I've been working online for the best part of a decade, but becoming a digital nomad was never my plan. I actually started working remotely long before it was a thing, and long before the pandemic inspired this new wave of flexible working. Over the last 10 years:
- I've been a digital nomad travelling across four continents
- I've worked remotely for companies and clients while being based in a different country
- I've led marketing teams from the comfort of my camper van with a view of the beach.
I love the freedom that digital nomad life brings and how it allows me to achieve the perfect work-life balance for me. It enables me to travel whenever and wherever I want, without sacrificing income. As someone who had always worked in an office or workplace before going travelling, it never occurred to me that this could be my future, but now I wouldn't change it for the world. Remote working and the option to be a digital nomad is a non-negotiable for me, as are several other work benefits, and it has reframed my working mindset. Forget working to live, I'm the designer of my own life and I am choosing the way I work – and you can too! Here I'm sharing my most useful tips and learnings since becoming a digital nomad all those years ago. Thinking about pursuing a career as a remote worker? I hope these tips help to give you the confidence to take the first steps towards achieving your goals.
Becoming a Digital Nomad
Okay so you've decided you want to make your digital nomad dream a reality, so what's next? How do you make it happen? It all starts with the job and the destination. Don't feel like you need to quit your job and leave the country overnight, sometimes it takes a little longer to put things in place to design your life and role. This is the time to ask yourself the big questions:
- Do you want to make a career change?
- Do you want more flexibility or complete location freedom?
- Do you have a deadline for making this happen?
The answers to these questions will help inform a lot of the decisions you will make around the role you take on, whether you prefer self-employment and what your travel/living plans are – for instance if you plan to base yourself abroad, live out of a camper van or plan to go backpacking.
Can you work remotely in your current role?
One of the simplest options for achieving location independence in your career which is often overlooked by aspiring digital nomads, is whether this could be an option in your current role. If you have been with a company for some time and proved your reliability and value to the organisation, plus your work is something you can do from anywhere (perhaps you work in marketing or design for example), it might be worth asking the question. Before you quit your job, is it worth speaking with your manager and exploring options and flexibility around transferring to remote-first working?
I know people who have negotiated digital nomad working full time, and others who have arranged to spend several months of the year working in this way balanced by office time at key times of the year. It's always worth asking the question and many employers are far more open to flexible and remote working than ever before. The role I'm currently doing started out as a remote role during the pandemic and then went to hybrid, but it's actually moving back to remote-first working next year. Either way, I've been able to decide when and where I'm working from and benefit from unlimited holiday.
Top Tip: Before starting the conversation, be prepared with examples of the value you bring, make sure you have the stats to back them up and a clear plan of what you would like to propose and how it would work for both you and the business.
Finding work as a digital nomad
One of the biggest questions I get asked about working remotely is how to find work as a digital nomad. First of all, it's important to decide whether you would prefer to work for one company as a full or part-time employee, or whether you prefer the freelance approach and taking on clients. Both are great options and it very much depends on the type of work you do which might be better for you. I personally have worked both ways in the past and found them hugely beneficial at different times in my life, currently I'm working full-time hours in one role as an employee and then part-time hours as a freelancer alongside this which suits my life right now.
Top Tip: Look into the different types of roles you can do remotely. Don't feel like you have to stay in one particular role. It always helps to have experience, but it could be a good opportunity to start something new or take on different freelance work on the side to build up experience.
Check out this blog post for more ideas: 35+ Digital Nomad JOBS to change your life
If you're looking for remote job opportunities, check out this list of employers:
If you're looking for clients, check out these websites:
If you're interested in studying while you travel, check out this blog post: Distance learning courses for studying while travelling
Choosing your working hours
Becoming a digital nomad is a great time to reassess what really matters to you and working hours is a key part of this. This is your opportunity to design a work life that fits around your passions and dreams, not the other way around. You're no longer confined to a 9-5, so why not look at your options? Depending on the type of work you choose, will you be working within set hours and are those set by the country you are in or a business in another country? Or, if you're working with clients, do you have set days a week or even a month when you complete work tasks for them? Perhaps leaving you with more free time to explore and travel? Give it some thought before securing your work as it can have a big impact on the way you travel.
Have work lined up before you travel
Sometimes it can feel like everyone is up and quitting their jobs to travel and start a remote working lifestyle. But there's no one way to make this move towards becoming a digital nomad. There's absolutely nothing wrong with quitting without a plan and work lined up, but that's also just not feasible for some people who may have less savings or prefer the comfort of knowing what they will be doing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a plan and setting up work before you leave, or even starting your new remote role while you're still at home and then heading off travelling later. It's also perfectly normal to relocate and get set up in a new destination then ease yourself into remote working. Find the balance that works for you and don't feel pressure to jump before you're ready.
