How to live as a digital nomad?

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3 years ago

How to live as a digital nomad?

What is it to be a digital nomad?

What does it actually mean to be a digital nomad? Basically, being nomadic and maintaining yourself through digital means. In other words: not having a fixed home, moving from one place to another frequently, and earning money online.

The term “digital nomadism” has been used since the 1990s, but this lifestyle has become much more common as technology advances and travel becomes cheaper. Now that the Coronavirus pandemic has shown that much work can be done remotely, the trend is for digital nomads to be more and more numerous.

There are people from various professions, age groups, genders, and nationalities living like this, in different parts of the world. What these people usually have in common is an appreciation for freedom, curiosity to explore new places, and the autonomy to work without a fixed structure.

Many of my friends and acquaintances who adhered to digital nomadism did so “without meaning to”. Some started working over the internet and spontaneously spliced ​​one trip into another until it no longer made sense to have a home. Others were in a backpack and found a way to earn money online to stay on the road. And some were unemployed and became freelancers or started entrepreneurs.

It is noteworthy that being a digital nomad is not the only way to financially keep traveling the world. There are those who prefer to look for temporary work in person in the places they visit, or sell their art on the streets, for example. And it's also possible to take a sabbatical, traveling at the expense of your savings, without having to worry about working.

Digital nomadism, however, is a way to keep income coming in no matter where you are.

Advantages of being a digital nomad

Being a digital nomad brings many very tempting advantages for those who can no longer stand the office routine. The most obvious is the possibility of living constantly traveling.

Instead of having just 30 days a year to explore the world, you can be in a different place each month and spend every weekend sightseeing, for example. Your routine becomes unpredictable and full of new experiences.

Many digital nomads also have flexible working hours. This is not always the case, because there are people who work for a company during business hours, even if remotely.

But whoever is a freelancer or self-employed person has the possibility of working on the weekend and going to the beach on an empty Tuesday, for example, or waking up very early to complete the demands at lunchtime and go for a walk.

For me, one of the biggest advantages of this lifestyle is being able to spend more time in each place I visit and experience the local reality with ease. I've done several exchanges and always loved feeling more like a resident than a tourist, you know?

Disadvantages of being a digital nomad

However, it is clear that nomadism is not perfect. Many people are dazzled by the glamorous reality they see on social media, or in clichéd images like a person on a laptop by the sea. In practice, it doesn't make much sense to use your work equipment near sand and saltwater, right? :P And, like everything else in life, this path involves several renunciations.

For starters, it is necessary to constantly exercise detachment. You can't have many material items, as your house is your suitcase or backpack and it has to be easy to transport around the world. And you won't always have access to an equipped kitchen or sleep in a room decorated your way.

In the nomadic life, it is also necessary to get used to saying goodbye not only to family and friends in your hometown but also to the people you bond with on the road. And it can be lonely if you are traveling alone and you used to have face-to-face contact with co-workers. Anyone who wants to be a digital nomad must also manage their time well. Especially for those who don't work fixed hours, it takes discipline to handle everything while enjoying the place. This is a point that weighs heavily on me: I was often anxiously wanting to walk while I was working, and thinking that I should work while I was walking. :P

Therefore, it is necessary to internalize that this is your new lifestyle and that this is very different from a temporary trip. You'll have to get used to spending more time in each place and spending less than on vacations, for example.

And for those who are freelance or self-employed, it is also necessary to deal with financial instability and lack of benefits such as health insurance, food stamps and unemployment insurance. If you lose customers or experience a reduction in income while you're on the road, or have unforeseen expenses, you're going to need resilience to find solutions.

In addition, you must be willing to look for accommodation in each new destination and find out about basic issues such as supermarkets and restaurants with good prices. And, of course, adapting to new cultures, currency conversions, time differences, and occasional bureaucratic issues such as visas and vaccines.

It also takes patience to deal with the various scoldings that can arise when arriving at each new place. The reserved hosting may have problems and you may have difficulty accessing the internet or need to work in a place with a precarious structure, among other concerns.

I say all this not to discourage anyone who wants to be a digital nomad, but because I think it's important to have a sense of the reality of this lifestyle. If you decide you really want to try nomadism, having realistic expectations will make it easier and more enjoyable.

How much does it cost to live as a digital nomad?

Weighed the pros and cons and decided that you really want to be a digital nomad? Excellent! But beyond will, there are some practical issues to consider. I believe the biggest one is money.

Many people think that digital nomadism is only for those who have a lot of money, or that living like this is more expensive than having a more conventional life in one place. But this is generally not true.

For starters, you need to keep in mind the cost of living of the destinations you intend to go to. In many places in Brazil and the world, it is possible to live comfortably as a nomad spending much less than in middle-class life in cities like Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, for example.

If you don't have a large financial reserve or an online job that pays very well, one solution is to look for destinations with a more affordable cost of living. Countries in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and Colombia, in addition to several in Eastern Europe, are darlings of digital nomads precisely because they offer a good quality of life with little money.

It is noteworthy that many of the fixed expenses that a Brazilian middle class usually has are eliminated when you are always traveling. Car services, property taxes, insurance, parking, gasoline, rent, condominium, and house bills are costs that are not part of a digital nomad's spreadsheet.

Spending on clothing, electronic equipment, and decoration items also ceases to exist or decreases a lot, since you have nowhere to store it all.

“Ah, but you have to pay for the accommodation, right?”. Not always! It is possible to travel with free accommodation. Some alternatives are house sitting (taking care of the house and pets of someone who is traveling and staying there for free) and volunteering through platforms like Workaway and Worldpackers.

In them, you exchange a few hours a week of work for accommodation, and sometimes also other benefits such as meals. If your work as a digital nomad can be reconciled with the tasks the host needs, it's a great solution to keep traveling economically and meet people. How to become a digital nomad

Now that you have a good sense of what is involved in this life of a digital nomad, let's get to the practical part: how to become a nomad? I separated some important steps for those who are transitioning to this lifestyle.

Assess whether your profession can be performed remotely

The first thing is to think about whether you can do your current work remotely (if you are not already doing it because of the pandemic). Assess whether it is possible to make this transition to the home office or make it permanent, whether working at the current company or as a freelancer or freelancer.

Train yourself in a profession that facilitates remote work

Your job doesn't adapt well to digital nomadism, or are you looking to change careers? It is time, then, to train yourself to perform a function that is in good demand and can be performed online.

There are many courses on the internet to develop skills in professions that do not require graduate degrees, such as the ones mentioned above. Sites like Udemy and Coursera have free courses in many areas. Depending on the subject you want to study, I recommend researching institutions in that niche with classes available online. One way to build on this financial reserve and reduce your costs is to have a more minimalist lifestyle. I'm against the glamor of minimalism, as most people don't have a few possessions to choose from, right? But if you live a standard middle-class life, chances are you have more than you need.

You can then sell furniture, cars, electronics, clothes and other personal items to save money for the trip. After all, on the road you won't need any of that. And if you have your own house, selling or renting it while you're away is also a great source of income.

As you travel, you will find that you need very little on a daily basis. I recommend making your luggage as light as possible to make your life easier. Just take a few clothes and your work equipment. Adapting to a more minimalist lifestyle can be transformative, and many digital nomads maintain this habit when they return to a fixed base.

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