What is a Digital Nomad & How Do I Become One?

By Camila Perez on Sep 12, 2019

“Business or pleasure, miss?”

I love it when I arrive at a new location and get asked that question.

“Both,” I reply with a coy smile.

I just can’t help it… I really feel like I’ve got it all.

It all started a few years ago when I was stuck in a dead-end job obsessed with the idea of being my own boss. Of course, I was scared of having the weight of the world on my shoulders but at the same time, I was also sick and tired of feeling chained by the shackles of my 9-5 lifestyle. I fantasized about working while traveling and opening my laptop because I wanted to when I wanted to. I dreamed of taking a break between 15:00 and 18:00 to catch waves, to cook, to read, to date. The list was endless…

In this guide, we'll take a look at:

  • 1. So, what is a digital nomad?
  • 2. You see Dad, it’s really not that weird.
  • 3. The Proof is in the Numbers.
  • 4. How to Become a Digital Nomad.
  • 5. Let’s get honest.

I guess that the younger, more optimistic Alice wanted to find her dream job. I’d always loved writing and knew that I had the skills to give a wide range of companies exactly what they were looking for. Plus, I had a deep thirst for experiencing new cultures, new terrain, new cuisine, international music, fascinating sites and everything in between. So, after looking into working while traveling, freelancing,and taking on smaller contracts, I met my newest shiniest and most promising goal: taking the plunge and becoming a digital nomad.

Woman pleasantly reading at one of Selina Secret Garden Lisbon‘s common areas.

So, what is a digital nomad?

Being a digital nomad is actually a lifestyle choice rather than a job title— individuals who choose to explore the path of working while traveling. Digital Nomads are able to complete every aspect of their job from anywhere in the world based on the fact that they have a good internet connection and a trusty laptop. Personal hotspots, wireless internet packages, and smartphones have become their new best friend and what’s more, all, or at least the majority of income will come from working online. As a result of this nomadic lifestyle, tasks are completed from coffee shops, libraries or co-working spaces– an initiative that seems to be popping up in cities and villages worldwide, wherever there’s a demand.

You see Dad, it’s really not that weird.

I’ll be honest, even after reeling off the ‘digital nomads for dummies’ definition, the people closest to me still didn’t quite get it. The truth of the matter is, however, that being a digital nomad in this day and age just isn’t that bizarre. A lot of career changes translate into nomadic work and most successful companies actually embrace their employees wanting to work remotely. It’s not just blogging and writing careers (although these are two popular choices) that aspiring nomads choose to embark on. Surprisingly for some, Accountancy, Website Design, Digital Marketing, Customer Service, Quality Analysis, Teaching, Sales, and Virtual Assisting are all careers that can be taken up on the road.

Selina Puerto Escondido

Selina Puerto Escondido is in the heart of a relaxed beach town that embraces sun, surf, and bohemian party culture. Wake up at sunrise for a morning yoga session on our deck before refueling with a healthy, homemade breakfast at our restaurant- choose from acai bowls, fresh juices, awesome smoothies, and typical Mexican breakfast options!

The Proof is in the Numbers.

Did you know that according to a recent study by Citrix, 50% of the world’s workforce will be office-free by 2020? What’s more, Global Workplace Analytics recently published that the remote workforce has increased by 140% since 2005. This means that a growing number of people are realizing that they can work while traveling without sacrificing one or the other. Luckily for us dreamers, nowadays people have easier access to technology meaning that it’s only ever going to get easier to work remotely.

These statistics are surprising even for someone like me. It means that the ‘in my day…’ conversations that we’ll impose on younger generations will go something like “in my day we worked 9-5 from the very same desk, constantly! Plus, maximizing output was determined by when we clocked in, and when we clocked out.” In other words, thank goodness we’re now realizing that working solidly for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week isn’t actually the only option.

How to Become a Digital Nomad.

As much as I wish I could reel off a list of hoops to jump through before receiving your digital nomad status, I just can’t. It’s different for everyone. However, I have made a little list of a few things I wish people would have told me before I took the plunge…

  • Loose Financial Ties
    Let’s not beat around the bush. We work to earn money and when we’re our own boss, every. cent. counts. Before you leave to embark on your journey to become a digital nomad, loose gym memberships, subscriptions, and ideally close any debts you may have. That way, you’ll be free to channel maximum funds into living the life you always dreamed of!
  • Save Save Save
    Going solo means that it’s you against the world and preparation is key. It’s time to spring clean and sell any unwanted or unnecessary items. Trust me, you’re going to want to travel LIGHT so think carefully before placing items in the ‘keep’ pile. Spoiler: 9 times out of 10, you won’t need to hold onto that treadmill that’s been gathering dust in the corner of your garage.

  • Become an Expert
    Becoming an expert is a bit of an intimidating thing to say, right? You don’t need to be an expert in any field from the get-go but you do need the drive to feel like it’s possible. Being competent with a computer could be enough to land you your first paid role on the road but the ‘bummer’ is that when you become a digital nomad, you may need to say goodbye to your current professional knowledge and start from the bottom in a completely different field. This is the biggest trade-off for many digital nomads and only you can decide if it’s worth it. Think about your skills, where you want to specialize, what you enjoy and how you want your day-to-day to look. Once you’ve made your decision, find out the quickest way to start earning.

  • Choose your destination!
    Let’s not forget that it’s really, really cool to choose where you want to travel to, board a plane and land full of anticipation to explore a brand new destination. Once you’ve worked out how to make the income you need to sustain the lifestyle you’re after, you can vacate to so many amazing places. Want to learn to surf on a deserted beach? Do it. Want to climb mountains? You can! Explore the ocean? Obviously. Enjoy rooftop yoga before opening your computer to meet a deadline? Why not? And the pinch-me moments that come with this lifestyle are still oh so surreal.

Young travelers at Selina Secret Garden Lisbon’s CoWork space.

Let’s get honest.

Fast-forward a few years later and I can safely say that becoming a digital nomad wasn’t all that I expected. If anything, it’s one of those Instagram vs. Reality cases as working from a hot sandy beach isn’t actually as dreamy as it sounds. I’ve learned that sand, suncream, and laptops aren’t the best combination but I’ve also learned that staring at a deserted beach from a cowork desk is both inspiring and motivating. I’ve learned that as a digital nomad, there are never too many strings one can have to their bow. Therefore, I’ve jumped at numerous chances to learn skills like coding and languages, skills that I never saw as being a part of my resume.

On the other hand, I’ve also battled with my fair share of loneliness. As well as being geographically far from where I grew up, a few years down the line and culture shock is still forever-present. Plus, the people I get chatting to whilst touring and working never stick around for too long. Experiencing this in my late twenties has made me stronger and actually, there are a surprisingly large number of platforms that embrace digital nomadism. Staying in places that not only welcome digital nomads but house communities of people working writing, editing, coding and teaching, is really important to me. Not only am I almost always guaranteed a support system but at the same time, it’s the best place to network.

Finally, and I guess most importantly, I’ve learned that there really is no place like home. But now, when I click my red Wizard of Oz shoes I don’t get transported to a detached house with my mum, my dad, and my dogs. I buy a ticket to my next destination. My home is all around the world, and that’s what makes it that much better.

Selina Puerto Escondido

Selina Puerto Escondido is in the heart of a relaxed beach town that embraces sun, surf, and bohemian party culture. Wake up at sunrise for a morning yoga session on our deck before refueling with a healthy, homemade breakfast at our restaurant- choose from acai bowls, fresh juices, awesome smoothies, and typical Mexican breakfast options!

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