Mankind has always been a nomadic species. In our earliest years, we roamed freely from one region to the next, tracking the stars and following the seasons in an effort to hunt, gather and protect our tribes and families from vicious predators. Before the birth of modern civilization, it was commonplace to move about across wide ranges and territories, covering swaths of land and sea from hundreds to thousands of miles apart.
However, as modern society has dawned, and the proverbial rat race has gripped most in a state of the survival of the fittest, and the hedonistic pleasures and impulses to satisfy our sudden urges to keep up with the Jones’ have amplified with each passing decade, the ensuing Hedonic Treadmill has stifled and suffocated most that dream of greener pastures and a life of leisure.
The truth? We spend a lot of our time, energy and financial resources paying for that which we’ve already acquired. And why not? We’re living the American Dream, aren’t we? Get it now and pay for it later. That’s always been the motto. However, it’s that mentality that’s driven a large part of the population into a state of compliance and complacency, unable to extricate themselves from the shackles of debt and their 9-to-5 obligations
Most want to break free of that. Most want to set out on an adventure and explore the world, soaring their wild oats across one continent or the next. They want to bask in the glory of white-sugary-sanded beaches replete with coconut groves and distant horizons filled with shimmering turquoise waters. They want to throw caution to the wind, pack their bags and set out to traverse the planet, taking the ultimate expedition.
However, this isn’t about some simple vacation . This isn’t about taking a temporary reprieve from your obligations and setting out for a few days or even a few weeks. True freedom resides in being able to travel the world by becoming a digital nomad, having no boundaries or borders to abide to, while being able to live and work from anywhere in the world. To most, that is the ultimate goal — the pinnacle in life.
If you’re one of those that dream of the nomadic lifestyle, you’re not alone. But achieving the ability to set out a long-term trip in a far-off land while working as a digital nomad is no easy feat. Unless you’re financially free and are completely living off passive income right now, you’ll need to find a way to make ends meet. The good news? While becoming a digital nomad might seem out of reach to most, it’s actually a rather straightforward goal to accomplish.
How to Become a Digital Nomad
Traveling the globe over the past decade, I’ve become somewhat of a travel sleuth — a pure wanderlust, dead-set on experiencing life outside of my comfort zone, able and willing to travel, roaming free as a bird. But achieving the ability to do that was quite difficult. It meant that I had to experience a tremendous amount of pain if I was serious about living a life of leisure.
In order to achieve my travel dreams, I knew I had to live off of passive income. I didn’t quite know how I was going to do it; I just knew that I was going to do it. No matter what it took, that was the bigger picture for me. And it’s the bigger picture for many people out there.
Passive income, by far, is the most important financial tool that will afford you the freedom to not only receive income automatically, every single month, without fail, but it’ll also give you the means to have a flexible schedule to spend time with your family and children or wander the world as a digital nomad, choosing to work when you please, on your own schedule.
Still, passive income involves a lot of pain. No, I’m not talking about joining some get-rich-quick system by some raving internet marketer “who did it so you can do it too.” Don’t buy into the hype. If you’ve already had a fast one pulled on you, then I apologize. One bad apple certainly can spoil the bunch. And although some internet marketers aren’t entirely ethical, not all of them are like that.
No matter how you achieve your passive income goals, without it, you’ll have a far harder time traveling the world and becoming a digital nomad. If you’re just starting out in a career that enables you to telecommute or do work for clients virtually, then you’re one step ahead. You could potentially spend your time anywhere in the world that could accommodate your longed-after nomadic lifestyle.
However, it isn’t just about passive income. There are definitely digital nomads that live on an active income. If travel is what you’re after, and you’re interested in living, working and immersing yourself in another culture far away from home, you could do it on an active income. It involves jumping through more hoops and flying by the proverbial seat of your pants, but you can do it.
Considering that most destinations that are attractive to digital nomads offer a relatively inexpensive lifestyle with a low cost-of-living and overhead expenses, actually having enough money to spend as you travel isn’t too much of a burden as long as you visit the right places and you’re cautious about your expenses.
