A growing number of people are ditching their traditional 9-5 office jobs to become digital nomads. Digital nomads are a new breed of worker that is defined by their location independence. They are able to work from anywhere and travel the world as long as they have a laptop and an internet connection. This guide explains how to become a digital nomad and work from anywhere.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to find a remote job or start an online business and make money online, the logistics of nomad life, where to live, budgeting, moving abroad, and much more. The goal of becoming a digital nomad is achievable with careful planning and preparation. It won’t happen overnight but it is possible. Hopefully, this guide makes your transition to the digital nomad lifestyle a bit smoother and quicker.
I have been living as a digital nomad for the past 2.5 years as a professional blogger. In that time, I have visited about 15 countries. Sometimes I stay in one place for months at a time. Other times I travel around. It took me about 3 years to reach my goal of becoming a digital nomad. In this guide, I will share my experience.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
– Step 1: Gain knowledge or skill. You will need some type of digital or technical skill. Teach yourself, take courses, or go to school. Build a portfolio of your work.
– Step 2: Start making money. Once you have a skill, you can start applying for remote jobs or start an online business. Some of the most common digital nomad jobs include programming, blogging, graphic design, editing, web design, and consulting. You need to have a source of income before leaving home.
– Step 3: Decide where you want to go. Some of the most popular digital nomad destinations include Argentina, Thailand, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal, and Bali.
– Step 4: Create a budget. Consider the cost of airfare, accommodation, food, insurance, entertainment, and digital nomad gear (laptop, phone, luggage, etc.) You also need an emergency fund.
– Step 5: Prepare to leave. Sell off or store your belongings and cancel subscriptions. Consider how you will do banking and spend money.
– Step 6: Legal considerations. Gather all of the necessary documents. Research visas. Consider how you will pay your taxes.
– Step 7: Start living as a digital nomad. Buy your ticket, book accommodation, pack your bags, and start living the digital nomad lifestyle.
Table of Contents
- What do Digital Nomads Do?
- Benefits and Drawbacks of Being a Digital Nomad
- How to Become a Digital Nomad – Skills, Finding Work, Logistics, Legal, and More
- Digital Nomad Jobs
- The Best Digital Nomad Destinations
- Things to Do Before Leaving Home
- The Truth About Being a Digital Nomad: A Reality Check
What is a Digital Nomad?
Digital nomads are people who work remotely from anywhere in the world. They travel to different locations on a regular basis. They work in co-working spaces, coffee shops, libraries, hotels, Airbnbs, or anywhere with internet access.
A digital nomad uses technology to make it possible to live a nomadic lifestyle. This can involve using online tools for communication and collaboration. Digital nomads rely on mobile devices and various apps to complete all of their work-related tasks.
The general idea is that digital nomads have complete freedom of movement while working online. This allows them to explore new places and experience different cultures without having to sacrifice their careers.
There are a number of different ways people live the digital nomad lifestyle. Some stay in short-term accommodation such as hostels, hotels, and Airbnbs. Others rent an apartment. Some travel internationally while others stay in their home country and live in a van or RV. Digital nomads can travel constantly or stay for a few months at each destination.
What do Digital Nomads Do for Work?
Digital nomads work in fields that allow for location independence. They perform a wide range of jobs. The digital nomad job description can include anything that can be done online. Digital nomads can be separated into three categories:
Freelancers: These nomads make their living from skills that can be performed from anywhere. For example, a programmer, writer, or graphic designer can work freelance from any location as long as they have an internet connection.
Online Entrepreneurs: These digital nomads have entirely online businesses that don’t require a physical presence. For example, a blog, YouTube channel, or e-commerce store are businesses that can be run from anywhere in the world.
Remote Workers: These digital nomads work for companies that offer positions that can be done remotely. These days, more and more companies are starting to see the benefits of having a remote workforce and are now offering positions that can be done from anywhere in the world. For example, many programming jobs, customer service jobs, marketing jobs, and accounting jobs, can now be done remotely.
Is it Possible for Me to Become a Digital Nomad?
Yes. It is possible for you to become a digital nomad but it is not something that happens overnight, or without a lot of hard work and planning. It takes a lot of time and effort to succeed. With careful planning and a willingness to hustle, you can make your dream a reality.
That said, it’s not possible for everyone to become a digital nomad. Some people lack the self-discipline to work remotely and remain productive. Becoming a digital nomad may require a career change. Some jobs can’t be done remotely. For example, if you can’t be a remote plumber or cook. If you’re able to work remotely, budget, and stay productive, you can succeed.
