How to Get Started as a Digital Nomad
Digital nomads have one of the most sought-after lifestyles in the modern world. With a seismic shift in remote working thanks to the pandemic—it’s also one that so many of us can now strive to achieve. There may never have been a better time to get started as a digital nomad, but how exactly do you plan your first steps when wrapping up your life at home? The best way to get started as a digital nomad is to make an action plan and work towards your goals in stages.
Set a Date
Without a goal, you can’t score. Set a firm date, but also make sure it’s realistic. Jot down all upcoming personal and professional commitments and look for a quiet window to get started. Sure it’s romantic to run away and leave everything behind at the drop of a hat. But a string of unsavory phone calls from concerned relatives, a confused landlord, and an upset energy company will quickly follow. For the majority of fresh-faced digital nomads, a preparation period of three to four months is a good amount of time to wrap things up.
Search for a Nomad-Friendly Destination
Once that date is penned—not penciled—on the calendar, picking the perfect location is the next hurdle. There are countless fantastic nomad-friendly destinations boasting fast WiFi, affordable accommodation, and great coworking and cafe scenes. Cities such as Austin, Dallas, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Lisbon, and Miami are fantastic places for beginners to dip their toes into the digital nomad lifestyle. Nomads with time-based commitments may find their options restricted by the clock. Availability between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST time means a workday between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m in Tokyo. In this case, it’s best to search longitudinally, not latitudinally. For example, Chicago and Mexico City are in the same time zone, as are London and Lisbon.
Book Your First Location
You’ve already got the date, you’ve now got the location—it’s time to make it real and book the flight. There’s nothing like a ticking clock to get you proactive and moving. You’re also going to want somewhere to stay, so best get that booked ahead of time. Look for apartments with genuine living space—these beat out hotels for long-term stays. Monthly bookings often work out cheaper than staying in a hotel for a week or two, but always book as far in advance as possible to find the best deals.
Put Your Desk on a Diet
It should come as no surprise that your desktop PC, ergonomic chair, and triple monitor set-up won’t be coming with you to see the sights. Streamlining your desk space can be tricky, especially for those that need additional equipment for their work. But being a digital nomad is just as much about being cutthroat with your possessions as it is traveling around the world.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to invest in a laptop (or powerful tablet) that you can comfortably use for your new nomad lifestyle. Specifications will differ from person-to-person. Filmmakers, for example, will need considerably more processing power than content writers. A device with long battery life is also something to bear in mind when working away from power outlets. A lightweight laptop stand, keyboard, and mouse are all great additions to a mobile office. Although not absolutely necessary, in the interest of preventing dreaded neck aches, these are investments that long-term nomads highly recommend.
Sort Out Your Belongings
Move out, sell up, or rent out? Deciding what to do with your home is one of the trickiest pre-nomad decisions. There’s no easy or one-size-fits-all approach to this one and every digital nomad chooses the route that’s best suited to them. Whether it’s as simple as wrapping up a contract or as complicated as letting out your home—a decision does have to be made.
Once you’ve solved your personal housing crisis, it’s time to figure out where your belongings will go. Common solutions include selling on Facebook Marketplace, donating to charity stores, renting a small storage unit, or taking up garage space at a friend's or relative’s home. The choice is yours, but know that it's not uncommon for nomads to reopen their storage unit with pained looks on their faces. When you travel from place to place, you’ll naturally become more of a minimalist so it’s better to adopt the lifestyle early on if you don’t want to pay rent on a storage unit.
Pack Your Bags
It doesn’t matter if you’re packing a 40-liter backpack or a giant suitcase, the first test run is always an eye-opening experience and you’re going to need a cutthroat attitude when it comes to packing. A good rule of thumb is to gather everything that you think you need and then cut that pile in half.
Seasoned digital nomads can often get away with a single carry-on backpack, but this can be a bit of a shock to those compressing their life into a rucksack for the first time. A small rolling suitcase and a backpack are a great way to start, offering the best of both worlds for city-based nomading. You can also use packing cubes to stay organized as you move from place to place. Don’t forget you’ll have plenty of time to shop and restock when you get to your destination!