Choosing Your Destination as a Remote Worker
Okay so you've been given the green light for becoming a digital nomad, but now comes the difficult decision of where are you going to go? This is the time to think about whether you plan to travel and be on the move constantly, whether you prefer to travel slow and settle in places for a bit longer, or whether you simply want to relocate to a new country or a popular digital nomad hub. There's no right answer and different options will work for different people. Here are some of the key things to consider when planning your destination and becoming a digital nomad:
Finding a Digital Nomad Hub
There are so many to choose from worldwide but some of the most popular and well-known digital nomad hubs are Bali, Indonesia, and Chiang Mai in Thailand, also cities such as Lisbon, Istanbul, Budapest and Sofia in Bulgaria across Europe. South and Central America has lots of up-and-coming hubs such as Buenos Aires, Lima, Havana and Costa Rica. Here you will find great infrastructure for those thinking of becoming a digital nomad including great wifi connections, great cafe culture, co-living and co-working spaces, plus lots of other remote workers and expats who are doing exactly the same. Check out this extensive list of digital nomad hubs for more inspiration. You might even find you wish to split your time over the course of the year and chase the sun, perhaps spending a few months in various hubs.
Digital Nomad Working Visas
The world has changed a lot in recent years and lots of countries have introduced amazing digital nomad visa options to encourage digital nomad hubs to form. It's great that governments worldwide have seen the positive benefits of encouraging remote workers to find a base in their countries, and it has made life a lot easier for travellers who perhaps were somewhat limited by visa timescales in the past. While the application can sometimes have specific conditions surrounding income and costs associated with the visa, if you're planning to set down roots or spend a longer time period in a place, this can be a great way to get that location security abroad.
- Malta offers a Nomad Residence Permit which allows you to live and work as a digital nomad on Malta or the surrounding islands for up to a year, with options to renew and extend.
- Mexico offers a Mexico’s Temporary Resident Visa which provides remote workers with the option to work in Mexico from 180 days to four years!
- Costa Rica provides a Rentista temporary residency visa which offers a two-year remote working opportunity.
- The Remotely From Georgia program allows both digital nomads and their families to work and live within the state for up to a year and is available for up to 95 countries worldwide.
- Iceland offers a long-term visa for remote workers program to anyone who doesn't need a visa to travel to Iceland usually and it can be issued for up to 180 days.
- Norway's Independent Contractor Visa allows two years of residency and remote working from the country.
- Portugal offers a passive income visa for independent workers which is valid for a year and can be renewed twice up to three years!
There are LOADS more options across the world so make sure you do your research before committing to one! Check out this list of 58 countries offering digital nomad work visas.
Wifi Speeds and Reliability
Always check before you travel, if you're working online your wi-fi connection becomes your lifeline and a key component of your income. Nomadlist has a great tool for checking wi-fi speeds for each destination, I'd also recommend you speak with hosts at accommodation before you arrive or book to check wi-fi connection. You could even ask them to send a screenshot of their wi-fi speed. If you need consistently good wi-fi for large data and file uploads, you could also look into getting a SIM card which gives you access to large amounts of data or even unlimited data.
Connecting with Locals and Meeting Other Digital Nomads
Planning to stay in an area longer-term and want to be a part of the community? There's lots of ways to connect with the locals and other expats or digital nomads. Why not try Couchsurfing to meet great local hosts, or Airbnb can be another way to book accommodation or activities. Look up Facebook groups for digital nomads and solo travellers in the area where you're staying, I'm part of lots of groups for remote workers and various destinations, and lots of solo female travel groups both worldwide and more local/regional groups so I feel confident that I could always arrive in a destination and have lots of ways to meet other travellers. Don't forget to look for live music/comedy nights, fun events locally and check out popular digital nomad cafes. You could also book group activities such as walking tours to get to know the area, I've made new friends doing this before.
Co-living Communities and Co-working Spaces
Another great way to meet other remote workers when becoming a digital nomad is to book into co-living communities and co-working spaces. It's a great way to meet other travellers who are also working and need a place to focus. Co-living communities are a fun way to meet other digital nomads while living and working in a communal space. Think of it kind of like grown-up hostel vibes for digital nomads. You can book places with shared rooms, rooms to yourself, co-working spaces, plus you have a ready-made group of friends to make dinner with, party with and explore with! Check out:
The boring, but necessary, things to consider when becoming a digital nomad
Paying Tax as a Digital Nomad
No-one enjoys thinking about taxes and self-assessment forms but let's be honest, there's no escaping it! Part of becoming a digital nomad is getting up-to-date and keeping hot on any changes in legislation surrounding digital nomad taxes. If you're considering a digital nomad visa, you need to make sure you check the details of that visa and any tax requirements. If you're going to remain paying tax in your home country – there will be limitations and rules around this including the amount of time you have to spend in the UK (or your home country). Make sure you're up-to-date and keep an eye on these details so you don't get any nasty surprises.
You also need to ensure you're keeping detailed records of all income – particularly if you're like me and you receive both taxed income through full-time work and then have to declare freelance earnings through self-assessment. The tax systems in any country are not designed to support you in paying your taxes as efficiently as possible and they certainly won't help you understand what costs you might be able to claim back. So make sure you're doing your research and if needed, consult with an accountant for support. Check out these useful articles and resources below:
- How to become a digital nomad – tax rules to visas
- How to get paid and manage taxes as a digital nomad
- Should I pay digital nomad taxes to the UK government?
