What is a digital nomad? A digital nomad is someone who works remotely while living a location-independent lifestyle. The digital nomad lifestyle is certainly trending—especially since the pandemic—as more people embrace the freedom and flexibility of remote work.
So what makes a digital nomad different from a remote worker? To me, the key difference is that digital nomads tend to travel more frequently or live a backpacker lifestyle.
I’ve spent one year as a remote worker and a year and a half (and counting) as a digital nomad. As a remote worker, I lived in Barcelona and hardly traveled outside of Spain (although to be fair, this was during the pandemic).
Once I left Barcelona I transitioned into the digital nomad lifestyle which I prefer much more. Now I move countries every month or two, basing my criteria on where the sun is shining, the surrounding nature, and where there is a good digital nomad community.
I started my journey in the U.S. then went to Central America, Europe, North Africa, Asia, and then back to Europe. During this time I’ve found some truly incredible second homes and have created a list of all my favorite locations that I’ll share with you.
If you want to learn how to become a digital nomad, how to find remote work, and where the best digital nomad hotspots are, keep reading!
This post includes affiliate links, which means that I may receive commission if you make a purchase through the links (at no additional cost to you).
How to become a digital nomad
Step 1: Find Remote Work
The trickiest part of becoming a digital nomad is finding remote work. However, there are many different options; you can find a full-time job, or something part-time while you also freelance, or take the entrepreneur route and start your own business.
Here are a list of the most popular digital nomad jobs and some entry-level options.
Popular Digital Nomad Jobs
- Marketing Manager
- Sales Rep
- Graphic Designer
- Software Developer
- Website Designer
- Career Coach
- Project Manager
Remote Work Entry-Level Jobs
- Data Entry Clerk
- Social Media Manager
- Call Center Agent
- Customer Service Representative
- Freelance Writer
- Freelance Illustrator
- Administrative Assistant
- Virtual Assistant
How do you find remote work?
Job sites like Indeed, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PowerToFly are all great starting points for finding remote work. You can use their filters to change the location options to remote and go from there. Some job sites that are specifically geared toward remote jobs are Remote.co, FlexJobs, and We Work Remotely.
If you are interested in freelancing I would recommend Fiverr because all you have to do is create an offer and the clients will come to you. In comparison with Upwork, you have to apply to each freelance gig and it takes a lot of your time.
If you are having a hard time finding anything and are eager to start traveling, signing up for a work exchange program is also a great option. These are very easy “jobs” to get and a low cost way to begin your travel journey.
Step 2: Create Your Travel Plan
If you are traveling alone, I highly recommend choosing digital nomad hotspots so you can quickly find a community. These destinations also tend to have a low cost of living, co-working spaces and colivings, amazing food, fun nightlife, and great weather.
My favorite digital nomad destinations
- Bansko, Bulgaria (Europe)
- Once you begin traveling as a digital nomad you won’t stop hearing about Bansko. Almost everyone raves about this place and after living there for two months I definitely see why. The community at Coworking Bansko is unbeatable, the nearby nature is incredible, the town is cute and safe, and the cost of living is very low.
- I prefer to come to Bansko in April-September when the sun is shining, you can hike/climb in the mountains, there are fewer people, and the town is calm. However, if you prefer a party ski/snowboard scene, definitely come during the winter season.
- Recommendations: Four Leaf Clover Coliving (for the cheapest option), Bansko Nomad Apartments, and Coworking Bansko.
- Chiang Mai, Thailand (Southeast Asia)
- Another famous digital nomad spot is Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. I love Chiang Mai because of the international community, endless amount of cute cafes (with incredible coffee), great options for coliving and coworking spaces, incredible food, low cost of living, friendly locals, and endless activities.
- Recommendations: Alt Coliving and working at these coffee shops.
- Barcelona, Spain (Europe)
- This isn’t a classic digital nomad destination (perhaps more of a remote workers hotspot) but it is still one of my favorite second homes. It is definitely more expensive than other places but still cheaper than the U.S. and most of Europe. Barcelona has great weather, an international airport for weekend trips, the beach, lots of cafes and coworkings, and great nightlife.
- Recommendations: using Idealista to find an apartment and this blog for coffee shops with wifi.
- Hoi An, Vietnam (Southeast Asia)
- Hoi An is not as famous but I bet in the next few years it will be as popular as Chiang Mai. This French-influenced beach town is rich with history, offers incredible food, great cafes, endless activities, and everything is very cheap.
- Recommendation: Hub Hoi An Coliving and Coworking.
Other great digital nomad locations
These are other popular destinations for digital nomads, remote workers, and expats.
