We live in an exciting age of constant technological evolution! One in which the very definition of the “right” way to work has been turned on its head. For many, offices are starting to feel positively anachronistic, with the Covid pandemic showing us a lot of our jobs can in fact be done from the comfort of our own homes. Being able to work remotely opened up a whole new world of possibilities – becoming a digital nomad just takes things that step further.

A “digital nomad” is simply an individual who leverages technology to work remotely and independently of location, often traveling to or residing in various countries while maintaining their professional responsibilities. Sounds simple when put like that, right? 

However, whether you’re writing a literary masterpiece while sipping a macchiato in a Milanese café or coding while reclining on a sunkissed beach in Bali, the life of a digital nomad is never exactly simple. It takes hard work to craft your own lifestyle and adapt to the balancing act between freedom and stability of the digital nomad life. We look at the basics of how it's done, from job security and choosing your accommodations to budgeting and taxes

Image credit: My Expat Taxes

Turning Vocations into Vacations – Secure the Right Job

To the outsider, digital nomadism might just look like an extended vacation, but the truth is it’s a lifestyle that needs steady, or at least reliable, income – unless you fancy an awkward phone call from Hong Kong airport at 2am to your open minded relative to beg for an international transfer.

First you need an online job which strikes that o so delicate balance between flexibility and stability. The most common vocations for digital nomads include those in tech, consultation, online language teaching and creative industries like graphic design or – naturally- blogging. Freelancers are common, but you shouldn’t set off on your travels without first securing a fistful of contacts with which to garner a healthy flow of work from. If you’re lucky enough to have your own business, be sure it is stable enough to be managed online before hitting the road.

And let’s be real: having a healthy looking bank account with a safety net of savings is pretty fundamental. Taking a year or two to save and secure those funds never goes amiss!

Try Before you Fly – Take Digital Nomadism for a Test Drive

Before committing fully, experiment by working for a few weeks remotely from different locations closer to home, such as a different city in your country or nearby state. This will help you understand the challenges and adjustments needed to work effectively while traveling and how your job might fit around it. Enhance those skills that are critical for digital nomads, like time management, self-discipline, and communication. Being proficient with digital tools and technology that facilitate your brand of remote work is crucial.

Whatcha Packin – Preparation is Key

Digital nomadism – like a lot of fun things in life – requires a good bit of preparation. Logistical aspects need to be considered such as obtaining a good laptop that can survive being jostled around a bit, securing international health insurance, setting up financial services that work globally (like international bank accounts – you can’t go wrong with having a WISE Account) and making sure you have the required digital nomad visas. 

Half the fun is being somewhat spontaneous, but you should at least make the necessary arrangements for your first few ports of call and decide how long you might want to stay there. Some of the best locations which have digital nomad visas available are Spain, Argentina, Uruguay, Greece, Portugal and Norway – bear in mind though that some have a minimum earning threshold. 

Not all Who Wander Are Lost…But They Do Need a Schedule – Plan Your Days Well

Boring as it sounds, structuring your average working day is as crucial abroad as it is at home. I mean, time zone hopping is fun and all that until you miss deadlines or don’t show up to 3am meetings. Flexibility is key, as you may need to adapt to different time zones and work environments, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a schedule, even if it is subject to change. Use tools and apps to keep your work and travel schedules organized. 

And remember, locals don't always operate on your work times. Embrace the siesta, the late-night dinners, and local customs as much as you can. 

Home is Where the Wi-Fi Is – Choose Accommodations Wisely

Who needs an office when you can have a cozy hotel room or beachside hammock, right? What is essential though, wherever you go, is good Wi-Fi. When choosing accommodations, that’s always the first thing you should consider. Also, see if the space you book has a working space, and somewhere to get some alone time, unless you fancy typing away on your bed as your bunk buddy irritates you by practicing Wonderwall on his acoustic guitar all day.

Alternatively, as digital nomadism has exploded in popularity, there are accommodations made specifically for digital nomad types, which include co-working spaces and have reduced costs for longer stays.

Living the Dream Without Living Beyond Means – Be Honest About Your Budget

To be a traveling digital nomad is to embrace minimalism. Unless you’re planning on staying in one place for a considerable time, traveling light is essential.  Invest in high-quality, versatile items that save space and can handle the wear and tear of travel.

With money, make a plan on how much you’re planning to spend weekly. The good news is that a lot of countries have cheaper living expenses than the States or UK. However, if you’re eating out all the time those Instagram worthy brunches really start adding up. Know when to splurge on a fantastic local experience and when to save for the proverbial rainy day. 

Uncle Sam Still Wants You –  Get Help with Your Taxes

Just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you’re invisible; taxes are the buzzkill at the digital nomad’s party. As a US citizen, you're still on Uncle Sam’s radar, even if you’re sipping margaritas in Mexico. Familiarize yourself with boring things like Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and work with an expat tax professional like My Expat Taxes, who can take care of juggling numbers while you focus on juggling travel plans and embracing new cultures. With My Expat Taxes you can either file with one of their professionals or through their streamlined software program – even earning a refund if you file early enough. Their website also has tips, guides and webinars to talk you through the entire process.  

Stay Connected – Join the Nomad Community and Nurture Friendships

Some say the best thing about living abroad is the enriching relationships you make as you go. Making friends as a nomad is essential to stave off the bugbears of loneliness and homesickness. Dive into local meetups, LGBTQ+ events, or apps that connect like-minded individuals. Connect with other digital nomads through online communities, forums, and co-working spaces – and yes, even Grinder. Learning from others’ experiences can provide valuable insights and enhance your network. These relationships might seem transient as friends move on to a new destination but then – just as being a digital nomad itself often is – isn’t everything in life just that little bit transient? And doesn’t that make every experience all the more valuable?

This article was sponsored by My Expat Taxes. We personally use them to file our US taxes while living aboard and recommend their services.