Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Digital Nomading And Why Do People Love (or Hate) It?
- 2 The Top Five Reasons Why People Love Digital Nomading:
- 3 Top Three Reasons Why People Don’t Love Nomading:
- 4 The Four Videos That Inspired Me To Start Businesses While Traveling The World
- 5 How to Make Money From Anywhere
- 6 Digital Nomading Solo vs. With A Remote Travel Program
- 7 How To Handle Health & Travel Insurance While Digital Nomading
- 8 Travel Insurance vs. International Health Insurance for Digital Nomads
- 9 How To Handle Taxes As A Digital Nomad
- 10 How To Handle Cell Phone Plans As A Digital Nomad
- 11 Credit Card and Banking Recommendations For Digital Nomads
- 12 What To Pack When You’re Digital Nomading
- 13 My Packing List (Mostly For Men and Tailored to Warm Destinations)
- 14 The Three Most Popular Digital Nomad Travel Styles & Pros/Cons
- 15 How to Pick Destinations, Handle Visas, & Book Travel As A Digital Nomad
- 16 How To Book Long-Term Housing As A Digital Nomad
- 17 Six Awesome Airbnb Tips (From A Full-Time Traveler)
- 18 The 16 Keys To Traveling Abroad Safely (For Women and Men)
- 19 How To Meet People When You Move To A New City
- 20 12 Things To Know When Moving To A New City As A Digital Nomad
- 21 FINAL THOUGHTS:
What Is Digital Nomading And Why Do People Love (or Hate) It?
If you’re interested in learning how to work online and live anywhere then you’ve come to the right place! My goal in writing this is to create the best guide ever written about working online while living anywhere.
I’m excited to share everything that I’ve learned from the last 4+ years of running internet businesses and traveling the world.
This experience has changed the way I view myself, the world, and my life goals. It will likely do the same for you as you embark on your own journey!
Freedom is the simplest gateway to happiness, and I hope this guide will help you increase the level of freedom and happiness in your life!
Now, on to the guide! People use the term “digital nomad” to describe two types of people:
- People who work online while living a nomadic lifestyle
- Nomad: An individual without a permanent home who travels from place to place.
- People who work online and are location independent
- Location Independent: An individual who is not tied to any one location and is free to live and work from anywhere.
- All digital nomads are location independent but not all location independent people are nomadic.
The Top Five Reasons Why People Love Digital Nomading:
- I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t enjoy traveling, and nomads travel much more than your average human.
- Want to live in Europe? Do it. Want to try sushi in Japan? Go for it.
- 76% of Americans want to travel more than they currently do, 85% want to experience new things, and 60% have a list of places they want to see before they die (source). As a digital nomad, travel transitions from a vacation into a lifestyle.
- If you’re able to live and work from anywhere with WiFi, the level of freedom in your life will skyrocket.
- Working remotely means you’ll have much more flexibility than traditional office work because remote companies tend to value output over face time.
- Plus, by living outside of your home society, you’ll learn to better understand people, the world at large, and yourself.
- Traveling is one of the most straightforward ways to increase the amount of adventure in your life.
- Nomading will expose you to new people, cultures, foods, and experiences. Without any extra effort, you will repeatedly step out of your comfort zone, even when doing simple things like buying groceries.
- Work-Life Balance
- A core premise of remote work is that both productivity and quality of life increase when people can work when and where they want.
- Cheap Living
- Until you experience it firsthand, it’s hard to picture how phenomenal life can be in an exotic country on a budget of $1k-1.5k per month.
- There are reasons many people never return from popular nomad places such as Bali, Chiang Mai, and Medellin: the cost and quality of living are hard to beat
- Here is a list of the cheapest places to live as a digital nomad from NomadList.
Top Three Reasons Why People Don’t Love Nomading:
- Isolation and Loneliness
- This seems to be the number one reason people stop nomading. If you’re wandering from place to place, it’s harder to build deep relationships.
- Nomads who crave community counter this by traveling slower or joining a travel program like Remote Year.
- This seems to be the number one reason people stop nomading. If you’re wandering from place to place, it’s harder to build deep relationships.
- Not As Glamorous As It Looks On Instagram
- If you look at #digitalnomad on Instagram, you might think most digital nomads are sipping coconuts on the beach all day—this isn’t true.
- Don’t let travel influencers fool you by glorifying the lifestyle to build larger followings.
- It’s not far-fetched to create enough passive income to retire on a beach somewhere, but the vast majority of nomads are not living a four-hour work week lifestyle.
- Yes, you can live in cool places and increase your quality of life. But most nomads (including myself) spend significant time sitting in front of their computers like everyone else.
- Won’t Necessarily Solve Your Problems
- You shouldn’t view nomading as the magic pill to fix your life—it will change your surroundings, which will shift your perspective on life. While some of your problems may be fixed, you’ll start to encounter new ones.
- One of the fastest routes to personal development is through long-term travel. If you’ve ever gone through a life-changing event, it’s not an easy journey. Being a digital nomad will test you in ways you’ve never experienced.
