How to get started as a digital nomad
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A full step-by-step guide
You’ve heard the term digital nomad before. You’ve stared at Instagram photos of others who seem to have figured it out and you’ve dreamt of living a similar life. Oftentimes, you’ve imagined sandy beaches, regular visits to the airport, quirky AirBnB apartments or fancier hotel rooms, a laptop with breathtaking views in the backdrop, fun times with friends (and strangers *wink wink*) and – let’s admit it – minimal work.
Well, you’ve got it kinda right, but also kinda wrong. So first things first, let’s take a minute to clarify what a digital nomad is and why it’s so awesome!
What is a digital nomad then?
Wikipedia probably has a more complete definition, but I can give you the gist of it in a simple breakdown.
A digital nomad is a person who:
- doesn’t have a stable home and travels the world periodically
- relies on wi-fi and electronic devices, such as a laptop and/or possibly some other equipment, in order to do a job and earn money from it
- works from a temporary apartment, a coffee shop, a co-working place, a beach, a balcony or anywhere there’s wi-fi and a comfortable seating area
- doesn’t have a lot of belongings to carry and is able to store/discard stuff that is considered unnecessary
- is open-minded, sociable and eager to discover new experiences and cultures
- doesn’t see this lifestyle as extended vacation (at times it may look like that, but it certainly isn’t)
Why it’s so awesome, you ask? The answer is a little obvious: because it combines a life full of travel and immersive experiences with financial freedom.
This type of people can lead this nomadic life solo or in groups; they could live together with a significant other, a family, friends or an organized group of fellow digital nomads.
Nomadicity (oh, it’s a real word!) doesn’t dislike company
Don’t just assume that digital nomads are loners who avoid any kind of social activity. To the contrary. If you want to be a digital nomad, you need to crave social interaction and be comfortable with meeting new people all the time.
Loneliness is a common and frequent feeling that digital nomads experience. However, looking at the bright side, this feeling (or the desire to make it go away) transformed most of us into masters of the art of socializing.
Can you be a digital nomad? (seriously, though)
Short answer, yes. To be completely honest, anyone can. I’ve met digital nomads of all ages, ethnicities & marital statuses. All those people did completely different jobs, all of which had only one key thing in common: the ability to be done from virtually anywhere.
If you ask yourself whether you can do it to, then you are off to a very good start. Believe it or not, this alone is a start; most people just dream of it, without even trying to picture real-situation scenarios with themselves as actual digital nomads.
Don’t be fooled by the Instagram pseudo-happiness effect, though
You see, most people imagine they are rich and able to travel to the most expensive sought-after resorts destinations in the world, carried away by pretty pictures of Instagram models influencers.
Well, guess what, those pretty pictures were professionally taken a million times before nailing the right shot, which ended being heavily photoshopped, and those giant fruit platters were never eaten by those mod…influencers!
You don’t have to be insta-famous to be a digital nomad.
Just think about jobs that can be done regardless of location: you can be a writer, a teacher, a software developer, a photographer, a marketer, an artist… the list is very long and the possibilities are endless! Technology has made almost everything possible.
You don’t even have to have the skill and experience already; you can learn it and evolve your expertise. But let’s dig more into that later.
You can take example from someone who has done it (successfully) already
I’ve been in that place in the past; craving this lifestyle, but at the same time not knowing where to start. So, I gathered everything I learned and created a comprehensive step-by-step guide to help like-minded folks make a good, solid start in their journey to a location-indepedent life!
All you need to do is follow my lead and you’ll have some major A-HA! moments that will help you become a kick-ass, successful digital nomad. Sooo, how do you start? Here you go:
Step 1: assess your goal
The first step in this process is the most crucial one. If you get it wrong or take it lightly, all the rest goes don the drain.
What you need to do is invest time and really think about what exactly you want to do for a living and what kind of environment you want to work in. Ask yourself:
Is this where I need to be?
Whether it is or not, try to visualize your future. Be realistic about it. I’ll say it again, don’t take this lightly. Do whatever puts you in thinking mode, find your inspiration, connect to your intuition and grab a pen and paper, if it helps you.
There’s a bunch of other questions you need to ask yourself and they can all be summed up in four words: why, what, who, how. Answering those questions will give you great clarity on whether your goal is realistic and tangible.
