Things you should know before becoming a digital nomad

After more than 10 years working remotely as a location independent, and half a year living as a digital nomad, here are a few things that I would like to share.

If you aim to become a digital nomad, check out here our free guide. Here are some things I would have loved to know before becoming a digital nomad! 👇🏼

Save money beforehand

When you travel full time, you often have to book apartments and pay rent in advance. For example, sometimes we have the next four monthly rentals already paid. Likewise, you will need money to buy plane, bus, or train tickets in early fares for your next adventures.

Besides, if your laptop or any other device that you use to work breaks, you will need to fix it asap or find a fast replacement.

So in my opinion this is the first and most important step to take care of, before starting your nomadic life.

Organize your finances, create an ideal budget and put aside at least 3,000 euros in savings. After that,  you can also start working on generating some sort of passive income that will grow over time and make money for you while you are out there traveling.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: If I was you, I would have one place for my savings (only for emergencies), and another one dedicated to travel money. The best way to do this is to automatize it. Set up an automatic self-payment into your savings account and forget about it. It has been working very well for us so far, give it a try and fix it according to your needs!

*If you want to dive deeper into this topic, you should read “The Automatic Millionaire” by David Bach, we got this method and other financial advice from there.

Define your needs and priorities

As I have already explained in my other article “How to become a digital nomad?” knowing yourself and understanding which are your needs and priorities is key. It is normal to not have everything sorted out, that’s part of the fun, but you should at least have a general idea of what do you expect from this lifestyle: what achievements are you looking forward to, the reasons for which you want to live as a nomad, where would you like to go and why.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: before starting our nomadic life, I have prepared a test to see if Martín and I were on the same page. Whether you are traveling with someone or solo, this test might help to ask yourself the right questions and begin a beautiful journey into self-discovery!

Find a way to best organize yourself

Finding a way to organize is also an essential step, not only in terms of high-tech stuff, nomad gear, and smart closet but also digitally.

Digital reality can become a bit overwhelming sometimes, but if you keep it organized, everything will be fine. You will always have what you need ready, and every transaction during your nomadic life will be easier. So why wait?

Organizing requires time to actually put it into practice, but also to adjust your mindset and find what works best for you.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: I would recommend you to start from the following areas.

  1. Choose one or two cloud storage services and start organizing into folders all the things that you need to have with you. You could use a monthly plan on Google Drive for non-confidential stuff and another free account of 20 GB on MEGA, a very cool encrypted service, for any kind of personal documents. Extra tip: I also like to have all my things, or at least the most important ones, saved as a backup on my portable hard disk, in case something goes wrong.
  2. Find an encrypted password vault that works for you. There is no safer place than paper, of course, but there are many options that work amazing. Most of them are free, and you will always have them with you. You only will have to remember your main password. Some good ones are LastPass and NordPass.
  3. Use a digital calendar to keep track of all the things you need to. Work meetings, remote calls with friends, travel details, and events you would like to attend. Just like you would probably do in regular home-based life, but in this case, you will have many other things going on, so you could get easily distracted. Therefore, even if you are not used to using any of them, you definitely should! Some examples might be the classical Google Calendar (no security but very comfy) or the Beta Proton Calendar from the Proton Mail encrypted service.
  4. Wikis and notes will make it easy for you to save all the amazing information that you are probably constantly being exposed to. Remember that you will always be exploring and traveling to new countries and places, so services such as Confluence, Trello, and any kind of notes app will be very useful for both your leisure time and your work life.
  5. Save regularly your photos & videos. You will have an incredible amount of astounding pictures and videos, so it is best that you organize it somehow. What I usually do is to create a folder for each year, subfolders by country, and then a folder for each town we have been to. Of course, we save it both on the cloud storage and the hard disk. Extra tip: you can also organize your pics in the same way on iPhotos or Adobe Lightroom.

Planning trips takes a lot of time

Planning a trip takes much more time than you would expect, especially in the beginning. Over time, you will manage to find your own method and know your ways around it. Still, keep in mind that you will have to spend some of your precious time planning your trips.

We are not talking only about booking your travel means and an apartment. But especially the time that it takes investigating: how to reach the place you want to go to, the cheapest deals, visas, the best areas to live in, the right period to go, things to see and do there, make sure that internet works…

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: start to look into your destinations ahead and enjoy your research. Hopefully, this blog will help you save some time!

Travel at your own pace

What is the right amount of time to spend in one place? How often should you move? What activities and short trips are right for you?

Well, there is only one person that can answer all those questions, and that’s you.

I believe this part to be especially important because I have been there.

In the beginning, I was feeling overtaken, I wanted to see all of it and I didn’t want to miss anything! Hopefully, I soon realized I didn’t have to rush, I have all my life to travel and come back to the places that I want in case I have missed something significant to me. Travel on your terms. If you feel like hopping into planes all the time and reaching far away destinations is fine, but also if you feel like slow traveling with trains, buses, bikes, or boats that’s fine too!

I also thought that there was a minimum amount of time to stay in a place, and for me was two months. But then realized that it isn’t a fixed thing. During my nomadic life, sometimes I have felt that two weeks was a perfect time, and at other moments I felt more like one or three months were the right timing for me. It really doesn’t matter… it is your own choice according to the feelings you are having at a precise time of your life.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: connect with yourself, understand your needs for that specific moment, and apply what works best for you each time.

Live like a local, you are not a tourist

Remember that as a nomad, you are actually spending much more time than tourists in your picked destinations. You are living there for a while, just like a local. You might want to connect with their culture, learn their language, and discover each place just as if you were living there.