Madeira, Portugal (Europe)
Highlights: huge digital nomad community, lots of coworking spaces and colivings, plenty of adventure activities, beautiful nature, great climate, friendly locals, and safe
Downsides: coworking spaces and colivings are expensive and you’re isolated
Tenerife, Spain (Europe)
Highlights: great weather, surfing, friendly locals, lots to do, beautiful nature, island life, and safe
Downsides: coworking spaces and colivings are expensive, you’re isolated, and lots of tourism
Medellin, Colombia (Latin America)
Highlights: amazing food, low cost of living, lots of coworking spaces and coffee shops, huge digital nomad community, vibrant nightlife, warm weather, and lots to do
Downsides: can’t drink tap water, unsafe areas, catcalling, noisy city, and very spread out
Mexico City, Mexico (Latin America)
Highlights: low cost of living, delicious cuisine, lots of coffee shops and coworking spaces, lively nightlife, plenty to do, great weather, and lots of expats
Downsides: unsafe areas, catcalling, huge/busy city, and can’t drink tap water
Bali, Indonesia (Southeast Asia)
Highlights: great food, cheap, lots to do, beautiful nature, fun nightlife, and safe
Downsides: very touristic, can’t walk anywhere (must use motorbike), coworking spaces and colivings are expensive, can’t drink tap water, and you’ll probably get Bali belly
Florianópolis, Brazil (Latin America)
Highlights: hippie vibes, low cost of living, great food, friendly locals, beautiful nature, beaches, and great nightlife
Downsides: not great for solo female travelers, certain areas are unsafe, and can’t drink tap water
Split, Croatia (Europe)
Highlights: low cost of living, safe, great seafood, beautiful historic city, and nearby nature
Downsides: lots of tourism, not a huge international community, and boring in the winter
Tamarindo, Costa Rica (Latin America)
Highlights: surfing, fun nightlife, lots of expats, great food, and activities
Downsides: very touristic, expensive, hard to find community, and humid
Taghazout, Morocco (North Africa)
Highlights: backpacker/beach vibes, great surf, cheap, and yummy food
Downsides: catcalling, very hot, can’t drink tap water, and less safe than other places
Lisbon, Portugal (Europe)
Highlights: so many digital nomads, low cost of living, great weather, lots of cafes and coworking spaces, and fun nightlife
Downsides: very hilly, lots of tourists, and not the best customer service
Antigua, Guatemala (Latin America)
Highlights: safest town in Guatemala, low cost of living, lots of digital nomads, great food, beautiful nature, and cute architecture
Downsides: can’t drink tap water and hard to travel locally (other parts of Guatemala are unsafe)
Puerto Escondido, Mexico (Latin America)
Highlights: great surfing, amazing food, low cost of living, and backpacker/beach vibes
Downsides: very hot/humid, touristic, catcalling, and can’t drink tap water
Tbilisi, Georgia (Europe)
Highlights: gorgeous nature, huge digital nomad community, low cost of living, many coworking spaces and colivings, lots of events
Downsides: coworking and colivings are expensive and winters are very cold
Budapest, Hungary (Europe)
Highlights: low cost of living, great nightlife, safe, lots of expats, and easy to travel from here
Downsides: winters are freezing and it’s hard to find affordable housing
Finding accommodation in a foreign city can feel overwhelming which is why people often opt for AirBnB or Booking.com. These are reliable and easy options but also the most expensive. If you do some research on the city you will find Facebook Groups or other websites that offer cheaper places to stay.
There is also the coliving route which is ideal for meeting other digital nomads. Unfortunately, it is always more expensive than renting your own place.
Where do digital nomads work?
The most common spot for digital nomads to work is in coworking spaces. A coworking is a shared office space where you can meet other digital nomads and remote workers. They tend to have excellent internet connection, free coffee, and events for coworking members.
Other options for digital nomads are to work in cafes with free wifi or to work from home.
Do I need travel insurance or health insurance abroad?
Check if your regular insurance covers you abroad before you buy travel insurance. If you are not covered abroad, there are digital nomad travel insurance companies such as SafetyWing that offers fairly inexpensive plans.
It’s really a personal decision whether to get travel insurance or not. I feel as if I don’t need it when I’m in Europe because it is very safe and I’m not putting myself in risky situations. However, I bought travel insurance when I was in Southeast Asia for fear of dengue fever, motorbike accidents, and food poisoning.
Step 3: Get Packing
You certainly don’t need this whole list of supplies, these are just some suggestions of digital nomad travel supplies that I’ve found useful. Especially when you are working in airports, coffee shops, and other random locations, there are certain travel accessories that will make your life a lot easier.