You need to think why you are where you are and list all those life choices which led you there. Your primary goal is to be able to do a job that you love, while being location-independent. Everything you do needs to lead you to this path, if you truly want to succeed, so you have to be absolutely sure about all the legitimate reasons why you haven’t reached this goal yet.
When you have defined all those reasons, then it will be much easier for you to determine what you need to do (differently) in order to be where you want to be. Be practical about this. Writing down thoughts and ideas and organizing them is very important; it gives you a focus. This is your initial task list. Your rough plan.
The next thing you need to consider is who is the best equipped person to help you reach your goal (if there is one or more). Some people make their own luck, while others need a little nudge to get where they need to be. It’s not an essential step, but for some people it is kinda required to have somebody to count on, whether it is emotional or financial support.
And then we come to the final part of this assessment, which requires you to ask yourself how you’ll reach your goal. The answer to that question involves a high-level evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, the market you choose to serve, the demand of your job and the ease of transition from your current life to your dream life.
If I had to break it down to a bunch of questions, it would be something like this:
How can I:
⇢ use my strengths to reach my goal?
⇢ turn my weaknesses into strengths?
⇢ eliminate my weaknesses if I can’t turn them into strengths?
⇢ fit in the market I choose to be part of?
⇢ stand out in the market at the same time?
Step 2: determine who you’re doing this with
It’s generally easier when you’re on your own, since you don’t have to take another person into account (duh!), so before even starting to make plans, think who will be taking the leap: will it be just you or you together with someone else?
Dragging a partner or a whole family is not a simple thing to do. Not everyone involved in this conversation is necessarily on board with your “crazy” idea of traversing the world and working from a coffee shop.
I’ve got to admit, it is a life-changing decision (sorry! there’s no way to underrate this one) which will affect other people’s jobs too. Your job may be done remotely from anywhere, but what about your partner’s job? Does it permit this kind of lifestyle?
Also, what if kids are involved in this equation? Young enough kids wouldn’t have a problem following you – in fact, they’d be most likely thrilled at the idea of exploring the world. Older kids that have school obligations is a different deal, though.
However, when there’s will there’s always a way! Homeschooling is an option, while joining a school where they get to learn the language, while getting a good multi-cultural education also sounds like fun.
Your companion doesn’t necessarily need to be human
The last but not least companion to consider is your pet, if you have one. Being used to living with an animal and suddenly starting to travel is definitely a huge deal for your (furry) buddy, whose life will be brought upside down by your decision to become a digital nomad.
You may consider taking it with you and it may be a good idea, depending on its size and your bond with it. But constantly dragging that poor thing into planes (not even in the cabin), trains and all sorts of transport when you move from one place to another may be a bit too much for your little friend.
You may also consider a pet hotel, if you plan to travel and come back frequently, although this solution is not very sustainable nor affordable. Or you may also consider leaving it to a family member or a friend, but then again if you are absent for long periods, this means that you’re practically giving up your pet for adoption (which isn’t bad if you’re leaving them to someone you trust).
Like I said, you may also just take it with you and trust it will get used to the idea of traveling. And depending on the destinations you choose to move, it may actually like your new life a lot!
Step 3: assess your current work situation
We may be going back to our goals step, but it’s essential to assess the work situation with a sharper focus.
The main question here is:
Do you currently have a job that you love?
If you do, kudos! You’re one of the few who actually turned their passion into a job. There’s a saying that goes like this: if you love the job you do, then you’ll never have to work a day in your life. I think it’s total bullshit; I love my job but I definitely consider the time and effort I put in it as work. And it’s healthy, because thinking of it as a job (which it is), makes it easier for me to separate it from my personal life.
So, digging a little into that passion job, one major thing to consider is whether it can be done from anywhere. When I say anywhere, I mean it. If it’s a job that doesn’t explicitly require you be physically present at a particular location, then the world can pretty much be considered your office! Awesome, right?
I kinda have the feeling that this is most likely the case for you, otherwise you wouldn’t be here having already read over 1500 words of something you can’t relate to. Am I right? I know I’m right.
If you haven’t found your ideal job, fret not!
Now, if you haven’t found your true passion, it might be a little harder for you to become a successful digital nomad. That’s because you’ll always carry the burden of a job you’re not very fond of doing. And that’s not healthy at all. So you gotta work harder, my friend, or you can stop reading right here. All the rest is based on the mere fact that you love what you do.
