Lifestyle

How To Become A Digital Nomad – Digital Nomad Series #1

How To Become A Digital Nomad – Digital Nomad Series #1
Written by Magoz
9 min read 12k views 32 comments

A few years ago, when I was struggling to find myself and still living in my parents house, I stumbled across a new lifestyle concept: Digital Nomad.

Apparently, there were people traveling from one country to another, working remotely (usually using a computer and an internet connection), and making a living freelancing or owning their own business.

I didn’t know it at the time, but a few years later I would embrace this lifestyle myself: I would become a nomadic illustrator.

My Story as a Digital Nomad

As I related in my First Steps in the Illustration Business, I took an unconventional path to becoming an illustrator. It consisted of working a lot on developing myself and my work before starting to look for jobs and getting assignments.

That meant a few extra years living in my parents house and not having money. But it also meant having a lot of time to think, learn, experiment and work on building my future.

When I finally started contacting Art Directors and getting assignments, it was time to decide what I wanted to do with my life.

At that time, I was lacking something very important: I wasn’t confident with my English skills. I struggled when having a conversation in English. I was also feeling stuck with my personal life. I needed a change.

It was clear to me that I had to move out of my home town of Vilanova, Spain. I needed to go somewhere to keep challenging myself, learning, improving, and growing.

Without ever having visited the UK or knowing anyone there, I decided to move to Bristol. Somehow, I felt very attracted to the idea of starting a new life in a completely challenging and unknown environment.

I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but that was the starting point of my Digital Nomad adventure. What began as a step out of my comfort zone ended up being the initiation of a new life—a nomadic life.

After nearly a year in Bristol, I started traveling from one place to another, having many different experiences and embracing the nomadic lifestyle.

Then I spent a few months in the countryside of Finland, 7 months backpacking in Southeast Asia, a year in Madrid, followed by a year in Helsinki. During that time, I also took shorter trips to places as New York, Dubai or Japan.

In September, I’m moving to Budapest to start a new adventure in Eastern Europe.

Play

The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

As a digital nomad, I don’t have a permanent house. I travel and work at the same time. Sometimes I stay a few months in a place, while sometimes just a few days.

My studio fits inside of my backpack, and I always bring it with me wherever I go.

I’m used to working from nearly anywhere, including cafes, airports, train and bus stations, hotel rooms–basically anywhere I can sit for a while comfortably (preferably with a table). I only need an internet connection and a way to charge the batteries on my devices every now and then.

I travel with a backpack which contains almost everything I have (the rest of my belongings are basically books and are stored at my dad’s house). This forces me to live a very simple life without owning many things.

Magoz Digital Nomad Studio

While there are many benefits to being digital nomad, there are also a lot of challenges. It requires a lot of mental work and discipline. Sometimes it’s very hard to find motivation, time or even a place to work.

As a freelancer, you also have to take care of taxes, healthcare, and other factors that are a bit tricky to handle with when you are traveling.

You are very far from your friends and family, and sometimes you can’t even properly communicate with locals. You are on your own.

After all, being a digital nomad means having more freedom. Freedom implies more decisions and being responsible for, and aware of, their consequences.

This article is just an introduction—I’m going to dedicate specific articles to each aspect of the digital nomad lifestyle. I will cover in detail how to work, travel, and live as a digital nomad. I aim to give you a realistic view of what being a digital nomad means.

How to become a Digital Nomad

As the years go by, more and more companies are transitioning to systems that allow people to work from home or building decentralized teams from all over the world.

Becoming a digital nomad is more feasible than ever before.

After all these years traveling and moving from one place to another, I’ve learned some essential skills and lessons to keep in mind when you are wanting to become a digital nomad.

It doesn’t really matter what field you work in; the following list applies to any kind of digital nomad.

1. Analyze your financial situation

If you have regular freelance work or you work for a company that allows you to work from home, you are most likely not going to have financial struggles.

Perhaps you don’t have a regular income yet, but you have some savings and a solid plan to start freelancing. In that case, you may be ready to start traveling.
Some destinations are very cheap and can even help you to save money since it’s cheaper to live there than living in your country of origin.

In any case, it’s important to understand your financial situation and be realistic about your plans.

2. Create a monthly, weekly or daily budget

Create a budget that works for your financial situation. Having a budget and sticking to it is essential, because when you travel you can end up spending a lot of money without noticing it.

Your budget should include accommodation, food, leisure, transportation, and any other kind of expense you may incur. Depending on where you are traveling to, your budget can be surprisingly low.

I will write an article later on the series about budgeting as a digital nomad.

