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A Digital Nomad’s Guide on How to Thrive and Survive Living Abroad

Being a digital nomad sounds like a dream job. Imagine packing your bag and flying off to a picturesque destination every month while working remotely to reach your career goals and remain financially secure. 

But like everything in life, there’s more than meets the eye to being a digital nomad. Although it can, without a doubt, open doors to the most amazing experiences and opportunities for you, the digital nomad path also comes with its own set of unique obstacles.

In this article, we share a few tips on how to prepare before taking the plunge as a full-fledged digital nomad living their best life abroad. 

Save A Substantial Emergency Fund

Before hopping on a flight, do your best to save as much as possible for an emergency or rainy day fund, which is meant to cover unexpected expenses, such as last-minute plane ticket rebooking, or suddenly losing your remote job, instead of dipping into your life savings. Knowing you’ve got these things covered can help minimize your stress as a digital nomad.

Some strategies to build up an emergency fund include:

  • Declutter and let go of your stuff by holding a garage sale in your neighborhood or posting them on various online selling platforms, like eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
  • Get a professional move-out cleaning service to put your rental back in pristine condition so you can get your deposit back. Putting your property on the market is an excellent strategy to make your home look picture-perfect and more appealing to potential buyers/renters. 
  • Secure a remote job or a reliable income stream that can afford you the freedom of a digital nomad lifestyle. Save at least 50% of your paychecks for at least three to six months, ensuring it’s enough to sustain you for a considerable time, depending on which country or city you plan to visit.

Research About Your Target Destinations

Beyond traveling to beautiful countries around the globe, digital nomads have much to consider before selecting their destinations. These include the cost of living, reliable Internet connection, visas or working permits, timezone, local culture and current political climate, and safety and security, which is extremely important, especially for female solo travelers. 

Don’t know where to begin? First, check out Nomad List’s top-rated countries for digital nomads based on feedback crowdsourced from its users. 

  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Canggu, Bali
  • Madeira, Portugal
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Bangkok, Thailand

Get Reliable Travel Insurance 

Becoming a digital nomad means leaving your comfort zone for an unforgettable experience. However, part of this involves encountering unfortunate situations beyond your control, like getting injured while hiking a mountain or being hospitalized due to severe food poisoning from eating some exotic delicacy. Travel insurance with decent coverage can be a lifesaver in these scenarios. 

Check Out Local Co-Working Spaces 

Living abroad on your own can feel isolating and lonely sometimes. It may take a while to find your footing and meet new people when you’re always on the go. One surefire way to create connections and find your circle is by trying out the co-working spaces or coffee shops in the area where you’re staying. It’s a smart strategy to build your social and professional network or spot familiar faces of fellow digital nomads you’ve met and encountered elsewhere. 

Invest In A Portable Travel Router 

If you commit to the digital nomad lifestyle long-term, getting a portable wifi or travel router will be super worth it.

However, whether working as a freelance contractor or running your online business empire, you can’t rely solely on public or common Internet connections in your accommodations or cafes. Aside from being unreliably spotty when you need them, a cybersecurity risk is involved. 

Practice Deep Work for Productivity 

Many digital nomads struggle with getting work done and being productive when there are new places to explore fun and thrilling adventures and exciting people to meet and hang out with in every destination.

Here’s where deep work, a concept first coined by computer science professor Cal Newport and author of “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World“, comes in. 

Generally, deep work involves devoting two to four hours of uninterrupted time to tick off everything on your professional to-do list. During this timeframe, you should be logged out of all social media and communication platforms and away from distractions. So, for example, if you swim or surf every morning, you can devote your afternoons to important work and your evenings to social events.

Create a Travel Budget and Stick To It 

When you’re traveling for vacation, indulging and splurging a bit is probably fine. But it’s a different story if you’re a digital nomad. One wrong move can lead you to financial ruin that can take you several months to recover, depending on how much you’re making. This is why it’s crucial to have a flexible and reasonable budget that’s not too restrictive, so you can still live your best digital nomad life.

Here are essential factors to consider when creating a budget.

  • Know the best times to book flights for cheaper deals and seat sales.
  • Determine the cost of living and exchange rates in your destination. 
  • Identify your personal needs when deciding on your accommodation. While hostels can be cheaper, it may be harder to work in them sometimes since you’re sharing the space with several other guests.
  • Maximize credit card points and travel miles.
  • Automate a specific portion of your income to your monthly savings account.
  • Aside from an emergency fund, dedicate a sinking fund for big-ticket purchases, like a new camera or laptop needed for work or an expensive ticket to a popular attraction or country that’s on your bucket list

Be Respectful Of Local Customs and Traditions Wherever You Go

Contrary to the common notion, not all countries have a warm reception to digital nomads or foreign tourists because of several conflicting factors. There’s the issue of gentrification that kills local businesses to create upscale establishments to accommodate tourists, increases in local housing costs, and other harmful cultural and environmental impacts due to the sudden tourism boom.

Be a low-impact digital nomad and traveler with these tips:

  • Shop local farmers and artisans.
  • Do not snap or film locals without asking for their permission, especially in sacred temples or during religious rituals.
  • Learn the basics of the local language, for example, standard greetings, through apps like Pimsleur, DuoLingo, or Drops.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, particularly in highly conservative destinations.

Final Thoughts

Being a digital nomad is one of the best ways to see the world without worrying about money or your professional career. Take this as a sign if you’ve always wanted to do it. So many remote positions are available today that you can apply to jumpstart your digital nomad journey. With proper preparation using the tips we shared here, plus the confidence that you can take on anything, you’re good to go!

About the Author:

Will Cotter is a digital nomad from Ireland and remotely runs his professional cleaning companies, including the newest brand, FreshSpace Cleaning. His favorite perk of running a fully remote business is being free to pack his bags, book a flight, and travel the world spontaneously. 

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