Work and Travel Don’t Have To Be Mutually Exclusive.

An introduction to the lifestyle of a Digital Nomad.

Dan Robinson
Nov 20, 2014 · 10 min read

World travel has long been thought of as an expensive proposition reserved for the wealthy and the famous. Gallivanting around the world for months on end sounds unlikely at best and more than likely just a flat out unobtainable. However, while people say it’s impossible to have it all, there is a growing community of people being described as digital nomads becoming savvy in the art of combining world travel with a career growth.

A “digital nomad” is a professional who takes advantage of the digital tools at their disposal to foster a career while simultaneously traveling the world.

This type of lifestyle wouldn’t have even been possible just 10 years ago. As internet-connected devices became smaller and more powerful, Internet speeds increased and became more widely available around the world. These two technological advances (along with cheaper airfare and a greater demand for tech related jobs) gave a certain group of professionals the opportunity to create a new lifestyle for themselves.

I am currently writing this in a small beach town of Nicaragua where the sun is warm year round, there is consistent surf, and of course, the Wi-Fi is fast enough to keep up with email, send images, and make calls over Skype. Upon graduating from college in the Spring of 2014 I accepted a full-time position with Amped For Education, a growing non-profit organization dedicated to creating educational opportunities to children in developing countries. With a couple thousand dollars saved up, a few vaccinations in my bloodstream, and a backpack full of camera gear packed; I set off on a 6-month stint as the Digital Media Coordinator for the organization. In the 5 months since being here the organization has grown significantly. We have successfully constructed a learning center, employed several local instructors and contractors, and even developed a recreation program giving students a safer environment for after school. I have documented the past 5 months thoroughly with photographs and videos while significantly expanding our social media presence, created countless pieces of digital content, and helped to execute marketing and outreach strategies. The work has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience that will effect my outlook on life and business for years to come. However, the small bits of time in between all the filming, photographing, and team meetings are where I have made the most personal growth. When you find yourself alone in a hostel in Liberia, Costa Rica or the remote Corn Islands of Nicaragua, you tend to strike up interesting conversations with people. Those conversations are the ones that have opened my mind to the concept of living a digital nomadic lifestyle.

Although I am just 5 months into my own version of digital nomadism, I have picked up a lot of advice from fellow travelers, learned some valuable tips by my own mishaps and stupidity, and discovered some great tools that I think will help you get your own adventures started.

Getting Started:

Picking a city — There are several factors you have to take into account when making the decision about which city best suits your needs. Depending on your budget and the type of work you do, you will probably have different ideas about living standards and which type of space will best accommodate for that.

  • Nomad List is a site that was created for digital nomads to decide which cities re best to live and work remotely. The typical travel visa is 3 months, which is a good amount of time to truly experience a city before your forced to move on. Though it will vary slightly depending on your lifestyle and the time of year you visit, Nomad List rates cities by typical monthly living expenses, climate, and internet speed, among other factors. If you are working on a small budget or bootstrapping a start up, living abroad might even help you to get your business up and running since it is possible to dramatically cut your living expenses. For example, according to Nomad List the average monthly living expenses in San Francisco is $4,854 as opposed to the living expenses of say Chaing Mai, Thailand at just $641 each month.

Finding a place to stay — By staying in a city for an extended period of time (probably 3 months), you will be able to negotiate better deals on hostels, hotels, or apartments. I personally haven’t had to go through this process since my housing in Nicaragua has been provided by the organization I work for but if you are figuring this out on your own there are several tools available to make the process easier.

  • Airbnb can be a useful resource for finding an apartment or house to stay in for an extended period of time. Make sure you ask the owner several questions before committing to the place for an entire month since it is going to be critical to your work to have a high speed internet connection and a quiet atmosphere to power through work.

Work/Life Balance:

Of course the allure of becoming a digital nomad is the idea of living a life full of travel and excitement, and while there will be time for exploring and fun, you HAVE to stay in a working mindset. The majority of your time is not going to be backpacking and surfing. This isn’t your vacation. It is a lifestyle choice that requires careful planning combined with a lot of self-control and self-motivation. In fact, at times your going to need to work even harder to make sure things run smoothly. Time zone differences mean you might have to adjust your sleep schedule to accommodate for clients normal working hours. Just because you made the choice to base your operation on the other side of the world doesn’t mean your client/boss is going to be communicating with you at all hours of the night. It is your job to be working at 10pm while they are in normal business hours. There are a few tools I have come to use almost on a daily basis to stay on task.

  • Evernote is an invaluable tool for keeping my thoughts organized. In fact, I am writing this post in Evernote right this minute. It works across all platforms (phone, tablet, and desktop) and has the ability to store images, text, .pdf’s, business cards, web clips, just about anything you want to save for later. It makes everything searchable and you can organize notes into different notebooks, which makes everything easy to find with a few clicks. I use Evernote to store everything from our weekly staff meeting notes, project ideas, and deadlines, to contact information, receipts, and interesting quotes and articles.

Travel Advice:

Becoming travel savvy is an ongoing process where you will most likely learn more from mistakes than you ever will from reading about it. That said, I have traveled to 15 different countries on every continent except Antarctica (I have to cross that one off the list one day), picking up some good tips along the way.

  • Pack light — Condensing the amount of stuff you have down to a large backpack and a day pack is ideal. Being able to pack up and be on the move is key when you’re on an extended travel period. Even though you will be spending an extended period of time in each place, being able to condense your things down to a single checked bag and a carry on is key. The majority of things that you think you can’t live without are actually not all that important. Leave the extra pair of Nike’s at home. Worst case scenario you can always buy something you need when you get to your destination.

If you have been feeling stuck in you life, travel could be the greatest investment you can make. Personally, I have found the experience to be invaluable both personally and professionally. Hopefully some of these tips will help you to get started or, if you already on the road, perhaps you’ve picked up a few new resources to use as you continue on your travels.


This article was originally posted on www.danrobinsonvisuals.com

Dan Robinson is an emerging photographer and director focused in travel, lifestyle, and non-profit organization projects. He currently splits his time living between Nicaragua and the United States, producing photo and video content for various projects, organizations, and brands. Dan can be contacted at www.danrobinsonvisuals.com.

    Dan Robinson

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    photographer ⨯ filmmaker ⨯ artist

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