The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

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So how would you like a job that takes just a few hours of your time a day, as you spend the rest of your time hopping from country to country across continents, sunbathing on the beaches in Thailand, learning Salsa in Argentina, trekking through the foothills of the Himalayas, ranching in South Africa – you get the idea of becoming a digital nomad!

OK, this is a very long article. But if you want to start as a digital nomad you should start exactly here. I’ll tell you all details on how I’ve started with my personal digital nomad lifestyle. You should invest these 15 to 20 minutes of your time if you’re really interested in this!

Increasingly, as lifestyle in the West becomes more hectic, more than more people across the developed world have taken matters in their own hands and decided to join the growing army of digital nomads. There are young entrepreneurs looking for small entrepreneurship opportunities with one thing in common – they wish to take full control of life, rather than be controlled by it. The idea is to live a great life and live it NOW, rather than wait for retirement in thirty years to do just that.

If you’re curious about how to become a digital nomad, what are the best location independent business ideas, and much more, you will get a plenty of information here. Just like many other ways of living, digital nomad jobs have their charms, but you should be aware of the downsides as well. But it is our opinion that the upsides by far outweigh the downsides. Still, we try to present both sides of the coin as impartially as possible.

One of my digital nomad workplaces recently in Egypt. I really enjoyed to have some shadow without any reflections at screen. Best was to sit close to the bar and to sip a cocktail whenever I felt I need one…

One of the main problems location independent are faced is the insecurity of income. But always remember that this is similar for entrepreneurs, start-up founders, self-employed and freelancer. So if they can make it, you can do it as well. Of course this aspect can be a big turn off, especially if you are the type of person that gets comfort in predictability. So if you are a person of comfort please drop the idea of being location independent – or (!) you should redesign your life!

In this article, we discuss just how to become a digital nomad, and do it as painlessly as possible.

See the World, Travel as You Please. You no longer have to join the Army to see the world. As a digital nomad you are exposed to a world far bigger than, say, Kansas City. And you’d be richer for the wonderful experiences that you’re likely to gain, the friends made, the languages learned, cultures explored and the pristine, exotic spots discovered.

If you’ve had enough of being a digital nomad for some reason, or have to return home because of a family situation, and have to look for a traditional job again, you may find it difficult to convince your prospective employer about how you were not wasting your time in Thailand or Argentina, and were actually working or running a serious business while you were out there.

Nothing you can do during day time. The sun reflections at your screen will damage your eyes! Anyway, this is something I do once the sun does not burn too much: working at the beach finishing my daily work.

From my own experience becoming location independent can be difficult. It sounds so simple and easy that people stop thinking about the negative effects of being location independent. Being location independent and becoming a digital nomad needs careful planning and a good business plan first. You need to know that you still have to work regular and consistent – and with passion.

One of the main problems location independent are faced is the insecurity of income. But always remember that this is similar for entrepreneurs, start-up founders, self-employed and freelancer. So if they can make it, you can do it as well. Of course this aspect can be a big turn off, especially if you are the type of person that gets comfort in predictability. So if you are a person of comfort please drop the idea of being location independent – or (!) you should redesign your life!

Once you entered the stage of lifestyle design you will get a pleasure you have not got before. Being motivated to work just for yourself has a quality that satisfies. Working on your own feels better than being the slave of a boss.

My story: Why I became a digital nomad

For me, one of the disadvantages of working as self-employed, is the need to get projects and customers. I frequently see myself thinking in old localized structures. Yes, maybe some people do not need what I offer at my home. But worldwide there are enough people around who are in need of my services.

And working with these globalized people is exactly what I need. Being independent and free to work where I want and when I want. With my previous jobs in my neck this shows me daily that I did the right choice.

There is one restriction you need to know about working as location independent. If you are one of these socializing persons who are in need of “real” colleagues around you, being location independent might be the wrong choice. As location independent you tend to work alone, from home, in a coffee shop or library, most of the time. All of these locations are isolating and can be lonely, even if you are surrounded by people.

No joke but this beach in Thailand was really that empty. 2 kilometers width and a depth of 70 meters of perfect sandy beach. Once of the best destinations to work completely remote. Especially I had perfect WIFI speed and connection.

Similar to self-employed you have to be aware that health and savings fall on your own shoulders. Same can be for paying tax – but there are ways to prevent this in a globalized world.

Working several years as employee for a large bank with 250km travel per day by train – 4 hours travel time per day – and working nearly 16 hours a day finished me completely. Within just 4 weeks it was clear that my employer will be involved in a very huge fusion with another big player at the market – and we will be the underdog.

Seeing my colleagues killing themselves just for management’s sake, their position and their spare money kicked me in the ass with a bit of a wake-up call. I resigned just four weeks after getting one of those desired lifetime contracts to prevent my first heart attack. I went back to university working as lecturer for less money but a more quite life. Sedated by a 9-to-5 job I soon started my own side business, worked as trainer, business coach and consultant – and have been back to 16 hours per day nearly 7 days a week.