If you don’t love your job, you need to consider what you want to do for a living. That means you may want to start your career over and that’s not always easy. However, I tend to see the glass half-full, so I’d tell you that it may not be easy, but it will be totally worth it. Indeed, it’s so much liberating and refreshing, so why the hell have you not started over yet?! All you need to do is find that thing you love so much deep deep down and skill up!
There is a huge variety of online (or offline) courses which can help you. Do Coursera, Skillshare and Udemy ring a bell? Check them out. They’ve got some free stuff too, but even investing a tiny bit of money in them is totally worth it, take my word for it.
Step 4: renew your passport
It’s self explanatory – unless you’re moving within the same country or you’re an EU citizen moving to another EU country, then you definitely need a valid passport. If you’re bringing company, then your company also needs a valid passport.
Make sure your passport is not expiring within the next 6 months. If it is, go to the the local authorised service and renew it. You neeed a valid travel document throughout your journey, otherwise the worst case scenario is that you might not even be accepted in your destination. Also, the best case scenario is that, if you passport expires while you’re abroad, you’ll have to deal with your local embassy in order to get a new passport. That’s scarier and much more painful than it sounds, trust me.
Step 5: calculate your current income and debt
Going into full digital nomad mode, carrying a huge pile of unmanageable debt and no sufficient income is a suicide mission. It’s not sustainable and you won’t last more than a month.
What you need is, first of all, to calculate how much you currently earn and how much you currently owe. Thinking forward, try to forecast your income/debt calculations by thinking about potential changes to your job or debts. Will you be changing job or paying off your loan? These are things you should consider and plan out carefully, if you want to make this new life you dream about work.
A steady income doesn’t have to be the exact same amount of money every month, but an average amount that pays your standard expenses and allows you to live happily, without relying on emergency funds or any kind of borrowing.
A passive income is also good financial support to your main income and definitely gives added relief to your digital nomad life-related decision-making. What’s passive income, you ask? In short, it’s income resulting from cash flow received on a regular basis, requiring minimal to no effort by the recipient to maintain it. Wikipedia never lies.
Want some examples of passive income? Well, let’s see… the money you received from a property that you rented out is considered passive income. Oh, and the royalties you earned from some artwork you published and people bought is also the same kind of income.
Okay you got the money…
Now the question is whether you can maintain this income while working remotely. If not, then you need to find a job that allows you to do so. And this may prove tricky depending on your job and your dependant family members. That is a whole story on it’s own, so let’s keep our focus on this step-by-step guide.
Step 6: assess your work equipment
The work a digital nomad does (digital being the operative word), in all cases, relies on some sort of electronic equipment. A digital nomad usually needs a good laptop and/or a smartphone, a digital camera, etc and, of course, a good wi-fi connection.
You don’t need to be an expert to assess your hardware. All you need to do is do your usual tasks for a short period and monitor the performance and reliability of your tools. Should you detect any alarming issues, a qualified technician will be able to help.
In the unlikely event that your <insert piece of equipment here> proves to be unreliable, then you need to consider the option of replacing it and possibly upgrading to a more powerful tool. After all, you need something that you can rely on while traveling and finding a good technician when you’re regularly on the go is a difficult task. Replacement (and upgrade) comes at a cost, so start saving if you need to.
Step 7: decide what to do with your current household
Becoming a digital nomad entails leaving some of your belonging behind. It simply makes sense; you can’t take everything you own with you, let alone carry it from one place to another. The rule here is simple: take only what you cannot live without, sell/lent anything you don’t really need and put the rest in a storage unit.
Living in one place for years has probably accumulated a whole lot of stuff, some of which you didn’t even remember you owned! I have to admit, moving out of a house (and into a new one) is my absolute worst nightmare. Having to pack an entire household, do some serious cleaning up and then unpack and start over in a new house is hell in disguise.
Think about the countless boxes, stuff all over the place, endless packing tape and the whole house completely disorganized. As a person with a mild OCD, I can already feel the panic attack by imagining this picture. But it’s an inevitable step – unfortunately, you don’t have Sport Billy’s bag to pack the whole house into it in two seconds.
What most digital nomads do is sublet or rent out their properties to people they know and trust. Any landlord will tell you that choosing the perfect tenant is really hard. So my advice to you would be to bring someone you trust into your property or, if this is impossible, be very thorough when you interview your candidates.
