The digital nomad lifestyle has become so popular nowadays that multiple countries have begun to introduce a special kind of visa for those who refuse to settle down. We know the thought has crossed your mind a time or two - in a more serious or hypothetical manner.
If all the hype around life as a digital nomad is getting to you and you would like to learn more about it, then you’re in the right place.
Becoming a digital nomad is undoubtedly an attractive concept, but it is also a huge responsibility. It is a grand change in your life that you need to be well-prepared for. Of course, you can’t plan everything ahead (unfortunately), but you can minimise the risks of things going wrong if you take all the necessary steps beforehand.
So, how to prepare for life as a digital nomad? Here are a few tips to get started:
We shocked you here just a lil’ bit, didn’t we? You have probably gone over a dozen other guides for beginning digital nomads and they either keep this one until close to the end, or don’t mention it at all. What can we say - we like to be different. And also, never underestimate your need for a VPN.
A good VPN is actually a very useful digital tool for expats. Everything seems dandy until you leave your country and realise you can no longer watch your favourite series on Netflix. Sure, this might appear like a minor issue compared to all the other challenges coming with becoming a digital nomad, but it’s one we commonly forget. This is why it’s found its way to the top of our list.
Not to mention the additional layer of security a VPN provides you with. When travelling, you will often need to take care of payments or banking using public wi-fi. If you’re required to provide your credit card details, insert a password or go through any sort of security check, you may want the safety blanket of a VPN. It will act as a shield protecting your data from the evil forces lurking in the shadows.
Changing jobs every time you move might be difficult. If you still think you could do it, imagine the impact it would have on your CV. We can guarantee that no employer will be impressed when seeing you haven’t held any of your recent positions for longer than a few months.
Before you march into your boss’ office and slap them with your two weeks’ notice, hold your horses. There might actually be a way in which you won’t have to quit your current job if you don’t want to. Many companies are nowadays happy to offer a completely remote or hybrid working schedule. Asking first wouldn’t hurt.
Of course, it is worth noting that your eligibility to work from home is heavily dependent on your profession. Some jobs have bigger predispositions to be done remotely than others. For example, someone working in Marketing can easily complete all their tasks, regardless of their location and proximity to the office.
A surgeon is not so lucky - maybe one day, it will be possible to operate on a patient remotely, but this time is not here yet. We don’t mean to question your common sense in pointing it out, but sometimes when we get excited about an idea, it’s very easy to lose sight of reason.
There are many outcomes of starting a life as a digital nomad. Ending up in jail for tax evasion should not be one of them.
Please - and we cannot stress this enough - do your research on tax regulations both in your home country and your destination before hitting the road. They vary greatly between countries and cannot be taken for granted.
Do not assume that the moment you leave your homeland, you will not be required to pay taxes there anymore. Even if both you and your remote job are based somewhere else, your country of origin may still demand you to contribute to the national budget. Ignorance sadly doesn’t give us a free pass on obeying the law, so misinformation may come at a great cost.
No, do not give up yet! Make sure to also research in the opposite way. Many countries do not expect their residents to pay taxes if they stay there for less than 183 days within a year. So depending on how often you’re planning to move, you may evade the fiscal gods (or at least some of them).
That is sadly not the case for all countries, though. So do check it for every destination you choose separately.
Nothing helps you become a minimalist as much as frequent moving. Similarly, there is no better motivation for getting rid of everything you own but don’t need than receiving the first bill from an international moving company.
The more things you have, the more expensive it will be to move them. And trust us when we say that there are funnier ways to spend your money than on having cardboard boxes transported from country to country.
Especially if you’re preparing for life as a digital nomad, you will need all the money you can get. Therefore, before you embark on your life-changing journey, you may want to sit down and, with your heart on the Bible, admit out loud how much of what you own, you actually need.
Many things will become obsolete by default when you eliminate permanent housing from your life. That’s right, life is difficult for interior design enthusiasts who want to become digital nomads.