The benefits of being a digital nomad
The digital nomad lifestyle is a dream for many. A few major advantages of being a digital nomad include:
The freedom to work from anywhere in the world
You can set your own schedule and take time off when you like
Your money goes further. You can save and invest more if you live in a low-cost-of-living area
You can travel as much or as little as you want
There is no toxic office politics or drama to deal with
You can learn new skills such as a language, cooking, hobby, etc.
You can live where you want. Spend summer in the mountains and winter by the beach
Startup costs for most online businesses are low
You’ll experience new cultures and broaden your mind
You’ll meet new people and make friends
Build character. You’ll become more independent, adaptable, and confident
Opportunities open up including jobs, relationships, investments, etc.
The drawbacks of being a digital nomad
This lifestyle certainly isn’t for everyone. A few disadvantages include:
Many digital nomads experience loneliness
You may have to work long hours
You will miss your friends and family
Constantly moving around gets exhausting
Your monthly expenses vary depending on where you live
Your income can vary from month to month if you’re an entrepreneur or freelancer
Staying productive is difficult. There are lots of distractions
Time zones make scheduling difficult for remote workers
The digital nomad lifestyle is unstable
You’ll have to deal with a language barrier
Your taxes and residency become complicated
Travel becomes less exciting
You will have to deal with poor ergonomics while working
Dealing with logistics including booking flights, accommodation, etc.
- Dealing with bureaucracy when applying for visas, renting an apartment, etc.
Check out my list of pros and cons of being a digital nomad for more important considerations. Also, check out my YouTube video about the pros and cons of digital nomad life.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
In order to become a digital nomad, you need to find a way to make money online. In this section, I’ll outline the steps you need to take.
Step 1: Gain the Necessary Knowledge and Skill
Most digital nomad jobs aren’t entry-level workers. You will need some knowledge and skills to find employment or start your own online business. There are also some soft skills that are important for digital nomads to possess.
Some important skills for digital nomads include:
Digital and technical skills: You will need some type of technical skill to work as a digital nomad. Many digital nomads are web designers, software developers, or IT professionals. If you don’t have a background in tech, there are opportunities for you to learn the necessary skills. Sites like Udemy, Skillshare, and Coursera offer affordable courses on a wide range of topics. If you want to learn to code, there are plenty of free or cheap options such as Codeacademy, Kahn Academy, or Skillcrush. For more formal education, you could attend online classes from a university. Sometimes you can learn on the job. There are also plenty of non-tech jobs such as writing, marketing, editing, accounting, customer service, and recruiting. You will need to have computer skills, regardless of your job. Digital nomads use a variety of software including Excel, word processors, video and photo editing software, and accounting software.
Self-discipline: When you don’t have anyone looking over your shoulder, it can be easy to get sidetracked or push deadlines. But in order to be successful, you’ll need to be disciplined enough to stay on task and get the job done. There are lots of distractions.
Flexibility and adaptability: You need to be comfortable with change and be able to adapt to new environments quickly. This includes being able to work effectively in different time zones. Every time you move to a new city, your office setup will also be different. You’ll have a different desk, chair, and view.
Organizational skills: Since you’ll be working remotely, you’ll need to be self-motivated and organized in order to stay on track, meet deadlines, and keep track of your finances.
Communication skills: You’ll need to be able to effectively communicate with your team, whether that’s through text, email, or over video chat. You’ll rarely communicate in person.
Budgeting and finance: One of the benefits of being a nomadic is that you have the opportunity to live and work in cheaper parts of the world. But you’ll still need to be mindful of your spending and create a budget for yourself. Costs vary greatly by country. You need to be able to account for this. Your income can also vary if you own your own business or work as a freelancer.
Sales/marketing skills: If you’re self-employed, you’ll need to be able to market your services and find clients. Creating your own personal branding can help. There are also many remote jobs in the sales and marketing industries.
creativity: Many remote jobs require creativity. Whether you’re a writer, designer, videographer, or marketer, you’ll need to be able to think outside the box to solve problems and create new content.
Step 2: Start Making Money as a Digital Nomad
Before you’re ready to leave home, you need to find a way to make money online. You need to become location independent. Once you have the necessary knowledge and skills, you can start looking for work.
You can look for jobs at companies that allow their employees to work remotely. Alternatively, you can start your own business. Another option is to start freelancing. In this section, I’ll outline some job options.
