photo by coworkation.com
Have you ever considerd traveling the world to explore beauty across the globe, meet new people, but still earn a living?
Then I suggest you try living as a digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad? It’s really just a new way of saying you are a location-independent entrepreneur, with the ability to travel and work online wherever you desire.
That’s me. I work exclusively online so I can have location independence. I like my freedom and I like living in new places.
Now, nomad living is not for everyone. And sometimes I don’t even know if I’m cut out for it. And I’ve been traveling this globe for nearly 17 years now. I think you need to either have or develop a certain mindset to live on the road.
- Learn to let go of things you love and frequently adjust your dreams.
- Be able to adjust your plans constantly. Avoid limiting yourself by planning months ahead.
- Be ok with running into a lot of technical difficulties.
HERE ARE THE 7 BIGGEST CHALLENGES (+ solutions) YOU'LL ENCOUNTER
1) Problem: Spotty Internet Connection
Good internet is almost everywhere, right? Wrong!
Connectivity dominates my life. As a coach I have to be online at certain times for Skype calls and I have to be in an area that has sufficient internet, mostly in the middle of the night.
So while we all see these romantic images of people by a pool or a beach, all too often I find myself on a hilltop with my phone strapped to a stick so I can hot spot the 3G because the rain killed the wifi.
I actually have a little pillow with me that makes sitting on a rock for several hours at a time more comfortable.
You will learn that your wifi actually depends on the weather. It seems to go down with the rain.
- Be prepared. Travel slowly. Do your research first and make sure you have backup plans, meaning you need to identify the hot spots near you so you can seamlessly run your business.
- Having my phone’s 3G as a backup to a hot spot has been a life saver many times.
- Go for a walk and figure out where the 3G is the strongest. Know your reception angles.
- Make sure that your clients are aware of your lifestyle and wifi challenges (you can adjust your price accordingly and live more stress free).
2) Problem: Staying in touch internationally
Your phone does not work everywhere and the international roaming rates are astronomical.
- Get a local sim card everywhere you go. You want to be able to make local calls and the ability to hotspot your computer when the local wifi is spotty.
- Before you leave, make sure your phone is unlocked. You want to buy a local sim card with an internet package upon arrival. This will makes your life a whole lot easier. You can access mobile apps and maintain your productivity.
- Do a little research first and ask fellow travelers which providers have networks with the widest range. There are websites with this information, but I don’t find them very reliable. Word of mouth from traveling experts works best.
For example, I live in an area of Thailand with three beaches. One network provider only works in one of the beaches–and not very well. The other one has really great reception (hotspot-worthy for Skype calls) from one beach and on all the hilltops.
This means I usually get a place on the beach with the 3G reception so I can work from home. Otherwise I will always have to run up and down the hill for calls, which is a pain in the ass in the middle of the night. Not to mention the creatures of the night (aka snakes) are very unpleasant.
Magical apps for seamless connectivity:
Google voice – My US-based number is set up via Google Voice. My entire business runs through that number and I have access to it from everywhere via their app. I don’t miss a single call or text. EVER!
WhatsApp – Amazing app with by far the best location share features–far superior to google map. Make sure you keep you Whatsapp to ONE phone number for ALL your contacts. I have mine set to my US number. This way no matter how often I change my local sim card, my contacts will ALWAYS find me on there. There is also a great desktop extension now. Plus I love leaving voice messages on whatsapp. I don’t want to type everything I say.
Facetime + iMessage (iPhone users only) – Keep them set to your email address at all times. This way people have your contact in their phone via your iCloud email. This keeps calls and iMessages consistent independent from your local phone number and sim. Facetime audio and video is free, and often works better than Skype or Google Hangout.
Facebook Messenger – Thank you for letting us now call each other on there as well. It completely eliminates the need to exchange local numbers between traveling friends, and it works fairly well. I would not recommend it for work calls. Voice messages on FB messenger are also amazing. I love hearing people’s voices when you travel and can’t see them. It’s nice to hear your friend’s voice from time to time.
Viber – Always a great backup. A real headache for those of us who frequently change sim cards since it is complicated to register your device each time.
And don’t forget to do a DIGITAL DETOX for 24 hours every week.
Voluntary or not. Go to the beach. Enjoy the day. Take a digital detox day. Don’t sweat it if you cannot get connected. Learn the art of surrender and going with the flow.
