5 Steps to Becoming a Digital Nomad

Throughout history, nomads moved around for one reason: Survival. They went against the grain and forged new paths.

Fast forward to the present. Now, many of us end up getting jobs and settling down in one area. We live in this state of familiarity for years. It’s safe. It’s predictable.

You know the story: You land a great job and are asked to relocate. Maybe the place they want you to move wasn’t your top choice, but you could at least imagine sticking around for a while. 20 boxes and a plane ride later, you’ve moved to your new home. 

Where we choose to build our lives often has a lot to do with where we work —  but with 3 years being the average length of employment for millennials, one thing is clear: We don’t always stick with the jobs that originally brought us to the place where are today.

It begs the question: Is settling down in one place the answer for everyone?

Enter the digital nomad — an explorer who travels freely from town to town, from one country to the next. It’s not just a fantasy: It’s a very real option for those with wanderlust. Here are the steps to take if you want to make this dream a reality:

1. Ask yourself why you want to make the change.

Megan Jerrard, digital nomad and co-founder of the travel blog Mapping Megan, says that her transition to the nomadic lifestyle has resulted in a greater sense of freedom. “It all comes down to freedom for me — the freedom to live life as we choose without being constrained by the rules of society,” says Megan.

She is passionate about travel, and quickly realized that an office job wouldn’t realistically allow her all the time she wanted to travel. “It was my main motivation for transitioning away from a traditional office job.”

Sure, a life of constant travel is full of adventure, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Megan says that the freedom can come with a cost.

“Beyond language barriers and the challenges that come with not having a fixed address, being away from family and friends is one of the biggest challenges.”

So, ask yourself why you want to make the change, and take some time to weigh the pros and cons that come with a lifestyle of frequent travel.

2. Find a reliable way to earn a living (and don’t fool yourself).

There is certainly no shortage of advice out there suggesting that you should “just go for it,” and not to worry about finances. 

I’m here to tell you the exact opposite.

If you plan on saying goodbye to the 9 to 5 and fulfill your wanderlust, it’s best if you’re able to support yourself from the beginning. After all, living (and traveling) costs money!

But don’t worry: It’s doable.

One solution is to find a full-time, 100% remote position. There are plenty of great companies that hire remotely and don’t care where you do your work (as long as you get it done). This is a good option if you prefer the stability of a regular paycheck.

Another option is to go the self-employment route and pursue something like consulting. Keep in mind that it’s wise to wait until your business is successful (and that you’re able to support yourself) before making the leap. 

3. Determine how long you’re willing to stay.

A great way to start preparing for a nomadic life is to think about your schedule and how long you’d like to stay in one location.

Everyone is different — some prefer the adventure of experiencing something new everyday, while others like to stay in one location for a while and absorb it.

It’s also a good idea to research the laws of each country so that you know how long you can visit. 

Digital nomads Mike and Megan Jerrard stay at each destination anywhere from a few days all the way up until 8 months.

“When we started traveling, we were hitting a large number of destinations in a very short period of time,” says Megan.

“That approach was very exhausting (especially when you’re trying to work at the same time), and you realize that it’s much more sustainable and immersive to engage in slow travel so that you can really get to know a destination.”

4. Plan, plan, plan (then plan some more).

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be spontaneous, but a little planning goes a long way when you’re always on the road. Luckily, there are many resources out there for digital nomads. Here are a few to help you out along the way:

Nomad List: Whether you want to find a city’s cost of living or internet speed, this online resource has got you covered. With useful data submitted by thousands of travelers across the world, this website will simplify the way you research destinations on your list.

Nomad Pass: If you want to connect and exchange tips with other like-minded travelers, look no further than Nomad Pass. Not only is this website a social network, but it’s also a resource that will help you find great deals on your trips.

Nomadic Notes: From nomad book recommendations to conferences, this all-in-one portal is sure to help you along your journey. Whatever you’re looking for, there is a page for it here.

5. Face your fears by trying it out on a small-scale first.

The only way to make a change is to eliminate your fear of failure.

In other words, find out what’s holding you back — and then face it head-on. The good news is that you can do this in a low-risk way before making a permanent decision.

For example, if you’re afraid you won’t be able to support yourself, test it out on a small scale-first.

In an interview with digital nomad and UX designer Marina Janeiko, she recommended going on short nomadic trips in the beginning to see how much you spend and how much you need to bring in to be comfortable.

Let me ask you this: If you had the ability to travel the world while working, where would you go?


Hannah Wright lives in Alaska and is the founder of How to Find a Remote Job, a step-by-step online course with tactical advice on how to find full-time remote positions. Get her free introductory course to remote work!

Follow Hannah Wright on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HannahWrightAK

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