Most Common Digital Nomad Jobs
Search engine optimization
Social media manager
Freelance video or photo editor
- Virtual Assistant
Customer service agent
e-Commerce/selling on Amazon
Teaching a language
Creating and selling online courses
Digital Nomad Job Ideas
There are a wide range of jobs that can be performed remotely these days. There are even some digital nomad jobs for beginners. It’s impossible to list them all. In this section, I’ll outline and list some digital nomad job ideas. I’ll also share some benefits and drawbacks.
These days, more and more companies are allowing remote work. Pretty much any job that can be done with a computer and internet connection can be done remotely. A few common jobs for location independent workers include:
Customer service representative
Data entry specialist
You can apply for remote work on websites such as
Maybe you already work online and are thinking about making the switch to digital nomadism. You could also try to convince your boss to allow you to work remotely. In order to do this, you need to convince your boss to allow you to work remotely.
Explain how remote work will benefit the company. Perhaps it will save on office space or allow for a more flexible schedule. Highlight your own qualifications and explain how you will be just as productive, if not more so, working remotely. Also, explain how you can remotely complete all of the tasks in your job description. You might be able to keep your current job and become a digital nomad right away.
The main benefit of working as a remote employee is stability. You will receive a regular paycheck. You know exactly how much you’re going to earn each month. This makes budgeting easy. Chances are, you’ll also receive some benefits such as health insurance and some type of pension or retirement plan. This stability makes the transition into nomad life easier.
The drawback is that many companies require you to be online at specific times for meetings and collaboration. If you’re in a different time zone, this can be a challenge. You might have to work online at 3:00 am every day. Your boss may also require that you share your location. If you lose your remote job, it can also be a challenge to find a new one without returning home.
Most digital nomads work as freelancers. They work project-by-project. To get started as a freelancer, you’ll need to build a portfolio of your work.
Start by making a simple WordPress website and posting some of your best work to show potential clients. If you don’t have any work to show, create some. Write an ‘about me’ page that describes your skills and experience. You could also post some testimonials if you have them. A portfolio makes you appear professional.
These days, it’s pretty easy to get started as a freelancer. You can throw an ad up on a freelance job board such as Fiverr or Upwork, and start doing some jobs. With a bit of skill, you can make money freelancing.
Some common freelance jobs for digital nomads include:
Writing (blog posts, copywriting, eBooks, technical writing, etc.)
Editing (video, photo, and text)
Social media management
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Web design and development
The main benefit of owning a freelance business is flexibility. You can work whenever you want as long as you complete the job. You can also choose how much work you want. If you need more money, you can take on more jobs.
The drawback is that freelancing can be unstable. You never know how much money you’ll bring in each month. When you’re starting out, jobs can be few and far between.
As your portfolio grows, so will your income. The more experienced you get, the more you can charge. For example, a beginner freelance writer may be able to charge 5 cents per word. An experienced writer with a large portfolio of quality work may be able to charge $1 per word. A beginner web designer might be able to charge $500 to design a website. A skilled web developer with an impressive portfolio might be able to charge $5000+ per website.
Run your own Online Location Independent Business
Many digital nomads own their own businesses. They are online entrepreneurs. Some common online companies for digital nomads include:
YouTube channel/various social media
Creating and selling online courses
Writing and selling eBooks
Online entrepreneurs have the highest earning potential. There is really no ceiling. There are nomads earning 7 figures. When you own a business, you are also your own boss. This gives you plenty of freedom to work when and where you want.
The drawback is the responsibility of owning your own business. You have to worry about keeping your business legal. Tax laws are complicated. There is also more liability. You could get sued. You’ll need good insurance. Of course, you also have to run the business. This can be extremely stressful.
If you have some capital to work with, you could buy yourself a job. You could buy a website on Empire Flippers or Flippa and start making money right away. These sites list online businesses that are for sale. They include information about the website traffic, revenue, expenses, and how the site makes money.
Buying an already existing location independent business is much faster than starting a business yourself from scratch. A small online business could bring in enough money for you to start your nomad life right away. You could grow the business to increase your income.
The drawback is that buying a business is pretty risky. If you decide to try this, you’ll need to do your due diligence. You’ll also need some experience in running a website. There are lots of scams out there so be careful.
Some financially savvy digital nomads can earn a living trading stocks, options, futures, forex, or crypto. You would need a large portfolio to reliably earn enough to sustain yourself through investing.
With enough money, you could simply let your money work for you and live off your passive income. Becoming financially independent is a long-term goal for many nomads.
Another option is to invest in a rental property. If you own a home or apartment, you could rent it out and live on the passive income that it generates.