3) Problem: Protecting Gadgets and Data
My life revolves around my computer. And I’m often in places where nothing can be replaced easily. I’ve learned the hard way that you’ve got to protect your gadgets. The humidity has killed many of my hard drives.
- Buy well known brands with warranty + insurance. Most companies honor these internationally.
- Have more than one device (laptop + tablet + phone).
- Keep them all in proper sleeves that protect them from the elements and do not leave them lying around open.
- Keep rice bags in the sleeves (or the little bags you find in dry goods. They work great as well and will absorb the moisture).
- Get a wet bag when near a beach or (like me) constantly traveling on a boat.
- Make sure you have AC from time to time – it removes the moisture from your luggage.
- Use a keybord cover to protect your keys from sand and spilled drinks.
- Get one international adaptor.
Back up your stuff:
Just keep everything on a cloud server. Personally, I have everything saved between my Google drive and Dropbox. I travel with two hard drives – one to give to people to exchange stuff, and the second forlocal backups, just in case.
Make your life easy and keep everything on a cloud server. You gadgets will fail at some point.
4) Problem: One Way Tickets + Visas
When buying a one way ticket, I get often annoyed with some countries’ strict policies of having an onward ticket. Not because I try to overstay my allowance, but because I really cannot plan 30 days in advance most of the time.
Solution: Buy a 48-hour refundable ticket the day before you enter the country OR best hack ever: flyonward.com
If you want to stay longer start considering visa runs. I usually pick a home base in one area and then see the surrounding countries during a week I take off to get a new 30 or 60 day visa. I visit friends and see the rest of the world.
I am not a backpacker anymore. I need a home base. You do however start developing a bit of destination boredom. Luxury problems.
5) Problem: Feeling Homeless After a While
One of the biggest problems people face while traveling is the alienation of not having a space to call your own. Hotel rooms (Airbnb, hostels, or wherever else you may choose to stay) tend to have cookie cutter furniture and decorations that are seriously impersonal or simply just not your space.
Solution: Make yourself at home wherever you go.
I recommend you unpack as soon as you arrive and transform the room into your own space.
Bring some lightweight decorations and amenities you can put in the room. I always travel with scarves, sarongs, and a little travel altar. As soon as I arrive, they come out and get placed over TVs, shelves, and walls. This way I’m always looking at things that are familiar, pleasant, and make me feel at home. Whatever you choose to bring, whether it be crystals, pictures, or whatever, make sure it’s something dear to you that makes you feel safe and comfortable.
6) Problem: Limited WARDROBE and Possessions:
I don’t travel with a backpack. I have a small and lightweight suitcase. I carry a small backpack sufficient for a week-long adventure for a visa run and enough straps for my yoga mat. My wardrobe is small and basic. When traveling, you really wear your clothes to the ground. Problems may arise when you are invited to a formal event, and you most likely have nothing to wear.
Buy what you need, as you need it. Buy what makes you feel happy and leave something behind in its place behind. In my Facebook profile I always seems to be wearing the same clothes – because I am. But I’m ok with that because it gives me freedom to live the life that I want, without being weighed down with unnecessary possessions.
There are things I'm very protective of because they cannot easily be replaced:
- My passport
- My shoes (I have big feet and in most countries cannot buy new ones)
- My computer
- My phone
- My yoga mat
- My ATM card
7) Other Common Annoyances + Solutions
Problem: Bank fees are costly.
Solution: Take out cash in each country via ATM and get a good credit card that lets you use it without foreign transaction fees.
Problem: Travel partners that don’t work.
Solution: Just avoid it. They mess with your sense of freedom and workflow.
Problem: Having to think about an address upon immigration.
Solution: I make sure my destination has a Four Seasons or otherwise well-known resort and use that on every immigration form, and use flyonward.com if you don’t actually know where you are going next.
Problem: Unfamiliar noises. Like being woken up by roosters.
Solution: Get up with the roosters and do yoga…Or get a really good set of earplugs.
Traveling seamlessly rarely exists. There is always a problem with the ticket, the place, the sim card, the internet, the location… And life can get really hard very fast. As a digital nomad we still work. We sometimes work a lot under really shitty conditions. But we love it anyway.
Feel free to add comments or questions below.
Much love from the road,
p.s. this wonderful picture was taken by coworkation.com. Check them out if you are interested in this lifestyle.