As a digital nomad, you can choose to live almost anywhere in the world. But there are more factors beyond an internet connection that make a great digital nomad destination. Everything from culture to the cost of living can impact your experience working abroad.
What is a Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is someone who is completely location-independent and who uses technology to earn a living. It’s the ideal lifestyle for someone who wants to experience the world as a backpacker while still pursuing their career goals and earning money while traveling.
How to Become a Digital Nomad:
The first step to becoming a digital nomad is figuring out how you can work remotely, whether that’s being self-employed, working in the gig economy, having a job that requires travel, or a passive income.
There are many travel job opportunities, which you will ideally have applied for or already gotten prior to leaving. In addition to securing regular income, you’ll want to ensure you have your finances in order. An emergency fund and a little extra in the bank can help you get your feet off the ground when you reach your new location. Also consider how you’ll spend while you’re there, particularly if the local currency differs from your own. There are some great digital nomad credit cards that will help you save money while traveling, and get to your destinations for less.
Once you have your job, finances, logistics, and of course, travel gear in order, you’ll want to think about what kind of destination will work best for you.
What Makes a Great Digital Nomad Location?
There are many factors to consider when choosing your digital nomad destination, from the weather, the culture, and the transport system. What’s key is working out what’s most important to you. However, we suggest considering the following:
As a digital nomad, your work is centered around technology. Having access to good WiFi and broadband is going to make getting your job done all the easier. Coworking spaces will have a good WiFi connection since everyone there is relying on the Internet. But in general, you’ll need at least 4mps internet speed to take conference calls or upload documents. To stream, you’ll need higher than that; Netflix requires at least 25mps for HD content.
You can check your Internet speed here for reference.
Digital Nomad Budget
Before leaving, you’ll want to determine your daily expenses and any long-term goals you may have once you’ve arrived. You’ll also want to make sure you have a settling in fund for your initial arrival so you can comfortably get set up with the essentials.
You can set out a budget for things like travel, entertainment, eating out, alcohol, groceries, and accommodations. By setting a budget, you’ll be able to experience more while you’re there, knowing exactly how much you have to spend on what. In fact, creating a budget is actually more liberating; you don’t have to think too much about expenses because the money is already accounted for.
Cost of Living
Before setting off, do a bit of research into the average cost of living in your destination. This will help you plan out your budget (above) and know whether it’s possible to achieve what you want out of your experience.
If you’re looking to be more settled in a new location and live as a luxury digital nomad for example, your budget and cost of living will be different than a digital nomad who is planning on traveling across different cities.
Be aware of exchange rates too. If you’re earning in USD, your money will go a lot further in Asia than it would in Europe. However, things like food and wine can be cheaper in some European cities than in North America, so you could actually end up enjoying more fine-dining excursions than you would back home.
A city with good infrastructure will make it all the easier to get around and explore. Especially if you’re living in a major city, public transport can have a huge impact on your overall quality of life.
For within-city travel, it will be important to have easy access to transport if going into a coworking space or office. Some cities are bike-friendly, which not only makes it easier to get around, but also helps keep you healthy.
For travel within the country and to surrounding countries, good travel infrastructure will be important so you can make the best use of your flexible lifestyle. Most cities will be accessible by train or taxi, but not always. So you will want to check things such as flight frequency and costs to and from the main city hubs.
Digital Nomad Community & Network
Community can have a huge impact on your life, no matter where you are or what work you’re doing. But as a digital nomad, it can really enrich your experience overall. You’ll want to look for things such as options for working outside, cafes, and coworking spaces.
Coworking spaces are digital nomad hot spots, and a great place to meet other people with a similar way of life. They’re a great networking opportunity since many will be self-employed or working for small businesses. They also have all the amenities a digital nomad would need such as outlets, kitchens, coffee/tea, and reliable WiFi.
You can meet people who become travel companions and develop long-term friendships. As a digital nomad, you’re building a home away from home, and a community plays a huge part of that.
Of course, safety is going to be a key priority, especially if you're traveling alone. It’s always a good idea to do some research before departing to get to know which areas of the city you might be most interested in living in. Consider the usual factors around lighting, access to transport, and you can even check out police statistics (depending on the city).
Also, if you’re going to be working in a coworking space, you’ll ideally want to live close to one or one with easy to access transport. Walking and biking are great ways to explore a city while en route to work.
Time zone can play a factor in choosing your destination if your job will require you to be online during certain hours. You’ll want to be aware of the impact this can have so you’re not stuck working when you’d otherwise be able to enjoy your time doing other things.
If you know your work in advance, try to anticipate what your expected hours will be so you can pick a location that allows you to work when you want, on your own time.
If you plan on staying in one country long term you’ll need to understand the entry requirements and how long you’re permitted to stay. If you plan to work for an employer in your destination country you will most likely need some type of work visa.
There are a lot of different working holiday visa options, and some specifically for the digital nomad. Depending on how long you’re planning on being away, you’ll want to find a location that allows you to stay as long as you need. If you are working remote or self employed, a tourist visa may be sufficient, however these typically offer shorter durations than a work visa.
Some countries have historical relations that make it easier to get a working visa, without sponsorship. Do the research before and once you get your visa approved, you can begin to plan the rest.
Looking to escape winter and be in the sun all day? You probably won’t want to move to the U.K. The great thing about becoming a digital nomad is that you’re creating the life that you want — and having your dream climate is part of that. The weather can go a long way in influencing the types of activities you want, and can do. So, give this one some thought!
You can look up monthly trends to get a sense of what your country or city of interest is like year-round. Also, be sure to read digital nomad blogs from people who have already made the jump to get a better idea of what a location is actually like.
Digital Nomad Jobs
As mentioned above, there are many different types of digital nomad jobs. Ideally, you’ll have something set up beforehand that will allow you to be location-independent. But if you’re looking to move to a different country and find a job once there, you’ll want to be sure you’re choosing a city where there are job prospects, or something specific that fits what you’re looking for, and that you have the visa requirements to work there.
Language will be a determining factor as well. As an English speaker, you’re lucky in that there are many jobs you can do abroad, such as teaching English overseas. However, some countries and jobs require a general knowledge of their native language in order to work there. In fact, you’re likely to have a more authentic experience if you learn (at least some of) the native language anyway! If your job is remote, then you have much more flexibility when choosing a location.
According to a digital nomad survey, a flexible schedule and work-life balance are the top two reasons people choose to become digital nomads. Finding the right job that affords you both those things will allow you to enjoy every aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle.
Choose Your Digital Nomad Destination
The best part about being a digital nomad is that you can go anywhere in the world. You can choose the destination that best fits the kind of lifestyle you’re looking for. Do your research in advance, but remember, as a digital nomad you have the flexibility to try out a variety of locations so you can find the best spot for you.