You got mail (to forward)
Also, you need to consider cancelling or forwarding your bills and general mail to another address, possible the address of your parents, a relative or a friend. There may be mail you need immediate acknowledgement and access to, so letting your mail end up in your current address will only produce a huge pile of junk for the new tenant and you may never be notified about it.
A good alternative that I have tried is using a virtual address that will be able to receive mail as well as packages on your behalf and then forward them to you. Now there’s a variety of those across the world, depending on location and nature of correspondence you receive.
I have used US-based Viabox which is quite good and UK-based The Hoxton Mix, which can also serve your business needs and provide a trading address for your business. Fair warning: the latter one is no good. I didn’t like them, they were full of hidden fees.
The choice is yours.
Step 8: set up your online business
Step 8 is a relatively hard step to follow and nail, mainly because it is the one that can screw up your whole digital nomad plan, if you don’t get all the (annoyingly countless) details right from the beginning.
The first thing you need to do is draft a quick business mission: what your business will be about. Then you need to do some research on what the best country to set up shop is. Given the fact, that a digital nomad moves regularly, it’s impossible to set up your business at your location.
Your business needs to exist online and be managed from anywhere; however, it needs to be registered in a country and pay taxes. There are 2 factors you need to take into account when you select where you will be registered:
- the non-resident status of the director (i.e. you)
- the taxes of the business
The non-resident status is quite self-explanatory, but let clarify this for you. You need to set up and run a business in a country that will not require you to be physically present in that country for your business to be considered legitimate. For example, when I was starting off as a digital nomad, I set up my business in the UK, which allows directors to be based overseas and even have an international trading address. However, I later discovered it was a big mistake, not because of my resident status though, but because of the sky-high taxes. (Abort! Abort!)
With regards to taxation, there are various countries that allow you to benefit from their legislation and avoid a whole lot of money — I’ll take about them in more detail in a different post. Just to give a few examples, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Malta, the Caymans and Anguilla (and other exotic islands) offer various tax exemption privileges.
However, they come at a cost. It may be extremely cost-effective to run a business which is located in one of those places, but the cost of setting up and the eligibility requirements make it tricky to choose these locations. Also, don’t even get me started on the ethical reasons of registering there.
What to do next
After finding where to register your business you need to find a good business incorporation firm to help you register swiftly; they will basically do the boring stuff on your behalf and deal with all the paperwork. You obviously don’t know the country’s legislation on how to set up a business, so I highly recommend that you invest some money in an expert. Or invest time to educate yourself.
Hire a good accountant to take care of your finances and put them on retainer. The cost may be a little high, especially if you’re just starting out, but it’s money well spent and totally worth it. If you choose to take care of your finances on your own, you’ll most likely get a lot of headaches, unless you’re an accountant yourself, in which case you’re more than encouraged to do it on your own.
In some case, you may also need a lawyer and/or a company secretary, but there are full service firms that offer packages of incorporation as well as ongoing business support, so that you won’t have to find all those services separately.
The last and probably hardest part of setting up your business will be opening a bank account. It’s wise to open a business account and keep it completely separate from your personal accounts. Some countries are very strict in telling you how to bank, depending on where you choose to incorporate, so you need to be careful choosing the right bank and the most suitable account plan.
The process is usually long, painful and, believe it or not, emotionally draining. You have to fill out a million papers, go through screening interviews and in some cases draft a proper, shiny business plan, in order to convince the bankers that you’re a great candidate for them to do business with.
Don’t take it lightly, it won’t be that easy (unless you’re a millionaire). It has been surprising to see how many banks do not trust new businesses and are only keen on the idea of dealing with already successful business-men/women. I still have nightmares about the times I had to open a bank account.
Step 9: start working remotely
After the much dreaded step 8 is done and you’re all set up and ready to roll, then you know what to do next. Oh yes, this is where all the fun starts!
You have already determined:
- whether you love your job
- whether you can do it remotely
If the answer to both of those queries is “yes”, then start a trial period of working from home or a coffee shop, anywhere BUT the office. You gotta test the water before jumping into the lake, so dip one toe at a time. You don’t want to go full on nomad right away, because you’re bound to fail just as fast.
However, if the answer to one or both of the above is “no”, then you’ve got to take a step back and start working on Mission: New Job. In step 1, you established what you personally need to do to become a digital nomad and how to reach your goal.
