Last year, I visited over 29 cities across 11 countries.
I've been on 45+ flights, stayed in more than 40 Airbnbs , and spent over 250 days on the road.
And until recently when somebody asked me where I lived, I drew a blank. How could I sum up that for 2 months last spring I bounced between Malta, Greece and France?
That I work for a company in Austin, but my family is in Vancouver and I spent the summer in the US, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador?
And that none of this travel was traditional "traveling"?
Because when you're travelling, you have somewhere to return to at the end of your trip. And that wasn't my case. So, I'd stutter out the best answer I could:
I live and work as a digital nomad.
What Is a Digital Nomad?
If you've ever read an article about quitting your job to travel the world, you might understand why this concept is so popular.
A digital nomad can work from anywhere as long as they have a wifi connection.
Focus on the term "nomad". They don't live anywhere in particular, and instead travel while working.
If that sounds awesome, that's because it is.
But if you're reading this sipping cold coffee from your office job's desk, you might be wondering how (and whether) it's possible.
And it is. I'm proof.
There are two ways to become a digital nomad:
- Working for a company. I work with a company and own my own business. Many companies are okay with remote workers but would prefer them to live a stationary lifestyle.
- Owning a location independent business. This type of lifestyle is usually reserved for professional bloggers, freelancers, coaches, those who sell digital products and have service-based businesses. Your business has to be an online business.
You can't be a digital nomad without working. Otherwise, you'd just be a nomad (or a long-term traveller, vagabond, whatever). In fact, my kind tend to work just as much (if not more) than everybody with a traditional office job.
So if you've been sold the story that you can quit your job, start a blog, book a one-way plane ticket and live happily ever after, reality check:
Digital Nomads Don't Get a Free Pass to Work Less
Let's revisit those numbers up there really quickly:
29 cities. 11 countries. 40 airbnbs. 250+ days on the road.
And only one of these trips was a "vacation".
During that time, I've written over 30 articles for Sumo, 11 for Unsettle, and nearly 20 that have been guest posted on places like Foundr, Smart Passive Income, and Huffington Post.
- I sent out my most profitable sales email ever in Santorini, Greece.
- I wrote my most popular article I've ever written (about Instagram marketing), raking in over 7,600 emails when I was in Cusco, Peru.
- And in Colombia, I reviewed so many websites for conversion rate optimization that I lost my voice.
So most digital nomads don't work any less than those who go to an office every day.
Not every digital nomad works so hard, as many prefer to travel to cheaper countries. That's ok, too. But the crux of digital nomadism is that digital part.
So now that you have a more of a realistic view of digital nomadism, you might want to know how to do it, too.
The 3 Ways to Travel Full-Time While Working
There are two ways to become a digital nomad.
1. Go Remote
So if you're already working for a company, and you want to continue to be employed, you can stick with your current company or find other remote work.
If you request remote work and your company doesn't support it, you'll have to pound the pavement for a remote job.
If remaining employed isn't for you and you'd rather start your own business so you don't have to report to a boss, that's an option too.
2. Start a Business
So you want to be your own boss.
If you learn about marketing and market yourself properly, you can launch a business that will allow you to travel full time without spending a ton of money or needing any "capital".
- Launch a service: It's not unrealistic to offer a service that earns $3,000-$4,000 within a few months as long as you are willing to put yourself out there. What are you good at? How can you pivot your skills into a service that you can offer online? You don't need a website, a blog, or even an email list to launch a service. You just need to know how to get clients (which is easier than it sounds).
- Start a product business: Products don't have to tie you down. The best products for digital nomads are digital products, like online courses, membership sites, or ebooks. Your business needs to have a group of people to sell the product to, which means starting a blog or even just an email list with a simple landing page.
- Start an ecommerce business: Have a fulfillment company package and ship orders for you like Fulfillment by Amazon, build your business around drop-shipping so you never have to have inventory in the first place, or hire an inventory manager. You can even start an Etsy shop that sells digital products.
Having a hard time finding a business idea? Click here to get my free course to find the perfect idea.
But before you get excited and type up your resignation letter for your boss, I highly recommend you reconsider.
Don't Just Quit Your Job, Start a Business and Book a One Way Ticket
There are stories all over the internet of grand gestures of rebellion. People just quitting their jobs, starting a fledgling online business and booking a one way ticket to the hottest destination.
And while this makes for a good story,
"Burning the ships" sounds exciting… until you realize that you're stuck in another country with no money in the bank and only a backpack to your name.
First, save up a runway (an amount of money that will allow you to live cheaply in another country for a number of months while you build your business).
Don't have money in your budget to save? Keep in mind that when you quit to travel, you'll have to be frugal. Scaling back on your spending now will help you get used to a more bare-bones budget later.
And don't wait until you "have more time" to start your blog, launch your business or offer your services. Putting in business-building hours after the day job will be hard, but it will show you the work ethic you need to succeed by yourself.
A version of this article was originally published on Unsettle.org