The Four Videos That Inspired Me To Start Businesses While Traveling The World
If you’re looking for some extra inspiration to start your nomadic journey, watch these videos!
Back in 2017, I reached a breaking point where I was fed up with working for other people and making decisions that I was “supposed to make.”
These are some of the videos that helped to push me over the edge and give me the final boost of courage and motivation to chart my own course in life. If you’re interested in learning more about my risk evaluation process, then read this post.
My biggest takeaways from these videos:
- The only rules that you need to play by are your own
- The downside of taking bold risks is extremely minimal
- Chase your passion and then trust the process
- Traveling is awesome
How to Make Money From Anywhere
It might seem shocking, but you can travel the world on $1,500/month or less, which means you only need to make a fraction of a Western salary to live a great life abroad.
And making $2,000 per month or more online is much easier than most people realize.
Here are six ways to make money from anywhere in the world.
1. Get a Remote Job
Difficulty Level: Easy
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to start a business to make money while traveling the world. Getting a remote job is by far the easiest way to become location independent, and the remote work movement is exploding right now. A survey of 1,000 hiring managers found that managers expect 38% of their full-time workers to be working remotely in the next ten years.
Common Remote Jobs:
- Software Developer
- Product Manager
- Sales Representative
- Customer Support
The Best Remote Job Board: Remote Work Hub is my favorite job board because it has more high-quality jobs and better filters than other remote job boards.
2. Teach English Online (Native Speakers Only)
Difficulty Level: Easy
There are 1.7 billion people trying to learn English right now, making English teachers one of the most in-demand (and easy to land) jobs in any country. Teachers make $16-24/hour, which means working ~24 hours per week is enough to cover a nomadic lifestyle.
Most English teaching programs require that you:
- Are you a current resident of the US or Canada
- Have formal or informal teaching experience
- Have a college degree
VIPKid is the most popular English teaching platform. It’s a multi-billion dollar company that teaches English to Chinese students.
3. Go Remote With Your Current Employer
Only you know how realistic this option is. Every company is different and some may be more open to the idea than others. There are many deciding factors that will determine if you’re able to go remote, including your value to the company, the size of the company, your role, and the company’s culture.
The basic steps of switching to remote work:
- Become a top performer
- Propose a remote work trial to your boss
- Meet with your boss to discuss the experience of the remote trial for both of you
- Create a long term remote work agreement that accounts for the workload and schedule you seek while giving your company the value they need from you
4. Become A Freelancer
Difficulty Level: Medium/Hard
Forty-seven percent of millennials say they freelance in some capacity. As a freelancer, you are self-employed. You set your own hours, you choose what work you want to do, and you decide who you want to work with. Freelancing is just like the digital nomad lifestyle. On one side of the coin, it’s a glamorous lifestyle. On the other, tons of people quit freelancing because they don’t want to deal with the headache of inconsistent pay, chasing down invoices, marketing themselves, and trying to close new clients.
Freelancers find work through online platforms like Upwork (the largest freelance marketplace), industry events (such as marketing conferences or film festivals), referrals, cold emails, and giving presentations to showcase their expertise and get more people to know who they are and what they do.
Common Freelance Fields:
- Software Engineering
- Marketing / PR
- Data Entry
- Virtual Assistant
5. Start a Business (Click here to read my full, comprehensive guide to starting passive income businesses)
Difficulty Level: Medium/Hard
This is a brief overview of different digital businesses that you can start, click the link above for the full guide.
The three most popular businesses among digital nomads are affiliate businesses, Amazon FBA businesses, and drop-shipping businesses. These businesses are the most popular because:
- They have high earning potential
- They are relatively passive income streams
A. Create an Affiliate Website/Blog
Affiliate websites earn commissions by sending people to other websites where they buy things. These sites usually generate traffic from Google search. Common monetization strategies include linking to Amazon products, other e-commerce stores, or digital courses.
The Best Affiliate Guides:
- How To Start a Blog (Niche Pursuits)
- How To Start a Niche Website (Niche Pursuits)
- 5 Ways To Create A Profitable Affiliate Site + 40 Examples (Niche Hacks)
- 21 Successful Affiliate Marketing Websites (Authority Hacker)
B. Start an Amazon FBA Business
A fulfillment by Amazon business entails selling products on Amazon Prime. The most common implementation is to buy bulk manufacture products (on Alibaba.com) and ship them to an Amazon warehouse.
This is a popular location independent business because Amazon handles all the offline storage and shipping work.
The Best FBA Guide:
JungleScout’s YouTube Channel – has hundreds of hours of content about every aspect of Amazon FBA plus it has real, step by step case studies.
C. Launch a Dropshipping Website
Dropshipping is selling someone else’s products on your own website, on Amazon, or on eBay. When a consumer buys from you, you purchase from the supplier who ships the product to the end customer.
The most popular version of dropshipping is selling AliExpress products via a Shopify store. Sellers tend to acquire customers using Facebook ads and mark up products 2-8x higher than the supplier’s price.
