Becoming a digital nomad can seem like the dream lifestyle. Just imagine working for yourself, never having a boss again and traveling to some of the most exotic places on the planet whenever you want.
For nomads, the long hours of grinding full-time employment is a thing of the past, seemingly able to live with complete freedom. A freedom which is highly appealing and can be misleading.
I now live a nomadic life, and I do get to experience a freedom from the office life, traveling to some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
However the sacrifices, perseverance and skills that I have had to build up has taken me years. The nomadic lifestyle is filled with beauty, but also with challenges and instability.
In this article I will share seven skills which have helped me realize my dream of traveling the world full-time as a digital nomad.
What Does a Digital Nomad Do?
Finding work online can be difficult, but with planning, patience, and perseverance it can be extremely fruitful.
Working nomads have all kinds of jobs, the only requirements seem to be a laptop and (stable) internet connection.
There are many opportunities to find work online or develop the skills required to land some work. When you do find work online, you probably won’t make enough to quit your job and start traveling straight away, but it will be a start.
If you have skills in digital marketing, programming, or web design, services like UpWork can be great for finding work.
There may be a fair amount of competition but there are also plenty of quality clients looking for quality freelancers. Take the time to build up a strong profile, and it is possible to find a steady stream of work.
If you don’t have a background or experience in web-based work, virtual assistant and research-based jobs are also available and can require no prior experience.
Teaching English online is also a great way to work online and set you on a path of a location independent lifestyle.
More and more companies allow staff to work remotely so that’s another avenue to explore, in case you prefer the stability of a job over the insecurity of freelance work. Or, if you have that entrepreneurial spirit, starting a business while living on a cheap, tropical island is also a popular choice for many digital nomads.
How to Become a Digital Nomad: 7 Skills That Help
To sustain a nomadic life is not always smooth sailing. Quitting your job and letting go to adventure can seem enticing, but can also be on of the greatest challenges you can face.
Here I share seven skills which have helped me build and sustain a life of travel:
1. Relentless Optimism
One of the first steps to becoming a digital nomad is crafting an optimistic mindset. If you are working full-time finding the time to create profiles, apply for online jobs, or take online courses can be difficult.
Facing rejection, failing or missing out on work opportunities can feel deflating. It is important to keep hold of the bigger picture, and have confidence that your time and effort will pay-off.
If you are starting out as a nomad, this lifestyle will throw challenges your way. The nomadic life is inherently ever-changing and full of surprises. Embracing the challenges with a positive mind will help you seek out new opportunities and capitalize on setbacks that may come your way.
2. Strong Preparation & Planning
If you are looking to develop a life of travel, it is key to plan for it. Putting a plan together will help you visualize your goal, and understand the steps you need to take to get there.
Using any spare time you have to look for opportunities or learn new skills will move you in the right direction. I spend 30 minutes at the end of the day planning out what I want to do the next day. I have been doing this for two years now and now live the benefits.
By preparing my days I am confident that I am using my time well, and have learned the skills I have today to sustain my lifestyle and keep my clients happy.
While on the road it is important to prepare for each new country, both to save money and stay safe.
Before heading to a new country, it helps to have a checklist of 10 or fewer things you should always take care of. You want to consider such things as:
- The official currency exchange rate
- Cheapest mode of transport from the airport to the city / your accommodation
- How to get a sim card
- Visa requirements (return tickets, bank statements etc)
3. Good Self-Discipline
Nobody is going to push you into a life of travel. It requires a lot of hard work, learning, and hours in front of a laptop to become a digital nomad.
I have the freedom to live in multiple countries a year, work completely location independent, and without so much as a whisper of the word boss. I owe my level of freedom to my level of self-discipline and motivation.
Nomads are not purely traveling, we challenge the status quo while sustaining ourselves on the move. If you plan to work online, clients expect a certain level of quality and deadlines are not optional.
Whether you are planning to become a digital nomad or starting out, you will need to set goals and then have the motivation, routine, and discipline to achieve them.
4. A Proactive Nature
Becoming a digital nomad will require you to take the first steps. Being proactive about finding work, clients or the time to build your experience will give you the best chance of making it happen successfully.
Nomads can’t afford to be shy, it is up to them to carve out opportunities and make the most of them.
5. Successful Goal-Setting
Setting out to become a digital nomad requires the ability to set goals, and work towards them.
Setting goals is a skill which can be built and practiced. Having big life-changing goals can feel overwhelming at first.
Wanting to quit my job and find a way to travel the world was a huge goal, one which I used to feel was too big for me to achieve.
Understanding how to break down my goals into smaller chunks which I could achieve really helped get me along the way. Learning and implementing key techniques has led to me achieving one of my biggest goals and changed the way I live.
6. Calm & Patience
It can take a long time and a lot of effort to become a digital nomad. And there is no guarantee if or when you will start to see it pay-off. Patience will help you to keep calm where frustration could seep in.
Even once you have managed to find online work, it may take a lot of time and effort to build up your portfolio or client base. Having the patience to keep taking action and working the long hours when required will help give you the best chance of success.
7. A Thirst for Learning
If you are looking for moments of discomfort, growth, learning, and discovery, then the nomadic life may be suited for you.
A nomadic lifestyle requires constant learning and ambition:
- The ambition to learn a skill, and take the time to practice & hone a craft
- The ambition to understand the world through your eyes and embrace change
- The ambition to persevere in the face of failure and dig deep to power through
A childlike curiosity for all things is one of the biggest rewards of living a nomadic life. Whether learning a new skill or a new country, every day is filled with learning opportunities.
Final Thoughts About Becoming a Digital Nomad
Traveling the world is not only reserved for those with huge savings or highly specialized skills. If the desire is there, you can make it happen.
Being a digital nomad can sound like a dream, with constant pictures of beautiful locations, fun-filled activities, and endless adventures.
I have experienced some of the most epic moments since becoming nomad including:
- Helicopter rides through the Himalayas
- Motorbike trips against gorgeous backdrops through Thailand
- Festivals on picturesque beaches in India
- Beautiful hikes in tropical jungles in Nepal
- Surfing on amazing waves in Bali
Following the skills mentioned above, learning new skills and developing my portfolio has allowed me to set up an office anywhere in the world I am lucky enough to go.
Becoming a digital nomad may take a lot of work, and it definitely isn’t always easy, but the rewards are life-changing!
If you are interested in the digital nomad lifestyle, also read:
- 9 Years of Living Abroad & Traveling the World: My Tips & Tricks
- What It’s Really Like to Move Country All the Time
- 7 Emotional Challenges of Digital Nomad Life & Solutions
- 10 Perfect Gift Ideas for Digital Nomads
- A Digital Nomad’s Guide to popular digital nomad destinations: Bali, Playa del Carmen and Medellin
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