Of course, it is cool to do also the touristic stuff (I was used to doing that at home too). But every time I move into a new place, that’s my new home, so I usually behave as if I belong there, even if it’s only for a few weeks or months.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: talk with those around you (or listen if you cannot speak the language), learn from their body movements, and respect their traditions.

Don’t over plan, stay in the present

Changing to a nomadic lifestyle is probably different from what you are used to. Usually, you know that you have an apartment and for how long you will stay there, most of the time moving out is a big issue and something that requires time to process and organize. Well, from now on you will be moving constantly, so you need to make it a smooth process, but also you shouldn’t stress about it, because while you are traveling things sort out in one way or another.

As I share in the #digitalnomadconfessions, at the beginning of my journey as a digital nomad, I was a bit stressed about planning my next destination. This of course doesn’t allow you to fully enjoy the place you are already at and adds a lot of unnecessary worry to your daily life. I guess it is normal to have these feelings. You just have to let them go and adjust to your new lifestyle. Eventually, once you realize it they will just go away, and you will take things easy because of the experience. Although it took me a while to understand where my anxiety was coming from, it is good to know that it can happen!

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: if you already have a travel destination, organize just the next two or four months in advance by renting your next apartments. You can also decide a few things that you would like to do and see. But while you are there, allow yourself to be surprised by it. Explore and discover it freely, and adjust how comfortable you are on the way. Also, in this case, there is no right or wrong, you just have to find your flow.

Your time perception will change

Time stretches when you travel. I don’t know if this happens to everyone. But we both noticed that after a while of traveling, time feels different! Do you know that feeling when you go for a short weekend trip, and it seems like a lifetime? Well, imagine this feeling applied to your whole time, and you will get an idea!

As I said before, at the beginning we felt like two months was a minimum time to stay somewhere, but then we realized that sometimes a month felt like five months.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: just enjoy your longer life ;)

Embrace a minimalist lifestyle

Less is more indeed. While you are on the road, you will be grateful to have fewer kilos in your trolley or backpack. Start preparing your brain for a minimalistic lifestyle, and understand what you need and what you don’t.

To give you an idea, everything I own fits into an Eastpak Transverz L trolley (I wish it was a medium-size, besides I haven’t yet sorted out if I prefer a backpack yet) and weighs around 20 kilos. Martín travels with a Herschel duffle bag that weighs more or less the same, and still, it feels like we need to go lighter. I would say that the perfect weight is around 15 kilos. But again, this is me, find what works best for you.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: there are so many movies and books about this topic that can inspire you, but you can start with the most popular one on Netflix: Minimalism. Also, once you got rid of everything that you don’t need anymore, prepare a list of the stuff you will take with you and weigh them to have a general idea of your weights. Here is mine (Just by doing it I realized I had to change the boxes of my sunglasses, they were so heavy!):

You don’t need a special nomad gear

There is only one thing that you cannot be missing, your tech items, and that usually includes a good laptop, its charger, headphones, and a transformer if you travel to countries that have different plugs or voltage than yours. All the rest isn’t strictly necessary.

Sure, there is much useful stuff for digital nomads out there. But you actually don’t need any of those to get started, through time you will realize what kind of outfit is right for you and what you actually need to buy. At that point, you can go over and start to search for the nice item that you will add to your smart closet, but until then don’t stress out. Probably you are fine with what you already have.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: take a look at what’s on the plate for nomads out there, but don’t let it become a priority because it isn’t

Journal your travel experiences

While you travel so much, if you don’t journal a little you will forget over time, the names of the places you have been to, some experiences, your feelings, and maybe even the names of those you met. But remembering is not the only point here, writing helps you to connect with yourself, embrace what you are living, and become aware of how traveling makes you feel.

This is one of the reasons for which this blog was born (the other one is that my friends were constantly asking me tips about traveling or about how to become digital nomads). To start journaling, you don’t need to have a blog unless you want to, of course! (In that case, share it with us, by commenting down below).

You just need a laptop or a notebook and a pen. Whether you should write on digital or paper is up to you.

I am a writer (maybe you don’t know I have also a poetry blog: carmenmeanspoem), and I like to write by hand on actual paper. Also, as digital nomads, we already spend a lot of time on the computer, so in this personal time, it is nice to have different means.

Occasionally I give myself as a gift a new Flexi Paperblanks notebook with blank pages (I hate the lines). They are super charming. When the old notebook is gone, I send it to my parent’s home, or I just scan it before throwing it out.

Journaling is a powerful tool to create a memory of your journey and a way to be conscious of your experiences.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: get some alone time and let the words flow!

You are allowed to have ups and downs

Living the life you want doesn’t mean you stop growing. Your inner processes will always come with you, so be aware that this lifestyle doesn’t sort out your life for you, but also that you are allowed to have any kind of emotions even while “living the dream“. If you want to go deeper into this topic, check out our #digitalnomadconfessions.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: be true to yourself, allowing you to feel and to share with others how it is going in your life

Don’t wait to start a better lifestyle

There is nothing that you can’t start working on before starting your nomadic lifestyle. As I said before, every problem that you already have will follow you, so don’t wait till you reach the digital nomad status to work on those things. Start now.

✌🏼 Putting it into practice: don’t procrastinate what you know needs to be done for your own happiness. For example, if you want to start exercising, eating better, or doing yoga, just do it without putting excuses. The nomadic lifestyle will not make it easier, just your mindset and actions do!