The Best Dropshipping Guides:
- Shopify Dropshipping Guide
- Oberlo’s Dropshipping Guide
- 60 Minute Video on Setting Up A Dropshipping Store
Bonus: Read this great YCombinator guide if you’re looking for general info on starting a startup.
6. Become an Instagram or YouTube Influencer
Difficulty Level: Hard
The challenge isn’t growing a following; it’s making this path financially sustainable. This path requires patience because until you reach a critical mass, you won’t make money.
If you’re a great photographer, are attractive (or both!) then growing a following is much easier than it might appear.
Become a YouTube Influencer:
Here are three great guides I found:
- Lost LeBlanc’s Guide To Making Travel Videos
- Thomas Alex Norman’s Guide To Making Travel Videos
- How To Grow Your YouTube Channel
Bonus: Volunteer Abroad In Exchange For Free Housing
Difficulty Level: Easy
WorkAway is a popular site for travelers to volunteer in exchange for free housing. While this isn’t paid or location independent, it is a popular way for people to start traveling. If you’re impatient to start traveling and are willing to hustle, you can use a volunteer abroad program to pay for your housing while you build your skillset in a remote field. Once you’ve created enough income to sustain yourself and pay for your own housing, you can transition out of the work away program.
Digital Nomading Solo vs. With A Remote Travel Program
Traveling Solo vs. With A Group
Traveling solo or with a group is one of the most important decisions to make before beginning your journey. This isn’t only a lifestyle decision; it also has major financial implications.
I love the adventure of traveling solo and couldn’t imagine giving up that freedom. But I’ve met plenty of people who crave community and prefer group travel. It’s a matter of preference.
What is a “remote travel program”?
Remote travel programs enable you to travel with other remote workers. They also handle all the travel logistics: location selection, housing, coworking spaces, group activities, etc.
It’s an easier, more structured way to travel at an elevated price point.
Pros for Remote Travel Programs:
- Better Community
- If you crave community but also want to travel, a group program might be perfect for you.
- They Handle Travel Logistics
- If you don’t love picking destinations, finding housing, and figuring out logistics, then your life will be easier in a travel program.
Pros for Solo Traveling:
- Much Cheaper Than Traveling With A Program
- Traveling with a program is around 1.8-2.2x more expensive than if you’re traveling by yourself. If your goal is to gain financial freedom while living cheaply abroad, then traveling solo is a better long-term path.
- More Adventure
- I love the adventure that comes with picking my own destinations, finding housing, and making mistakes. Navigating life abroad is half of the adventure for me and I personally couldn’t imagine nomading any other way.
- More Flexibility
- If you’re in a program, you can only travel at the group’s pace. This means you can’t leave places you don’t like and you can’t stay longer in places you love.
- Certain programs, such as WifiTribe, bridge this gap by letting you pick specific months to join the tribe. Others, such as RemoteYear, force you to commit for 4-12 continuous months.
The Most Popular Remote Travel Programs
An important warning: A few remote travel programs have gone out of business in the last couple of years without refunding members. Please be sure that the program you’re joining is financially stable so this doesn’t happen to you.
- Remote Year
- This is both the most popular program and the least flexible one. You have to commit to a minimum of four months.
- WifiTribe is smaller than Remote Year, but it offers much more flexibility. You can choose which months and locations to join the group and when to break off on your own.
- Hacker Paradise
- Hacker Paradise offers similar flexibility to WifiTribe but they’ll also build custom itineraries for your solo travel.
Bonus: How to Find Online Communities for Nomads
Looking to meet other nomads before you embark on your journey? Here are a few great communities where you can find other nomads:
- Digital Nomads Around The World (100k FB Members)
- Female Digital Nomads (48k FB Members)
- Digital Nomad Girls Community (48.5k FB Members)
- NomadList (Paid Community)
How To Handle Health & Travel Insurance While Digital Nomading
Traveling without health or travel insurance is risky for obvious reasons. Since travel insurance prices start at only $40/month, there isn’t a good reason to nomad without insurance.
When nomading, you have two basic options: travel insurance or international health insurance.
Travel Insurance vs. International Health Insurance for Digital Nomads
Travel insurance is much cheaper, but it only covers emergency medical assistance. Also, there are restrictions on U.S. coverage if you’re American. It does cover many things that traditional health insurance doesn’t, such as:
- Lost luggage
- Trip cancellations
- Emergency evacuations.
International Health Insurance is a much more expensive option, but it includes:
- Routine check-ups
- Ongoing care for existing conditions
- Broader U.S. coverage
Important Note: Standard U.S. health insurance plans usually provide limited coverage abroad. Make sure to read about coverage restrictions if you’re considering staying on your existing plan.
From my experience, healthcare costs in developing countries tend to be 5-10x cheaper than in the U.S.
The most popular travel insurance company in recent years has been WorldNomads. The most recommended company for nomads is an insurance startup built specifically for nomads, SafetyWing. This is my personal recommendation.
