Table of Contents
- Build a Freelancing Persona
- Buy Your Airfare Tickets
- Check With Your Bank
- Book Places to Stay
- Figure Out Visa Options
- Get a SIM Card
- Find a Coworking Space
- Be Careful
- Time to Travel the World! Have Fun!
Ever since I was a kid, I always had dreams to travel the world. I wanted to explore firsthand every one of the exotic locations that I saw in movies. This desire endured through my college days and was even strong enough to shape my career decisions. I was determined to find a line of work that would allow me to go wherever, whenever.
My degree was in Graphic Design, and after two loathsome years of working in corporate America, I began researching career paths that would facilitate location fluidity and stumbled upon the term “digital nomad”.
“That’s an interesting word”, I thought to myself.
Upon further digging, I found that there was an entire online community for digital nomads … and that there were a lot of them. What’s a digital nomad? It’s basically someone who leverages the remote nature of their work to perpetually travel (hence the “nomad”). I thought that was just about the coolest thing ever, and then quickly connected the dots to realize that graphic design was very conducive to being done in a remote capacity.
I quit my job, started working remotely and then went on to travel to places like Spain, France, Turkey, Japan, and more for months at time. I even spent a day working from the Istanbul hotel where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express. I balanced work with exploring beautiful and exotic locations, and meeting fun and amazing people.
As COVID eases into resolution and travel opportunities reemerge, wouldn’t you like to venture off and see the world? If so, here are some guiding steps based on how I did it.
1. Build a Freelancing Persona
The first thing I did was join Upwork. If you’ve not heard of it, Upwork is an exchange platform that connects freelancers with clients. They take a lot of the stressful administrative work off your plate, and allow you to focus on delivering your clients. Upload a photo, fill out your profile with a compelling pitch and list of your experiences, and then start submitting proposals!
Upwork is heavily driven by client testimonials, both in the way their algorithm works for search placement, and for awarding helpful badges and achievements. So the trick is to find a few small, cheap-o projects that you can do quickly, AND that you can knock out of the park. Win the contract, do the work well, get the testimonial, and you’re off to the races.
Depending on the nature of your skills, you might also want to check out Fiverr, another freelancing platform based on offering more specific services.
And this isn’t to say that Freelancing is the only option—it’s just the way I did it. Other options include starting a remote business, developing passive incomes, or taking your 9-to-5 on the road with you. And retirees! What better time to explore the world?
2. Buy Your Airfare Tickets
Where do you want to go first? This is always the most exciting part of being a digital nomad. If you’d like to browse through countries that are most conducive to the digital nomad lifestyle, I recommend checking out Nomad List. They rank countries around the world based on factors that nomads care about—wifi quality, cost of living, quality of co-working spaces, and so forth. If you would rather a digitalized version of throwing a dart at a map, you can check out Skyscanner. They have an option under destinations that says “flexible” that will provide you with a list of varied destinations sorted by price. I’ve made travel decisions based on which country was the cheapest to fly to.
Once you’re ready to purchase a ticket, I recommend either purchasing through Skyscanner or Google Flights. They’ll aggregate results from several airlines at once to present the cheapest options available.
P.s. Don’t do this at 3 in the morning after a bottle of wine (which is definitely not what I did…👀). Choose your destination with care.
3. Check in with Your Bank
You’ll want to let your bank know about your travel plans so that they don’t flag your card when they see purchases being made from Spain, France, or whatever country you’re spending money in.
Also, check and see what your bank charges for foreign ATM withdrawals. If it’s costly, you may not end up notwithdrawingg cash as much as you would at home. When I first started traveling, I was paying $10 to the bank every time I withdrew cash.
In that same vein, check and see what the bank charges for foreign transactions. With the wrong bank, several small purchases throughout the day can become costly. If the fees are too stiff with your current bank, then it may be worth switching things up before you depart.
4. Book Places to Stay
I used AirBNB for this, with the occasional hotel room or hostel sprinkled in. If you can find apartments via local listings, that’s often the cheapest, but if you’re planning on staying less than three months, then AirBNB is the easiest option. Most hosts offer a substantial monthly discount, so staying one place for at least 30 days is financially preferential.
Filter your searches to ensure amenities such as “WIFI” and “a place to work”, such as a desk. Working on a bed is no fun, and it’ll kill your posture. If it’s a private room in somebody’s house, make sure that you’re aware of their rules and assess whether they’ll work with your desired lifestyle.