One of my recent workplaces: The Club Dolphin Sri Lanka. Wonderful WIFI connection and food. Friendly and helpful people. Not overcrowded at all. Would you exchange this with a stinky office place?

The ugly feeling that I loose all my dreams, I am an ignorant for my family and their wishes and the truth that I had no real life social contacts left, it was time to change something essential.

To be honest: there was no Big Bang event which changed my life suddenly. It was a creeping process in my innermost whatever. I got more and more nervous and aggressive. Bad temper was my second name and I got more and more depressive. Being responsible for money, success, family, children success in school and my bills was simply too much. Instead of taking some spare free time to relax I increased my psycho knowledge to calm down my mood by doing various certification processes – every weekend for 1 1/2 years. Finished again.

But yes, there was someday when things changed. The idea to quit all this to prevent being doomed by myself (and my family) was subliminal existing – and then it came out. All this changed my self-destroying behavior. Knowing hell about informatics, the internet and business – I taught all this at university – I decided to change my life completely. This all sounds so easy – but it is definitely not. And most people get frustrated by this. This is because they read books or listen to inspiring audiobooks but they do not reflect what they read or listen to. You can not be so easily a location independent if you earn your money with painting houses. And it was never said that you never ever have to work again. Of course I still have to work but my attitude got a significant push. I got many inspiring impulses and with critical analysis and my business coach perspective I knew that changing life is possible.

Visiting the Thailand James Bond Rock. This picture was shot after working half-day for a clients project. I had luck to shoot this picture… without tourists. Show this your colleagues and never return to your job and office again!

After leaving university I still work – for my current financial safety – for some big organization. Anyway, the virus “location independence” infected me and all I secretly work for is to reach this goal. Do not misunderstand me. Location independence does not mean that I want to work at Bora Bora right now. There is a restriction called “children”. They have their own job called school and their own social network. I am restricted by this and there is no problem with that. But all this will end in some few years and this is what I always keep in mind. Even when they study at some university they will have enough free time. And it does not matter where they learn for their exams: at home or at Maui.

The idea to work 9-to-5 in an smelly office box, doing every damn day the same boring stuff until I am 70 years old still makes me sick. My father-in-law worked until he was 65 – just to die with 69. And this should not be my path. I will not accept this.

I started to calm down many things. If you want to reach your goal fast you need to walk slow. I am doing sports again, have time to read my favorite books, doing small family adventures at weekend and even free time to run this website. I feel better now and first online jobs do quite well – pushing me forward to my final goal: location independence.

What I do as online job? I knew that you would ask this. I work partly location independent (e.g. at the baths or sitting at my terrace) from my laptop while I help my clients build their own (online) businesses and mentor aspiring young entrepreneurs worldwide on five continents. I mentor from the first idea up to a running business.

Some words about my own philosophy

As my main education is something with informatics, IT, business coaching and social media, I know that future work place will change dramatically. And it is a fact that I changed significant during the last 10 years. So why not taking advantage of all these technology trigger?

Today we have a business world which was not possible just (!) 15 years ago. I can write a message sitting at Hawaii to somebody sitting at Bali – and it arrives just 1 or 2 seconds later! Hell, I am really old but I can remember times when you wrote a letter to another continent and it arrived 6 or 8 weeks later. All this is just 20 years ago. Now I can do business with people from Pakistan or Dubai in shortest time.

This was my working place in Formentera which is close to Ibiza (Spain). Best was that we booked a cheap 2 star hostel. But this 2 star hostel was closely related to the owning 4 star hotel. Which meant: I was able to use 4 star WIFI, pool and restaurant. All included with my 2 star hostel expenses. I’ve worked here 2 weeks doing a project for a customer.

This means that I can collaborate with people – YOU are one! – around the world, and scale many kinds of traditional businesses to global proportions on the internet. Depending on time-zones 9-to-5 is retro and old-style. Having a local business is not a worldwide option. And hell: using all this freaky internet – did I wrote that I really had a time without internet? My children can not imagine this… – I can work from everywhere at this planet if I get internet access! With a laptop, a tablet or even with a mobile phone!

This is where 3 most important terms get important: Digital Native, Digital Nomad and Location Independence. Just to clarify: Digital Nomad is just a synonym for Location Independence. Location independence is my favorite so I will use it at this website. To be location independent you must be a Digital Native. You need to know how to use the internet and how it works. Do not be scared: If you aren’t a professional I will teach you the fundamentals and professional ways how to build up an internet entrepreneur startup.

Working as digital nomad enables me to work with people around the globe. This picture is from Africa showing Michael who owns a safari company in Tanzania. I enjoyed his kind and friendly character… which is absolutely normal for this country.

Got it? Location Independence means: you can work from everywhere for everybody at any time in no time!

When many people hear about Location Independence they imagine themselve somewhere at some beach. And they are right. Outstanding and amazing beaches perfectly fit to Location Independence. Just imagine that you are sitting at Maldives, watching the endless blue sea, sipping a longdrink and doing business. A perfect bureau. But there is some small problem. I really love these beaches and the perfect warm climate. Not everybody does. But for me this is dreamland. The problem is that after 4 weeks beaches might get boring and sipping your daily free longdrinks transform you to an alcohol addict. So Location Independence should offer some more.