An average middle-class home or apartment that rents for $2000+ per month could bring in enough money for you to live on in a low-cost-of-living city.
While you’re living abroad, you won’t be able to manage the property yourself. You’ll have to hire a property manager. This can cost you about 10% of the monthly rent. You’ll also have pay for maintenance and upkeep.
A potentially more profitable option is to rent your property out short-term on Airbnb or Vrbo. If you choose to do this, you will need someone to manage the property on a day-to-day basis. This person will need to be on call at all times. They will need to check guests in and out, assist guests, and ensure that the unit is clean.
Step 3: Consider the Logistics of Nomadic Life and Make a Plan
Finding a way to make money is the hardest part of becoming a digital nomad. There are some other things you’ll need to consider such as internet availability, accommodation, banking, taxes, communication, insurance, transportation, and more. In this section, we’ll discuss the logistics of living a nomadic life.
Starting a Business
There are a number of important considerations to take into account when starting a business. It is crucial to determine what legal structure your business will take. This will impact a number of factors, including how you pay taxes and your liability.
For most beginner digital nomads, a sole proprietorship is the best business structure. Once you start earning more money, you can start an LLC (limited liability company). This can give you some legal protection and potential tax benefits.
Finally, you need to be aware of the various licensing and permit requirements that may apply to your business. Failure to comply with these could result in significant fines or even the shutdown of your business.
Digital Nomad Banking and Credit Cards
You may find that managing your money while traveling can be challenging. For example, you may have difficulty using your credit cards from foreign countries or getting paid while living overseas.
One solution is to open a Wise account and a Paypal account. Payoneer is another good option for people outside the US and UK.
Another solution is to get a good travel credit card and debit card. I like the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card because it has no foreign transaction fees. Plus, you can earn free flights by collecting points and miles. The Schwab Bank debit card is also great for digital nomads because it refunds all ATM fees.
If you’re running your own online business, you may also need to open a business bank account and business credit card. These offer benefits for business owners. They also make it easier to track your business expenses for tax purposes.
Taxes for digital nomads
Taxes are complicated. Particularly if you’re an American. This is the case because Americans need to file taxes in the U.S. regardless of where they’re living.
The good news is that there are some ways to reduce your taxes as a digital nomad. Americans can take advantage of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. This allows you to exclude your foreign earnings of up to $112,000 from being taxed in the U.S.
It is also possible to establish tax residency in a tax-friendly country to reduce your overall tax bill. For example, many high earners move their business to Dubai or Singapore to cut their taxes. This alone could save you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per year. Some people choose the nomad life just for the tax savings.
There are a few different ways to file your taxes, and the best way for you will depend on your specific situation. You may need to file as a self-employed person, a business, or you may be able to take advantage of certain tax treaties depending on your residency.
If you’re not sure how to file your taxes, you should speak to an accountant who is familiar with international tax law. They will be able to help you figure out the best way to file, and they can also help you with any other questions you may have about your complicated taxes.
Wifi and Internet for Digital Nomads
Digital nomads need a fast and reliable internet connection to get their work done. It is a job requirement. Luckily, you can find a decent internet connection pretty much anywhere in the world these days.
The first thing you should check when you arrive at your hotel or Airbnb is the speed of the Wifi connection. I recommend you install a speed test app on your phone so you can quickly and easily test the quality of the connection. If you check in someplace and find that the internet connection isn’t good enough for you to work, you’ll have to either find a different place to stay or do your work elsewhere.
Some nomads don’t like working at their accommodation. Instead, they choose to work at coffee shops, libraries, or in public spaces with free wifi.
Another option is to work at a co-working space. These are locations where you can rent office space. You’ll work alongside other digital nomads.
Phone plans for digital nomads
You need a phone number from your home country so you can receive 2FA (two factor authentication) texts from your bank. Many travelers use a virtual phone number (VOIP or voice over IP) for this. A number of companies offer this service including Google Voice or Skype.
Alternatively, you could use a phone plan that includes international text. Google Fi and T-Mobile are good options for this if you’re from the U.S.
If you’re spending more than a couple of weeks in one country, you’ll also want a local number so you can make local calls. Most nomads just buy a local sim card and a phone plan when they arrive in a new country. If you do this, you’ll need to make sure your phone is sim unlocked.
In much of the world, Whatsapp is the standard messaging app. Everyone uses it. If you need extra security for your communications, consider using Signal. It’s far more secure than Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.
Use a VPN to keep your data secure
A VPN (virtual private network) is a great way for a digital nomad to stay connected and secure while working online. By connecting to a VPN, you can encrypt your traffic and stay anonymous online.
