Disclosure: I may earn a small commission from the companies or products mentioned in this post.
If you’re new here, you might be wondering why someone with a London destination blog is writing about being a digital nomad…
Hi, I’m Emily, a 30-year-old born and raised Londoner who has been living as a digital nomad for the last 5+ years.
This means that as much as I love London, I no longer have a permanent home base there. I currently work online – on this blog and as a freelance travel writer – while travelling the world full-time.
But I do still try to be back in London for at least a couple of months a year to see what’s happening in my FAVE city and to keep my London content as up-to-date as possible! 🙂
I often meet new or aspiring nomads during my travels who ask if I have any tips or advice for becoming a digital nomad.
So I decided to finally put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – and create a list of my top tips for starting life as a digital nomad, so I can share with everyone who wants a slice of this amazing freedom-based lifestyle (we don’t gatekeep here!).
1. Have Some Work Already Lined Up
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to have built a successful million-pound company to become a digital nomad.
But it is best to have some type of work lined up before you head off to travel the world.
I’ve met far too many people over the years who have already left their life back home and are on the road trying to “become a digital nomad” but have no idea what they even want to do.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as just “becoming a digital nomad.” There’s a lot to consider.
Do you want a remote job? Are you going to freelance? Or are you starting your own business?
What skills do you already have and what area will you go into? Content writing? Social media management? Coding and web design? Trading or crypto? FBA?
Plus, many new businesses take a while to start making any money at all.
Start working on your business or building your client list before you leave. Make sure you have some money coming in – even if it’s only a little to start with. It will reduce the stress of trying to “become a digital nomad” while already on the road and living off your savings.
2. Slow Down
When you first start out as a digital nomad, it’s tempting to make the most of your newfound freedom and try to go everywhere and do everything as quickly as possible.
You might find yourself jumping all over Europe or Asia, visiting a new destination every few days.
But travelling as a digital nomad isn’t the same as travelling as a backpacker or tourist. When you’re trying to balance travel and work, moving too quickly is only going to lead to exhaustion and burnout.
Try slowing down and spending a few weeks (or even months) in each destination you visit.
The slower you travel, the more time you’ll have to fully appreciate and explore the place you’re in, beyond what normal tourists can.
More time also allows you to form healthier habits, like finding a good cafe or coworking space to work from, signing up for a gym membership for a month, attending networking events, and maybe even forming a community in that destination.
3. Get Good Nomad Insurance
When you’re travelling and working abroad for long periods at a time, having good insurance is vital!
Most standard annual travel insurance policies will only cover you for up to 90 days in one trip. So you’re going to need proper nomad insurance to stay covered.
I’ve been using SafetyWing for the last couple of years and they’ve been fantastic.
SafetyWing offers flexible worldwide medical and travel insurance for digital nomads and remote workers. Their ultimate goal is to build a global social safety net for those who choose to live and work outside of their home country.
Their policies start at $45 every 4 weeks, which is one of the cheapest nomad insurances out there. And you can start the policy when you’re already outside of your home country.
4. Travel Light
Honest confession – I am NOT the person to be taking packing advice from.
When I first became a digital nomad, I decided that I needed to travel with my entire life inside a huge 25kg suitcase. I had clothes for every single weather scenario and possible occasion – from countless flowy summer dresses (for the ‘gram) to chunky coats and 5 pairs of shoes.
And it took me MANY years to realise this was totally unnecessary!
It wasn’t until I spent almost a year out in Asia and didn’t use 2/3rds of what was in my suitcase that I realised I needed to really reconsider my packing strategy. I was paying extra to take this huge suitcase on flights for absolutely no reason. It was costing me unnecessary money, time, and effort.
Now I’m just about down to a 40L Osprey backpack with a capsule wardrobe of all the basics.
Just because you’re on the road full-time, doesn’t mean you need to take more than you would for a 2-week vacation. You can wash clothes as you go and buy anything extra you might need on the road. Everywhere has laundry and shops after all!
Don’t make the same mistake as I did – travel light!
5. Skip the Party Hostels
Party hostels may have been a great place to stay during your backpacking days. They’re cheap, easy, and you can meet loads of new travel friends.
But something that I learned the hard way is that this type of hostel is not always ideal for busy digital nomads.
Getting work done can be difficult when you’re constantly surrounded by travellers and backpackers who want to explore, socialise, and party every day – especially if you get FOMO and struggle to say no (like me).
And even if you do say no, you’re not going to be feeling particularly productive when a group of drunk people came into your dorm room at 3am last night and kept you awake for hours.
