Bintangs and Fivefingers: The ultimate guide to digital nomad life

This is a repost of a LinkedIn Pulse article I wrote a few months back. You can find it here.

We’ve all seen them. The guys wearing tank tops, sipping mai tais in the sun whilst working on their laptops. They’re digital nomads, a tribe of location independent entrepreneurs, doing what they want, from wherever they want. I once had the dream of becoming one, but it’s slowly fading away as I’m becoming more and more stuck into everyday life. Ugh, boring. However, even though I’ve failed there is still hope for you to make it. A wise man once said, “fake it till you make it”, and that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Here’s the ultimate guide to hack your way into nomad life.

1. Get yourself a crazy expensive backpack

One of the most important gadgets you can own as a nomad is a solid backpack. It’s extremely important to get one that makes you look hip, but at the same time can carry your stuff and portable office (also known as your computer) with ease. I would opt for a bag that opens like a briefcase as you don’t want to unpack everything you own whenever you have to fetch something.

Everything I own into one backpack, really Eirik?”.

Yes, really. Nomads don’t over pack and that’s why you’re going to cram your life into a carry-on sized bag. As you’ll only pack a few pieces of clothing (we’ll cover what below), a single pack is all you need.

Your backpack will work as your home, and you don’t want to give the impression that you live in a shed. That’s right, drop that Reebok bag straight away and head for the tech section. If the price doesn’t make you literally sweat, you’re not reaching high enough.

2. Load up with essential tech

Now that you have spent half your savings on a backpack, it’s time to stuff it with even more expensive tech. As with your newest purchase, you want to make sure that you look like the real deal. To do that, you’re going to buy one computer and one computer only, a Macbook Air. It’s lightweight, has all the power you need, but most importantly, makes you look like the perfect tech traveller. Can’t afford an Air you say? Steal one — again, this is not an option. As a digital nomad, owning a Mac is absolutely vital. Remember that you chose this lifestyle to brag on social media, and your Instagram simply won’t look good with an oversized Dell next to your Bintang beer.

The second piece of important tech will be a Kindle. This space reducing gadget will enable you to carry and read thousands of travel and lifestyle books. Essential titles to upload are:

  1. “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen. A book about a man’s search for a snow leopard in the Himalayas. Didn’t finish it personally so I can’t spoil if he found the animal or not, but being able to quote from this classic will make you sound intellectual, and that is the main take away here.
  2. “The 4-hour workweek” by Tim Ferriss. The ultimate guide to nomadism and early retirements, a must read. As a nomad you want to be Tim Ferriss, so getting into his mind set will be to major help. After a few weeks of Tim’s content you will truly rise your ego to new heights believing that you can indeed become a professional surfer with a week’s worth of training.
  3. “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. We should all be running long distances bare feet, much like the natives of the Americas did. Read this and you’ll learn how commercial running shoes are the fast food of footwear.

Now that you’ve got your gadgets in place, let’s take a look at the dress code of a digital nomad.

3. Dress like Shaun the sheep

As you’re strictly traveling with a carry-on sized backpack you simply can’t stuff your pack with 10 CK boxers. We’re trying to be as minimalist as possible so we’re only going to opt for underwear from Icebreaker or Patagonia in 100% wool. This means that you can wear them indefinitely around the globe without the fear of them smelling or getting dirty.

JUST A PAIR OF UNDERWEAR FOR A GLOBE TRIP?”. I can hear you scream through my thick, hay fevered skull, but yes, just a pair will do. This is something that might sound outrageous at first, but just like a vegan, you’re going to over communicate your choice to everyone you meet. That way you’ll not only show that you’re different, but also let the world know that wool underwear is the future. You’re welcome, world. Touché Shaun.

In addition, only opt for tank tops and board shorts — they can be washed once a month and will also fit your image perfectly. Flip flops and shoes should be added, but because you’ve read “Born to Run” (it’s in your Kindle, remember?) you know that normal runners are just corporate straightjackets for your feet. Because we’re afraid to step on glass, we’re simply going to go for Vibram Fivefingers or a pair of non cushioned trail shoes. People will probably look at your shoes and laugh, but you’re on the front here and will be the one laughing once everyone else has caught jungle feet disease from their Nikes sometime around 2020. Nomad 1 — World 0.

4. Location, location, location

In order to make other mortal office-goers super jealous you should change location weekly and over communicate this via social. However, as you actually will do some work in between all the surfing and full moon parties, you have to find yourself the perfect coffee shop to work from. Unfortunately, I won office space and am currently stuck, but you’re not a failure like me and will strictly work from coffee shops with dubious wifi. Not only is it a great place to get one of life’s great necessities, coffee, but also to show everyone who’s actually socialising with friends that you’re a busy man running your own show from a simple, but very expensive laptop.

Working from an office might seem like a good idea, but being a digital nomad is all about running your business from places where you simply shouldn’t be running a business. For that reason, break out from the coffee corner once a week to work from an exposed and exotic location. An aggressively elevated hammock is a good idea as it will give you good shots to upload to Instagram. Wear a tank top on every picture — remember, you’re independent and don’t iron shirts like the rest of the world.

5. Get a portable gym

Seeing that we’re building an image here, you can’t afford to put on fat or lose muscles. As you might have trouble finding a gym we’re going to have to improvise. Simply add a pair of elastic resistance bands for different exercises, as well as a lacrosse ball for foam rolling. If you’re a fan of weights and Olympic lifting there are many objects that can be used, such as the hostel’s pool table (don’t mind the people using it, they can always do something else) or the vending machine in the reception (no one wants to eat that crap anyway).

That’s about it!

There is of course more to digital nomadism than the above, but this should cover the basics. Once you have acquired all the gadgets you can start throwing out the rest of your uneccesary belongings from your previous life. This will make you truly independent.

The world is in your pocket, go and explore it, it’s your office now.

Disclaimer: If you read this with a broken sarcasm antenna, you might not have realised that this was from my fun book. I am actually inspired to work as a DN, but not being there yet means I can point and laugh at the moment! If you want to find more inspiration from a true nomad, check out Spartan Traveler’s blog here, lots of quality content.

Eirik André Nilsen is a Norwegian aspiring entrepreneur and co-founder of Trailwhisper. For updates, follow us on social.

Twitter: @TrailwhisperCO , @eanilsen