dive into the digital nomad lifestyle, and now is a great time to dip your toes in this lifestyle that many people are curious about.
Although, as much as everything about this attitude is great, being a digital nomad is actually no joke.
Quite a lot of people think that being a digital nomad is like a walk in the park. It’s actually not. We work hard just like the lot of you who are working in an office and we do have the passion for our craft. The only difference is that we’d rather work somewhere else and we’d rather see the world whilst we’re at it. I know, it does sound a bit snobby, but it’s the truth. A lot of people look down upon digital nomads just because our careers are a bit unconventional. It might be the case, but it doesn’t mean that we’re lazy or that we haven’t got a good sense of maturity. Quite the contrary actually.
I never really intended to become a digital nomad. It sort of just happened. I had wanted to travel and see the world, and I wanted to create art that was worthwhile whilst I was at it. There had been moments when I’d seriously doubt myself and my capabilities and there were moments where nothing worked. I had no clients, no money and all I had was myself. This road is not for the faint of heart, and it’s not for people who are easily discouraged.
There really is no manual and nobody told me what to do when I was starting out. I wish there had been one, but I tried to figure everything out by myself. So I want to help out in any way that I can. If you’re considering on taking on the digital nomad lifestyle, then here are some of the things that you should seriously consider before dropping everything and simply leaving:
1. What are you good at?
This is probably one of the main things that you should really think about before diving into any career—not just when it comes to the digital nomad lifestyle. If you know and if you’re confident in your talents, then everything will simply follow. You can’t be a photographer and then go for gigs that require writing or you can’t be a writer and go for gigs that require web development. I mean, if you have those skills then go for them, but generally speaking, you should know what you’re really good at.
Stick to your skills and master your craft, that’s probably one of the most important things that you should be able to do. If you really want to write travel articles or content, then go for gigs that will require you to do what you love. After all, being a digital nomad is about doing what you love and passionately at that. Go for the gigs that you are immensely interested in and simply work hard.
Focusing on what you’re good at will save you so much time figuring out the little details in the long run. If you’re able, don’t go for the jobs that you might think will pay better. The true essence of being a digital nomad lies not with money but with the passion for your craft and for sharing what you’ve done with the world. Always remember that.
2. Are you passionate about the world?
As I’ve mentioned above, being a digital nomad means that you’ve got to be passionate about the world. Leave all the materialistic trappings of society and simply enjoy simple joys that this world has to offer. I know, it does sound a bit cliché, but it’s the truth. You’ll know what I mean when you’re actually out there, and you’ll love it, trust me on that one!
3. What is your game plan?
You can’t just decide that you’re going to be a digital nomad in a snap of a finger. It takes time and it’s an ongoing process, I’m afraid. So you need to have a game plan.
You need to be able to answer these questions:
- How will I get clients?
- How will I sustain myself on the road?
- How will I be able to connect with people in the same field or with people with the same mindset as myself?
There are a lot more questions that you should be able to answer, but these three are some of the most basic ones that you have to face before dashing off. Having a game plan really works and it’s super important to know that you’ve got a plan before you actually dive into the unknown. When worse comes to worst, you’ll have comfort in knowing that you’ve thought this through and you know that you’ll be okay.
I know that being a digital nomad might sound spontaneous, but the reality is that we actually do a lot of planning…sorry to burst your bubbles!
4. Are you adaptable enough?
One of the main rules that you have to follow whilst living on the road is this: be adaptable.
When things don’t work out the way you want them to or when you’re faced with a situation that’s completely out of control, you’re supposed to know how to work your way around it. Obviously it’s totally okay to break down and feel completely crappy, but you’re expected to stand back up again and to resolve this issue bravely. Most travellers do it, not just digital nomads.
The reality of it is that we’re all still figuring out how to go about our lives every single day—there really is no better explanation for it. They don’t teach you how to become a digital nomad in school, so this is something that you’ve got to learn as you go along the road. It’s a bit daunting and it can be quite challenging, but it sure is empowering!
5. Do you have the proper discipline and are you able to manage your time properly?
Being a digital nomad is a constant battle between needing to work on your tasks and wanting to explore the place that you’re currently in. It’s a constant struggle, but it’s a beautiful one. So you need to sort out your priorities and you really need to be disciplined enough to manage your time properly. If you’re constantly stuck in a room or at a cafe for hours on end, then what’s the difference between what you’re doing and working at an office?
It’s really important to know how to manage your time properly because being a digital nomad means that you have to do your work but still have the time to enjoy the place that you’re currently living in. It does sound quite hard and it will be hard at first, but once you’ve gotten the hang of it, then all will be well.
6. What kind of gears do you have?
When I was starting out, I still had my old laptop that I had from when I was in university. Then I bought a second-hand camera that I got off from a guy via Facebook. It was about $200 USD and I still have it today. The only thing that I bought was my external hard drive and a mouse (since trackpads suck).
