If you were lucky enough to keep a non-essential job throughout the global pandemic, you’re probably working from home (I’m in the same boat as you). If you’re still working at that job, you might have had a chat with your team about working from home indefinitely. While there are hiccups that come with working remotely, it’s certainly possible. When presented convincingly to your boss or team, this option may open up a lot of opportunities for you.
I’ve been working remotely since 2015, with in-person jobs here and there to support my travels. It didn’t take long for me to transition into the “digital nomad life.” Although I’ve since settled down with an apartment (and cat) in Austin, I’m happy to share my secrets to starting, enjoying and thriving as a digital nomad.
Obviously, I don’t recommend that you travel out of the country in the midst of a global pandemic just to pursue the beach life in Bali. But this transition does require a semblance of a plan, and we’ve got all the time in the world to plan right now.
Step 1: What’s Your Budget?
Not every digital nomad or freelancer has a set salary. If you do know how much you’re getting paid each year, consider yourself lucky. Setting a budget is crucial for planning your route, supporting your travels, and making sure you don’t go overboard on expeditions.
If you already have a destination in mind, take a look at their currency and their cost of living. You can easily get a hostel for $5 in Bali or Malaysia, but you won’t find anything for less than $25 in certain parts of New Zealand. Other costs, such as transportation or food, might surprise you. I didn’t expect to pay $100 for a bus trip across Argentina, but these oft-neglected costs add up.
Before you budget, consider the standard of living that you are willing to accept. Not everyone is going to be satisfied with spending months on end in $5 hostels. Nor do they need to be, if they can find an apartment or long-term living situation. Explore all of your options and what you would be willing to sacrifice (money, privacy, etc.) as you travel.
Step 2: What Can You Downsize?
I’ve seen backpackers travel with four full-size suitcases. It gets sweaty really fast (and you get plenty of side-eye from anyone living out of an Osprey). Start downsizing now so that you aren’t overwhelmed when you start traveling. What clothes can you sell? What items can you give away? Do you really need to bring a pair of high heels when you’re traveling?
This is going to look different for everyone. But it’s possible to live out of a backpack. Trust me.
Step 3: Who Else Is Making the Move?
One of my favorite resources for my digital nomad questions is Facebook groups. Groups like Female Digital Nomads or Pride (Girls Love Travel) connect you to women who are working remotely, traveling the world and living their best life. It’s a one-stop-shop for questions about running a business, securing a visa or finding travel buddies without using a dating app.
(Top tip: If you’re new to these groups, use the search bar to see if anyone has asked about topics that interest you. There are a lot of repeat questions in this group, and if you ask one of them, you’ll just be directed back to the search bar.)
Step 4: Where Are You Able to Go?
The number one question I would ask on these Facebook groups (other than, “who wants to hang out with me”) concern visas. Where do I get a visa? Can I get it at the airport, or should I apply online? How much is this going to cost?
American passports are certainly welcome in most countries, but there are some limitations. If I were to go to Bolivia, I would have to pay a fee, whereas my British friends would not. If I wanted to do a working holiday in the United Kingdom, I’d be SOL. In order to get a working holiday visa in Australia, I would need to send over my bank statement and have the right amount of money in savings.
Even if you don’t plan accommodation, routes or activities beforehand, figure out the rules concerning visas and other restrictions. It will save you a lot of anxiety on those overnight bus rides over borders.
This is an especially important question to ask during the global pandemic. Not all countries are opening their borders at the same time, and many will open them with heavy restrictions for travelers.
Your journey is likely to be delayed due to these restrictions and general uncertainty. So, enjoy this time planning, researching and dreaming about your digital nomad life.