How to Become a Digital Nomad: The Mega Guide to Getting on the Road

With the rise of freelancers and an increasing number of companies offering telecommuting options, it’s no wonder many people are choosing to work from beautiful and adventurous locations around the world.

Photos of digital nomads working on their laptops by the beach or tropical places are enough to create wanderlust and have others scheming of their plans to do the same. Are you looking to ditch your cubicle and become a digital nomad? This article is all about the resources — online and IRL — that you need to know to help you build your dream life and career.

Ready to hit the road? We’re here to help ( image source )

Ready to hit the road? We’re here to help (image source)

What is a digital nomad? Essentially, it’s anyone who works remotely while traveling from place to place. It may look like the dream gig — and many say it is  — but it also takes quite a bit of planning and coordination, especially if you’re doing this long-term.

Whether you’re looking to trade tips and tricks with other digital nomads, want to access a co-working space for the day, or are keen to set up alerts for cheap flights, this guide will set you up with all resources you need.

First thing’s first: before you hit the road, secure a digital nomad-friendly job.

If you’re wondering about how to become a digital nomad, going freelance is one way to do it. When you’re starting out and don’t have an existing roster of clients, you can use websites like Fiverr or Upwork to get started and build up a portfolio.

You can also try searching on LinkedIn and other job boards for remote jobs. Popular job aggregator sites that specialize in remote work include: Remote OK, Who Is Hiring and Ditch the Office. If you work in tech, check out Stack Overflow Jobs, GitHub Jobs, and AngelList.

Make sure you have a job that you can take with you ( image source )

Make sure you have a job that you can take with you (image source)

Some digital nomads make ends meet by teaching languages while traveling. Companies like VIPKid, SayABC and Qkids are always looking for native English speakers and hire year-round. If you’re fluent in multiple languages, you can set your own rates and provide private classes using services like italki.

Next, join an online community for digital nomads.

Connect with other remote travelers to chat about life on the road, exchange tips and meet in person when you’re in the same locale. Often, these communities are packed with helpful information that can provide insight into the digital nomad lifestyle and specifics on popular destinations.

Popular communities on Facebook include: Digital Nomad Entrepreneurs, Digital Nomads Around the World, Global Digital Nomad Network, Female Digital Nomads. If you’re traveling to a city well-known for its digital nomad community, you can look up regional groups. There are groups on nomadism in Bali, Indonesia, or Medellin, Colombia. You can also use the name of the country or city you’re traveling to along with the keywords “expat” or “freelancer” to search for groups.

On reddit, the Digital Nomad subreddit provides a mix of helpful information, beautiful photos and occasional snarky responses to questions like, “What is the best digital nomad laptop?”

Traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely ( image source )

Traveling alone doesn’t have to be lonely (image source)

Nomad List is one of the most popular resources for digital nomads around the world — and for good reason. It has a database of cities across the globe that, lists important information for travelers who have to focus on work, including every day safety, Internet speeds, the costs of living, and other facts to help you decide where to travel next.

When you’re planning your adventure, account for the administrative tasks like forwarding your phone calls and mail.

If you’re nomadic but still retain an address in your home country to receive mail, you can use a mail forwarding service like Post Scan Mail or Anytime Mailbox to receive scanned copies of physical mail.

To retain your phone number while traveling, use a service like Global Call Forwarding or Fongo. If you’re from the U.S., you can also port your number to Google Voice for free and use this from anywhere in the world.

Before you book a flight for your dream nomad destination, make sure you research the appropriate travel visas, flight deals and travel insurance.

One of the perks of being a digital nomad is taking advantage of cheap flight deals. If you have a sense of where you’d like to travel next, use websites like Google Flights and Skyscanner to set up alerts and notify you about price changes to your ideal travel destination. Nearly every flight website has this feature. You can also use an app like Hopper to inform you of average flight costs and help you predict the best time to book your flight.

It’s always good to comparison shop. Once you’ve found a flight you’d like to take, use a professional service like Flystein to make sure you found the best deal. If the travel pros here can’t find you a cheaper flight, they’ll refund their service fee.

Researching the paperwork you’ll need ahead of time means smoother sailing down the line ( image source )

Researching the paperwork you’ll need ahead of time means smoother sailing down the line (image source)

More of a spontaneous traveller? Subscribe to websites that share error fares. Note that you’ll often have to book a flight on the spot as the rates for these deals don’t last long. Popular error fare websites include: Secret Flying, The Flight Deal, and Airfare Watchdog.

There are also paid subscriptions to error fare/ flight deal websites, such as Scott’s Cheap Flights. If you’re willing to pay a few bucks per month for these services and you take advantage of their deals, the membership will likely pay for itself.

When you arrive at your destination, some countries require proof that you have an onward ticket. If you’re winging your travel plans, use a service like Best Onward Ticket to legally obtain an onward ticket, without having to actually confirm your travel plans.

Once you arrive, you can scope out co-working spaces in person.

You’ll usually find several options once you start asking around and meeting other digital nomads or local freelancers, but to get a head start on this before you land, check out coworker or the Global Coworking Map.  

If you prefer to travel and work alongside a group of other digital nomads, check out programs like Remote Year, Unsettled, and Nomad Cruise. They typically arrange all logistics when it comes to travel, accomodations, and coworking, so you can focus on doing your work while enjoying the destinations.

If you’re ready to take co-working to the next level, consider co-living. Companies like Roam and WeLive offer the flexibility of short-term housing alongside other nomads. For other accommodation options, check out local housing groups on Facebook, posts on Craigslist, and message hosts on AirBnB to negotiate a deal for a longer-term stay.

How to Become a Digital Nomad.jpg

Immerse yourself in learning resources in order to gain expert insight into your new lifestyle.

If you’re looking for the basics of how to be a digital nomad, subscribe to podcasts like: As Told By Nomads, Ditching 9 to 5, Become Nomad, and The Location Indie Podcast. These shows also cover the struggles of being a digital nomad, which can be  a reality check if you haven’t considered them yet.

Tim Ferris’ 4 Hour Work Week is often praised for introducing many digital nomads to this lifestyle. While some of the book’s content is outdated, the overall concept holds true. Other popular books on the digital nomad lifestyle include: Vagabonding, The Art of Non-Conformity, Crush It, and The Personal MBA.

If you’re looking to learn or develop a particular skill to help you transition into remote work and being a digital nomad, use SkillShare to find courses on writing, graphic design, marketing, photography, and more.

Whether you’re freelancing, working remotely, or running your own business, there is no shortage of resources to support you and connect you with others in a similar lifestyle. And while you’re focusing on work, remember to enjoy the journey, too!

Need a few more freelancing resources to get you on the road? Skillshare’s got hundreds of classes on how to run your own business, stay productive, and build your client base, no matter where you are in your career — or the globe. Begin your learning journey here.