I didn’t really have much money when I was starting out so I never had the chance to buy myself the fanciest equipment. To be quite frank, there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve learned that gears don’t work as much as you do. If you’ve got the best camera but have no skill in photography, then what’s it really for?
The trick is to master your craft using any gear that you might currently have. Stick to honing your skills without focusing on the materialistic side of art, because you’ll fail if you dive in head first in thinking that this lifestyle is a competition—it’s not. Honestly, most of the people I’ve met along the way who are digital nomads really couldn’t care less about the equipment that I had; nor did I care about theirs. What we all cared about and what we paid attention to was everybody’s talent and what we could all bring to the table.
Stick to what you have—I can’t emphasise that enough! Once you feel like you’ve outgrown your stuff and once you know that you’ve got ample money to upgrade, then do it. I just bought myself a new laptop last year since my old one had been busted, but if it didn’t then I probably wouldn’t have upgraded in the first place. I’m quite frugal and that works for me. To each their own, but stick to what you have for now.
7. Do you have enough savings?
Ah, the most dreaded question…
As much as I love travelling and bumming around, the fact that you need money to do so still remains. This is actually quite a lengthy topic as is, so I might do a longer and a full article on this topic (solamente), but I’ll add a few things here. Obviously.
If you’re someone who can go back to work a crappy job at home for a few months before heading off again, then by all means, do it. I did that for three consecutive years. What I’d do is I’d work a service job and I’d endure it for a few months since I wasn’t established as a digital nomad yet and this was the only job that I could get for such a short term. So I endured it and as soon as I hit my ‘savings goal’, I dashed out of the country as fast as I could!
The truth is, there’s no shame in working service or any other job that’s not related to becoming a digital nomad. If this particular job will help you settle on the right foot, then there’s no shame in that. Most people think that being a digital nomad means that life will be so glamorous…well it won’t be, that’s the truth. So if you’re able to do something like that, then please do it. It’s not only such a decent way to earn money, but it’s super practical as well.
You can’t really set on the road without any savings because travelling can be quite expensive. So it really pays to work a bit before working on your plans. I did as well—right after graduation, I worked at a tech start-up and saved so much money that I left after half a year. If you’re not ready to dive into this lifestyle, then don’t rush it. You’ll only end up broke and lost if you do. Really think things through and save as much money as you can. That’s the tea…
8. Are you actually able to work remotely?
If you’re someone who works in a company and you’re currently working from home, then you might actually ask your bosses if this is something that you can do in the long run. I know that once the pandemic is over, most of us will eventually go back to office. However, if you’re someone who can actually work remotely, then please grab this amazing opportunity!
There are people out there who are waiting for their big break, but if you already have it, then don’t waste this opportunity. There’s no harm in trying, and you’ll surely gain a lot more if you just ask. After all, you’re already working from home…might as well work somewhere that you’re actually in love with once this whole pandemic is over, don’t you think so?
9. Do you know how to connect with other people?
Being a digital nomad means that you have to do your part in connecting with other creatives. You simply can’t be a loner when you’re a digital nomad because connections can lead you to collaborations, sponsorships or even a contract. So it’s really important to know when to connect and it’s equally important to know who you ought to initiate conversations with. Be smart about it, be proactive and learn along the way.
A great place to meet fellow digital nomads is at cafes and at co-working spaces. Although, don’t easily give out any of your personal information to people pretending that they might have a gig for you. I know it’s such a basic reminder, but people still fall for that. So it’s better to be safe (and smart) than sorry!
10. Just have fun!
Most people tend to forget that the main reason why we’re working on the road is because we love life, we love the craft that we’re doing and we’re here to have fun! If you take things too seriously, you’ll forget to smile and see the silver lining in everything. You also need to perfect your work + life balance since you can’t sit in a cafe every single day for so many hours and not explore the beautiful places around you.
The essence of being a digital nomad is that we should all love the things that we do and the world (not in a secular kind of way). You’re essentially on the road because you’re in search of something inspirational…you’re not going to find it glued to your table. Do your work but also don’t forget to just have fun!
From so many years of travelling and trying to figure out how to become a better digital nomad, I’ve gathered these thoughts for all of you. I just really want to make it clear that these are my thoughts and my experiences alone, so don’t come at me if you’ve experienced different things. To each his own, always remember that. Although, I’d love to engage in a conversation with you and with all aspiring digital nomads out there!
The world is big and from what I reckon, so are your dreams. There are so many beautiful places to see, so simply believe in yourself. I’d love to hear more about your digital nomad journey, so please comment below if you’ve got a thought or an idea that you’d want to share with us! For now, ciao and I do hope that you’ve found bits and pieces of useful information on this article. Besitos y abrazos virtual para ustedes! Blessings x
*Photo is by Green Chameleon via Unsplash.
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
Luke 16:10 NIV