If you’re interested in international health insurance, I recommend checking out International Insurance to compare providers and options.
If you’re looking for a more detailed breakdown on travel insurance, then I recommend this article from NomadGate.
How To Handle Taxes As A Digital Nomad
- If you’re not American, I recommend speaking with an expat tax lawyer in your country or hunting for information on Google. I couldn’t find a great guide for non-Americans – maybe I’ll create one in the future.
- The United States is one of the few countries that taxes non-resident citizens. This means even if you’re not in the U.S., you have to pay normal U.S. taxes unless you qualify for a Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE).
- To qualify, you must spend over 330 days abroad in any rolling 365-day period. If you qualify for the FEIE, your first ~$100k of wages or self-employment income is tax-free.
- Planning to nomad for an extended period? I recommend switching your residency to an income tax-free state. There’s no point in paying income tax to a state while living abroad. Income tax-free states include Alaska, Florida, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
To learn more, here is a detailed guide on switching your state residency and here is more information about the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.
How To Handle Cell Phone Plans As A Digital Nomad
There are two phone plan options when you’re traveling: use a home country plan abroad or buy a new plan in every country.
If you don’t need to make/receive frequent calls with your U.S. phone number then I recommend ditching your home country plan, porting your phone number to Google Voice (so you can make calls/texts with your existing number using data), and buying a local SIM card in each country that you visit. This will save you a lot of money, give you faster data, and a local number (expect to pay $10-45 USD per month with local SIM cards).
How To Switch To Google Voice & Use Local SIM Cards:
- Make sure you have an unlocked phone
- Without an unlocked phone, you won’t be able to use SIM cards from international carriers.
- Buy a SIM card when you arrive in each country
- I always Google which provider to use and how to buy a SIM card before arriving in a country. You can usually buy a SIM card at the airport – but not always.
- Maintain access to your U.S. number for $20 with Google Voice
- You can port your existing phone number to Google Voice for a one-time fee of $20. This enables you to text over Wifi or data for free using your current number.
- Full details on how to execute this.
- Use Gmail or Skype to make calls back to your home country
- With Google Voice, you can call American numbers for free via Gmail. And with Skype, you can call any number at a low rate.
Thoughts On American vs. Local SIM Cards
Using a home plan abroad will be significantly more expensive (and provide slower data) than buying local SIM cards. But if you want to keep a domestic plan, Google Fi and T-Mobile (Americans Only) are the most popular options.
From my experience, data in most developing countries is 5-10x cheaper than in the United States. Plus, if you’re using T-Mobile, you will frequently experience 2G or 3G speeds.
Also, if you’re in Europe you can find EU-wide coverage so that you won’t have to constantly switch SIM cards.
Credit Card and Banking Recommendations For Digital Nomads
There are four cards you need:
- An ATM card that doesn’t have ATM fees or international transaction fees (Charles Schwab is the most popular option and my personal choice)
- A credit card without foreign transaction fees (here’s a list of options)
- A backup ATM card stored separately
- A backup credit card stored separately
Backup cards are critical because you will lose a card or two at some point. Getting stuck without money or access to money in a foreign country is not an ideal situation and is a very easy one to avoid.
I love Schwab because every time I’ve lost my Schwab card, they’ve express shipped me a new card for free. This process is easy, you just contact your card provider and let them know where to ship the new card!
What To Pack When You’re Digital Nomading
Nomading forces you to be minimalistic because you have limited bag space. As a former maximalist, this lifestyle has taught me that I really don’t need things to be happy.
The more I’ve traveled, the less that I’ve realized I need. As a result, I’ve culled more and more over the years.
Quick Packing Tips:
- Pack less than you think you need. Most nomad hotspots across Asia and Latin America have cheap laundry services that cost ~$1-2 USD per kilo.
- Pick colors that work together: I can wear almost any shirt in my wardrobe with any shorts, pants, or bathing suit.
- Toiletries are easy to buy wherever you live, so there’s no need to overdo it. I used to pack for “all scenarios,” but now I only bring basic items and specialty U.S. products.
There are two common nomad packing strategies:
- Backpacker: one carry-on backpack (50L maximum) and one other small backpack
- Checked Bag Traveler: 1-2 checked bags and one small backpack
While I fall into the backpack category, your strategy should depend on how fast you’re looking to travel and what you require to be happy. Most budget airlines across Europe and Asia allow a maximum carry-on weight of 7kg (10kg in much of Europe) – so travel lightly if you’re moving quickly!
My Packing List (Mostly For Men and Tailored to Warm Destinations)
I’m a thorough researcher, which means you can trust that I’ve deeply thought through all of my recommendations. The short-list is here at the top, and a more thorough explanation of each item is below.
Looking for a female-focused packing guide? Check out this post.
