How to Become a Digital Nomad: 8 Digital Nomads Reveal How They Turned Their Dreams into Reality

by on Sep 18, 2017 in Remote

To have the ability to work and travel simultaneously is the ultimate dream for many. And guess what? Becoming location-independent is not as hard as it seems. We’ve already talked about how to switch careers and become a digital nomad. So in this blog post, we decided to turn our attention to digital nomads themselves to find out how they made it happen. Hopefully one (or all) of these stories will inspire you to turn your own digital nomad dreams into reality.

Bruno Morris, Digital Marketer

Bruno Morris 

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for?

I currently work in e-commerce for Holiday Taxis, which is an international travel company. I manage the international marketing in Europe, plus I own a digital marketing agency specialised in PPC, SEO and social media marketing. My mission is to help people to achieve their dreams through digital marketing.

How did you become a digital nomad?

For me was like a natural evolution of what I do: I work in the travel sector, I’m an expert in digital marketing and I love travelling! Basically I was a digital nomad even before knowing I was.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle?

Pros: The best thing of being a DN is freedom. I work where I want, when I want and how I want. Especially being location independent means that you can visit new countries and meet people from all over the world. Going to the “office” is not boring anymore.

Cons: To be honest with you I can’t see any cons. The freedom that this lifestyle gives you means you can work around the cons. The thing that I’ve noticed a lot of DN complain about is the lack of lasting relationship, but luckily I travel with my girlfriend, who I helped to become a fashion designer. We are both Italian and we always move together.

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for?

Well it depends on how you define a digital nomad:

If by digital nomad, you mean mainly traveller, that will be probably until I start a family with my girlfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep travelling but is going to be different, because I think that a family really need a fixed base.

If by digital nomad you mean a location independent freelancer, I’ll do that for the rest of my life because I love it!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?

Think big! Don’t let other people tell you what you can or can’t do. Life is too short to think small. And, although this can sound a bit commercial, don’t underestimate the power of marketing because it can actually help to achieve your dreams!

Amanda Walkins, Freelance Writer & Blogger

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for? 

I am a self-employed freelance writer and blogger. I consider myself a serial expat and focus my work in the travel/tourism and relocation markets.

How did you become a digital nomad? 

In creating my own workflow as a freelance writer, I enabled this digital nomad lifestyle. I can work from anywhere, anytime! I’ve taken my clients to multiple countries with international moves and plenty of travel in between. I love that I can work in spurts and plan ahead on deadlines to take time away whenever I have a trip or visitors coming to my new expat home. But I also love that I can get an hour or two of work in at a cafe while visiting Paris.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle? 

There are pros and cons to every lifestyle, location, and job. Just remember that nothing is perfect and be willing to compromise, but decide what is non-negotiable in your life and then don’t back down.

For me, the pros to being location independent are the flexibility to attend holidays and family events, the option to hang out with friends when they visit us for a week in our new countries, the ability to keep working with the same awesome clients even when I move and travel all the time.

The cons are inconsistent income (not all digital nomads will face this, but I do as a freelancer), no paid sick days or vacation days or retirement plans (el oh el retirement!), and the visa headaches. Don’t underestimate the legalities of living in other countries – you need to know the visa limitations and understand if running a business from within those borders – even remotely – brings with it tax liability.

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for? 

I love this lifestyle, so as long as it suits my husband and me, we’ll carry on living this transient, location independent way. We’ve moved to several countries together and don’t have plans of stopping for too long anywhere – unless we simply fall in love with a location! That hasn’t happened yet, so onward and upward we go.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad? 

Be flexible. In all things you do, be flexible. Understand that your work may have to evolve with time and your choices of locations may need tweaking based on visas or costs or even Wifi availability. Be flexible and learn not to over-plan everything…some of the best adventures and work opportunities can pop up and take you by surprise! You can’t seize them if you’ve planned your whole life minute-by-minute. As a recovering Type A personality, trust me on this one. Just relax and be flexible.

Ashley Mikalauskas, Image Reviewer

 Ashley

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for?

Image Reviewer at Shutterstock

How did you become a digital nomad?

After graduating college, I worked a lot of short contract jobs in order to build up my portfolio and build good relationships with studios and agencies in hopes that I would get a full time position at one of them. After a few months of this, I was offered a freelance position at Shutterstock as a Remote Image Reviewer. While it wasn’t quite the stability I was hoping for at the time, I was excited about the opportunity and took it.