The Story Of Nomadic Matt
I knew that if I was going to write about the digital nomad lifestyle, that I needed to speak to the world’s most popular one, who’s garnered the attention of numerous mainstream media outlets and has traveled to over 80 countries and territories, flown hundreds of thousands of miles and discovered that he didn’t need to be rich to travel.
No, Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, wasn’t living off passive income when he set off on a one-year journey that morphed into an 18-month trek in faraway lands. However, upon his return in 2008, and two weeks after the warm glow of being back home in Boston had worn off, he realized that traveling was his passion and that being back home wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
Yet, like other people that are interested in becoming digital nomads, Kepnes knew that he couldn’t simply throw caution to the wind. He needed to find a way to make money while he traveled. He knew he needed to discover a way he could quit his cubicle job. But how would he do it?
Kepnes pondered on this question, tossing around ideas, trying to figure out how he could achieve his goal of constantly traveling the world. One day, the idea dawned on him that he could become a travel writer. That signaled the birth of his website. However, 8 months in of working long, long hours, he seemed to be getting nowhere fast.
What Kepnes realized, and what most others realize who attempt to start a blog, is that it’s monumentally difficult to build a significant following. It takes years and years of hard work. It takes knowledge of things like online marketing and search engine optimization, along with a real passion for writing and conveying value.
Yet, unlike most, Kepnes actually stuck it out. He kept at it. And slowly but surely, he built a following over time, and garnered enormous amounts of interest from people looking to engage in the budget travel and digital nomad lifestyle. He found his calling, created numerous best-selling guidebooks, and built a massive platform in the process. Not many people can claim that.
When I asked him about some of the most important lessons he learned while traveling over the years, here’s what he had to say:
Lesson 1 — It’s not that hard!
Every day, people get up and go out the door to travel the world. And they survive and thrive. In fact, the travel industry has made it very easy to make it. Just get on that plane or train or bus. Everything else will work itself out. All that worrying and fear I had before I left was for naught — this traveling thing is a lot easier than you would believe. It’s not like you are the first person to ever do this, there are plenty of fresh high school graduates on the road too. If they can do it, so can you!
Lesson 2 — You learn a lot of good skills.
Traveling around the world has taught me to how to be more social, adapt, be more flexible, and, most importantly, understand nonverbal communication a lot better. It has helped me figure out situations even when I can’t understand them. It has made me more independent, more open, and, overall, just a better person. There’s no reason to be scared that you might not have “it” in you. You’d be surprised how often you can surprise yourself.
Lesson 3 — You meet some of your closest friends on the road.
Those times I just want to relax and do nothing while traveling are the times I’ve made my closest friends. Whether it was on a boat in Thailand, or walking into a hostel in Spain, when I least expected (or wanted) to meet people was when I met the best. And even though you may not see them for years, you still end up at their wedding, Christmas dinner, or family celebration. Distance and time cannot break the bonds you form on the road.
Lesson 4 — There is no such thing as a mistake.
No matter what happens on the road, it’s never a mistake. As was once said, “your choices are half chances, and so are everybody else’s.” When you go with the flow and let the road just unfold ahead of you, there’s no reason to have regrets or think you made a mistake. You make the best decisions you can and, in the end, the journey is the adventure.
Lesson 5 — People are good.
All over the world, I have encountered amazing people who have not only changed my life but have gone out of their way to help me. It’s taught me that the old saying is true: you can always depend on the kindness of strangers. We grow up in this culture of fear in America that is unrealistic. but 99.999999% of the people in the world aren’t murders, rapists, or thieves. There’s no reason to assume someone is one. Sometimes, people are just trying to be friendly.
5 Steps To Becoming A Digital Nomad
Whether you’re looking to emulate from the success of Kepnes, or you’re simply looking to set out for an extended stay to see how you enjoy living as a digital nomad, there are 5 distinct steps that you need to take before embarking upon your journey. The more attention you pay to the details before you leave, the less headache you’ll have overall in your experience of the nomadic lifestyle.
