7 Steps To Becoming A Digital Nomad

Boom ShikhaChiang Mai, Digital Nomad 2 Comments

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Have you ever said to yourself, ‘I want to become a digital nomad (DNs), but I don’t know where to start??’ Well, I get those kinds of questions all the time from my Instagram, Facebook, and even my blog.

I have people asking me how they can become a digital nomad. Some of them pay me for my coaching services, and others aren’t willing to do the work it akes to become one. If you want a brief glimpse into the work that it takes to become a digital nomad, then this (extremely long) blog post is for you.

Just remember, becoming a digital nomad isn’t for the faint-hearted at all. Not only do you need lots of courage to begin the process, but you also need lots of persistence and consistent effort to keep it going. I hope you have what it takes to become one of the elite travelling business people of the world. The day I could label myself ‘Digital Nomad’ was the happiest day of my life, and I know it will be the same for all of you.

So let’s get started.

STEP 1: Believe You Can Do It And Decide Where You Will Move To

The Money Will Come

Most people when they decide to become a Digital Nomad spend all of their time worrying about what job they are going to do in order to make the money to live in another country. In my opinion and real-life experience, the money will come. Once, you decide to take the leap, the money will appear. It has happened to lots of people I know who decided to pick up and leave.

Before you can get to that step, I think more importantly you need to decide if you are willing to put in the work to live outside your comfort zone. Living as a Digital Nomad is hard – it’s physically and mentally exhausting, it’s extremely lonely, and it can be at times devastating to your mindset (as you spend Christmas alone in an apartment wishing you were home). You need to figure out if you are willing to deal with all of those blocks and move past them.

DNs Are A Special Breed

Digital Nomads are a special breed of human, and very few people, I’m afraid to say, will become one. Out of the hundreds of people who want to become a digital nomad, only one or two will actually take the leap and do it. That’s just the way of the game. Once you realize you are going to take the chance and quit your job to move halfway across the world, then all you need to do is decide which country you wish to move to first (I’ll talk more about that below).

Stay In One Place For First 2 Months

I recommend that you spend the first 2 months of your new digital nomading journey at one place. Do not move around too much, because you will exhaust yourself, and you will hate the process. Take your time, and get acclimatized to one place. Find a homebase and stay there for a few months, minimum 2 months. Get used to being away from all of your comfort zones – your home, your family, your friends, your favourite hangout spots – they are all gone and you need to get used to that fact asap.

Pamper Yourself For The First Few Months

Also, I recommend that you find a place that’s fairly comfortable at least for the first few months. This way you are not killing yourself from the get-go and you can actually enjoy the process more. Take care of yourself, basically baby yourself, for the first few months of your digital nomading journey. You are new to this and you need to take care of yourself through this process.

Socialize And Find Your Tribe

Realize that, even though you are on your own, there will be a community of expats or digital nomads in the country you’ve chosen. Find that community, get out to the meet-ups, socialize, and make friends ASAP. This is absolutely crucial, because it will help you feel less home-sick. It’s so much better to have some friends to call up to hang out on the weekend, especially when you are far away from home. You don’t want to spend all of your time sitting in your apartment staring at the bright yellow walls.

So Many Choices

Present-day DNs are spoiled for choice in terms of the country they can possibly move to. We have basically the entire world to choose from. We can move either to Chiang Mai, Thailand; Medellin, Colombia; Budapest, Hungary; or Cape Town, South Africa. That’s why I love being a DN so much, because it basically opens up the whole world to you. All you need is a great internet connection and that is available almost everywhere nowadays.

But Start With These Three

I recommend you decide between Chiang Mai, Medellin, or Budapest, to be your starting point at first. Decide if you first want to explore Asia, or Europe, or South America. Then move to a country there and start your journey. These countries are established digital nomading hubs and thus, have an established DN community, and an expat support system in place. This means, you will make friends easily, you will find resources to set up shop easily and you will feel like the DN thing is easy (which is what I want for you). Again this blog post is all my opinion. If you decide to move to Nigeria as your first country, that is totally fine. You are the boss here – you are your life’s own engineer. You decide what you freaking want to do with your newly established Digital Nomad lifestyle.