A few months after starting the job, I realized that I could take my work anywhere as long as I had a reliable internet connection. I had never traveled beyond the U.S. and Canada before, but I always knew that my ideal job was one that would let me work and travel (something that still wasn’t a common thing a couple of years ago). Not too long after this realization, I saw an ad online for Remote Year. I was hooked the moment I loaded their website. It was one of those things that resonated with me so much, it consumed my mind for days. I was weary about taking the leap and applying, but knew I would have so many regrets if I didn’t do it.

With that in mind, I applied, went through the interview process, and promptly joined the program. We are currently in our 6th month traveling together, and I still have no regrets about joining the program. This lifestyle has given me so much fulfillment that I know I would have never found had I never taken the leap.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle?

For me, there are definitely more pros than cons. Some of the obvious pros are that you get to see new places, try new foods, meet new people, and have unforgettable experiences. You learn a lot about yourself when traveling, and you certainly grow as a person in ways that you don’t get to grow if you’re living in one place. The memories will be the most valuable things you will acquire while traveling constantly, and you’ll learn how to live with very few physical possessions.

In terms of cons, Internet can be unreliable in some countries, so it’s important to know those issues before you decide to spend a long period of time in any country. Theft is another thing to be aware of, and tourists are often targets. Our laptops and passports are our lives as digital nomads, so it’s important to always have those things protected while traveling. While meeting new people is a big pro, it can also be a con because you know you’re always moving around and leaving some really cool people behind. It just makes it that much more important to use technology to keep in touch with the people who have made the biggest impact on your life!

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for? 

I plan to work and travel as long as it makes sense for me and my career path. Currently, I’m in love with being a digital nomad, and would like to continue it after Remote Year ends, but if I have an opportunity come my way to advance my career that requires me to settle down, I would certainly be open to that possibility.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?

The best advice I can give is to be open-minded and ready for anything! Traveling comes with a lot of uncertainty, and if you are able to roll with the punches and take each challenge as it comes, you’ll be so much better off (great life advice, too). I’ve gone from happily working one day, to having a broken laptop the next, and had to figure out how to fix it with someone who spoke mostly Portuguese.

It took a lot of trust to surrender my computer to an unfamiliar shop for 10 days in order to get it fixed, but I went with it, and was happily surprised at the result. The whole situation was an unexpected hardship, but after a few deep breaths and changing my mindset, I was able to come up with a solution and move forward from there!

Kate Bagoy, Business Strategist/Designer/Coach

 

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for?

I’m a business strategist, designer and coach for creative people looking to start #workanywhere businesses. I’ve been self-employed (via katebagoy.com) for the last few years, as I knew I didn’t want to be in a cubicle anymore.

How did you become a digital nomad?

It started off slowly – first I got permission from my then boss to work remotely, and spent a couple months traveling in the winter. Slowly I gained more freedom as I quit my job, started freelancing, moved across country and then eventually joined Remote Year and left the US in January 2017. The Remote Year program didn’t work for me, so I left, but I’ve continued to travel on my own and recently put my house on the market – furniture and all.

I think once we break the chains that hold us in our daily lives, it becomes easier and easier to make big changes and be comfortable with uncertainty.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle?

Pros: Freedom, travel, year-round summer if you want it, lots of adventure, learning and personal growth, making friends around the world. I’m inspired by travel so I feel more creative when I get to visit new places and I love learning about new cultures. For US citizens, there are some nice tax perks of being abroad as well.

Cons: This life can be exhausting, lonely and challenging. Laundry becomes a luxury, you have limited ability to store and carry possessions so you have to be very mindful of what you buy/need. Some days all I crave is some familiarity.

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for?

To be determined. I think I’m moving towards an expat life with stints of two-three months of travel a couple times per year – that’s my ultimate dream, to have roots and wings… It’s hard to imagine ever just ‘going home’ or going back to a traditional life anywhere… but I’m also at a point where I’d like to find a romantic partner, and that’s challenging on the road, and it would be pretty awesome to have a home base.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?

Commit to making it happen if it’s what you really want – making a decision and taking action is the difference between a wish and a goal.

If you’ve never done it before, check out one of the programs that places people together with a group, or join some Facebook nomad groups and start making friends. Once you make arrangements to leave your current life (house, job, car, etc) and are on the road, it’s much easier to keep going.