Step 1 — Reduce and Eliminate Expenses
Considering that most people need a paycheck to ensure that their monthly needs and debt obligations are met, in order to travel the world and live as a digital nomad while still having the cash to pay your bills “back home,” you need to reduce and eliminate as many of your expenses as possible.
This includes things like gym memberships, subscriptions and any other extraneous debt obligations you might have. When you’re on the road, those expenses will weigh you down. If you have to go weeks or months without a steady income, you need to be able to weather that storm, so to speak.
If you have a car, think about selling it. If you rent a home, think about moving all your stuff into storage. Go through all your junk and do a garage sale so that you can simplify your life before heading out. You never actually know when you’ll return back from your journey, so it’s important to do your best at the outset before you leave.
Step 2 – Develop Skills To Work As a Digital Nomad
Anyone who’s heading out on the road needs some serious skills that they can use to work remotely. Without online skills and no passive income, you’d be left merely to working in the local economy, which isn’t the worst thing, but it also won’t afford you with the right amount of income to continue traveling and enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle.
Develop the right set of skills that you can use to work online. You don’t need to start a blog. In fact, doing that will involves years of hard work. But you can write for others or find any other kind of online work through sites like Upwork and Fiverr. In fact, there are numerous ways you can make money online, no matter where you might be traveling to.
The ideal skills would involve anything that can be done from a laptop, remotely. Keep in mind that you’ll likely be working from a vastly different time zone than you’re used to, so if you plan to work as a digital nomad, you need to be flexible enough to work when you have the time and not constrain yourself to some 9-to-5 hours.
Step 3 — Decide On A Destination
You need to decide on an ideal destination as a digital nomad. Where will you go? What will the cost of living be in that destination? How much will it cost you to rent an apartment or eat out at a restaurant? It’s important to not only decide on the destination, but also prepare yourself a budget based on that destination.
There are numerous resources that you can use to decide on the ideal destination as a nomad. For example, sites like Nomad List and Momondo can help you narrow down the choices. But it’s best to do your due diligence and look into the safety, security and quality of life in each of the destinations on your short list.
Depending on the type of experience and budget you’re targeting, any number of destinations from Eastern Europe to Asia and even Central or South America might work out for you. It all depends on what you’re after. Be sure to do extensive research before setting out so that you know what you have in store for yourself.
Step 4 — Set Goals And Create A Plan
Goal setting is an important aspect of life no matter what our future hopes or dreams might be, but especially so for living as a digital nomad. You need to get clear about what you want. Not only where will you go. But how long will you stay and what will you do while you’re there.
You need to figure out how you’ll support yourself and what’ll happen if you can’t make ends meet. What’s your Plan B? What about your Plan C? Things don’t always work out the way that we want them to work out, but as long as we put the proper plan in place, we can achieve what we focus on.
There are so many concerns such as healthcare and insurance that we often fail to think about all the small details that can interrupt our trips. How will we communicate if we have to go to a hospital in a foreign land? How will we navigate the local laws and regulations to do just about anything in our intended destinations?
Step 5 — Join A Digital Nomad Community
The final step in becoming a digital nomad is to join a community. Get out there and communicate with others that are already living the lifestyle. Their firsthand experience can prove to be an invaluable tool, not only in the planning stages, but also when you first arrive.
There are loads of communities that you can tap into, such as the Couch Surfing community and numerous others. These are all people that are living to travel and largely enthralled in a laptop lifestyle. What they might have to say could help you out in a number of situations.
The so-called expat community is large and thriving, which forms the basis for most digital nomad clusters and groups in the most popular cities in the world such as in Chiang Mai, Buenos Aires or Budapest, just to name a few examples. Tap into this thriving community to get the answers to the most pressing questions about living and working as a digital nomad and you’ll be surprised at the quality of information that comes back.
This article was written by R.L. Adams from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.