It was back in 2014 when I exclaimed to a friend “I’m going to be a digital nomad.” Six and a half years later, and I still am one (except for the time back in England due to Covid restrictions). That’s still 6.5 years of nomadic life, of not having a place to call my own and roaming the globe. Even though I’ve been experiencing digital nomad travel for years, I’m still learning how to be a digital nomad. As with any choice in life, this lifestyle comes with its ups and its downs but I wouldn’t have changed my time on the road for anything.
If you’re looking to become a digital nomad, I share my honest tips and advantages and disadvantages of this lifestyle below.
- Advantages of Becoming a Nomad
- Downsides of Becoming a Digital Nomad
- My Digital Nomad Tips
- The Nomad Escape
- Nomad Insurance
- How I Became a Digital Nomad
- Living a Digital Nomad Life
- How To Start a Travel Blog
Advantages of Becoming a Nomad
Firstly, what is a digital nomad? In my definition, it's someone who is able to work from anywhere as long as they have their laptop. This could mean being employed but your employer allows you to work from a different country, owning your own business and able to work on your own schedule, or being self-employed and having the freedom to work from different destinations that are in a similar time zone.
I've met bloggers (like me!) freelance writers, software engineers, translators, and even nomads who teach English online. All wanting to experience a different culture and meet others doing the same. So what are the advantages of this lifestyle?
You have the freedom to work from wherever you want (Covid restrictions pending obviously). Being a digital nomad means that not only can you travel in the summer but you can also escape the winter months and go somewhere warmer. Fancy swopping a cold European winter for an Indonesian island for three months? Then you can (depending on restrictions). Here are some ideas of where to escape for next winter. Read: Best Places For Winter Sun
Another advantage is learning the art of solo travel and staying in places for longer. In this new travel landscape, slow travel seems to be the way to go especially if you have to pay for PCR tests before and after each trip. Staying somewhere longer really gives us a feel of a place and allows us time to settle in more and make meaningful friendships.
Seeing the world as you travel. You can stay as long as you want (depending on your tourist visa), spend the weekdays working and the weekends exploring. I spent a month working in Athens and visited the islands on some of the weekends. That way you can have the best of both worlds; a routine Monday to Friday and a new experience each weekend.
Downsides of Becoming a Digital Nomad
Several countries have also jumped on the nomad bandwagon and have created digital nomad visas to attract more remote workers. Whilst this is great news for those of us who want the freedom to be able to live from where we choose, some of the destinations such as the Caribbean require you to have a minimum salary to be able to apply for it which may be out of your salary range especially if you're just starting out and have your own business.
But on the plus side, depending on which passport you are travelling on, you can usually enter the countries for up to 3 months anyway so if you're not planning on staying that long, you don't really need to go for the nomadic visa.
You live out of a backpack or suitcase without comforts that you may be used to. Unless you bring everything with you or invest in some luxuries whilst you're in a destination, it's difficult to really settle in especially if you're used to having a blender, juicer, your yoga mat and weights.
Apartments in certain destinations aren't built to the same standard that you may be used to in Scandinavia or the UK for example. You’re never sure who your neighbours are going to be and if you’re spending time in the Mediterranean, then expect to be able to hear them through the thin walls and floors!
It can get lonely if you're solo. It may take you a while to get to know people especially if you're more of an introvert. Some places are very transient meaning that people that you meet may only be passing through short-term or you may be the one moving on after making deep relationships.
Not understanding the local language which can be a struggle if you need to use the services and aren't a resident. Even a trip to the pharmacy in another language can be a challenge or if you're looking to buy a car or rent a place through an agency. But if you stay long enough you'll soon pick up a few phrases and you generally always meet someone who can speak fluently and help you out.
If a digital nomad lifestyle is for you, I recommend The Nomad Escape, a week-long nomad retreat in Madeira & Mexico
My Digital Nomad Tips
I personally believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages but as with any choice in life, there can still be some downsides depending on how you look at it.
Can you really work from anywhere? Yes. Before the pandemic, I had spent 6 years living as a digital nomad and worked from so many places. I spent 3 months in the Caribbean working from Airbnbs and hotels, from a hostel in Edinburgh, and I lived in Colombia and Barcelona. When I was living in Colombia the concept of co-working spaces hadn’t really begun but there was a cafe that I could go to where others were working on their laptops.
Stay for at least a week. Sometimes a place may not resonate with you. A month in Paris may sound amazing but the reality when you get there is that you may feel isolated and it not be as sociable as you thought it would be. It is worth checking out Airbnb as they offer a discount on monthly stays which works out cheaper than staying week by week. Look for accommodation discounts for mid-term stays. For example, Generator hostels are offering 50% off their room rates for longer stays.
Look for co-working cafes. In Athens, I visited two cafes that were welcoming to remote workers. Even though I wasn’t talking to anyone, it made me feel more productive just being in the environment of others also working on their laptops. I have seen ‘no laptop’ signs in some cafes in Barcelona so make sure that the cafe is open to it. During my week in Bergen in Norway, I spent an afternoon at a different cafe each day. That way I was able to have a different environment to work and I wasn’t overstaying my welcome in the cafe.
Check the Wifi before you travel or buy a sim card. In some hotels or hostels, the Wifi in certain rooms may not be as strong as it is in the common area. It may also be worth paying for a Wifi hotspot.
