How to Nomad

Lately a lot of people have been asking me for advice on how to do this “Digital Nomad” thing.

I wouldn’t call myself a Digital Nomad, but I know a whole damn lot about it because I used to think I wanted to be one. I’ve lived in Chiang Mai AKA the DN capital of the world for almost two years now, and I’ve been to places actual nomads get wet just thinking about.

It’s not as hard as you might think. It just comes down to figuring out what you want and how to make it happen. So here’s a quick and dirty little guide on how to make this Nomad thing work.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

If you are new to travel and remote work, plan a test run for at least 3 months.

3 months is the minimum amount of time you need to get a good feel for the lifestyle. 3 months is also enough time to make significant progress at whatever gig or project you choose to take on.

Make damn sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you sell all of your shit and “never look back”.

1. Figure out what to do

You can see these 3 months purely as an adventure for you to gain “new experiences”, do absolutely nothing of any importance, and come back to the same life you were living before. This is also sometimes known as “going on vacation”.

Or you can use these 3 months to do something significant and work toward creating a better life for yourself and possibly even all of humanity.

One’s not inherently better than the other. Some people are happy with their lives and just need a vacation. Others know they’re not as happy as they could be, have dreams they still haven’t pursued, and don’t want to live a life of regret.

Do what’s right for you.

SIGNIFICANT THINGS YOU CAN DO IN 3 MONTHS:

  • Start a side hustle AKA freelancing or remote work
  • Bootstrap a startup or start an online business
  • Start a creative project (writing, making music/videos/art, etc)

IF YOU WANT TO START AN ONLINE BUSINESS BUT DON’T WANT TO CREATE THINGS:

Look into drop shipping, Amazon FBA/Private Label, and other types of eCommerce.

IF YOU LIKE YOUR CURRENT JOB:

1. Start by asking your employer for permission to work from home for a day or two per week. The key is to communicate that this would increase both your happiness and productivity levels, which will be beneficial for them.

2. If you increase (or at least maintain) your level of productivity, your employer should have no problem letting you work from home for a few more days per week.

3. Eventually ask to work entirely remotely for a 3 month period so you can experience living in another country — again being sure to express that this is a dream of yours and would be best for both your happiness and productivity.

IF YOU WANT TO WORK REMOTELY:

The easiest thing would be to get a job doing anything you already know how to do and don’t hate. Lots of remote gigs are available for creatives and knowledge workers (programmers, designers, writers, marketers, etc.)

Find jobs at:

IF YOU HAVE NO SKILLS:

Learn a skill. This is the perfect opportunity to develop a skill that could lead into a new career. Programming, copywriting, and marketing are king if money and impact are what you’re after.

Teach English. I’m not saying this doesn’t take skill, but if you can read this you can at least teach English in Southeast Asia. If you have a college degree you’re already more qualified than I am. You can do this online or in-person. You may or may not need a TEFL depending on where you go. Look into this yourself.

2. Figure out where to go

Go to nomadlist.com. Start by making a list of places that interest you, then figure out how much it will cost to live the lifestyle you want in each place.

DN HUBS WITH LOW COST OF LIVING:

  • Thailand (Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Phangan)
  • Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh City AKA Saigon, Hanoi, Danang)
  • Indonesia (Bali)
  • Philippines (Manila, Davao)
  • Colombia (Medellín)

It’s your life, so go anywhere you want! Just do your research beforehand so you know what you’re in for and what it’ll take to make it happen.

HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN EACH PLACE?

I recommend staying in one place for AT LEAST one month. Every time you go somewhere new, it takes time to settle in and get a good feel for the place. You have to figure “life” stuff out — where to eat, where to get water, where to work, where to do laundry...

So if you need to get shit done, don’t keep moving around all the time — especially if you’re starting a new project/business or working remotely for the first time. You’ll spend too much time traveling and exploring to actually get anything done.

Commit to staying in each place for at least a month. You can decide whether to move or not by the end of the month. If you like a place, you can even stay for the entire 3 months so you can really focus and make progress on your most important project.

3. Make it happen

You don’t have to figure everything out before you go. All you really have to do is to get your ass over there and make sure you’ll have money in your pocket, a roof over your head, and food on your plate.

So save up money or find a new gig that will pay the bills. Figure out where to live, eat, and work. Schedule your flights, buy your tickets, pack your shit and get on the plane. Do whatever it takes to make it happen.

The rest can be figured out over time, and you need to be okay with NOT knowing how things will turn out. The ups and downs, trials and tribulations are what make this fun and exciting. It’s all part of the journey, and you just need to be confident in your ability to figure things out if shit ever hits the fan.

Easier said than done, but no amount of research and reading will make this happen for you. It takes focused effort and discipline to make any dream a reality. If you can’t grind down when it matters now, you won’t be able to when you’re in another country either.

FINAL ADVICE

These steps might seem overly simple because they are. This entire article could have been boiled down to one sentence— figure out what you want then make it happen. This applies to everything you will ever do in your entire life. Your journey is your own, and only you can decide what path to take.

But 1,000+ words had to be written because our minds like to overcomplicate things and always have trouble knowing where to start.

I always recommend starting with your what and your why. What do you really want to do with your life? Why do you want to do it, and how does living this lifestyle fit into the bigger picture?

If you know your what and your why, the rest will fall into place. But if you are already drawn to a place, start with that and see where your research takes you.

Life is short. Have some fun and experience new things. It’s easier than ever, and all it takes is a little bit of planning and focused effort to have the adventure of a lifetime.

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