Once you’re actively traveling, the “Instant Book” feature is a life-saver when you’re living exceptionally spontaneously. Just make sure that the host seems responsive. I’ve had a couple hiccups where I using an “Instant Book” for a place I needed for THAT NIGHT, only to be met with an unresponsive host and no directions as to where to go. Their customer service is great, but it’s still a hassle you don’t need.
5. Figure Out Visa Options
If you have ambitions to perpetually travel the world, then visa restrictions will play a major role in the durations of your trips. Most countries have an automatic tourist visa that’s issued when you set foot on their soil. The EU offers a 90-day tourist visa, which represents the maximum amount of time you can spend in any member State within a 180-day period.
Mexico, Panama, and other Central American countries offer a 6-month tourist visa.
Some countries on the other hand require you to obtain a visa prior to entering. Most offer this service on their respective government websites, so it’s just a matter of knowing before you book the flight.
If you would like to stay in a particular location longer that the tourist visa allows, then you’ll have to apply for a different visa, often from your home country. Some countries make it easier than others—Spain offers a two year entrepreneurial visa, and Germany offers a self-employed visa. And the United Arab Emirates just recently introduced a remote worker visa. All require additional work, but they are certainly obtainable.
When going through any Customs checkpoint, you are on “vacation”. Tourist visas are not not intended to host remote workers. It’s usually not heavily enforced, but it’s also not something you want to go shouting from the rooftops. Some Customs Agents may ask for an onward ticket, to prove you actually have plans to leave the country. While this is not common, it’s something worth preparing for—just in case. Companies like OnwardFly will sell you temporary plane tickets that you can buy right before you land. They’ll be “good”, aka “scannable”, for a small amount of time before they cancel the ticket.
How’s that for a #travelhack?
6. Get a SIM Card
A SIM card will set you up with call & data plan through one of the local carriers. Most airports will have kiosks in the Arrivals Terminal, and they’ll usually help you set it up in-store (trying to set a plan up on your own is quite difficult when done in a language you’re not fluent in).
You may be tempted just to stick with WIFI, but having access to data gives you access to Google Maps (very handy when navigating foreign cities) and Emails/Client Calls—in case you plan on being away from your work space for a while but want to remain responsive. And if you’re an Instagram addict like me, you can post all of your envy-inducing travel pictures in real-time.
Monthly prices vary based on location and the cost of living, but in general you can expect to pay between $20.00 USD to $70.00 USD, depending on your desired data limit.
If you are planning on perpetually traveling, then make sure that you have a consistent phone number through an app, or alert your clients that you will no longer be available by the phone number they have for you.
7. Find a Co-Working Space (optional)
I recommend finding a co-working space wherever you land for a number of reasons:
- Faster and more consistent WIFI
- You can make friends and connections with other remote workers
- Prevents your from being a burden on your host’s utility bills
- Enables your to learn more about where you are
- Free coffee most of the time
- Prevents you from feeling isolated
Other options for work locations besides your temporary home include coffee shops, hotel bars/cafes, and organized “co-working” days which you can learn about through apps such as Meetup, or websites like Facebook and Eventbrite.
Make sure that your workspace is flexible with odd hours, as you may have to work based on whichever timezone your clients are in. I regularly worked until 2AM when I was in Istanbul and working with a long-term client in California.
8. Be Careful
Be sure that you keep your wits about you. Regardless of how long you plan on staying, you are still a visitor and this makes you a prime target for scammers and thieves. I’ve been stolen from twice: the first time in Barcelona; they got away with a laptop and camera. The second time, also in Barcelona, they stole a wallet which I was thankfully able to get back. Take the precautions you would take in any major city when out in a crowd, or inside restaurants and bars.
Some countries have higher crime rates than others, so be aware of that before you go, and treat the situation accordingly when you go.
Also observe the local laws. The severity of legal punishment varies by country, and something that would be met with a slap on the wrist in your home country may be much more serious in another.
9. Lastly, Have Fun! Travel the World
You’re living the dream—traveling wherever you want and making money while you do it! Make sure you dedicate enough time for exploring the amazing places you’ll get to go. Get to know the locals, make friends, find parties to go to, see all the attractions … just soak it all in.
And with the Pandemic pushing so many businesses online, more people than ever will have the chance to work while traveling. Imagine doing your 9-to-5 from a beach town in Mexico, or a cafe in Paris? Not a bad idea, right?
So if you decide that this lifestyle is for you, happy traveling! Let us know in the comments where you plan on heading first.