This is especially important if you’re working on public Wi-Fi networks or in countries with restrictive internet laws. A VPN will also allow you to bypass any censorships or blocks that may be in place. It will also help to keep your data secure. This is particularly important when online banking or logging into various online accounts. Thieves can’t steal your data as easily.
There are many different VPN providers out there, so it’s important to choose one that’s reputable and offers good speeds and security. A number of companies offer VPN service. A few popular options include ExpressVPN, Proton VPN, and Private Internet Access.
A few accommodation options include:
Airbnb.com– Most digital nomads rent apartments by the month on Airbnb. This is what I usually do. Airbnb is easy and convenient. Many hosts offer a discount if you book at least 28 days For more info, check out my guide to Airbnb vs hotels.
Booking.com– This is a great option if you prefer to stay in short-term accommodation like hotels and hostels. Booking.com offers an easy-to-use search engine. many of their properties can be booked without a credit card. You pay when you arrive.
Hostelworld.com– If you’re just getting started, your budget may be tight. In this case, you may consider staying in hostels to save money. Hostels cost about $15-$20 per night on average. They can be cheaper or more expensive depending on the region you’re staying in.
Local classified ads- If you’re planning to stay in the same location for 3 months or more, you can usually save some money by renting an apartment. To find properties, look on local classified ad sites and Facebook groups. This is usually the most affordable accommodation option.
In most of the world, you can get around without a car. Public transportation is widely available, and in many places, it’s the preferred mode of travel. Busses, subways, trains, trams, and taxis are available in most large cities. You can also use rideshare services such as Uber.
In some places, though, you may want to consider renting a car or scooter. This can be a great way to see more of the area you’re visiting and to have more freedom in your travels. Oftentimes rental agencies offer generous monthly discounts if you want to rent a vehicle long-term.
Before you rent a car or scooter, be sure to research the traffic laws in the country or region you’ll be visiting. In some places, driving is very different than what you’re used to. Sometimes an international driver’s license is required.
Loneliness can be one of the hardest parts of being a digital nomad. You are constantly moving around and never really have a chance to develop close relationships. However, there are ways to combat loneliness and meet new friends.
One way is to stay in hostels. Hostels are great places to meet other travelers from all over the world. The drawback to staying in hostels is that it can be difficult to get your work done when everyone around you is going out every day and partying at night. Hostels can also get pretty noisy. You may need to find someplace else to work.
You can also meet like-minded people working in co-working spaces or cafes. Some co-working spaces even host events where nomads can get together, meet one another, and network.
Expat communities are also great places to meet new people and make friends. You’ll find expat communities all over the world. Try joining some expat Facebook groups. Meetup.com and couchsurfing.com are also great places to meet other digital nomads. Most large cities have ea digital nomad community.
You can also try attending local events and festivals. In large cities, there is always something going on. Another option is to take a class. Language classes and cooking classes are great places to meet people.
Online dating is also a great option. Check out Tinder, Bumble, Badoo, etc. Who knows, you might even meet your soul mate.
For more ideas, check out my guide: How to Meet People While Traveling.
Insurance for digital nomads
Travel insurance can cover you in the event of an injury, disease, or unexpected medical issue. Travel insurance can also cover you if your belongings are lost, stolen, or damaged. Some travel insurance also covers trip interruptions.
In addition, travel insurance brings peace of mind. You don’t have to worry as much about the cost of healthcare in the countries you’re visiting. If you’re traveling with expensive work gear, you don’t have to worry as much about theft if it’s insured.
A wide range of travel insurance options are available. Personally, I use World Nomads. SafetyWing and IMG Global are other popular options. All of these companies offer plans that are designed for nomads.
Permanent Address for digital nomads: Receiving mail and packages
If you don’t have a permanent address and need to receive mail and packages while you’re abroad, consider signing up for a virtual mailbox service. Your mail will be sent to the address of the virtual mailbox. It will be opened and scanned so you can read it online from anywhere in the world.
You can print any documents you need. Mail and packages can be forwarded to you for an additional cost. You can choose where the virtual mailbox is physically located. Most companies offer several locations. There are virtual mailboxes available in every state.
If you need to use your virtual mailbox for official mail such as taxes, voting, or your driver’s license, you’ll need to choose a virtual mailbox with a physical residential address.
For tax purposes, you’ll have to track your income and expenses related to your work. If you’re a freelancer or business owner, you may have money coming in from multiple sources. You’ll need to use some type of accounting software to help you track all of it. Quickbooks and Mint are popular options. You could also use Excel.