3. Get your business in order before you depart

You might consider hiring other people that take care of several parts of your business when you are overseas. For instance, having a bookkeeper or an accountant can be an invaluable resource.
You can also consider someone who takes care of your mail, online shop, or anything else that you can’t take care when you are traveling. Delegating is the key.

4. Get a travel insurance

Traveling with an insurance that covers possible health issues and other undesirable situations is crucial. Fortunately, there are many affordable solutions that will cover anything that might happen while you are traveling.

5. Understand the importance of planning and being organized

Being a digital nomad requires a lot of planning and being organized. Just like working from home requires more planning and organization than working in an office, so does being a digital nomad. Being a digital nomad is a step above working from home, in that it requires even more pre-planning.

Doing some research and planning several options in advance can save you a lot of headaches.

6. Embrace minimalism

If you want to easily travel and move from one place to another, it’s very important to travel light. You should have only the essential items needed; keep it as minimal as possible. Also, don’t buy stuff you don’t need as you keep traveling.

This applies not only to personal items but also to your work. It is helpful to have the simplest and lightest work setup possible.

Going paperless and moving to digital solutions rather than the traditional paper options is also a great idea. For instance: use a Kindle instead of carrying books, use a digital calendar instead of a physical agenda, use Google Maps instead of bringing a map, etc.

7. Get used to being on your own and out of your comfort zone

It doesn’t matter if you travel alone or with someone else. When you are a digital nomad, you are far from your friends and family–you are on your own. Expect no help from anyone to solve anything that occurs during your trips.

You will often be in situations that you never experienced before. Being open minded and optimistic is essential.

If you embrace being out of your comfort zone, you will enjoy the experience a lot more.

8. Just start

You will never know if the nomadic lifestyle fits you unless you try it out. You have nothing to lose—just start!

If you have doubts, you can always start small. Go for a couple of months and don’t go too far. The experience will give you confidence, and then you can move on from there.

Conclusions

If you are responsible, organized and professional, being a digital nomad is simple and very affordable.
It requires a mindset adaptation, and sometimes it can be hard to find the right balance between traveling and working, but it has many great advantages.

In the upcoming articles of the series I’m going to get in deep on every aspect of a digital nomad. Let me know if you want me to talk about something specific!

Have you ever consider becoming a digital nomad? As always, I would love to hear your comments !

Magoz

Nomadic illustrator. Thinker. Seeker.

32 comments

  1. Magoz many thanks for this article. I always wanted to travel and work and reading you encourages me to do it. I would be interested in reading more about how you organize your travels. Thnxs!

    • Thank you, Paul! I will dedicate an entire article to the traveling aspect: planing, organizing, luggage, tools, tips and much more. Stay tunned! :-)

  2. Great article. Living as a nomad definitely requires some courage, but I’m sure you can experience more in one year than in ten doing the same things every day of your life in the same place.

  3. Hi Magoz,
    thank you for the great Article! I was always tempted to live a similar lifestyle, but I somehow never started it. As I’m also an Illustrator myself I was wondering about the Tools you use, do you draw everything directly in the computer? Me, I can’t live/work without Papers and Pencils and so I would also need to bring a scanner and a printer, which would be ridiculous to travel around with. How do you handle your workflow while travelling?
    Thank You!

  4. I agree with everything you say! I would like to emphasize the importance of having the right mindset. Nomading means taking hundred of micro-decisions and being always adapting. Being very comfortable all the time is not a priority anymore (I believe thats something people usually struggle giving up) cause most of the time its not affordable long term, if you have an average budget. And of course the romantic idea that travelling is wonderful all the time, cause it feels like a continuous holiday has to disappear. Because it is not, like it is not wonderful being in the same place all the time. We all have problems, issues and circumstances to solve and deal with. And its true that you must have strong discipline or you end up in real trouble… haha (too much beer, good plans and new people keeping you away from work).

    Very nice article! Waiting very excited for the next ones :D

    • Hi Io! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
      I totally agree. For us, traveling doesn’t mean to be on holidays, and that’s something we have to constantly keep in mind.

      See you on the next one! :-)

  5. Thanks for sharing. The talk was so inspiring! Looking forward to the next parts.
    – Ed

  6. Hi Magoz,
    Thanks for the article (and the blog in general), I love it. Just a quick thing I´ve noticed: “Traveling without (should be with?) an insurance that covers possible health issues and other undesirable situations is crucial.”
    :)

  7. Hi! Do you know which websites are good for start searching for jobs for freelance. I’m a social media manager from Argentina.

    Thank you so much for your article.