My favorite digital nomad travel essentials
These are great quality and cheap (compared to Sony or Apple headphones). Perfect for working in busy places and sleeping in hostels/airplanes.
I can fit double the amount of clothes in my backpack with these packing cubes. If you’re trying to travel light these are essential.
Super comfortable and great for working in busy places and sleeping in hostels/airplanes.
Posture is huge for me so having an adjustable laptop stand is amazing for keeping my back straight and not spending the day hunched over. It also makes it easy to work standing up.
I love reading and while I prefer a physical book, it’s just not possible when I’m trying to travel light. A Kindle is great for saving space and having access to thousands of books.
65 liter backpack
The ideal backpack size is 65 liters so that you can bring it as a carry on for planes (which saves you around 60 USD, or more, each flight) but still has enough room for all your essentials. Osprey is my favorite brand, their backpacks are reliable, comfortable, and last forever.
Portable charger for laptop
This is a life saver when you are working at coffee shops or working on a plane/train/bus. They are expensive but worth the investment.
I love cooking and packing my own lunches no matter where I am. Silicone tupperware containers are perfect because you can squish them into your bag and they won’t take up much space. I only travel with one and I’ve found that it’s enough.
Every backpacker/traveler/digital nomad needs a belt bag. They are so easy to travel with and they can double as a cute “going out” purse. Lululemon has the most popular belt bag but there are cheaper options that work just as well.
As someone who tends to pack her own snacks these reusable silicone ziplocs are perfect. They are lightweight, have a tight seal, and save plastic! I bring them to work, use them for airport snacks, and for hikes.
More digital nomad travel essentials
- TSA approved travel containers
- Travel pillow
- Water filter straw
- Great if you travel to Latin America, Asia, or Africa
- You’ll obviously need one of these for remote working but everyone has their own preferences. I’ve noticed people in Marketing (like me) prefer the Mac while software developers prefer Dell, Asus, or Microsoft.
- Universal travel adaptor
- Bluetooth keyboard
- Many people with laptop stands use a separate keyboard for comfort. I wouldn’t recommend this if you are traveling with a backpack (it’ll be too big) but if you have a large suitcase then it would be a good fit.
- Toiletry bag with hook
- Blackout eye mask
- Pill case
- Credit card without foreign transaction fees
- In the United States, some great credit card options for travelers are Chase Sapphire, United Explorer, or a Charles Schwab debit card.
Only three steps?
Three may not seem like a lot of steps to becoming a digital nomad but the truth is that it is a lot easier than people make it out to be. Many see a digital nomad lifestyle as unreal or impractical but the truth is that you can make it a very sustainable way of life. The hardest part is finding an online job but once you have this then the rest is fairly easy.
The nomad life certainly isn’t for everyone but if you are passionate about traveling, breaking out of your comfort zone, and exploring the world, then you will make it work.
Pros & cons of the digital nomad life
- Personal growth
- Cultivate problem-solving abilities, interpersonal and communication skills, new perspectives, insights on relationships, and learn so much about yourself.
- Lower cost of living
- Of course, this depends on where you are coming from. I’m from California so basically anywhere else I go will be cheaper.
- Meet amazing and unique people
- See the world
- Learn about other cultures
- Choose your own office
- Feeling of complete freedom
- Creative inspiration
- Lack of stability
- I personally don’t feel this way but I know some who do. I think the key is sticking to a daily routine.
- I also view lack of stability as a positive, this is a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
- Far away from family and hometown friends
- Time zone changes
- This makes it harder to talk to people back home and can cause work problems.
- Mental exhaustion from being in new cultures and places
- I hesitate to put this here because I don’t believe you are more prone to feeling lonely as a digital nomad. I know plenty of people who are lonely and living at home, never traveling.
- Everyone experiences loneliness in a unique way but I personally believe that if you are in digital nomad hotspots, staying at hostels or colivings, or at a coworking, then you won’t be lonely.
- Also, being alone is a huge catalyst for self-development. So don’t be afraid of being alone, sometimes it is exactly what you need!
The bottom line
For me, the pros of being a digital nomad heavily outweigh the cons but everyone is different.
I’m certainly not advocating for everyone to be a digital nomad, I think everyone should live whatever lifestyle makes them the happiest. There is no right way to live your life.
This article is for those who are curious about the digital nomad life but feel too scared to take the next step. If you’re feeling this way I’d say go for it, I promise it’s not as scary as it seems. Take the first step, see if you can find an online job, and take it from there. You’ll be so glad you did.
If you liked this blog, you might also be interested in these: Work Exchange Programs, Solo Female Travel 2023, and Solo Travel Tips 2023.
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