So, now you need to gear up for this mission to find the perfect remote job
The first thing is, of course, to get trained up on the skill set relevant to the job you want to do. Alternatively, you need to find an employer willing to take you on and give you this training while giving you a (not very well-paid) remote job.
The process is quite simple and straight-forward. You need to re-draft your CV to reflect your intention to work remotely (more on this in another post) and start applying for remote jobs. There’s a variety of job boards specifically for remote workers – here are a few:
- We Work Remotely
- Working Nomads
There’s also an increasingly long list of companies and organizations that employ remote workers and the openings of the above job boards can give you a very good picture of which these companies are. I encourage you to approach them, even if there isn’t an opening relevant to your skill set.
Congrats, you’ve been shortlisted!
The answers to your countless job applications will start coming and eventually, after many rejections, you’ll get some invitations for an interview! *happy dance!* The interview will take place online and will most likely be performed via Skype or Hangouts. This is cool, because you only need to dress up from the waist up (and keep your shorts and flip flops off screen).
Depending on the job, you’re expected to prepare yourself to answer some tough questions. There’s a wide range of questions that demand extremely good answers. These will not only prove your practical skills, but also your soft skills, which are equally important. Don’t forget, competition is fierce!
Step 10: develop a steady income stream
Cool, now that you got your business, you got your job and you got location freedom, it’s time to start traveling, right? WRONG! That’s where 99.999% digital nomads fail to do serious digital-nomad-ing around the world; because they try too much too fast. This isn’t a competition, it’s a life-changing decision.
So, if you think you’re ready to take your first trip, start saving. When I say saving, I don’t mean saving an amount big enough to buy a house (although it would be so cool to have that much money). No, I’m talking about saving an amount that’s easy and relatively quick to gather and that will last you for a couple of months, if things go sideways. It can work as an emergency fund. a safety cushion.
In any case, try to create a steady and maintainable income stream that will allow you to live the life you want and be realistic about it. Sky is the limit, but if you fly too close to the sun, it will melt your wings.
Step 11: start small
Okay, now that you got the business, the job, the independence and the money, it’s time to prep for your first big adventure. How exciting! How about planning that trip to the other side of the world for 6 months and then jumping onto another long-haul flight and go far away again and then… Guess what. Your chances of making it to your second destination are slim, like a super model of the ’90s.
In order for you to get used to this lifestyle, it’s important to take it one step at a time. Choose an easily reachable destination; easy to go to, easy to come back. Ideally one with an airport and a good transport system, with a relatively high level of safety with plenty of amenities.
An extremely good resource to help you decide is Nomadlist, a database of popular digital nomad destinations, categorized and reviewed by real digital nomads.
In you first trip, you want to minimize any threats that may discourage you from maintaining this lifestyle. A medium-sized city, that’s not a concrete monster nor a tiny trace of civilization in the middle of nowhere, is a good option. Make sure this place is in a close distance from where your base is, let’s say up to 5 hours away by plane, and within the same continent (or close to it).
One thing to take into account here is the time-zone difference with your work-mates and clients. You’ll be working with those people, which means that your schedules may need to overlap. So, you don’t want to be in opposite time zones.
Determine the period of time you want to do this
Ideally, you should pick a period up to 3 months. In those 3 months you’ll have enough time to settle and get familiar with your new home, but not bored or frustrated about your new life. You’ll form habits that will make your life better, but you won’t drown in a routine that kills your mojo.
Apply for a visa, if it’s necessary
Some countries, like the US, require that you apply for a temporary visa well in advance, otherwise they won’t let you get past their border once you land there. Other countries are more resilient and grant you permission to get in on arrival.
In any case, it is your responsibility to enquire whether you need a visa or not and what kind of visa you need, based on duration and type of visit. There are lots of workarounds, if getting a visa is harder than you thought. Visa HQ can offer some guidance, determining what kind of permit you need based on your citizenship and travel destination.
What you may also need to consider is getting a visa for your partner or family. For some countries, there’s a family visa option, where one visa applies to multiple members of the same family, especially if there are minors in the family.
Come back to your base after that period is over
You don’t want to hop on to another place right away – it will be overwhelming. Plus, you’ll miss all the people you bonded with all those years, so it would be healthy to come back once in a while to catch up, re-charge and plan ahead (and remember why you decided to live, in the first place).