- An Employer’s Guide on How to Tax Your Digital Nomads
Choosing Digital Nomad Insurance
If you're considering becoming a digital nomad, it's important to think about the items of value you might be travelling with. You will likely be travelling with more expensive tech items such as your laptop, mobile phone, camera and various other pieces depending on your role. While I always advise travellers to get insurance when they travel, I would doubly advise digital nomads to ensure that everything they own is covered and to a financial degree to cover the costs of not just the item but perhaps even the impact of replacing that item and knock-on effects to your ability to work. These are all considerations when it comes to lost bags, stolen items of value and tech items damaged in transit. When you're on the move, you have to take extra care to protect your items and income. Check out my travel resources page for my best recommendations.
Tech requirements as a Digital Nomad
Get a VPN – virtual private network
This is key if you're travelling often and need to protect sensitive data on your laptop. Whether you're booking trips and want to save your pennies by tricking websites into thinking you're elsewhere. You might need access to certain websites for work that are not allowed within the destination but a VPN can allow you access. Or you might just need to protect yourself when exposed to open wi-fi networks. The benefits of a VPN far outweigh the costs and I definitely advise you to invest in one for your travels.
Check out my travel resources page for my best recommendations.
Check out this blog post: 7 Easy Ways to Protect Data While Travelling
Great tech investments for a digital nomad
Every remote worker will have different requirements for their work, but it's absolutely worth investing into your laptop, your mobile phone if using it for creative purposes, your online storage and cloud access, a camera/lenses if this is a key piece of equipment for you. It's also worth thinking about items that could help to increase your comfort levels and productivity – perhaps noise-cancelling headphones, maybe even a stand to raise your laptop on the desk and support your back. I really recommend looking into the best SIM card options so that you don't have to rely on buying a new one for every country, you can now get SIMs which work and allow roaming worldwide for a fixed cost which could save you a lot of money and hassle. Check out this list of 9 BEST International SIM Cards for Travel.
Managing work/life balance as a digital nomad
It might sound silly, but becoming a digital nomad is often a big change of lifestyle for new travellers and it's important to understand that you also need to think about how you structure this new life. Managing your work-life balance is key to you loving and enjoying this lifestyle, you will be entirely in charge of how your life looks day-to-day but this can be hugely overwhelming for some people. Here's some key life lessons I've learned over the years about what is important to achieve this balance:
Travel slow and take time to rest
So many who are new to remote working and are so overwhelmed with choice of destinations that they want to go everywhere all at once. It's a bad idea and won't take long for you to reach digital nomad burnout. It's great to go backpacking and travel the world waking up in a new destination every week, but if you're working full tikme (or even part-time hours) this can be very ambitious. You're constantly adapting to new locations, wi-fi speeds and working patterns which can be exhausting and leave you with little time to actually explore and get to know a place.
It's important to build in time to work, time to rest and time to explore into your week – it's almost like you're removing all structure to introduce a new one that is far more relaxed and weighted towards your passions. Don't make the mistake of trying to do too much too soon. You might find that you prefer to work solidly for a few weeks and then take a few weeks off to simply travel and enjoy. Find a balance that works for you.
Establish clear work and travel boundaries
This is vital to maintaining your mental health and also your work-life balance. Becoming a digital nomad can be a real test of your boundaries and restraint. When your laptop is always by your side it can be tempting to dip in and check emails outside of working hours, then before you know it you've been working for hours unpaid or in your "free time". I'm super guilty of doing this so I have to put clear working boundaries in place and set myself hours to work on various projects or for different employers based on their needs, their pay rates and whatever I might be working on at the time.
I make sure to keep logs of the hours worked and monitor this, if I find I'm giving a lot of time to a low-paid project or employer I'll raise this with them and either increase my rates in line with this, or reduce the workload. Make sure you give yourself time to travel and explore whether that's going on a trip or exploring the local area – I love to spend hours working in a cafe then head off for a hike or walk through the Old Town of a new destination. It's a good balance once you find it, but make sure you're focused on those work/travel boundaries from the start as they're a lot harder to implement later on.
Check out this blog post: Freelancing – how to "home office" as a digital nomad
Choosing how your day looks
This is something that will be different for everyone depending on your location and how you prefer to work. For instance, I'm a morning worker and feel energised so I love to start my day around sunrise with a workout. I then start work and always love to do this in activewear because it makes me feel more productive, it's also super comfy and stylish if you're heading out to a cafe. Perfect for heading straight from a cafe where I've been working alongside digital nomads all day straight to a hike or yoga class. Pictured, I'm wearing the adidas PowerImpact Training Medium-Support Bra and matching shorts, which are made from recycled materials and are super soft. If you love comfy sports bras and shorts sets, check out the adidas range for outfits that will take you from a day of remote working to getting outdoors, working out and exploring while travelling.
Remember that you have the luxury of deciding how your day looks. You might be remote working from your camper van on the coast of Portugal and fancy a lunchtime surf or sunbathe. Or you could be working as a digital nomad in Thailand or Bali and fancy working from a co-working space or digital nomad cafe. You might even be working in Mexico and spend a week working flat-out then take a week off to explore the islands. However you choose to work, design your digital nomad life around you.