My passion has always been travel. And through travel, I’ve managed to create an amazing life and business for myself. Over the last few years, my content as transitioned from being travel focused on helping people live the kind of lifestyle I do. Which isn’t easy. Those of us that are out here can easily recognize the ways of scams, and at best manipulative tactics, that cover the internet regarding the Digital Nomad Lifestyle. From ebooks to BS courses. So in this piece, I want to give you a little look at a few of the essentials you’ll need when living this lifestyle. Warning, this is NOT a comprehensive list. It’s not even a comprehensive list for me as a digital nomad. But what it is designed to do is give you a slight look at some of the skills, products, and services you’ll need to at least get started.
Unlocked Cell Phone
Like it or not, we live in a connected world. Which is why digital nomads have come to exist. Cellphones have become the new laptop. You can essentially do everything you can on a laptop with today’s top cellphones. Which is why it should be one of your first purchases. However, there’s something those of us that reside in Uncle Sam land need to think about. Locked or Unlocked.
This is mainly for Americans as we have two carriers that still use an antiquated networking system. There are basically two cell technologies. GSM which is the international standard. And CDMA which is less common but used by Verizon and Sprint. Meaning, for the most part, CDMA phones won’t work overseas without some tech magic. Granted, newer phones like the iPhone X will work on both networks. Meaning their “locked” to these techs/carriers.
So what is unlocking? In the US, carriers “lock” your phone to their service. Meaning you can only use their service or pay a hefty fee to have your phone unlocked. This plays into the contracts they use to “rent” you the phone on a payment plan. Unlocking your phone lets you use it on any service around the world. Countries like Thailand have unlocking services that can run you from $20 to $100. So before you take your journey, try to find an International version of the phone or buy it outright and ensure it’s unlocked.
Reliable Laptop or Advanced Tablet
In the previous section, I mentioned cell phones pretty much do everything laptops do these days. But for Digital Nomads, there are some things that you’ll need a laptop for. Everything from heavy video editing to coding requires a decently powerful laptop. Your laptop is your livelihood. So you must choose a set up which helps you get the job done quickly and reliably. And not all laptops are great for all tasks.
Some things you’ll have no control over. Like poor wifi or power outages. But you can be sure that your gear is reliable and able to perform the tasks you need to make a living. For example, if you’re working in video editing, you want to get a laptop which can handle that workload. However, you might want to look beyond what you need now to what you’ll need in 2-3 years. As this will be likely the largest purchase of your initial journey, choose wisely based on your work.
Another thing you want to look at is warranty. Apple is great for this. Apple Care pretty much covers you worldwide. Apple stores or affiliate stores are pretty much everywhere these days. So getting repairs done is fast and efficient if/when you have problems. When you rely on your laptop to make a living, even a day in the shop can be costly beyond the repair.
Onward Ticket and Reservation Service
Digital Nomads are the one-way ticket experts. The press coverage of our lifestyle has given rise to an immigration pushback. In the last 5 fives, since “digital nomads” have become more visible, many countries are now enforcing return ticket rules (which have pretty much always been policy). Meaning, you’ll need to show an onward travel ticket regardless of how long you want to stay. In addition, some are requiring to see hotel reservations for the duration of your claimed visit. Southeast Asia has become increasingly strict on this point as the mecca of Digital Nomadness.
This community has long thrived in the grey area of many countries employment and immigration policies. While most countries haven’t caught up, a few companies are providing onward ticketing services for those that need to show a ticket without breaking the bank. The service I HIGHLY recommend is Flight Reservation for Visa. Simply put, their the best in the game. Fast, efficient, and excellent customer service. Here’s the most important thing about their service, they provide you with REAL plane tickets, train tickets, and hotel reservations. Many services are charging for fake tickets which many immigration offices have since learned how to detect. You’ll have a real ticket in hand when asked to present it. With zero worries about them checking it. Peace of mind and a clear path to entry.
Insurance Insurance Insurance
This is sadly one of the oft-overlooked expenses by new digital nomads. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with new DNs that say it’s a waste of money. It’s not a matter of if something will go wrong. It’s when and will you be prepared for it. Travel Insurance takes the guesswork out of the later. Not to mention some countries require insurance if you apply for a long stay visa. I’ve been with Allianz Travel Insurance since 2017 now. Previously, I was with World Nomads. When looking for travel insurance as a digital nomad you want to pay attention to what is actually covered.
Pretty much all travel insurance plans have the same basic coverage areas. Lost luggage, medical emergencies, trip cancellation, etc etc etc. Few plans cover things like equipment mishaps or loss (read the fine print. Many think their gear is covered when it’s not). Be sure to look at every detail of your policy and buy additional coverage as needed. For example, I travel with a lot of pricey camera gear. My camera is stolen or broken and I lose money. I have a specific policy that covers my gear.
And let’s be clear about something, the likelihood of you getting sick, hurt, robbed, scammed, or delayed in a country not your own is going to be pretty good. SOMETHING will happen. Minor or major. Best to be prepared. Nothing can derail a Digital Nomad adventure like a $200,000+ medical bill. The digital nomad lifestyle is a turbulent and random one at times. Plans can change at a moments notice. From political unrest to medical problems. Be ready, please.
Business Plan’s Are Critical
Because you’ve read a blog post or two about someone that’s made a living, allegedly, sitting on a beach selling power banks doesn’t mean you can as well. Here’s the reality, you’re a business as a digital nomad. You sell something. Products, expertise, time. Something. And statistically speaking, most businesses fail. This fact is multiplied when trying to do business in countries that aren’t necessarily as forgiving as your own. But aside from that, part of the reason people fail is many don’t know how to create a proper business plan.
So Erick, how do I create a business plan? I’m glad you asked. I highly recommend taking a course in Lynda.com or Udemy.com. You WILL find a course that gives you everything you need to create a business plan. Not to mention thousands of other courses that will greatly improve your long-term chances of maintaining/achieving the lifestyle you want. If I had to pick the most important piece of advice, LEARN EVERYTHING!!!! It’s baffling to me how people don’t know what their day rate is/should be. Or how to create a contract. Or do their taxes. Again, part of the freedom of this lifestyle is the ability to be your own boss. And that comes with responsibilities. Set yourself up for success by learning the basics of business before jumping into the shark tank because people like me will eat you alive.
“Digital Nomad” is an arbitrary title. It’s nothing more than a label. So it doesn’t matter what career path you take, you can be a digital nomad if that path allows. Blogger, Web Developer, Tax Consultant, Life Coach, all have one thing in common. To truly be successful you must have an unbridled work ethic. The kind of work ethic that costs you friends, romance, and sleep. There’s a problem with how some are portraying this lifestyle and it’s misleading. Yes, you’ll have the freedom that most can only dream of. But with that freedom comes uncertainty, stress, and frustration. Making work ethic the most important tool you’ll need to bring on your journey. When everything else listed fails, work ethic will get you through.
I want you to be set up for success. The more of you that come out to live this lifestyle the easier it is for everyone. It’s heartbreaking to see motivate and hardworking people stuck in careers they hate. And I want to help you find the lifestyle you want to live. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below.