All those cute lamps, blankets, side tables and picture frames will need to be left behind. The freedom of a digital nomad lifestyle comes at the cost of not having a place to store all compulsive purchases of the past.
The good news is, the transition from a hoarder to a minimalist is an easy one when born out of necessity. You’re exchanging one thing for another, and there is no better way to enter a new life than losing the ballast of who you once were and what you once owned. Trading materialistic things for amazing experiences and memories seems fair.
You probably won’t forget to sell your flat or terminate the tenancy agreement. However, when we have lived somewhere long enough, it is possible to develop so many commitments, we no longer remember them all.
Things to think about include gym memberships, various subscriptions you’ve long since forgotten about, or being a member of a club or community that counts on you.
Have you ever received mail with your address and a name you didn’t recognise? This is because people forget to change their current address when they move. Don’t risk getting your parcel delivered to another country because you’ve forgotten to double-check your account details on Amazon.
Believe us when we say that trying to locate the person who’d taken over your old home is even harder than it seems. And, frankly, flooding new tenants with your mail long after you’ve moved out is annoying, so let’s try to change the world for the better and update our addresses regularly.
This is another point that is hardly ever brought up in other guides for beginning digital nomads. As animal lovers here at ELJ, we believe it’s a crucial one.
We have already discussed various commitments to keep in mind in the previous point, and now we mention the most important one of them all: our four-legged friends (or however many legs they may or may not have).
Moving is a source of incredible stress for animals. So is the travel itself. Of course, it is possible to get your pets used to it if they have been exposed to such events since they were little, but that is not always the case.
The moment we take an animal under our care, we make a commitment to take care of it and love it. We are literally all they have - they rely on us and cannot make their own decisions. Where you go, they go.
No one knows your pets better than you do. It could be possible that in your opinion, they will adapt well to your digital nomad lifestyle. That’s fine, but do make sure that you think about them before making the decision.
Take into consideration the kind and size of the pets you have. A small dog or a cat could be potentially taken on the plane with you. Larger breeds will need to be put in a cage and spend the flight in the luggage compartment. Reflect on how you and they feel about it.
Research other methods of transporting your pets to your new destination - and calculate it into your costs, as it most likely won’t be a cheap thrill.
So many pets end up in shelters - or even on the street - because their owners didn’t think things through before making the move. Don’t let your furry (or not) friends become one of them.
While it is not true that you need to be a millionaire to embark on the digital nomad journey, having some money in your savings account is a smart thing to do. You may have made an extra coin from selling your house or all the belongings you no longer need - that’s an additional bonus.
How much money you need depends on where you go, your professional situation, your plans, your lifestyle, how often you plan to move, and multiple other factors. We cannot, therefore, tell you how much you need to set aside exactly and will leave this judgement to your common sense.
However, one thing all future digital nomads need to think about, regardless of their financial status, is how they’re going to manage their banking. Some international banks will have branches in other countries, so you may not even have to make any grand changes.
If your bank doesn’t work where you’re going, or you’re simply looking for a change, there is always the option of mobile banking. Some of us at ELJ use N26, but there are many alternatives you can look into and choose the one that checks all your boxes.
Mobile banking is a great choice for a digital nomad, as creating an account won’t require you to visit any local branch and waste your time queuing and making appointments. You can set it up through the app while at the same time being protected with modern security measures. A basic account should come with no additional costs, and ordering a physical card is optional.
There is also the possibility to use services such as Revolut or Monzo, which work well in terms of conversions between currencies. They allow you to manage accounts in multiple currencies at the same time. For international money transfers, we recommend Wise.
As we have mentioned before, some countries have begun introducing a special digital nomad visa. Before you sell everything you own and cut all ties with stationary life, check the eligibility requirements, separately for each country. The visa application process can sometimes take months, so we recommend arming yourself with infinite amounts of patience.
Once you get ready to submit your application, double, triple, and quadruple-check that you have collected, printed out, and signed all the necessary documents. The last thing you want is for your digital nomad visa application to get denied because you forgot one, teeny, tiny sheet of paper.