Emergency backup plans
Emergency backup plans are essential. An emergency fund should be established in case of unexpected expenses, such as medical emergencies, injury, theft, a natural disaster, running out of money, or having to return home unexpectedly.
The ability to fly home quickly and sustain yourself financially is crucial. If you lose your digital nomad job, you need some cash to help you get back on your feet. You may need to fly home, pay for accommodation, and live for several months without income while you search for work. Establishing yourself after a move can be difficult, so it is important to have a solid plan in place before you leave.
I recommend you set aside $5,000-$10,000 as an emergency fund. Keep it in an account that you won’t touch. This is enough to get you through most situations. Having some money in the bank also brings peace of mind.
Where Can I Go as a Digital Nomad?
You can work anywhere you can get a decent internet connection. That’s really the only requirement for your work.
The cost of living is also an important consideration for most nomads. You need to go somewhere you can afford to live. Digital nomads tend to prefer cheaper destinations. Most can’t afford to live in expensive cities such as New York, London, or San Francisco.
You’ll also want to consider your quality of life. Some countries are more comfortable for nomads than others. Consider the climate, cuisine, language, laws, politics, etc.
You might also need to consider the legality of working a job abroad. You may need a specific visa to stay in the country legally.
Working on tourist visas
Most digital nomads travel on tourist visas. This is a legal grey area. Technically, you’re not supposed to work on a tourist visa in most countries. Even if you’re not earning any money locally. In some countries, working online on a tourist visa is legal. It really depends on the ways the laws are written.
Some countries turn a blind eye to digital nomads. They know what they’re doing is illegal but they leave them alone because they bring so much money into the local economy. This has been the case in Thailand for many years.
The work that digital nomads do is not well understood. The laws are often unclear. While we are technically working, we’re not taking jobs away from locals or earning money locally. This is what work visas aim to prevent.
When immigration asks what you’re doing in the country, the best answer is ‘tourism’. This isn’t a lie. You will be sightseeing while you’re there. When you’re asked what you do for a living, just give a simple answer that anyone will understand.
If you keep your answers simple, you’ll pass through immigration smoothly and quickly. If you start telling your life story, you could end up getting sent to a secondary inspection. You could be denied entry if you tell immigration that you work online.
Once you’re in the country, it’s also a good idea to avoid telling people that you’re working online. Someone could turn you into immigration and cause problems for you, even if you’re not doing anything illegal. Just tell everyone you meet that you’re a tourist. If someone that you see every day starts asking why you’re staying in the country so long, you can tell them the truth.
When I’m asked about my occupation, I usually say I work in marketing. When asked why I’m visiting, I simply say ‘tourism.’
Digital Nomad Visas
These days, a number of countries offer visas specifically for digital nomads. These visas allow you to work legally. A few countries with digital nomad visas include:
United Arab Emirates
For a more complete list as well as information on visa costs and income requirements, check out this great guide.
The main benefit of working on a digital nomad visa is that it’s completely legal. You can also stay in the country longer term. Most visas last for at least a year. Sometimes they can be renewed or extended. A few even provide opportunities for citizenship. Some also offer tax benefits. You can establish tax residency and reduce your taxes. This is nice if you come from a high-tax country.
The drawback is that there is some paperwork involved. You usually have to prove that you have sufficient income to support yourself. The income requirement varies by country. In cheaper countries, you may have to prove that you earn $1000-$2000 per month. In more expensive countries, you may have to show that you earn $3000-5000+ per month. You may have to visit an embassy to apply for the visa. There is some bureaucracy to deal with. Some visas are easier to apply for than others.
What should I look for?
The ideal digital nomad destination has a strong internet infrastructure, a low cost of living, and easy tourist visas. The best destinations also have a great climate, delicious cuisine, and friendly locals. Of course, your personal also comes into play. There is no best nomad destination.
Best cities for digital nomads
There are some digital nomad hubs where nomads tend to congregate. Countries become popular digital nomad destinations when they offer a combination of easy tourist visas, decent internet, and low cost of living. A few of the most popular cities for digital nomads currently include:
Bangkok and Chang Mai, Thailand
These nomad hubs change from year to year. Places become popular for a couple of years and then fall out of popularity when they become too crowded or when the visa policy changes. Some places are always popular. For example, Thailand has been a digital nomad destination forever.
You also don’t need to leave your home country. Many remote workers travel around their home countries. Van life is also a popular option.