STEP 2: Decide Your Budget And How Much Money You Need To Make

Your Budget Will Change Based On City

Once you decide which city you are going to move to, decide on a budget specific to that country. For example, if you are moving to Chiang Mai (CM), an average budget of 1000 USD will suffice. That will be different if you decide to move to Budapest or Medellin or Australia. I am not an expert on these other cities, but I can tell you budgets in CM can vary quite widely. It can be as low as 700 USD a month to as high as 3000 USD a month (or more).

Really, it depends on you. Are you going to cook your meals at home or only eat at street food stalls (I do this and I love the food quality)? Will you live in a fancy apartment with a pool or a gym, or in a no-frills apartment with a bedroom that looks like a prison cell? Are you going to travel around to see the countries around or are you going to stay put? You get the picture.

Pauper Or King? You Decide.

Also, decide how much you are going to rough it. I mean, are you going to live like a pauper, or like a king/queen? Are you going to live in the cheapest place possible, or are you going to find the most expensive place and live it up? That’s all up to you. For example, I’m living in an apartment right now in CM that costs 400 USD a month. That’s on the higher end of the scale for CM. Most people stay in apartments that cost 250 USD a month. That’s their choice. What I am trying to say here is figure out what you are comfortable with and go with that number (you can always change your mind once you get to a place and realize it’s cheaper than you thought it would be or vice versa).

DNship Is A Myriad Number Of Choices

One of the main reasons I love and am obsessed with Digital nomading is because I am in charge of everything! Every decision about my life is made by me, from where I will live, to who I will hang out with, to what shall I eat today, to what will I wear, and so on. Digital nomading is about engineering your life so that it looks exactly the way you want it to look. Want to wear pajamas every single day while you work from home? Done! Want to run workshops on creativity for expats and locals? Done and done! Whatever you want to do and however you want to do is up to you. That’s why DNship is so powerful, because you are the big poobah and you get to make all the freaking decisions. Tiring? Yes. Extremely satisfying and lifechanging? Definitely yes.

Once You Have The Freedom Number In Sight, You Free, Baby

I call your monthly budget number your Freedom Number. It’s the amount of money you need to make in order to be free! Free as a bird, or even freer than a bird actually. It’s truly an aha moment for most. You will realize how little money you really need to be making in order to make the digital nomad lifestyle work for you. That will actually kill you a little bit on the inside. You see most people think it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to travel the world like Digital nomads do or their favourite celebrities do. In fact, it takes a fraction of that. It’s so miniscule that it’s surprising more people aren’t throwing off the shackles and moving to random places around the world.

STEP 3: Decide What You Are Going To Do To Make That Money (Hustle, Baby!)

Follow The Steps, Houdini

Like I said before, most people focus on this step first. But you need to go through all of the other steps to realize how much money you need to freaking make. If you don’t do your due diligence, you are going to basically pick a number out of your ass and that number will guaranteed be wrong. So don’t do that to yourself. Go through Steps 1 and 2 above and then move on over to the Hustle.

Savings In The Bank?

I see many people psyching themselves out, because they feel like they should have thousands of dollars in the bank as savings before jumping ship and becoming a DN and a full-time entrepreneur. The thing is that living in these places is cheap. It really is. You don’t need thousands in savings, but a couple of thousand in your back pocket for emergencies will be nice. Also, travel and medical insurance is always a good idea (protect that backside). You are going to have a Plan A and Plan B (backup) to make money while you DN around the world before you leave. So don’t be scared. You are going to be just fine. And remember – you can always go back home if you run out of money! Ta-da. No need to worry then.

Self-Care Is An Essential Tool

The main thing you can do though is take care of your health! Self-care as a digital nomad is especially critical. Not only are we living in harsh conditions mentally and physically, but we are also hustling for our monies. This means, exercise or eating properly usually goes out the window. Do not do that to yourself. Take care of your health first. For me, self-care means daily meditation, exercise (yoga or running), and 3 consistent healthy meals every single day! This is non-compromisable! Everything else can go, but my health will not be compromised upon. This is the most important part of this whole post. Remember to take care of yourself.

