Someone recently emailed me and asked if I could give them a bullet point step-by-step of how to get started as a digital nomad.
I’ve always resisted doing this because the journey is so different for almost everyone and some people might have the job and financial means to leave immediately while others might take years to prepare.
However, I’ll work on the assumption that you’re ready to become a digital nomad in the next year or less. Here are my steps that I followed and thought about when deciding if I should be a digital nomad and how to start living a digital nomad lifestyle.
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Why becoming a digital nomad can be hard
The media and influencers have done a great job of making digital nomadism seem like the dream lifestyle. And it is a lot of the time. But it’s a very non-traditional lifestyle that isn’t for everyone and that’s something important to bear in mind.
Being a digital nomad is different from going on holiday, even from taking an extended backpacking trip. You could be gone for a long time, with no definite return date.
If you sell your belongings, quit your job, give up your house and say goodbye to your life at home, it can feel like you’re saying goodbye to a lot. This permanence can be a lot for some people to deal with.
This is why it’s especially important to make a concrete plan for how to become a digital nomad and how to transition into digital nomadism.
Read more on the pros and cons of being a digital nomad.
How to become a digital nomad in 12 steps
These are the rough steps I followed in how I became a digital nomad.
As I said, this isn’t the same journey for everyone, but if you’re looking for how to start as a digital nomad, these are some good steps to bear in mind.
1. Decide if you’ll be a remote worker vs. freelancer vs. self employed digital nomad
This is an important point that many people confuse. You can be a digital nomad as a remote worker for your current company if your company allows it - it might be worth checking as this path is a lot easier than starting your own business and finding clients from scratch. As a freelancer.
Read more about how to become a digital nomad with no experience.
2. If you’re going self employed and are starting a business - is it viable?
This might sound like a harsh question, but if you’re starting a business, is it sustainable? Will it last? I’d recommend running your business or side hustle alongside your current job for at least 3 months to check if it's viable and can financially support you.
Read more about Digital Nomad job ideas.
3.Decide on the practicalities of the life you’re leaving behind (do you have a mortgage, bills, a pet etc)
This is a big life change even from a logistical perspective. How to become a nomad includes leaving a lot behind and the practicalities can be challenging to figure out, which is why you need time to prepare. Think about:
Family members you’re caring for
Debts or bills you need to pay
Assets such as property, car etc - what will you do with these?
Many people choose to trial being a digital nomad before committing to becoming a digital nomad and whether it’s right for you.
4. Create a savings pot
I usually recommend 3 months of expenses or the amount needed for a flight home. This is important to me from a realistic perspective too in case there was ever an emergency I needed to get home for.
5. Do you have the necessary equipment?
Becoming a nomad means your income, wellbeing and whole lifestyle is dependent on your digital connectivity. So do you have the tech, gear and software you need to do your job and earn a living online sustainably?
6. Know what your income will be and pick a destination with a cost of living that matches
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to be earning thousands and thousands to be a digital nomad. There are of course some countries with higher living costs than others and if you choose to apply for a digital nomad visa, many do have income requirements. However you can easily go to countries like Mexico, Vietnam or Colombia and have a very low cost of living which requires less income.
7. Make sure you’ve checked visa requirements or restrictions before you travel
This goes for any travel but if you’re planning to stay in destinations for several weeks at a time, it’s a good idea to check if there are any restrictions on you staying for longer periods. Also check if you need to have a departing flight booked when you arrive into the country too.
8. Join Facebook groups for Digital Nomads and expats in that destination - ask questions!
There are Facebook groups for EVERYTHING. Search for “X CITY OR COUNTRY + Digital Nomads” to find digital nomad and expat communities in your chosen destination. I used these groups to find rental accommodation, ask about good gyms to join, get visa advice and more.
9. Inform you bank and phone provider
This might not be necessary for everyone, but some banks will require notification if you plan to go abroad for extended periods. This also stops your card from being blocked when you use it abroad because the bank is expecting it. The same goes for phone plans. Think about if there is any other life admin you need to do like this to inform people of your plans.
10. Do you have digital nomad insurance?
Being a digital nomad isn’t the same as taking a vacation. It requires very different insurance as you’re abroad for prolonged periods. I use Safety Wing Nomad Insurance which is a monthly rolling nomad insurance.
11. Keep family, friends or someone at home updated on your rough plan/whereabouts
This might not feel necessary for everyone but I think especially if you’re nomading alone, it’s good practice to make sure someone knows where you are or where you’re expected to be - even roughly!
12. Take the leap!
Deciding to become a digital nomad is one of those things that will feel like you’ll never be ready. The only way to find out is to give it a try. It’s always better to think “I’m glad I gave it a go” rather than “what if…”
Summary: how to become a digital nomad in 12 steps
If after reading this you’re still thinking “I want to be a nomad” - that’s great news!
This is a very condensed summary of how I became a digital nomad and the steps I recommend for how to be a digital nomad, especially if you’ve never travelled for longer periods of time before.
Chances are, you’ll never feel ready! But there are a wealth of resources out there and a growing global community of digital nomads to support you!