1 45-50L Backpack (My Favorite)
1 20-35L Daypack (My Favorite)
1 Backpack Rain Cover (My Favorite)
3-5 Pairs of Socks (My Favorites)
2 Pairs of Shorts (My Favorites)
1 Pair of Jeans or Pants (My Favorites, Men & Women)
6-10 Shirts (My Favorites)
1 Rain Jacket (My Favorite)
1 Pair of Shoes (My Favorites)
1 Pair of Flip-Flops (My Favorites)
Travel Speaker (My Favorite)
Headphones (My Favorites)
Travel Adapter (My Favorite)
Portable Charger (My Favorite)
Dry Bags to Protect Electronics (My Favorites)
Electric Toothbrush (My Favorite)
Travel Towel (My Favorite)
Packing Cubes (My Favorites)
1 Lacrosse Massage Ball (My Favorite)
Ear Plugs (My Favorites)
Eye Mask (My Favorite)
Looking for someone’s opinion other than my own? Read this great guide.
Bonus: International Driver’s License
Not everyone travels with this but I recommend it. This license can help you avoid uncomfortable situations with foreign police. For Americans, you can get an international driver’s license in five minutes for $20 from any AAA location.
Also, if you have a motorcycle license in your home country, this will ensure you’re covered by insurance abroad.
The Three Most Popular Digital Nomad Travel Styles & Pros/Cons
Three of the biggest reasons why people stop nomading are isolation/loneliness, running out of money, and becoming burned out from travel. The root cause of all of these is traveling too fast.
Contrary to what you might see on social media, most long-term travelers travel slowly.
Why? Fast traveling makes it harder to live cheaply, be productive, get into a groove, and build deep relationships.
With that primer, here are three general types of nomadic travel styles:
1. Backpackers (Less than one month per location)
Anything shorter than a month is fast. In each new place you have to figure out where to live, where to eat, where to exercise, how to make friends, etc.
So if you’re also trying to figure out how to make money, the decision-making fatigue is draining.
When you’re starting out, be conscious of the inverse correlation between travel speed and expenses/community/productivity/routines.
2. Short-Term Travelers (1-3 months per location)
The longer people nomad, the slower they seem to travel. I spent the first 18 months of my travels changing locations every 5-6 weeks. Since then, I’ve slowed to a pace of a new location every 3-5 months.
Now that I’ve explored most of my nomad bucket list, I’m prioritizing productivity and extended stays in my favorite places (Bali, Taipei, and Medellin).
3. Long-Term or “Hub and Spoke” Travelers (3-6+ months per location)
Most long-term nomads I know fall into this category. They tend to cycle between their favorite places or settle down in one region.
The “hub and spoke” model involves living in a place with easy access to nearby destinations. Popular choices for this tend to be places like Chiang Mai and Bali.
How to Pick Destinations, Handle Visas, & Book Travel As A Digital Nomad
How to Pick Destinations, Handle Visas, & Book Travel As A Digital Nomad – Chapter 10
There isn’t an exact science to picking locations but here are some of the most useful tools and techniques:
- Nomad List
- Shows you the cost of living, WiFi speeds, and other details for most cities in the world
- Recommendations From Other Nomads
- There is endless content on the web from other nomads (you can read my guide to finding info on the internet here)
- Google Flights
- To see how expensive it is to fly from one location to another
- To gauge how expensive housing will be in various locations at a specific time of year
Tip: It’s worth researching high and low seasons before booking travel. You don’t want to be in Bali during rainy season or in Chiang Mai during burning season.
This site will soon have much more comprehensive location guides, but for now, here’s a short list of 10 of the most popular destinations.
And here’s a great breakdown of 30 of the most popular locations from Chris the Freelancer.
When You’re Starting, Start With The Easiest and Most Popular Locations
There is a reason why certain cities have become synonymous with digital nomads.
They tend to have:
- Cheap Living
- Fast WiFi
- Lots of English Speakers
- Great Nightlife
- Expat Friendly
- Large Nomad Communities
- Easy Visa Situations
When you’re first starting, it’s easiest to begin in low difficulty places where there’ll be a sizeable community of nomads.
What are some places that fit these criteria?
- Medellin, Colombia
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Bali (Ubud or Canggu), Indonesia
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Bangkok, Thailand
When I first started, in 2017, I spent two months in Bali and then two months in Chiang Mai. Being surrounded by other nomads made the culture shock of living abroad much more manageable.
If I had started in a complicated place like Bangalore, India (where I ended the year) then it would’ve been much harder to get adjusted to this lifestyle.
C. How Visas Work
If you’re American, you can travel to 163 countries around the world without a visa or with a “visa on arrival.” Most countries will let Americans visit for 30-90 days for free!
Many popular nomad destinations such as Bali and Chiang Mai will let you stay indefinitely if you do a “visa run” every 60-90 days. Doing a visa run involves leaving the country for at least a few hours before re-entering.
For a full list of how visas work for every nationality, I recommend checking out Visa List.
D. How to Book Flights
I love Google Flights because you can look at a map and see the cost of flying from one city to any other city in the world. it’s the simplest way to understand how expensive it will be to move around the world.
There’s also a price calendar so you can find the cheapest flights between two locations.
Google Flights doesn’t always have the best data for regional airlines – SkyScanner tends to do this much better.