The Choices Are Again Many

The reason I love physically being in Chiang Mai is because I get to see the hundreds of different ways in which people here are making their Freedom number (their monthly monies). Some are working as graphic designers for companies back home, others are virtual assistants, and yet others have online businesses like mine. The choices are unlimited. You can do whatever you want. Seriously! For example, one French woman in CM runs improv workshops weekly and works for a French company based in CM as a secretary and appointment setter. Another person I know creates video courses and places them on Udemy to make his monthly monies. Yet another works as a graphic designer and social media manager for a company back in the United States. A lot of individuals work as English teachers for CM public and private schools.

I want to show you with these examples how varied everyone’s choices are. Unfortunately, I cannot decide for you. You have to make this decision yourself. What are your skills and what are you best suited to do? Make a choice and start with it. If it doesn’t work for you, you can always change your mind and move to something different. (If you need further help with this, think about taking up my coaching services. Email me at boomshikha at themillionairehippie.designextreme.com dot com).

STEP 4: Decide Your Jumping Off Date (The Date You Move To The Country)

Don’t Live On Someday Isle

This is a big one. Most people do all the research about becoming a DN and then keep on postponing their move date to ‘Someday Isle’ – Someday in the far away future where most things are supposedly going to happen. Do not do that to yourself. Excuses will always crop up. I spent months procrastinating on my own decision to move to CM. I had so many excuses – the best ones being, I don’t have any friends there, I don’t want to disappoint my parents, and I am scared to leave my friends here.

They were all nonsensical excuses, because once I decided on a date, all of these excuses disappeared miraculously. I made so many friends on CM online forums even before I moved to CM. My parents agreed and supported me in my decision. A lot of my friends decided to come visit me in CM while I was there, and I spoke to many of them daily on Skype and Messenger.

Book Your Airline Ticket To Force Your Hand

The main thing you need to do here is book your ticket. Once I booked my ticket, and paid for it, the date was set in stone. I wasn’t going to renege on a 1000 USD airline ticket. I booked my ticket, and once I did, as it always happens, the universe helped me make things happen. Everything synchronized to make my dream of becoming a DN come true. Take the leap and only then will the net appear. We are always waiting for the net to appear and then we shall leap. That’s not how it works, and you know it.

Don’t Book Your Apartment In Advance

This is one question that comes up on the daily with newbie DNs. You are going to discover a lot about the city you are going to move to by living there for a few weeks. So spend the first four weeks getting used to the city and figuring out where you are going to be spending the most of your time. Then, and only then book the apartment you are going to be living in. Also, book a month-to-month lease if possible. You never know when you might want to pick up and leave. Go walk around the city, check out potential places to live, and book your apartment a few weeks after you land in the city. Trust me, it will make your life much easier.

Figure Out A Banking System

This was a big one for me, as I spend hundreds on ATM fees, before I figured out a solution. There are certain credit cards (Chase for example) that will allow you to renege on foreign transaction fees (ATM fees and such). Get those cards if you can. If not, think about opening a local bank account and using TransferWise to transfer your money from back home to wherever you decide to live. It’s one of the most economical ways I have found to transfer money around, without losing out hundreds on fees. If you are in CM, Bangkok Bank is best for opening up a local bank account. Ask around the forums in your specific DN country on the best method for your country. I’m definitely not an expert on all countries.

STEP 5: Figure Out What To Do With Your Stuff (Hint: Get Rid Of All Of It)

Get Rid Of Everything Old

This is seriously a no-brainer. Every single person I have spoken to regretted putting their stuff in storage before they left. They wished they had either given it away or sold it all before they started on their journey. You don’t know how long you are going to be gone for, and you don’t know if you will even want any of that stuff from the past once you have changed so much due to digital nomading. Do your future self a favour and get rid of all of your stuff back home before you leave. Give it away. Donate it. Sell it. Just get rid of it. This includes all furniture, all clothing, and all knick-knacks. ALL OF IT. Maybe keep that plush toy from when you were seven though (I still have mine at my parents home).

Furniture? Who Needs That

Seriously, you are going to change so much as a result of this journey that everything you owned in the past will seem outdated and unusable to you. Not only will you dress differently as a result of all of your moving around, but you will also need less furniture and less stuff in general. In fact, you won’t really need furniture anymore as you are going to get addicted to being a DN. If you do go back home, consider buying your furniture off of Craigslist or getting free furniture from Freecycle or Bunz Trading Zone (both are amazing eco-friendly options). In case you were wondering, most apartments you will rent as a DN will be pre-furnished. Voila! No need to buy furniture anymore. I love being a DN.