Take a break then repeat for a longer period to a more distant destination
Lather, rinse and repeat. Pick a location farther away, increase the duration of the trip and come back. Once you’re comfortable living this life, then consider traveling from one location directly to another. However, I still think you should visit your base every now and then – everyone belongs somewhere. Even a digital nomad.
Step 12: calculate the cost of living in your first destination
Choosing your new temporary home is a big deal – you want to find the perfect place that already has all the essentials and is at the perfect location, preferably with an amazing view, but you don’t want to break the bank at the same time. Luckily, there are many resources online that can help you estimate how much it will cost you depending on location.
Depending on the type of accommodation you find, there may or may not be additional costs to its monthly price. You may be liable to pay for electricity, water, heating/cooling, council tax and other sorts of bills. In some cases, these bills are included in the rent. It’s good to try and figure their average cost out, in order to avoid having unpleasant surprises.
That’s a cost that you can easily avoid, if you prefer to walk or ride a bike around town. But in the event of needing a vehicle, it’s good to estimate how much it will cost you to rent a car and compare it to the cost of transport tickets in the area or even the cost of riding an Uber.
As a digital nomad, you’ll most likely do your job relying on the Internet up to a degree, so having a strong and reliable wi-fi connection is essential. It’s always a good idea to choose an upgraded Internet connection, compared to a standard one. It’s an even better idea to invest in a local backup plan, in case the Internet connection ghosts you.
Co-working space (if applicable)
If you’re the social type of person, you might find it more pleasant to work along with others. Thankfully, there are lots of co-working spaces in the world, designed with digital nomads in mind. In these spaces, professionals have a lot of amenities that enable them to do their job, like wi-fi, desks, printers, conference rooms, etc. They come with a cost though – some can be rented for a person or a group per day, week or month.
This is something you can’t easily calculate, but you can get a rough idea of how much you’re gonna spend on food. You can do that by researching how much basic products cost in the location you chose to travel to. Also, some local restaurants have websites and their online menus might include prices. Have a look at those to get an idea of how much a dinner would cost you if you decided to eat out.
Circling back to the family/partner who’s joining you in this adventure, I think it would be wise to calculate joint expenses and general expenses that will be debited to your pocket in advance. On the bright side, your partner may be able to contribute to covering those expenses, since he or she could have a remote job.
In the same way you need to take family into account, you also need to consider the expenses of your little friend. Think of the cost of food, toys, vet and everything a pet needs to have a pleasant livelihood.
The extras can have different meanings for different people. The could reflect the cost of a hobby, an addiction like shopping, a medical need that no insurance can cover, etc. Define this extra cost, calculate how much it takes out of your pocket and predict how much it will fluctuate once you move to a new location.
Step 13: do some actual practical planning
Book your accommodation
Obviously, it needs to have enough space to facilitate you and possibly your family. Just because it’s still a temporary home, it doesn’t mean that you can fit 3 people in one bed, for the sake of saving money. Ensure it has the basics that you can’t bring – laundry/kitchen appliances, heating/air-conditioning, wi-fi. Also important to ensure pets are allowed, if you’re bringing one.
Take a closer look at the little map of the location (of course there’s a map! if there isn’t one close the tab and find another house). Research the neighborhood – amenities, transport, safety, hospitals. Go to Google Maps and check out what types of businesses and shops are around, read the reviews, check their websites.
Book a spot in a co-working space
If you definitely want to work around others and enjoy basic business facilities, then it would be a good idea to proactively book a spot in a co-working space. You can arrange it for one month initially and then renew, so that you’ll have the time to evaluate whether it works for you, while you’re there. If you don’t really need the facilities, but rather want to be surrounded by people, then I’d say don’t bother booking anything like that. There are plenty of coffee shops where you can go to work and enjoy a nice cuppa, too.
Book your ticket
Your first destination should be close, so getting there shouldn’t take too much time or cost too much money. Also, it would be a return ticket – one step at a time, remember?
You can go to Skyscanner and search for the best deal that works for you. Skyscanner is truly a life-saver. It compares deals coming from dozens of airlines and travel agencies and offers you every possible combination to get to your destination. It also has many filters, to tailor your search to your exact needs. It’s my go-to tool when I need to book flights.
Depending on your destination, you’ll be able to find train or bus itineraries in local websites,, that show the routes/timetables and have their own booking systems.