Furthermore, you will also want to make sure that your passport is nowhere near its expiry date. Getting stuck in a foreign country without a valid passport is not an experience we’d recommend.
Even if you notice that you’ll be away and are not planning any trips back to your home country around the time your passport is due to expire, do think ahead and try to get it sorted out before leaving. It will spare you unnecessary extra travel and a lot of stress.
Some documents will require you to submit a photo with your application. No matter where you’re from, you’re probably dreading the next time you’ll have to take your next official picture. You always wonder why you get so many copies if you only really need two, and then proceed to lose the strip and are forced to go through it all over again way too soon.
Did you notice that regardless of where you are, there are never any parking spots by the photographer’s studio? It’s a universal rule.
That’s why you’ll be happy to hear that you can get your passport photo online. No more annoying visits to the forever-outdated, ancient-looking studios. You can submit the photo yourself, get it adjusted to the required format, and delivered to your door!
Remember that the requirements regarding the format of your passport photo may slightly differ between countries, so make sure to verify that as well. No point paying for 8 carbon-copied photographs you look horrible in that are 2 millimetres too big!
As much as we promote a positive approach to life and believe we shouldn’t assume something bad could happen, we still think safety should always be at the forefront of our minds. There is a difference between being pessimistic and playing it safe, after all.
This is one of the most important things you will need to take care of before becoming a digital nomad is medical insurance. Look into plans that will have you covered internationally. This way, you will make your life easier by not having to find a new provider each time you change locations.
Consider also investing in travel insurance. Damaged or lost property, cancelled flights, accidents - we hope none of this will ever happen to you, but better be safe than sorry.
Usually, the money you need to dedicate to protecting your travels is a rather insignificant amount in the greater scheme of things, and it’s definitely worth getting. Your piece of mind is, after all, priceless.
Roaming fares and varying mobile data usage regulations continue to be a pain in the neck of many expats. Especially if you plan to adopt the digital nomad lifestyle and move frequently, an adequate phone plan will be crucial.
Simply staying with your home country provider may result in additional - and often hidden - fees. Even travelling within Europe can be tricky, as some countries are not part of the European Union and therefore often don’t adhere to the general roaming rules.
The prices of SIM card plans differ majorly between countries. I remember trying to find an affordable deal during my trip to Canada - it was futile. What I was used to paying for unlimited calls and data plan in the UK paled in comparison to a very basic, 5GB card across the ocean. Each text message sent and 100KB of data used cost me a small fortune, so my stay ended up being quite challenging, having to rely solely on the mercy of public wifi to find my way anywhere.
It was annoying enough during a 2-week holiday, so imagine having to deal with it permanently. You can’t lose touch with everyone by not having access to your phone and the Internet, so a SIM card needs to figure on your list of expenses to consider. You don’t want to be surprised by the additional costs it may bring.
These are the basic aspects you need to take into consideration when preparing for life as a digital nomad. The deeper you dig into the topic, the more important issues will resurface. It might seem like a lot, but the truth is, it’s quite reasonable that a radical change in your life would require quite a few adjustments.
The more research you do beforehand and the better you prepare yourself, the less stressed you will be further down the road. Most of the changes you will need to make are quite logical and shouldn’t come as a surprise.
We recommend asking experienced fellow expats for their insider advice. Join digital nomad communities - whether they be through local clubs, meet-ups organised at your local cafe, or simply Facebook groups. All these options are a goldmine of tips for becoming a digital nomad and a great opportunity for networking.
Someone who’s been there, done that, and got the t-shirt will be able to share you with the best SIM card plans, international health insurance providers, and even nifty little tricks regarding affordable ways to travel. They will also understand your struggles and, as they have experienced them first-hand, will be able to help solve some of them.
Is a digital nomad lifestyle something you’re drawn to? Are you more or less interested in taking that step after reading the article and familiarising yourself with our practical tips? We wish you all the best on your way to becoming a digital nomad - 2023 will be your year!