Becoming a digital nomad is often a slow, steady process. You don’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to start traveling and working remotely. For many, it happens gradually, step-by-step. Sometimes there are a few lucky accidents. For the most part, it is planned. The best part is that there are plenty of ways to switch over to the location independent lifestyle. For those interested in beginning this new adventure, there are several important points you need to cover before you jet off.
Any major lifestyle change takes a lot of mental and emotion energy. The nomad lifestyle is no different.
You can read all the blogs and articles you want on digital nomadism. You can follow the many well-known nomads on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc… But if you don’t actually take the steps yourself, you’ll still be sitting in that open-plan office.
And what are these skills?
- The ability to put up with a high level of discomfort and frustration. As a nomad, you’ll travel a lot. You’ll plan trips that go awry. If you’re freelancing, you’ll deal with the trials and tribulations that it brings. You need to be incredibly stress-resistant. The same can be said for physical comforts: get used to sleeping on sofas, futons and having to use your mobile data efficiently.
- The ability to be alone. Being a digital nomad means being alone sometimes. You’ll go to a new place, make lots of great friends and then leave again. Sure, you’ll stay in touch with them. Maybe meet them again occasionally. When you move on to your new residence though, you’ll need to make a whole new group of friends. And that’s not to mention the reduced contact you’ll have with friends and family in your home country.
- The ability to work independently. You’re not just a digital nomad: you’re a remote worker (whether freelance or employed). You need to take your work seriously. You need to be proactive and disciplined: your clients and your company are counting on you. They won’t be looking over your shoulder. Additionally, they won’t accept many excuses for not handing in work on time or being communicative.
You must either have these traits or be willing to develop them. If you’ve never travelled much, then this lifestyle will be a big change from what you already know.
The first (basic) steps to becoming a digital nomad
If your job ties you to one place, becoming a digital nomad is impossible. If you work as a nurse in a hospital, for example… Well, they kind of need you there. You can’t fix bandages and take blood tests without being present. Not yet, anyway. If you work in a shop – the same applies. And a great many other places.
For some, switching to this lifestyle also means changing careers. And that can be a HUGE leap.
On the flipside, you may have an in-office job where you don’t leave your desk. Literally everything you do is on a computer. You’re surrounded by colleagues and you travel to that office daily. Good examples are accountants, programmers and even project managers.
The change here won’t be as big, but you may have to argue your case with your employer. Which brings us to the skills of remote working. And I would say…
When switching to a remote work environment, you must make sure…
- You’re GOOD at clearly and proactively communicating over text, voice call, video call and email… Whatever method of communication your clients/employer needs.
- If you must change careers, see how many of your skills can be transferred to a remote work environment. Are you a good copywriter? A visionary graphic designer? Or are you a diligent account? All of these are standard, well-paid remote jobs.
- Know what you are looking for in a remote job (not just the other way around). In truth, it’s not that different from finding a regular one. You’re just not going to be physically present.
- If your current job can theoretically be done remotely, see how easy it could be to make the switch. Your current employer may surprise you.
Remember: Having a remote job (whether employment or freelance) is an integral part of being a digital nomad. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, get learning!
Beyond work, know what the digital nomad lifestyle entails
You don’t truly know if you like digital nomadism unless you try it. But let’s just say you’ve managed to become location independent. You work from wherever you like: your home, a coffee shop, whatever. You’ve got a full-time remote job, or perhaps a couple of steady clients. What then? Well, now it’s time to move.
This means being organized. You have to book flights. Take care of visas. If traveling to a country that doesn’t speak your language, you may have to learn a few words and phrases in a foreign tongue.
Becoming a digital nomad is about becoming a traveler. For many, it’s their first step on the path to becoming a global citizen. It can a beautiful, enriching and exhilarating experience. But you have to put the work in.