What It's Really Like To Be A Digital Nomad

My whole life, my parents and teachers tried to tell me the importance of holding down a steady job. That was the only thing that mattered: go to college, get a degree and then find yourself a safe, steady nine to five job that will help me get my starter home and everything that goes with it. And for a huge portion of my life, I believed them, because that seemed really rational. Yet, the more I tried to attain that the more miserable I felt. Something just wasn’t right and I couldn’t figure out the reason. After all, I’ve worked as a graphic designer, from a downtown spacious office in a very desirable company. Who wouldn’t want that? As it turned out, I was that person and for a bit, it made me feel bad, just the realization that I wasn’t happy with something that many people dream of having.

Being a digital nomad wasn’t something I planned on doing, it just happened. I’ve met this girl in my morning yoga class who just came back from Cambodia, full of stories and experiences that I wanted for myself. And instead of feeling envious, I’ve approached her and asked for some tips. She was forthcoming and soon I’ve found myself in a community of people who travel and work all the time. This was an eye-opening experience because up until then, I had no idea what digital nomads do.

Basically, a digital nomad is someone who does freelance work and travels from one place to another, without being tied to the office. It was exactly what I needed back then, and nowadays, four years later, I can freely call myself a digital nomad who’s been to more than 10 countries, and here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1. Starting small can be helpful

If you’re looking to become a digital nomad, it’s better to start small. Instead of impulsively quitting your job and buying a ticket to Indonesia, why don’t you ask a friend from a town nearby to accommodate you for a week? You can bring your laptop and work from their place. That way you’ll test your own ability to work away from home, while still being somewhere comfortable. This can be a great way to test waters without actually spending a lot of money and energy. My first digital nomad experience was staying with my aunt, on her farm, just a few miles outside of my hometown. This was probably the best thing I’ve done because if I’ve gone straight to some exotic place, I’d probably be home sooner than I’ve planned.

2. Research is important

Many digital nomads like to pain their experiences as constant adventures where they mostly chill on the beach and work very little, but that’s actually not true. Even if you’re away from home, you need to ensure at least some income so you’ll be able to cover all your expenses. My first serious digital nomad trip was to Portugal, a country that has a lot of co-working spaces near the sea, and even though it was a great experience, there are things I wish I’ve done differently. First of all, make sure that you’ll be able to withdraw all your money on the local ATM, and also, ask about their commission rates so you won’t end up spending more than you earn. Wherever you go, always check the political climate, living costs and fare prices in case you want to go home on a whim.

3. Too much nostalgia won’t help

Missing your family and friends is one thing, but if you decide to live like a digital nomad, then being too nostalgic won’t help you meet new people and fit in with a coworking community in the destination of your choice. Luckily, I was always happy and determined to stay, but I’ve seen people moaning about lack of their fast food restaurant while staying in a remote co-working space in Thailand. They’ve been so unsatisfied that it thoroughly ruined their experience. If you really want something from back home, you can always order anything you want from your favourite online fashion store, just make sure they’re delivering to the place where you stay. But when it comes to groceries and eating out, it’s much better to try local food and shop for their groceries considering that you’re already abroad. Who knows, you might find your new fave spice or condiment right there!

4. Being prepared is the key

Maybe it’s me, but I always love to be fully prepared whenever I’m travelling. So, aspiring digital nomads should never leave anything to chance. Always bring your first-aid kit and never travel to far-off places without health insurance. I’ve seen many digital nomads get hurt due to lack of self-care and then having to pay astronomical healthcare costs. Also, don’t forget to sort out your paperwork, and always keep your documents and other valuables in a safe place, so they won’t get stolen. Learning to take care of yourself is the only truly necessary skill you need if you want to be a digital nomad.

I’ve been a digital nomad for four years now and it’s definitely something I’d recommend to others. Still, it’s important to mention that careful research and alertness are the fundamental skills to have while being abroad. Trust your instincts and never hang out with those who seem sketchy. After all, travelling and working can be such a thrilling experience, but some measures of safety are always needed.

Thanks for writing for us, Fiona!

Fiona is a lifestyle blogger based in Melbourne, Australia. She's in love with good coffee, croissants and fashion magazines. In her spare time, she plays tennis and travels around the world. You can read more from her on her blog High Style Life.

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