They say that one who makes no mistakes makes nothing at all, but that doesn’t mean you should collect errors blindly on your first digital nomad trip. Sure, there are going to be times when things don’t go as planned, but with a little preparation, you can minimize these instances and live as stress-free as possible. To help your prepare for your inaugural remote working trip, we’ve compiled a list of the most common mistakes made by new digital nomads. From overpacking and underworking to neglecting your body and traveling just a little too often, here are our top seven mistakes to avoid when working remotely as a digital nomad.
Chat to any global traveler, frequent flier, or backpacker and there’s at least one thing that they have all in common—they seriously overpacked on their first trip. Suitcases, duffel bags, and large backpacks have a cruel way of luring you in with their potential volume but it will come back to haunt you later when it’s bursting at the seams.
In a hierarchy of digital nomad sins, overpacking lies at the top of the pile. You’ll be surprised at just how little you need as an international digital nomad and, just a short few weeks into that first trip, you’ll realize the mistake that you’ve made—you don’t need an enormous suitcase as a digital nomad. Taking things to the next level and a huge community of minimalist one-bag travelers, myself included, live out of small carry-on rucksacks.
This type of travel isn’t for everyone, but it does offer the highest level of freedom when flying internationally. There’s no more cumbersome luggage to cart around, no more lost baggage, no more carousels to wait around for, and no more hefty airline fees for checking bags. Once you’ve decided on your next digital nomad trip, give yourself chance to run through a mock pack. Your goal is to minimize the amount making its way into your luggage. If you don’t need it, back into the closet it goes.
Budgets are restrictive, tedious, and totally necessary. At the very least, digital nomads should have a rough idea of how much money they have entering and exiting their accounts each month. This is extremely important when traveling with regular hotel stays, restaurant visits, and airfares. There are countless tools that can be used to track this from third-party apps and software to integrated banking features and personal spreadsheets. It doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you can keep an eye on how you’re spending your money.
A good way of creating a budget is to work out a value that can be spent each day. Jot down your monthly income and subtract investments, expenses, and savings. Divide the number you get by 30 and you’ve got your daily budget for each travel day as a digital nomad.
You don’t need to spend the full amount, and as much as you may want to, it’s probably best if you try to make a habit of underspending. But keep this figure in mind to ensure that you’re living within your means on your first trip as a digital nomad. Your budget may fluctuate depending on the value of the local currency, but continuing to save in inexpensive destinations will give you more wiggle room when you end up in a pricier place later.
Traveling Too Quickly
Life as a digital nomad is not just one big holiday, nor is it a backpacking trip without any real responsibilities. The digital nomad lifestyle is much more closely related to traditional remote working, it’s one of the reasons that the two terms are so often interchanged. Sure, you’re traveling the world with a laptop on your back, but you still have a day job. If you don’t give yourself enough time in a destination, it can be difficult to fully appreciate it if the bulk of your time is dedicated to working. Not to mention, moving around too often can weigh heavily on your budget.
Accommodation is one of the biggest expenses for digital nomads—but there are tips and tricks for minimizing the hefty pricetags. When booking properties on Airbnb, digital nomads can find large discounts, often in the range of 40 to 50% when choosing a monthly stay. These longer stays are the most cost-effective way to travel as a digital nomad. Not only will travelers save their hard-earned cash with largely discounted stays, but they will also minimize their travel costs between locations. The frequency of large one-off travel costs (plane tickets, rental cars, train journeys, etc.) is reduced, leaving you with a larger budget to enjoy the local area.
Working Too Much
Traveling too much and too often may be a common mistake made by digital nomads, but working too much can be just as detrimental. A stable work-life balance is just as, if not more important, as a digital nomad with more moving parts than normal in the working week. Time away from the keyboard is not only great for your mental health, but also for increasing your productivity on those working days too.
Try reserving one day per week, in the middle of the working week, to explore the local area. You’ll not only have the refreshing benefits of a mid-week break but the chance to explore the area in the quietest times. Turning off the laptop and heading out to explore is one of the main benefits of the digital nomad lifestyle.
The culture, the food, the scenery, and the people make each space special and unique. It’s the small things that separate favorite places from just places, without enough time dedicated to exploring, nomads risk missing these entirely.
Not Creating a Routine
A routine might be the last thing on your mind when arriving in an unfamiliar country with a desire to explore and experience, but it is an invaluable tool for digital nomads. Routines, like budgets, aren’t the most exciting topics to discuss, but they are vital for success as a remote worker. Also similar to budgets, there are plenty of tools ranging from the humble notebook to full digital calendars, there are plenty of ways to create a schedule that you can stick to.
How you structure your routine is down to personal preference, whether that’s a morning workout followed by a four-hour work day and a two-hour lunch or an eight-hour work session before stepping outside. Any routine that works well is one worth sticking to.
Staying in Hotels
Hotels are great for short-term stays, but spending more than a week at a hotel will become frustrating. Unlike a vacation, the digital nomad lifestyle means that you’re no longer just using a hotel as a place to sleep. Your accommodation is the only private place that you have when traveling the world, so the more time that you spend in a hotel, the smaller it begins to feel.
Alternatively, an apartment not only offers a private space to unwind and relax, but also a place to work when the coworking space isn’t available or your favorite cafe spot doesn’t open for another couple of hours. You might also prefer to continue working from home, rather than venturing out in public. It’s all about how you want to work as a digital nomad. Do you want your accommodation to double as your workspace or would you prefer to separate the two?
Apartments with short leases can be found online via Facebook groups, private rental sites, and, Airbnb with monthly stays offered on countless properties. For the best deals, be sure to book plenty of time in advance.
Not Researching Your Destination
Your motivation for visiting a specific destination is just as important as the decision to start on a digital nomad journey. It’s all well and good heading out to Bali because “that’s what digital nomads do”. But if you despise the heat and are not that into yoga, you might be wasting your time.
Becoming a digital nomad is all about selecting the perfect location for you—it doesn’t matter if you’re trailblazing the destination. If you’ve always dreamed of seeing the Northern Lights in Norway, walking the streets of Tokyo, or climbing Cotopaxi in Ecuador, your time as a digital nomad is your chance to check items off your bucket list.
Summary: 7 Common Digital Nomad Mistakes to Avoid
From overpacking and incorrect budgeting to poor destination research and body neglect, the list of mistakes to avoid as a digital nomad is long.
Adam Mace is Nurall's Lead Contributing Writer and a full-time digital nomad in search of the best hikes, unique stays, and local delicacies. When he’s not exploring far-flung places he can..
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