How to Be a Digital Nomad: 4 Takeaways From the Road

By Josh Hoffman, Contributor, on December 29, 2017

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Measuring the rapid growth of the digital nomad movement has been a challenge. It’s clear, however, that the popularity of working remotely, traveling at will and living an adventurous life only continues to rise.

Recently, I packed all of my belongings, relieved myself of every local responsibility (i.e., rent) and stepped onto a one-way flight to Bangkok, where I began six months of digital nomadism across Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

While I learned more about this lifestyle (and myself) than I could write in a few hundred words, here are the top four takeaways from my experience:

1. Stay in One Place for a Couple of Weeks

FOMO is real, and there’s so much to see and do when you’re traveling. But you also have a business to run, and moving constantly from place to place isn’t just physically tiring, it takes a mental toll. You’re preoccupied with carefully planning where you’re going next, how you’re going to get there and where you’re going to stay when you arrive.

During my travels, I moved from place to place every handful of days, which meant I was always thinking about the logistics of getting to the next destination as soon as I arrived at a new one. Eventually, I learned that many digital nomads stay in one place for 30 days at a time to relieve themselves of the mental and physical exhaustion that comes with frequent travel. And, as a bonus, it’ll let you experience and immerse yourself in the local culture.

2. Develop a Routine

While many people (including me) adopt digital nomadism to escape routine, developing a routine is the best way to efficiently and effectively get work done — and please your clients.

Here’s the routine I developed abroad: I worked for a couple of hours in the morning, explored from the late morning into the late afternoon, worked again in the early evening, and then enjoyed the rest of my evening however I liked.

3. Surround Yourself With Like-Minded People

Traveling alone can most definitely get lonely, and connecting with locals isn’t always easy. Surround yourself with relatable people — people who understand digital nomadism — and you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience. Even better, you can learn from their own trials and tribulations as a digital nomad.

Coworking spaces, Meetups and even the Couchsurfing app provided me with great opportunities to network and meet like-minded people. I also found that local Facebook groups (e.g. Lisbon Digital Nomads) are becoming increasingly popular among the growing digital nomad community worldwide.

4. Determine Your Goals Ahead of Time

Before you embark on the digital nomad path, take some time to think about your freelance goals, since they’ll determine how you plan to travel.

For example, if you want to grow your business while you travel, perhaps your routine will look different from the one I described above (more work, less play). Stay longer in one place at a time, so you can focus on growing your business and still see all there is to see. If you simply want to maintain your revenue stream, like me, you can get away with less work and more play, and move from place to place more frequently.

Here are some additional resources to consider when thinking about digital nomadism:

  • World Nomads offers all types of insurance, from medical coverage to protecting your gear. As an alternative, contact your current medical insurance provider to inquire about the various travel insurance packages it offers. In many cases, it’s quick and painless: You can get medical coverage for about $1 per day (although it may be higher if you plan to participate in extreme activities, sports and adventures).
  • Nomad List provides a complete breakdown of various destinations, including detailed rankings, travel guides and cost of living. Chiang Mai, Thailand; Lisbon, Portugal; Bali, Indonesia; and Medellín, Colombia are currently among the most popular destinations.
  • Digital Nomads Forum and Nomad Forum feature plenty of answers to all sorts of digital nomad-related questions.
  • DNX is the premiere conference for digital nomads.
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