E. How to Book Hotels
I’ve found that Booking.com has the best selection and prices internationally but this can vary from country to country.
How To Book Long-Term Housing As A Digital Nomad
Booking in Advance or After you Arrive?
For the first year of my travels, I only booked 3-5 days of hotels before arriving. By not hunting for longer term housing until after I arrived, I could explore neighborhoods and apartments in person.
While this extra diligence leads to better decisions, it’s also much more time-consuming. Now, I always book one month on Airbnb in advance (except in Chiang Mai and Bali) to save myself time and stress. This means I spend more time researching online before arriving.
Major tip: Always verify the Wifi speed before booking long-term housing. You can either test in person or ask the host to send a speed test screenshot. In Asia, I definitely recommend testing bed comfort to avoid bad mattresses.
How to Pick Neighborhoods?
The recommended way to find the best neighborhoods is to Google “<City Name> Digital Nomad Neighborhoods” or “<City Name> Expat Neighborhoods.” There’s a write-up or forum about this for almost every city in the world!
There are four main ways to book long-term housing:
1. Book on Airbnb
This is almost always the best and easiest way for stays under three months. The exception is if you’re going to Chiang Mai or Bali. In those locations, you’re better off finding places in person – more about that in section 2.
I’ve found that Airbnb has the best selection, best filters, and easiest to use platform. Every city/country has a local platform, but navigating foreign sites is challenging and the options always seem to be inferior.
Keep reading below for my best Airbnb tips.
2. Find Housing in Person
I haven’t found this strategy to be very effective outside of Chiang Mai and Bali.
In Chiang Mai, the city is full of apartment buildings that allow one month leases. And prices are so low it’s not worth paying Airbnb fees.
In Bali, you can either use Facebook groups to find villas or use Booking.com and Airbnb to find hotel/homestay rooms. After finding a place you like on Booking.com or Airbnb, ask for the location and show up in person.
It’s cheaper to pay in cash and the price is always negotiable!
3. Find Housing in a Facebook Group
If you want to live with other people or want a long-term rental, this can be an effective strategy. Most popular locations have Facebook groups called “<City Name> Housing.”
4. Find Housing on a Local Housing Site
I haven’t had success with this method except in Lake Tahoe, USA on HomeAway. The challenge is that many of these sites don’t let you filter by your dates, don’t allow one month rentals, and aren’t easy for English speakers to navigate.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Plan Too Far in Advance!
If you’re location independent, plans can change quickly based on clients, love, friends, or your happiness in a location.
The further in advance you book housing and flights, the less flexibility you have to alter plans.
I now rarely book housing or flights more than a month in advance, and I almost never book housing for more than a month in a new destination. Why? Because if you arrive in a new city and don’t like it, you don’t want to be forced to stay.
Six Awesome Airbnb Tips (From A Full-Time Traveler)
1. ALWAYS check Wifi speeds before booking
I always ask the host about the Wifi speed and request they send a speed test screenshot. If you’re already in the city, then you can speed test in person.
2. How to avoid terrible beds
I have slept on mattresses that should not be called mattresses. You do not want to book a place for a month only to find out that the mattress is rock solid. Be especially careful about this in Asia.
To avoid bad mattresses, I suggest booking places with reviews or visiting places in person.
3. Major discounts for stays over 28 days
Most apartments provide substantial discounts for stays over 28 days. Enter your extended dates to see all of your options at the lowest prices.
4. Use filters
There are plenty of Airbnbs that don’t have WiFi or A/C (in places where you need A/C) so use filters. “Laptop friendly workspace” is a great filter if you spend time working from home.
5. Don’t click “request to book,” click “message host”
Since you can only “request to book” one place at a time, you will waste time if you “request to book” one by one. You should message all of your top housing choices with a simple “is your place available for these dates?”
You’ll get pre-approved for available Airbnbs and then you can immediately book your best option.
6. You can Negotiate!
Every place on Airbnb is negotiable. You can message a host and ask if they will reduce the price for you. This is particularly effective if you’re looking to book for multiple months.
The 16 Keys To Traveling Abroad Safely (For Women and Men)
For female specific posts, scroll down to the bottom of this post.
Having visited more than 35 countries in my lifetime and after spending nine months traveling through the Asia Pacific region, I have extensive experience staying safe while venturing abroad. I’ve put together a list of essential tips to help you stay safe in foreign countries.
Hope you find these guidelines helpful–enjoy your travels and be careful out there!
1. Check Government Warnings Before Traveling
Before traveling to an overseas location, make sure the area you’re visiting is safe and recommended for travelers. The Canadian government is a recommended source of information and provides detailed travel advisories on its website. It should be noted that the U.S. State Department does not generally provide detailed safety warnings, and I do not recommend using it as a reference point.
2. Get Recommended Vaccinations Before Leaving
Many countries around the world require specific vaccinations in order to enter, and there’s generally a good reason for it. The Canadian Government has a detailed guide on what vaccinations you should get for any country around the world. If you’re in Canada, Summit Travel Health (www.summittravelhealth.com) has 10 locations in Toronto and Montreal and is a convenient and reliable source for your vaccination needs.