    • I never looked for freelancing jobs through websites, but I’m aware there are some websites like Upwork and Guru where you can hire freelancers. I’m not sure if it’s a good way to get goof freelance jobs, though.
      Good luck, Timoteo! And let us know how it goes! :-)

  8. Thanks for the great insight! I’ve always wondered about this sort of lifestyle. I wanted to ask if you require a work visa or a permit, when you travel and do freelance work in a foreign country.

  9. Your story is very inspiring me. I am a freelancer illustrator in Shanghai, China. I quit my full time graphic design job last year. Before that I am one of founders of advertising company since 2005. After ten years job I am really tired of this comfort place. So I decided to leave as a freelancer illustrator. I found myself more like illustration than advertising.last year I joined a team for Google brand new emoji design. I learned lots of illustration and design method. One year it was successfully launched on 2017 Google I/O. Now I am looking for new direction. You article gave me new ideas of how to look foreward and don’t​ stop exploring. Many thanks!

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, Pk! And congratulations for your success! I’m glad my story is inspiring you :-)
      All the best!

  10. Thank you so much for sharing your experience introspecting and understanding what you want before launching your career. I’m in the process of trying to understand who I am as a creative, and it’s good to know that someone else has gone through this. I look forward to reading more!

    • I think we all go through that “existential journey” to figure out who we are and what we want to do. It’s tough and uncertain, but it definitely pays off.
      Good luck with your seek, Symone! See you in the next one :-)

      • How does it pay off? Or, how did it pay off for you?

        • I delayed it until I found myself (or at least, some clues of the path I wanted to follow) and it paid off because it allowed me to feel comfortable with my work, and I gained a lot of confidence. It also gave me extra time to learn many other useful things that helped me in the process of becoming a professional (I understood the market and the way to find clients, I learned how to program websites, I became more organized, etc.)

          But most importantly, when I knew what I wanted I was able to make plans and set goals, and eventually I started making a living from my work.

  11. J
    Julian

    Your story was very inspiring! I can’t wait to hear more about your travels. Do you move around “safer”cities or do you go to unconventional destinations too? If so, do you have ways to keep yourself and your belongings safe? The idea of moving around with an expensive lapton and wacom is one of my main concerns about becoming a nomad. Would love to hear your view on this. Thanks!

  12. G
    Georgina

    Hi Magoz,

    Great intro article. What advice would you have for someone who wants to start an illustration and design freelance business so that they can live a nomadic lifestyle? I am not quite sure what type of portfolio work or products to create or how to gain clients online… there are so many options. I have set myself two months to create new personal work. Can’t seem to make a solid plan of action. Feeling overwhelmed. Thanks, Georgina.

    • Hi Georgina, thanks for your comment.
      Becoming a self-employed illustrator/designer is not a quick or easy journey. It takes time and a lot of effort. I think you need to focus on your career first and then when everything is starting to work, think about to start traveling. Or, if you have a solid plan, you can also consider traveling to a cheap country to maximize your savings.

      During the last months I’ve been working on Illustrator Essentials, an online course that I will launch soon that focuses on building your professional career and it covers a lot of aspects from finding yourself, creating a plan and finding clients. You can sign up here and receive updates when the course is ready.

      Good luck with your journey!
      All the best.

  13. W
    Waheb

    Hello there!

    As a fellow digital nomad, I can only agree with you on all the points (and learn some stuff!). As far as I am concerned, digital nomad is a strange and wonderful experience, and preparation is indeed the most important.
    Next is optimism, and ultimately, travel and live light.

    Cheers my friend, hope to meet you again somewhere :).

  14. Hi Magoz, I’ve just started reading your posts about being a digital nomad, they are awesome, please keep them coming!! :D

    I was wondering if you ever stumbled across this blog here http://illustratour.com/ ?
    She travelled for 6 months, 1 month for each city/country while still working full time.

    I like her idea a lot and I think it’s a very approachable way for people who’d love to travel and work at the same time.
    I’m planning to do an illustratour myself next year… it’s on top of my bucket list at the moment!! :)

    Btw, I’ve been living in Bristol for 3 years now and I remember when you did your exhibition at Hamilton House… I had no idea who you were at that time! Shame I didn’t have the chance to meet you when you were living here.

    Good luck for everything!

    • Hi Laura!
      Thank you for sharing, I wasn’t aware of it! What a wonderful project!
      Keep us posted if you do it! :-)

      Bristol brings me a lot of good memories. Perhaps I go and visit someday!

      All the best!

  15. How do you find accommodation? Do you stay in cheap hostels, AirBnb or do you pay rent? I’ve lived in the UK for 2 years and every landlord asks for employment contracts, which is a tough one for freelancers. I believe most of Europe is like this. What are your thoughts on this?

More from Lifestyle