We had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with Melissa Mesku, Founding Editor of New Worker Magazine. As an advocate...
The lifestyle of the digital nomad has an undeniable appeal, making it a common aspiration for freelancers and entrepreneurs. Digital nomads trade in the 9-5 for an exciting life of travel and exploration, making their own rules as they go. They get to work where they want, when they want. The line between vacation and work becomes blurred. Among those who have never tried to be a digital nomad, the over-romanticization of the lifestyle runs rampant. Many who find themselves fantasizing about this hyper flexible way of work often don’t understand how to set themselves up for success. They either never take the leap out of fear, or leap too soon and flounder due to poor planning and a lack of foresight.
We spoke with our digital nomad community to understand the most common misconceptions the general public has about digital nomads. The results were eye-opening and exposed a very clear truth: many underestimate what it takes to be a successful digital nomad. So how can we solve this cognitive dissonance, this longing for a version of the lifestyle that doesn’t actually exist? We turn back to our digital nomads for some more answers. This time, we asked them a different question: What advice would you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?
We’ve broken down their answers into two parts. This article, part one, speaks to what an aspiring digital nomad can do to prepare for making the leap. Part two will handle what you do after you make the leap. It will provide advice for creating sustainability and structure in this lifestyle full of unpredictability (read part two of the series here). So without further ado, our digital nomads share their tips for getting started.
“Test it locally before you make any rash decisions to pick up and live in Guatemala. Make sure this is the life for you. Work from home more often to start with, then at a local coworking space, and if it feels natural then go for it. But it really is a type of life that it is all or nothing. You can’t be a half digital nomad. I’m Irish so I’m used to people claiming to be half Irish. You can’t do that either.”
-Paddy McShane, EMEA Customer Success Manager (born in New Zealand, currently working in Ireland)
All jokes aside, Paddy brings up a great point: the easiest way to see if your idea of the lifestyle matches up with reality is to give it a try locally. The genius of this plan is that you could start tomorrow if you wanted. Start by working remotely to uncover if you’re able to adjust to communicating with your collaborators, colleagues, and clients without getting face time. Then, see how it feels to work out of local coworking spaces. Test your self-motivation and your ability to make connections in a new community without making any big changes to your home life. Rely on these familiar anchor points to comfortably explore the mental shift first.
“Have at least a few months of savings before quitting your previous job or moving to another country.”
-Lyuba Golovina, Freelance copywriter and international project director (born in USA, currently working in Spain)
The unpredictability of the digital nomad lifestyle can be exciting, but comes with one very real fear–making ends meet. Like any big lifestyle change, set yourself up for success by creating a bit of a financial runway. This way, you literally afford yourself time to get settled and become a digital nomad without adding the stress of landing clients right away.
“Ensure you have the right bank and bank cards. Have multiple cards in case you get skimmed. Make sure someone in the country where you are registered can access your mail in case you need something important.”
-Rosanna Lopes, Digital Marketing Freelancer (born in the Netherlands, currently working in Hungary)
However it’s not enough to simply save money. In order to really set yourself up, you’ll also need to plan for contingencies. Having constant access to your bank accounts will be essential, so make sure you have these plans in place before you go. It’s infinitely easier to set these plans up in person vs. having to coordinate from overseas.
“The timing is NEVER going to be perfect. If you’re already working remotely there’s pretty much no reason for you to wait or delay, chances are you’re spending more money living how you are right now, and every other excuse you can give will quickly disappear or sort itself out.”
-Amar Ghose, CEO and Co-Founder of SaaS company (born in USA, currently working in Germany)
Ultimately, no time is going to be exactly right. Eventually you’ve got to decide it’s time to make the leap and go for it. Trust that the details will work themselves out. You won’t know until you give it a try.
Ready to make the leap? Keep your eyes peeled for Part II on how to become a digital nomad, hitting the blog in the next few weeks.