Some other issues with party hostels as a digital nomad are:
- They may not have adequate safes or lockers to keep your laptop/work gear in
- Not always a quiet workspace if you have early morning or late night meetings
- Fast wifi isn’t a top priority
However, there are more and more hostels around the world catering to digital nomads, especially in a post-pandemic world.
If you’re a new nomad travelling on a budget, hostels can be a great way to save money and meet new people. Just make sure to look for quieter hostels with amenities such as free high-speed wifi, dedicated coworking spaces, kitchens, and long-term stay deals.
6. Try Coliving Instead
A great alternative to hostels for digital nomads is coliving.
Coliving is a relatively new type of accommodation tailored towards remote workers, nomadic entrepreneurs, and long-term travellers.
It’s a form of communal living in which each person has their own private bedroom while sharing common areas like the kitchen, lounge area, and coworking space.
Many colivings run networking and social events for their guests to get to know each other. They encourage cooperation and collaboration between remote professionals.
They also usually offer deals for long-term stays, encouraging people to stick around for longer.
Coliving is a fantastic accommodation option for digital nomads that’s grown hugely in popularity in the last few years, with coliving spaces popping up in cities and destinations all across the world.
If you want the social atmosphere of a hostel, with better amenities for working and without the party-crazy backpackers, coliving is the way to go.
7. Find Long-Term Accommodation Deals
While hostels and colivings can be fun, some people simply prefer having their own space.
When you’re staying in a destination for a while, it can be nice to have your own apartment or house to relax in at the end of the day.
I personally love using Airbnb to find local accommodation in a new destination. Plus many places offer large discounts when you book for at least a month, making it a more affordable option.
Remote Base is a fantastic free email newsletter that highlights the best monthly Airbnb discounts around the world for digital nomads. It does all of the hard work for you, saving you hours of research!
8. Readjust Your Spending Habits
One of the biggest challenges for me as a new digital nomad was changing my mindset from “I’m travelling/on vacation” to “this is my everyday life” – especially when it came to spending habits.
When you’re on a short trip or vacation, it’s all too easy to blow your budget. Want to stay in a luxury hotel? Treat yourself, you’re on vacation! Eat out at a fancy restaurant every night? Why not, you’re on vacation! Expensive cocktail? Go crazy, you’re on vacation!
But, realistically, you can’t keep this up when you spend your entire life “on vacation” (okay, nomads aren’t on vacation but you know what I’m trying to say here!).
Look at your current income and set your budget early on. If you’re not earning much at the beginning of your nomad journey, you may have to stick to staying in hostels and cooking in for a while. Head to cheaper destinations (hi Asia) and look for free activities to begin with.
Don’t go crazy and blow all of your money on luxury stays and extravagant travel experiences straight away. Or you may find yourself heading home much earlier than you expected.
9. Go to Nomad Meet-Ups and Events
A common misconception is that being a digital nomad is extremely isolating and lonely.
Of course, it can be at times. Especially if you don’t make any effort to meet people.
But personally, I have a much more active social life and a bigger social circle as a nomad than I ever did living in London full-time. I’m always meeting new people and I’ve made some amazing life-long friends while travelling – I even met my partner as a nomad.
So how do you meet people while travelling as a digital nomad?
There are loads of ways to meet other nomads all around the world; coliving, coworking, nomad meet-ups, online communities, conferences, and events (to name just a few).
I always try to find Facebook communities for nomads when I arrive at a new destination. This is the best way to find out about upcoming events, meet-ups, and parties.
When I was in Bali, I met so many fantastic people through the Nomeo app.
You can also head to specific digital nomad events and conferences around the world, like Bansko Nomad Fest in Bulgaria or Nomad City Festival in Gran Canaria, where you’re guaranteed to meet plenty of like-minded people.
10. Remember to Log Off
One of my final and biggest tips for new digital nomads is to remember to log off every now and again.
Just because you can work from anywhere, doesn’t mean that you should work from everywhere.
While flexible work is one of the biggest perks of being a nomad, many people find themselves permanently attached to their laptops. You might end up working every day of the week and answering emails at all hours of the day, especially when first trying to grow your business.
But remember, even nomads need time off too.
Close your laptop and mute your email for at least a day or two a week. Take a day trip to somewhere new. Or even better, take an entire week off to travel with friends. Your clients/boss will understand.
Take a moment to enjoy this amazing freedom-based lifestyle you created for yourself!
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