Make sure you arrange a suitable transfer for other family members and/or your pet.
Buy travel insurance
It’s is a no-brainer, yet so many digital nomads ignore the necessity of a good travel insurance. Anything can go wrong during your trip, so be prepared to spare some money and buy a packkage that covers your custom needs.
Things that can go wrong are the loss of your luggage, a super-long flight delay (that may result in missing another flight), an accident in a foreign place, where you know no one and your national health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of your treatment, and of course death. And these are only the most common ones.
Having a travel insurance will not only take the unnecessary stress out of the travel preparations, but also give you peace of mind that during your stay you’ll be well-looked after. Of course, everyone’s only wish is that this money is eventually just a waste and nothing goes wrong.
Buy a backup mobile internet package
A digital nomad cannot work without a good wi-fi connection. It’s good practice, but totally optional, to buy a secondary mobile internet package, so that you can tether, if your primary connection suddenly goes offline.
Alternatively, you can buy a mobile plan for your phone, with a very generous data plan, and use your phone as a hotspot. That’s usually a lot more expensive than a simple mobile internet package, though.
Pre-arrange transport from airport to accommodation
Moving a lot of luggage around can be nerve-wrecking, especially if you are on your own trying to handle multiple suitcases and having no idea who to ask for help.
Imagine you landed at your destination, been through immigration and just collected your baggage. Now you need to get to your new home. On top of that, you don’t speak the local language, so you’re reluctant to ask for help. So, you have no other choice but waste time to figure out how you can finally go home and rest.
Your quest for the right means of transport is vain and you end up deciding taking a taxi. It’s much easier to just show the driver your address and trust that he’ll get you right at the door.
Getting a random taxi may sound the most effective decision, but it can be very expensive and, in some cases, dangerous. I’ve heard many horror stories from folks who traveled to certain countries and were ripped off and left in the middle of nowhere.
So, do your homework
Look online and find a good private transfer service based on reviews and overall reputation. You can even combine the private transfer with a public transfer, like a train or a bus ride, if you want to save some money.
Nonetheless, like I said, it will be less stressful and exhausting for you (and your family), if you plan it in advance and eliminate unnecessary changes during this journey.
Store emergency numbers
Another no-brainer that not just digital nomads but also most travelers forget to do is write down all the numbers of their emergency contacts, landlords, car transfer help desk, hospital emergency, travel insurance agents, as well as the number of your local embassy. Anything can go wrong at any time, so you’d better have those numbers handy at all times.
Step 14: DAY 1 checklist
Find the keys of your accommodation
It’s your landlord’s responsibility to welcome you into your new house. Get in touch with them the day before and arrange a suitable time to meet and get the keys, along with instructions regarding the property.
Check condition of accommodation
When you meet your new landlord, request a tour of the property to see how the basic stuff works. Pay special attention to the electric power dashboard, the plumbing system and the heating and air-conditioning system.
Test the wi-fi
The wi-fi is a different category on its own, so be very thorough in testing it. Determine if you share it or not, which areas of the property have the strongest signal, if there are any dead range spots and monitor its overall performance over the first days.
Buy a local sim card
Using your sim card from home can prove very expensive; roaming is a pain in the ass without question. Therefore, it’s better to buy a local sim card. EU citizens are at an privileged position here, as they can use their sim card within the EU at no extra charge. If you fall under this category, you’re in luck, otherwise buy a damn sim card; it’s not that expensive, after all.
Explore neighborhood and get basic supplies
Remember when I said at the beginning that you should carry only your essentials and discard all the unnecessary stuff? Well, there’s stuff you don’t need to carry to your new location because you won’t use it. There’s, also, stuff you don’t need because you’ll find it in that location anyway.
Everyone needs toothpaste, shampoo, and toilet paper, babies need baby food, pets need pet food, you probably need some other essential things. Take a walk to the shops in your neighborhood (all those you pinned already in Google Maps) and do some basic shopping.
Check nearby hospitals, pharmacies, health centers
Don’t forget to spot the nearby hospitals and pharmacies and, why not, buy some first aid supplies, just in case. Also, it would be a good idea to plan the journey to the nearest medical center by using public transport. This way you’ll be extra-prepared ahead of an emergency.
Step 15: start living the dream!
Enjoy your new life! Time to explore, discover and indulge. Just don’t give up, it’s only gonna get better.