Whether you’re a digital nomad already, or somebody who is just toying with the idea of taking the plunge, these essential lifehacks will help as you carry on down your path.
I myself lived on the edges of the digital nomad world for years before finally going all in just under one year ago. In fact, I’d not even heard of the term digital nomad until some guys I work with suggested that I write a book for them based on my experiences. A savvy English girl repeated the term to me very shortly after during our first conversation together next to the Indian Ocean. I liked the sound of it, it felt right, and I was happy that I was on my way to becoming one.
Below is a concise and in no way exhaustive list of some of the things that I’ve learnt in my first year as a fully signed-up digital nomad. Alongside some of the other complimentary knowledge I already had after living the best parts of my adult life on the road.
A Good Freelance Platform
Unless you’ve got a trust fund, you’re going to need to make money. If you’ve got a trust fund, you have no need to be a digital nomad in the first place. A digital nomad is defined by their necessity to work. The big difference between a digital nomad and a traditional worker being that the former does not need to carry out their role in any one fixed place.
In most instances, digital nomads are freelancers working remotely. There are many roles that could be covered under this umbrella, but the common denominator is that you’re going to need a reliable freelance platform to source work.
I personally use Upwork, which has provided me a really solid stream of work since they took over Elance last year. This is probably the biggest platform out there, and their customer service is excellent, but the recent hike in commission to 20% on the first $500 earned is a little hard to swallow.
Freelancer.com is also a decent platform but the quality of work available doesn’t seem to match up to Upwork’s all that well. People per Hour also has its charms, but not in the way they seem to constantly go out of their way to get you to pay to have your proposals featured.
A Simple But High Quality Wardrobe
The digital nomad life is a lot more than just about the work. It’s a lifestyle choice and the nomadic part demands that you’l often be on the road. When you decide to go all in on this, you must realise that your wardrobe needs to be reduced accordingly. There’s nothing worse than arriving in a new place and having to lug an overly heavy case around with you.
Before you get to the wardrobe, you need to purchase a high quality backpack. And this needn’t be one that would get you to the top of Everest. A 60+20 liter capacity will be more than sufficient. This will give you plenty of space to carry your clothes and essentials, while the detachable rucksack will be ideal for carrying your laptop or Macbook as hand luggage, or when you’re buzzing around your current city of choice.
Clothes, shoes, and all the other basics need to be kept as exactly that, but you should think about quality over cost in some instances. I used to get through three or four pairs of “cheap” jeans every year until I realised that it might make more sense paying a little bit more for something that would last longer. This has worked out for me so far and i’m sure that it could apply to other often-worn essential clothing items too.
Decent Sunglasses That Actually Protect Your Eyes
The freedom to work where you want is often the main motivation for the digital nomad. In most cases this will mean that you also want to work somewhere where the sun shines a bit more often than it does in your home town.
I spent years buying cheap sunglasses that on many occasions lasted me a long time, but i’m pretty sure the protection they offered my eyes wasn’t all that great. As with the above advice on backpacks and certain clothing items, there is a lot to be said for spending a little bit more than you normally would to ensure that you are getting superior quality. Just make sure you get a hard case for them too as they will getting knocked about quite a bit every time you set off for somewhere new.
The Best Currency Card Available
It is absolutely essential that you do your upmost to make sure that you lose as little as possible on currency conversions. Clearly this doesn’t apply if you are travelling around your own country as a digital nomad but it is a big deal if, like me, you’re often making money in dollars, converting them into pounds, and then spending in euros.
Luckily there are a number of excellent options out there at the moment. The best for my mind is Revolut in the UK but this is an ever increasingly competitive market with more and more options appearing on the market all the time.
An extra smart little hack is to also download the XE Currency Convertor app to your phone. This way you can always double check that your card is giving you the rate that it should be.
An Awesome Co-Working Space
Cafes are a great place for free wi-fi and to do some local people watching, but they are hardly conducive to a full day’s concentrated work session. Your home might seem like the ideal location to work, until you realise just how easy it is to get distracted there. These places can be a great resource from time to time, but you need to find a good co-working space if you’re settling in a place for a while and need to get some serious work done.
Luckily for the digital nomad are more and more amazing co-working spaces opening all over the world every day. With business going increasingly on-line and companies realising that there is no need to invest in a office all of your own when you’re finding your feet, co-working spaces are the perfect solution for young professionals and the digital nomad everywhere.
The great advantage for a digital nomad here is that most co-working spaces offer flexi-desks that can be taken on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis with no long-term commitment. A good co-working space will provide for all of your working needs with high-speed internet, printing access, comfortable common areas, kitchens, free coffee, and 24/7 access all being pretty standard in the better places.
Not only does a co-working space provide you with the tools and impetus you need to push on with your work, but you will find yourself surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Not only will these people often prove to be an inspiration, but it is also quite common for you to be able to pool your resources and generate work from each other.
Once you become a digital nomad, you will essentially live your life on the road. What this often means is that you will give up any house or apartment that you had when you were living more traditionally. For this reason it is essential for you to maintain good relationships with all of your old friends as they will prove invaluable when you are looking for a place to stay when you head back to your old haunts.
Unfortunately it may also be true that you find yourself coming up against a little bit of resentment from your old friends once you go down the digital nomad path. This is only natural as some people can’t help but feel a bit jealous when they see you living it up on the beach in the winter while they are stuck in the cold commute to the office.
A Digital Nomad Support Network
There is no point in sugar coating it, the life of a digital nomad is not always a bed of roses. Freelancing can be irregular to say the least, and no matter how much you love life on the road, there will still be many times when you miss your old friends and family members.
For this reason you must take advantage of the contacts that you will undoubtedly make with any other digital nomad that crosses your path. These interactions will remind you that you are not alone and give you that little push to keep at it. We may still be in the minority but the digital nomad life is one that more and more people are taking up everyday. The digital nomad community is growing and it will always be there to offer you support when you need it.
Self-belief, determination, motivation, and discipline are going to be just some of the key traits that you need to have in bucket loads if you are going to make it as a digital nomad, but you will get there. You are special, my digital nomad friend, and as long as you don’t lose faith, you will soon be making a success of things and living the kind of life that you had only ever dreamed about having before.