What Do I Need to Do Before Leaving Home?
Before you jump into the nomad life, you’ll need to take some time to plan and prepare. A few things to do before leaving home include:
It’s important to have a financial cushion before quitting your day job and moving abroad. Make sure you have enough saved up to cover your living expenses for several months in case you run into unexpected costs or lose your job unexpectedly. Three to six months of living expenses is a good cushion. You don’t want to end up broke and stranded in a foreign country.
There are a few ways to save money for your future nomadic life. Try to live as cheaply as possible. Downsize your life. Sacrifice some luxuries. Try to stop eating out and drinking alcohol.
Second, make use of technology to cut down on costs. If you’re trying to teach yourself a new skill, take advantage of free online resources instead of expensive courses. Use an internet phone plan instead of an expensive plan from a major provider. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions such as cable, Netflix, Spotify, etc.
Next, sell off some of your belongings to bring in some money. If you have valuable items, such as a car, TV, desktop computer, or jewelry, you can sell them to finance your move abroad.
Finally, try to make extra money through freelance work, side hustles, or other means. This will give you a financial cushion to fall back on as you transition into digital nomadism.
Saving money may not be the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s an essential part of becoming a digital nomad. You don’t want to run out of money and be forced to come home and look for a job.
You should not quit your day job until you either have enough money saved to travel without working or you have money coming in from an online business or freelance gigs. It’s important to build up your online income first before moving abroad.
Get Rid of Your Possessions or Put Them in Storage
Possessions can really weigh you down when you’re trying to live a nomadic life. If you can, sell off your belongings before you leave home. This will free up a lot of space and make it easier to move around.
Start by listing your valuable items on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay. The money you make can help you start your nomadic life. You can donate the less valuable items to a charity near you. Everything else, you can give away or throw out.
Getting rid of your stuff will feel stressful at first but will feel incredibly freeing later. There is something therapeutic about getting rid of stuff. Not being tied down by possessions feels like a weight being lifted off your shoulders.
Of course, there are some things that you’ll want to keep with you, like family photos, important documents, and sentimental items. Make sure to keep these safe and sound. A safe deposit box or a small storage locker is a good investment. Alternatively, you could leave these items with a close friend or family member. Also, don’t forget to back up your photos and other important digital files – you don’t want to lose them!
Get your Documents in Order
A few documents you may need include:
Passport- Make sure it has at least 6 months of validity.
Visas- Most digital nomad visas need to be applied for in advance.
Driver’s license- If you plan to drive. In some countries, you may need to get an international driver’s license.
Vaccine certificate- Some countries in Africa and South America require proof of yellow fever vaccine.
Insurance- Bring a copy of your travel insurance policy. Some countries require proof of insurance.
Prescriptions- If you require any medications.
Tell Me the Truth About Being a Digital Nomad. A Reality Check
There are lots of online courses and workshops out there that claim to offer the secrets to successful freelancing or digital nomading. Almost all of them are scams. Some are simply full of information you could get for free elsewhere. You can learn everything you need to learn about how to become a digital nomad for free online on websites like the one you’re reading right now.
Another hard truth is that not everyone is cut out for the nomad life. Some people just can’t make money online, no matter how hard they try. Even if you can make money online, it’s not always easy to find clients or projects that will keep you busy (and paid) for long periods of time. This lifestyle can be feast or famine at times.
Some people also struggle with the business side of the lifestyle. Others don’t have the discipline to work long hours independently. Some struggle emotionally with the isolation that comes with this lifestyle.
So before you quit your day job and buy a one-way ticket to Bali, think long and hard about whether or not you’re really cut out for this nomadic life. Becoming a digital nomad is not as easy as it looks. That said, it is an achievable goal if it’s what you really want.
FAQ About Becoming a Digital Nomad
In this section, I’ll answer a few frequently asked questions about becoming a digital nomad.
Is being a nomad legal?
Yes. It is perfectly legal to be a digital nomad as long as you follow tax laws and immigration laws. Pay your taxes to the appropriate tax authorities and apply for digital nomad visas and you can live this lifestyle 100% within the law.
Most nomads do not operate 100% legally. They work on tourist visas. This is often illegal. Some digital nomads also don’t obey international tax laws. This is also illegal.
How much money do digital nomads make?
Digital nomad incomes vary greatly. The majority earn somewhere between $50,000-$100,000 per year. When starting out, many digital nomads earn just $10,000-$20,000 per year. A high-earning digital nomad makes more than $150,000 per year.