3. Google “Popular Local Scams in X Country” Before Arriving
Some countries and cities are notorious for specific scams or pickpockets. By knowing what scams to expect in a given place, you can prepare yourself and spot warning signs before anything bad happens. This is something that I do consistently, especially when I travel to a new region of the world.
4. Make Sure To Research Whether You Can Drink The Water
One of the easiest ways to get sick is to drink water that you shouldn’t. If you’re from a country like the U.S. or Canada, where you’re habitually used to rinsing your toothbrush with water, you need to be extra careful. A little known fact is that Steve Jobs almost died in India the year before he started Apple because he got dysentery from drinking tap water.
5. Be Wary of Strangers
In most Asian countries, people are not normally friendly to strangers. If someone approaches you on the street, you should be extremely wary because they probably want to sell you something or possibly scam you. Yes, there are some generally curious and harmless strangers, but it can be nearly impossible to figure out people’s motives until it’s potentially too late. It’s ok to be standoffish and it’s also okay to be friendly–just be careful and aware of your surroundings either way.
6. Try To Blend In
If you attract attention with your appearance as a tourist, you’re making yourself a target. I recommend you leave jewelry, watches and other nice or flashy accessories at home–especially if you’re in a developing country. I travel with a plain looking bag and make an effort to dress in a way that doesn’t attract too much attention. It’s always better to stay under the radar if you can.
7. Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
When I first started traveling, I would take the time to answer strangers’ questions such as “where are you from?” “Where are you going?” “What is your name?”. That was, until I realized that most of these questions were icebreakers before the person tried to sell me something. I’ve learned to say “no thank you” or wave people away with my hand if I sense that is their intent. It is well within your right to not share information with strangers–don’t feel bad about keeping to yourself.
8. Follow The Locals
If you’re in a place for an extended period of time, making a local friend can help you a tremendous amount if you want to avoid getting sick, getting scammed, or generally avoid other pitfalls you might not be aware of. If the locals tell you to avoid eating street food (as they told me in Bangalore, India), then don’t eat street food. If you aren’t sure how to safely cross the street, watch the locals or even walk right next to them to be extra safe. In essence, the locals know best, so ask them questions and follow in their footsteps (especially when crossing a busy street!).
9. Be Smart In Busy Areas
When you’re on a train, in a busy market, or in another area where there is a lot of human activity, make sure to be smart with your belongings and keep your head on a swivel. I frequently walk with my hands in my front pockets so that it’s impossible for thieves to take my phone or wallet from me. For women carrying handbags, be sure to hold them close to your body and hold on to the strap with one or both hands. Thieves prey on people who aren’t paying attention, so be aware of your surroundings, keep your phone close to you, and don’t get distracted.
10. Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is a critical investment when traveling abroad because it covers you in case of medical emergencies, plus it covers lost or stolen baggage. As someone who has lost a bag and visited hospitals abroad, I definitely recommend playing it safe in this regard. World Nomads is the most popular travel insurance and is my personal recommendation.
11. Buy A Local SIM Card At Your Destination
If you have an active cell phone, you’re significantly safer while traveling because you’re able to phone for help, look on a map to see if the driver is taking you on the correct route, and Google potential scams to avoid them in real-time. I narrowly avoided a scam in Bangkok last year because I googled the “Lucky Buddha Temple” that the driver was taking me to and found out that it wasn’t a real temple. Pro Tip: Bring an unlocked cell phone and get a SIM card when you arrive at the airport – it’s usually about 70-90% cheaper than purchasing international data.
12. Use Transportation Apps (Such As Uber) Whenever Possible
When you use a transportation app like Uber, Grab (in SE Asia), Go-Jek (in Indonesia), or Ola (in India), you’re significantly safer because the ride is tracked and the driver is being held accountable by the company. It’s the same principle as buying an item on Amazon versus from a random person in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Transportation apps also tend to be much cheaper because drivers won’t be able to charge you “tourist” prices.
Bonus: Safety Tips For Women! (By Eva Gutierrez)
If you’re a female and wondering if it’s safe for you to travel the world alone, the answer is yes! There are thousands of solo female digital nomads backpacking the world as we speak.
Here’s what they’re doing to make sure they stay safe (for the record, men can take this same advice for traveling safely as a solo digital nomad):
- Have somebody back home accountable for you when you land in a new country.
- Tell them when your flight arrives, the hostel/Airbnb address that you’re going to directly after, how you are getting there (taxi, hostel shuttle, etc.) and approximately how long it will take you to get there.
- Have somebody accountable for you for short term travel trips.
- Note: this doesn’t have to be the same person. If you’re taking a weekend trip to Ubud, Bali from Canggu, tell someone that you’ll be leaving on Friday and coming back on Monday. Tell them who you’re going with and a loose plan of what you are doing while you’re there.