Past Identities Holds Us Back

Why such an emphasis on getting rid of stuff? Because this will be one of the most useful steps for you in getting rid of past conditioning and identities. What happens if you keep all of your old stuff back home? You will feel that pull towards all of that stuff all the time. One of my friends told me that one of the main reasons she went back home is because she had stuff back home. Her stuff’s pull on her was so strong. Can you imagine? It is the same for all of us.

When I did my decluttering before moving to CM, I got rid of a dozen bags of stuff. But I needed to have a friend around while I threw my stuff out, because I had such a strong hold on a lot of my old stuff. Even though, I don’t consider myself a consumeristic individual and I’m quite the minimalist, I had still accumulated so much stuff, and that stuff had a hold on me, pulling me back to the past. Let go and move on.

STEP 6: Tell Your Friends And Family

Make It A Festive Gathering

This is going to be a hard step for some and an easy one for others. For me, being from an Indian close-knit family, it was quite hard. I was afraid to tell my family that I’m leaving them yet again. I didn’t want to leave them. In fact, if I could have packed them in my bags and travelled with them all over the world, I would have been quite happy. Make a ritual out of telling your friends and family. I actually had a big going-away party where I gathered all of my family and friends (also happened to be my birthday). This way I made it a sort of festive gathering, not a sad affair that I’m leaving.

Fact: You Will Change And Lose Some Or All Friends

The truth of the matter is if you ever go back, you are going to be a very changed individual. Also, sorry to tell you this, but most of the people in your life (except your closest family) will drop away from your life as you become a full-time Digital nomad. Most people will forget about you and you will forget about them. That’s just the way it is.

You will change so much that you yourself will be unable to recognize you. How can you expect your friends to keep up? A lot of them will resent you for all the progress you are making in your life. They will not want to see that daily reminder of how their life sucks. So they will drop you as a friend. In fact, you are going to discover how many true friends you really have as maybe 1-2 people will really keep in touch, while the rest bid you adieu silently walking away.

Show Them The Numbers

I convinced my parents using numbers. Most people will not understand phrases like ‘I’m going to find myself’ or ‘I’m going to let my spirit soar’ which was what we are all thinking, right? Or is it just me? Anyways, use numbers to convince the unconvinced. Show them how much money you will save by moving to a different currency zone, and show them how you are going to make money while you are there. Also, showing your parents all of the different FB groups and how many hundreds of expats live in these countries would be a good idea – help them be less fearful about your move (especially if you are a single Indian female like me moving abroad by herself).

STEP 7: Leave Already – You Will Learn More While In The Country

You can read a thousand books about a country, but you will truly know a country once you live there for a few weeks. Seriously though, I can tell you a thousand stories about living in CM, but until you actually come here and experience it for yourself, you don’t know really know what I’m talking about. So don’t delay any further. Find your place, book your ticket, and move there as soon as humanly possible. You will learn more from the move and the living in the new country than I could ever say in almost a 4000 word blog post.

In conclusion, I’m so grateful that you are reading these words right now. It means that either you skipped to the end (in which case, I applaud you), or you actually read the whole post (in which case, I applaud you twice).

It also means you are considering the DN lifestyle, and that in itself is a great thing. No matter who you are and what you decide to do, I can tell you that you are going to learn so much from becoming a DN. I love it as you can tell, and I’m always looking to help more people become digital nomads.

If you found this information at all useful, please share it with your friends and family on Facebook or wherever. Also, if you are interested in learning more (yes, there’s more), please consider my coaching services, or donate using my Paypal link. I spend a lot of time writing these posts, and any support would be greatly appreciated.

Boom Shikha

About the Author
Boom Shikha

Boom Shikha

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Boom Shikha is a wanderluster, yogi, and spiritual being hoping to use her talents as a communicator and an INFJ to bring peace and purpose to more people of this world. Read More

Comments 2

  1. Thank you for this post and suggestions! My work is solely digital and I’m ready to get out of my comfort zone and take the leap to travel more. I don’t understand how people get rid of all of their possessions and live out of a backpack permanently though – I don’t have a ton of stuff but can’t see myself getting rid of tax returns, some momentos, etc.

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