Look for expat and digital nomad groups on Facebook. There are so many. Just type ‘digital nomads in Greece,' for example and join the group to ask for advice on where to work, events and even places to stay. They can usually help with any question you have about the destination whether it's finding a hairdresser or tax questions.
Join Meet Up to meet other people in the area. Even if you’re only there for a week. I spent a week in Lisbon and threw myself into nomad life. I joined a writing group on the weekend, a comedy night on the Friday night, a wine and mingle evening and a coworking event after work hours. Plus I attended a Facebook advertising talk too. There's nothing like throwing yourself into social events to meet people and I found that I keep bumping into the same people at the events which really helped to make integrating myself into the city much easier. They usually have hiking groups on the weekends too and all other types of activities that you may be into whether yoga and meditation and even cryptocurrency talks.
Another community you can join is CoCoHub. CoCoHub is a global coliving and coworking community for digital nomads. Their main hub is in Malta but they also have communities where you can co-live in Barcelona, Playa del Carmen, Palma, Lisbon and Mexico City. You can join their Telegram chat and connect with everyone and find others who are travelling to plenty of other destinations around the world. I joined the group chat before I arrived in Athens and met a great German girl who was also a nomad and in Athens at the same time. They have 59 CoCoHubs around the world.
Look for coworking passes. To help look for coworking places and to find the right one for you to work from, there are platforms such as Coworker or Croissant. Croissant is used to save over 50% off a drop-in rate in cities such as London, Barcelona, Berlin, Canary Islands, Stockholm, and plenty of cities in the United States from San Francisco to Seattle and New York City. You can search for cities on Coworker that has more than 18,500 coworking spaces on their site. You can pay for different types of passes and also sign up for a global pass that expands their network and the places that you can work to more than 3,000 cities.
Nomad List is a fantastic resource that shows you the best places to live as a digital nomad whether that's for a week or several months. They have a community of more than 30,000 remote workers living around the world. What I love about their website is that they show you different destinations that you could live in and score them on the internet speed, temperature, safety, cost, places to work from, friendly to foreigners and also friendly to women. If you're unsure where you would like to work remotely from, Nomad List will provide you with plenty of ideas.
The Nomad Escape
If this lifestyle seems like the right fit for you but you're unsure how to start your nomad journey, The Nomad Escape is for anyone who wants to become a digital nomad or remote work their way around the globe. I haven't personally been on this retreat as I'm already on my nomadic journey but being in Madeira, I met friends who had just experienced this week-long retreat who loved it! It's a great experience if you're looking to get onto your nomad journey and are unsure of the steps to do it.
The Nomad Island Fest is 8 days of business and self-development on the island of Madeira, the number one digital nomad island in Europe. They also have one in Tulum in 2022! In either destination, you'll join an empowering global community of remote workers, grow your skills, and network in beautiful destinations from €499 (2021 prices). Or maybe you're looking for a Level Up Club Business Retreat or a Booster Escape instead? Both are over 8 days and you'll come away with fantastic connections, feeling more inspired and motivated to either start or continue your nomadic journey.
If you are considering becoming a nomad, it's important to get insurance that covers you when you're living a life on the road. Safety Wing is a good option for digital nomads. I have recently changed to this company. They cover you regardless of your vaccination status and are ideal for someone like me who never knows where she is going to be from month to month.
How I Became a Digital Nomad
In 2014, after my declaration of wanting to become a digital nomad, I booked a one-way ticket with a friend not really knowing where I was going to end up. That place became Medellin in Colombia, (which I have written several posts about). During my 1.5 years of living there, I worked online to build up my blog whilst working part-time for a media company. I worked part-time for Medellin Living writing about living in the city before becoming the Advertising Manager for a while.
As I moved around, I freelanced as a travel journalist, pitching websites and various magazines until I was eventually sustaining enough income from my blog. I would work during the weekdays and explore then travel to the next place on the weekends. I stayed in the Caribbean for three months, pitching tourist boards to stay for free so I could promote their islands to solo female travellers. I lived in a hostel in Panama City but I soon became burnt out. You have to be really organised to be able to work online, especially when you’re going all-in on your own business.
Wanting to be in Europe and closer to my family, I decided that I needed to change things. I wanted a place to work from. It’s ironic, that I couldn’t wait to leave my office job for a life on the road to then miss having a place of work to go into (on my own work terms obviously). I wanted co-workers, people who I actually wanted to work with and it was when I moved to Barcelona that I found them in my second nomad home. I committed to a room and used that as my base whilst I continued to travel.
After a year and a half (that seems to be my maximum time in a place), I was ready to leave Barcelona and get back to a life on the road. So I spent 2019 travelling and working online at the same time, researching destinations for the blog and reaching my goal of 100 countries solo before the end of the year. Since then I've worked from the Canary Islands, Greece, Norway, Scotland and Madeira and anywhere else where my pink suitcase has had a temporary home on the road.
Being able to work on my own projects in an inspiring co-working place and meet other travellers with a similar mindset reminds me that I'm not alone in my nomadic journey. I hope that I have inspired you take the plunge and try it too. As for my next digital nomad destination who knows where my journey will take me but I'll definitely be writing about it!
Where would you love to work from if you could?
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