Oh, and stop obsessing about packing – you’re gonna get it wrong no matter what you do, so focus your energy on what really matters. Chances are you can find just about anything you forgot to pack where you are going.

Denice Brun, Copywriter

Denice


What is your occupation/job title/company you work for? 

I’m mainly copywriter in my own company, Travel Me Tender, where I find my own clients and work directly for them – writing persuasive copy for the most part but also SEO texts and such. I also do freelance assignments for different subtitling and translation companies – big and small. I’m 100% fluent in Danish and English.

How did you become a digital nomad? 

I saved a lot of money during my time in a digital agency – enough to buy a one-way ticket and to survive the first six months to get everything up and running. That was almost two years ago now. I had the skills (mainly copywriting) and the urge to travel. And the courage it takes to leave everything for the unknown I suppose.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle? 

The cons are definitely the unsure and fluctuating income. And missing my friends and family. Missing out on events back home, both big and small, happy and sad. I’ve missed the birth of my friends’ kids and sadly the death of a grandparent.

The pros are endless! The freedom! The beaches, the sunshine, the independence (also from employers), the flexibility and the happiness that comes with it. The love, the new friendships, the confidence that comes from getting your own business up and running…

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for? 

Indefinitely.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad? 

Find you passion and work on that. Don’t settle for a lousy salary on upwork and such unless you get to learn from the experience or feel like you’d do it even if you weren’t paid. Find customers through your network. Use LinkedIn (97% of my high-end clients comes from my LinkedIn network).

Jayne Bray, Digital Marketer

 Jayne

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for?

I run and own a small digital marketing agency with my partner (boyfriend).

How did you become a digital nomad?

My partner and I went on a six-month trip through the Americas over five years ago, which was the most incredible experience. We returned home with a stronger-than-ever thirst for travel and constantly fantasized about traveling long-term and revisiting some of the places where we had only scratched the surface.

To turn this into a reality we would need an income, so we worked on our skills and looked for opportunities that would allow us to work remotely. My partner and I have backgrounds in digital marketing with different areas of expertise. We were both working for companies that were focused more on sales than providing value to clients, which went against our work ethic.

So, we decided to join forces and start freelancing. After two years of saving money and time to develop our business, off we went with only our carry-on. We’ve been on the road now for two years and have no plans of stopping anytime soon.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle?

Pros:

  • Productivity—We don’t have the same distractions as we did back home, so we’re able to harness all our energy on business and personal development. Not having to adhere to a 9-5 work day allows us to work in bursts throughout the day which helps with our energy, creativity and productivity, so we’re able to deliver a higher level of work.
  • Less expenses and cost of living—Our income is far less than what we were earning back home, however our expenses and cost of living are massively lower, so we can live on less with the same (if not better) better level of comfort and lifestyle.

Cons: For us there really isn’t any major ones, this lifestyle suits us well. No income security (but anything secure in life anyway?)—Our business relies heavily on clients and if we don’t have enough clients than this could all come to an end—this can play havoc on our anxiety levels when we have a bad work week here or there. We’ve been doing this for two years and so far so good, however we are looking to diversify our income.

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for?

No plans to stop anytime soon, so as long as possible.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?

Sometimes it can be scary taking the leap, but set up contingency plans if you main source of income doesn’t work out:

  • Diversify your income.
  • Save for six or 12 months worth of daily budget ie $50 daily budget x 365 days = $18,250
  • Travel slow – By staying in one place for a 1 – 3 months [you get to]:
    • save on transport costs
    • receive long-term accommodation discounts
    • get to know the people and the culture
    • allows you to be more mindful and appreciate more
    • increase productivity and develop a routine – no travel fatigue

Carrie Ann Back, Freelancer

 Carrie

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for?  

I like it to call it a freelancer, in short. I’ve done a lot of things since moving abroad, but I have mainly worked in Gap Year Programs, a Spanish Immersion one, a Pre-Med one, and currently a Pre-Vet one.  I also do other things to supplement my income, teach English online to Children and adults, write, take odd jobs that I find.  Volunteer at places in between gigs that offer free room and board/meals to extend my time!  I’m also trying to be an online therapist. Just find out whether your occupation has a position where you can work remotely (and if it doesn’t try to do it anyways on your own, there must be a way…..).

How did you become a digital nomad?  

