By Molly Barnes, Digital Nomad Life
If you’ve always dreamed of traveling to see the world but have written it off as out of reach, there’s no need to give up on that dream! There are plenty of ways to work travel into your schedule. In fact, more and more people are flipping that script and working their schedule into their travels. Digital nomads are travelers who move from place to place, working wherever they find themselves. Their numbers are growing, and there are plenty of ways for you to join their ranks.
How do you make this happen? While it helps to win the lottery first, that probably won’t happen. The good news is, there are all kinds of ways to arrange and fund your journeys. Of course, you may have to get a little creative, but with some serious research, planning, and logistical maneuvering, you can grab your laptop and see the world.
1. Take care of business at home
Before heading out on extended travels, you’ll have to figure out what to do about your house or apartment, bills, possessions, and other responsibilities at home. It takes time (more than you think) to pare down and store your stuff, and to address the details of living space, bills, mail, etc.
Any loose ends you neglect to tie up beforehand will likely end up costing you headaches and extra money down the road. The earlier and more thoroughly you plan your new lifestyle, the less you’ll have to worry once you’re out there. Here are some suggestions:
- Put your place up for rent. You definitely don’t want to pay rent while you’re away for a long period of time, so consider subletting your apartment — or, even better, using it as a vacation rental. Apps and online platforms make it easy to manage the process, so let someone else cover this expense in your absence!
- Cancel services. If you don’t rent out your home, turn off all the utilities such as water, gas, electricity and trash/recycling pickup, and cancel subscriptions such as cable and deliveries. Once you’ve dropped those expenses, you can put the savings toward covering new expenses, such as lodging and transportation.
- Reroute your mail. Ask a family member or trusted friend to let you establish legal residency at their address. You can have mail sent to their house, and they can reroute anything urgent to you. If that’s not an option, consider a virtual mailbox service.
- Plan for your belongings. You can’t take it with you, so find somewhere to put your stuff while you’re gone. Start weeding out well before your departure date, sorting things into four piles: take along, put into storage, sell, or donate/give away/discard. Store what’s left with a friend or family member, or put it in an affordable storage unit.
Once you get your affairs in order at home, you can turn full attention to plotting your adventure. Realistically, you aren’t going to pick up and leave immediately, so as you begin to sever ties to your traditional lifestyle, you’ll have some time to stash away some funds.
2. Set a budget
Planning and setting a budget might sound counterproductive to living freely; however, it’s absolutely necessary if you want to sustain a nomadic lifestyle. First, add up your major expenses (there are always more than you’d think). Here are a few examples:
- Meals and snacks
- Mobile data package
- Travel insurance
- Emergency fund
- Any other miscellaneous expenses (i.e. equipment, toiletries, medications, clothing, etc.)
After you’ve calculated your expenses, budget an extra 25 percent to stave off unpleasant surprises. (You can absolutely count on these happening while you travel.) Also, keep in mind that if you’re cruising through multiple countries with different currencies, you’ll need to factor in exchange rates, too.
Once you know the target amount for your travels, save toward that goal. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for about six months of living expenses. If you’re not disciplined about saving, start immediately by having extra money deducted from your paycheck each month; calculate your taxes and set yourself up to receive a bigger refund that can pad your travel account.
Many digital nomads find that living on the go is actually cheaper than living a traditional lifestyle, although it does take some adjusting. Tips and tricks you learn along the way can help you further stretch your money. For instance, consider applying for a travel-friendly credit card that offers great rewards — airline miles, points toward hotel stays, restaurant discounts, etc. — then apply those rewards as they’re earned to any future excursions.
3. Determine how you’ll earn a living
Part of financing your travels means figuring out how you’ll earn money when you might no longer be bringing in a steady paycheck. The goal is to open up as many revenue streams as possible. Consider these possibilities:
- Work remotely. Does your current job allow remote options, or can you work freelance via the internet? If so, that’s great! In this case, you likely will enjoy a reliable income — especially if you get paid through online services, too.
- Sell a product online or offline. Do you have a hobby making things you can sell? If so, consider starting a business and take your wares on the road. Attend trade shows, expos, local fairs, and other places where you can sell your handiwork.
- Provide a service. Do you have other skills you can charge for? Can you write, edit, fact-check, take photos, write code, or perform any other skills? Become a solopreneur and earn your living selling your services. Online services and apps can help you offer your skills to customers.
- Work locally. Want to work like a local? You can explore potential short-term job opportunities as a side hustle if you plan to live in a specific region for longer periods of time. Make sure you fulfill all the local and national employment requirements to do it by the book. This can be a great way to meet people and join a community, too!
In any configuration, you definitely want to set up as many income streams as possible. Once you figure out how you’ll earn your living, it’s time to plan your trip.
4. Plan your route
Living a nomadic lifestyle allows an incredible level of flexibility, but it can all go kaput unless you do some serious preparation and planning before you hit the road. For instance, if you’re traveling abroad, you’ll need an up-to-date passport and possibly a visa, depending on where you go and how long you intend to stay. Keep in mind that it can take weeks or months to procure or update a passport.
You’ll also want to have some idea of the cost of living in the places you want to go, so you can plan for initial costs to get you there. Ask yourself questions on these topics:
- Transportation. Will you be driving, taking a bus or train, or flying to your first destination? Be sure to predetermine a range for this, so you can better plan your budget and know how much income you’ll need to make along the way.
- Accommodations. Do you prefer to stay in a hostel, vacation rental, or hotel? (Or even a campground? Consider your needs and preferences, and start your research there.
- Entertainment. What kind of activities and experiences are you hoping to find in each place you visit?
- Extras. Extra expenses always come up on the road. Budget more for emergency health care or transport, as well as unforeseen opportunities you just can’t pass up.
Planning for cities ahead of time also enables you to get an idea of how much housing, food, fuel, etc. will cost. Staying in one place for a while can cut down on transportation costs while you immerse yourself in local culture. And if you take the time to explore a city with opportunities but also a lower cost of living — for instance, Tampa instead of Los Angeles in the U.S., or Prague instead of Paris in Europe — you can stay within your budget and still have all the great experiences.
Living a nomadic travel lifestyle offers a feeling like no other. The hardest part is probably the transition from “regular” life. However, once you have your affairs in order, set a doable budget and itinerary, and establish some cost-efficient ways to live, you’ll be in good shape to start your journey. Prepare yourself to learn things about the world and yourself, and make some incredible memories along the way.