- Buy travel tickets (flights, buses, trains) that leave and arrive during the day time.
- Avoid arriving to a new city or country alone when the sun is down.
- Optional: Carry a pocket-sized pepper spray with you.
- These are hand held, pepper spray key chains that can be attached to your backpack and carried around with you everywhere you go.
- Be hyper aware of your surroundings.
- Being aware of who is around you or potential dangers is always something that should be on a digital nomad’s mind. If you’re in a new country, you should always be hyper aware of how you can avoid any dangerous situations and if you need to leave a location to make sure you do so.
- Be confident.
- If you’re walking down the street alone and there is somebody ahead of you walking in your direction (and acting normally), look them in the eyes and acknowledge them as they get closer. You want to show that you’re confident and in turn, not someone somebody with a bad agenda wants to mess with. This advice is situational—if you see somebody with clearly bad intentions walking towards you, use your pepper spray and/or run. For example, the time to use this approach is if you are walking down the street at night alone and somebody is walking down the street towards you. Look them in the eyes as you are about to pass each other and then nod or smile as they walk past you. The idea is to make sure they know you acknowledge them and are aware of their presence and what they look like.
- To this point– don’t look lost. Using a GPS app to find your way while walking is not only essential, but it will give you confidence that you know where you are going and won’t look like a vulnerable tourist.
How To Meet People When You Move To A New City
One of the most challenging aspects of living a nomadic life is making friends on the road. The good news is that as with any skill, you’ll get better with practice!
My best tips for meeting other people are:
1. Post in the city’s expat or digital nomad Facebook group
This is a simple and easy way to meet people in most cities.
Here is my template message (feel free to use it!): “Hey, I’m a friendly [Insert Nationality] who’s new in [Insert City] and is looking to meet other friendly people! Anyone interested in grabbing a drink on [Insert Day] at [Insert Time]?”
In Belgrade, Serbia, I organized a 20-person happy hour within two days of arriving. And in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, I met most of the people I know through posts like these.
2. Join a coworking space
I don’t love working from coworking spaces. But if you’re looking to be surrounded by other remote workers, then this is a great option. It’s a major bonus if the coworking space hosts events or helps facilitate introductions between members.
3. Go to nomad events or meetups
Many popular nomad hubs have meetups you can find out about in the local nomad Facebook group.
4. Go to a language exchange
Most cities have language exchange meetups you can find by Googling “Language Exchange CITY.” Language exchanges are meetups for people from different cultures to practice speaking new languages (or just to make new friends!).
You’ll find both locals and travelers who are outgoing and are looking to meet new people.
12 Things To Know When Moving To A New City As A Digital Nomad
Check VisaList before traveling to any new place.
2. SIM Cards
I always Google “best cell phone providers COUNTRY” before arriving in a new location. It’s usually easiest to get a SIM card in the airport, but the process is always a little different.
You can usually find a blog post about this process with a quick Google search.
Tipping varies from country to country, so it’s worth Googling this.
4. Exchange Rate & Getting Cash
The cheapest way to get cash is always a fee-free ATM card. If you exchange cash, knowing the exchange rate will help to make sure you don’t get scammed.
5. Transportation from the Airport to Your Housing
Many airports don’t have WiFi so it’s worth figuring out your transportation options before arriving. Foreign airports, especially in developing countries, can be overwhelming, so it’s not ideal to be scrambling at the last minute.
You can ask your Airbnb or hostel host what the best option is for getting from the airport to your accommodation. Some hosts provide a taxi for you, which can be a safe option and will help you avoid haggling with taxi drivers at the airport.
6. Avoiding Scams
It’s worth Googling “Common COUNTRY scams” because most countries have specific scams to be conscious of.
7. Finding Housing
If you’re looking for information about housing, scroll up to the previous section!
8. Finding Places to Work (or Eat!)
Google Maps has detailed ratings for almost everything in every city across the globe. If you’re looking for coffee shops, restaurants, coworking spaces, etc., use Google Maps!
You can alternatively Google “Best COWORKING SPACE/RESTAURANT/CAFE in CITY” to find a list that someone has created.
9. Dating and Nightlife
For dating, Tinder is an easy way to meet people in every country around the world. And no, it’s not just for hookups :).
Meeting people the old-fashioned way while exploring a new city is also a memorable way to spend your time!
As for nightlife, you can Google “CITY best nightlife,” look around on Google Maps, and ask locals you meet!
10. Transportation and Must Download Apps
The best modes of transportation and local apps vary from city to city. You’re best off Googling to find out if there’s a local ride-sharing app and how most people move around the city.
Know that taxi scams are common in most countries around the world.
11. If You Need Healthcare
When I need healthcare advice in a city, I rely on Google and the local digital nomad Facebook group. I suggest that you do the same!
12. Being a Tourist
Google and TripAdvisor are your best friends if you’re looking for touristy activities in your city!
That’s all, folks! Thank you for reading. Please let me know if you have any feedback, questions, or ideas on how to improve this guide.
Hope to see you on the road somewhere!