Three years ago, I sold everything I had/gave the rest away to charity and embarked on a journey to South America.  My job where I was from wasn’t leaving me fulfilled—I just knew there was more “out there.” My life seemed mundane, I was meeting the same type of people over and over, dating was a nightmare, and my job was laying people off left and right.

So when I got the idea to apply for other jobs, I realized that I didn’t have to stay put. I could literally go anywhere. In the states, Gofundme is a big way to fundraise. When I got accepted to be the Volunteer Director at a School in Chiclayo, Peru, I set one up. A lot of people, friends, family, even strangers, liked that I was following my dreams and doing something a lil crazy, and donated money to me and my cause! So, if it wasn’t for their help, I would probably be working the same lame desk job and doing the 9-to-5 thing.

What are the pros and cons to this lifestyle? 

Pros: My Instagram is pretty nice.  Seriously, I’ve made a lot of memories with a lot of amazing people.  It’s not always easier, or pretty, but that’s what keeps me going. (That and I can’t imagine going back to my home country right now). Some other pros are having and deciding my own work hours, going on adventures that are pretty out of the norm, traveling to exotic places, eating with locals, and working in my underwear.

Cons: It’s sometimes hard to get freelance work, you spend so much time to find a client. Especially now since this lifestyle is becoming more popular, it seems as though there is more competition. It seems like you actually work harder than you did at home, and maybe even more than 40 hours a week sometimes.  Life abroad isn’t pretty, the conditions can wreck havoc on you and your body.  Just a normal task in a developing country can seem exhausting and daunting.  But when you take that extra element out of being “comfortable,” you realize life is pretty manageable without things that you saw as “necessities” in your home country. You miss the comforts of home, foods you can’t find abroad, being sick abroad is an experience within itself, just having friends that are long-term. You learn to be by yourself and not fear it. This is a big one: You learn to have only temporary people in your life, heartbreak still happens. For me, I meet a lot of amazing travelers and nomads, but sometimes I’m in a semi-permanent location and they keep moving and vice versa. So you meet, get close, then one of you leaves. It’s hard to connect and find meaningful relationships/friendships on a deep level if you are constantly moving. So you get used to saying “goodbye” and “hope to see ya again!”

You learn to pack less, own less, experiences become more important to you than things. Life still happens when you move. It’s not going to change your problems.

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for?  

I want to become a citizen of another country, so for life!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?

Don’t come up with excuses why you can’t do it, you’re are not going to having everything planned out exactly.  So sometimes you just got to take the leap, do it, and it’ll always work out in the end!  You can’t plan for everything and that’s the beauty of it!

Alison Ward, Public Relations

 Allison

What is your occupation/job title/company you work for?

Public Relations at Toptal

How did you become a digital nomad? 

I was connected to my current employer, Toptal, via a connection in the Remote Year network. The timing worked out perfectly as I was working for Toptal about two weeks before I started traveling with Remote Year (September 2016). My employer is a leading example of the future of work — we are a 100% distributed team and work hard regardless of where we’re located. I personally enjoy working from coworking spaces as they’re usually quieter than coffee shops and you get to interact with other digital nomads.

What are the pro/cons to this lifestyle?

Being a digital nomad gives you so much perspective. I feel like I grew so much as a person. I am a much calmer, happier individual having worked remotely, abroad. Being a digital nomad can be frustrating at times (i.e. not speaking the local language, not always being able to find a gym, etc.) but it’s all part of the experience.

How long do you intend to be a digital nomad for? 

After taking a much needed break back in the US, I hope to get back to the digital nomad life in early 2018.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a digital nomad?

Be patient with the job search process. It won’t happen instantly. Reach out to any digital nomads you know for advice and build up your skillset (and your savings account) before you travel. I have enjoyed my year as a digital nomad so much and my hope is that everyone will be able to work remotely in five, 10 years time. It truly is the future of work.

About the author of the post
Mary Blackiston is the Content Marketing Specialist for SUCCESS agency.
  • Inspired group of Digital Nomads here Mary! I love blogging; simple to sell products around the clock through the platform. I dig passive income streams versus a service-based channel – most DMs focused on service businesses – because I change time zones so much that coordinating with clients proved to be a pain to me. Enter eBooks and online courses 😉 Earnings around the clock and no scheduling or waking at odd hours necessary. Rocking post.

    Ryan

    • SUCCESS agency

      Totally! Thanks for the feedback, Ryan 🙂 – Mary