Exactly how much you can earn depends on your job. If you’re working as a bookkeeper for $20 per hour, your maximum potential income will be limited. You might be lucky to make $40,000 per year. If you own your own business, there really is no ceiling. The most successful digital nomads run online businesses making over 1 million dollars per year.
For an idea of what you could earn, check out this list of average hourly earnings for various nomadic jobs
What should I study to become a digital nomad?
There isn’t any one specific degree or field of study that will guarantee you a job as a digital nomad. However, there are certain skills and knowledge sets that will give you a significant advantage in the competitive marketplace for digital nomads.
A few areas of study include:
Computer science- This is probably the most useful. With some experience, you could become a remote software developer or web developer, or even a freelance developer.
English- This degree would come in handy if you want to become a writer, proofreader, editor, blogger, copywriter, or English teacher.
Business, economics, finance, or accounting- These degrees will come in handy if you choose to start your own online business.
Education- With this degree, you could work as a teacher or create and sell online courses.
Graphic design- This degree is a good option for creative nomads.
How much money do you need to become a digital nomad?
It is possible to start living as a digital nomad on as little as $800-$1000 per month. At this level of income, you would be limited to the extremely low cost of living countries. You would also have to be frugal.
To start the digital nomad life, you should ideally earn at least $1500 per month. With this level of income, you can live a comfortable lifestyle in the more affordable nomad destinations. You will have to be somewhat frugal but you will have enough money to travel and go out and enjoy yourself.
Earning $2500 per month is a good income goal to live the digital nomad lifestyle long term. With this level of income, you could live in a wide range of countries including all of the popular hotspots. You will qualify for most digital nomad visas. You should also have enough money left over each month to save or invest for retirement.
How much does it cost to be a nomad?
On average, digital nomads spend around $1500-$2000 per month. If you’re frugal, it is possible to live on $1000 or less per month in many countries. If you want to live in expensive highly developed countries, you’ll probably spend closer to $4000-$5000 per month.
What equipment do digital nomads need?
To be a digital nomad, you’ll need a laptop, smartphone, and reliable WiFi. You’ll also need an international phone plan so you can stay connected while you’re on the go. And last but not least, you’ll need some good luggage to keep all your gear safe and sound.
How to Become a Digital Nomad?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to become a digital nomad depends on your unique skill set and situation. However, there are some general steps you can take to start your journey towards a location-independent lifestyle.
First, you’ll need to develop some in-demand skills that can be used for remote work. This could include web development, graphic design, online marketing, or anything else that businesses are willing to pay for.
Once you have all the skills, you can either look for a remote job with a company that allows telecommuting or start your own business or start freelancing.
If you go the route of starting your own business or freelancing, you’ll need to be prepared to work hard and hustle to get it off the ground. However, this can be extremely rewarding, both financially and emotionally.
Once you have a stable income coming in, you can start planning your escape. This involves finding an affordable place to live in another country and moving.
And finally, don’t forget to enjoy the freedom that comes with being a nomad! Embrace the opportunity to see new places, meet new people, and live life on your own terms.
My Experience Becoming a Digital Nomad
Before becoming a nomad, I was a backpacker. I saved up money working various jobs at home in the U.S. and then left for a few months at a time to go traveling. While traveling, I dreamed of being able to earn money while I traveled.
While traveling in Africa, I met a travel blogger. We ended up traveling together for several months. During that time, he explained the business to me. It sounded interesting but unrealistic to me.
Shortly after returning home to Southern California, I moved to Tijuana where the cost of living was lower. I remembered what my blogger friend told me and I started blogging about that experience. Over time, the blog grew into this travel blog. It earns enough to allow me to live a nomadic lifestyle.
When I started, I knew nothing about this business. I learned everything as I went. I had no experience with websites, WordPress, writing, or marketing. It was a long and difficult journey but somehow, I made it work.
At this point, I have been living this lifestyle off and on for the past 2.5 years. During that time, I have lived as a digital nomad in 15 countries across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Usually, I stay in one place for around 1-2 months at a time. Sometimes I travel around.
To learn more about my experience, check out my YouTube video about my first year as a digital nomad.
Final Thoughts on Becoming a Digital Nomad
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to take your career on the road, becoming a digital nomad is a great way to do it. You’ll need relevant skills and the right mindset, but with the growth of remote work opportunities and the rise of nomad-friendly locations, it’s easier than ever to make the jump. Just be sure to plan carefully and do your research and properly prepare so you can hit the ground running!
Are you starting your digital nomad journey? Share your experience in the comments below!
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Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and incites based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.