For me Location Independence is about meeting people as well. I want to travel the world to learn about people and their culture. So staying restricted in a closed resort might be a good choice if you need silence to relax, to concentrate on your work and to come into Zen. But meeting people is most inspiring and will give you fresh ideas for your location independent business.

Every digital nomad is different. Some love backpacking cities, some sailing the world. For me it’s about sandy beaches and palms, perfect weather and temperature. And always a perfect scuba dive site close to my hotel or resort. It’s always what you love, decide on your own!

Being location independent means to leave closed resorts and to experience the country where you “work”. For example you can work 3 days in a row sipping cocktails at the beach – and doing a 2 day adventure travel exploring the local jungle with your backpack. If you are restricted as I am – my backpack includes a family: every country offers touristic attractions, sightseeing and adventure parks for the smallest.

Location-independent professionals frequently often work as freelance writers, photographers, affiliate marketers, web designers, software developers, graphic designers, and sometimes they simply pick up odd jobs as they go. But there are other options as well. You can work either as internet entrepreneur running your own webshop or I can help you to create your own business type and style. It is all about creativity and finding options. There are endless options once you realize that you should break with restricted thinking and switch your brain to creative thinking.

The core fundamentals

When it comes to a definition of Lifestyle Design many lifestyle designer note that it is not about making that big money but about freedom of work place decision. OK, that sounds fine. For me this sounds like a first semester student living in a local residential community.

Of course it is way more cheaper to live with USD 1000 in Panama than somewhere in Monaco. And of course it is cheaper to live with your backpack under a palm somewhere deep inside a jungle than having a 5 star luxury resort with meals and drinks – and of course WLAN internet access – included.

Sri Lanka Sightseeing

If you want to change your life goals you need to start walking. This is a lighthouse in Sri Lanka.
And especially this country changed my life rapidly. Friendly people everywhere and a mentality who will love.

Come on! Is it really such a problem to say that working as location independent can support at least some luxury lifestyle? Location independent does not mean a living next to poverty. It should give you at least so much money that you can live AND have some additional adventures! So if one of your goals is to wear a 40,000 buckets IWC Schaffenhausen wristwatch – why not? Why not travelling the Caribbean with a Yacht?

This is where my lifestyle movement starts: When we talk about Lifestyle Design we always want to increase our luxury. And YOU decide what kind of luxury is worth working for! Some want to own a Ferrari, some a 40,000 buckets IWC Schaffenhausen wristwatch and some want the luxury to travel Caribbean islands with a small yacht – family and children included.

If you join my movement then you are with me: this is to change your life AND to make more money than you have right now!

And now it starts for you with your (!) vision

Understanding that our world rapidly changes to a worldwide business option there is no more need to have standard job!

I started first with a vision. A dream. And an experiment. Would it be possible to do my job only weaponed with a laptop, a mobile and a tablet? It took some more time to answer, because I really tested this hypothesis. It was partly possible. There were two main restrictions: first I needed to get some power supply for my laptop – once it run empty. And second I would need from time to time an internet connection.

The next question was: is it possible to work somewhere at a luxury destination? I do not talk about sitting in a hotel room. I talk about sitting outside, maybe some nice beach in front of me or a pool! My first answer was: sure! So I did some experiments sitting at my terrace. I had to understand that sunlight would be my enemy. My MacBook Pro morphed to a mirror for the sun making me blind. There was a second big problem: temperature and tropical environment can be a real problem for a laptop!

Is it Caribbean? Or Africa? Or maybe Bali? No, it’s Formentera in Spain, a small Island very close to Ibiza. A place where I worked and relaxed 2 weeks from, making my money with a search engine optimization project.

But the vision was there. So how to make money during travel? The question: How to get the necessary money?

Search the web. You will find tons of people telling you that all you need is a blog. I can tell you: forget it. There are only few making big money with blogs! Getting rich with a blog is a false promise. Tim Ferris wrote in his “4-Hour-Work-Week” book, that all you need is a single page promoting your eBook. Maybe he was true once he wrote this. But this is years ago. Time has changed!

This is the truth: you can not make money just with a single webpage or a blog. And forget that people tell you to get rich with affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing can make some few money but it will not make you rich. And Amazon (for example) installed serious restrictions during the past years!

If you decide to work location independent you need to understand this: you need to do some serious job!

If you make your money by painting houses it will still possible to do this in Sri Lanka. But things are different there. If you are on expert in food chemistry… well, might be a problem to import your chemistry. But if you understood that there are many things out there which can be done 100% digital you got it.

Not all my tours are relaxing only. This image shows me during a tough ride through the Caribbean Jungle in Dominican Republic. The image caught my emotion with respect to the driving skills of our local driver… In other countries he would got busted for driving like this…

Yes, you need a website and a blog. If you are surprised now: you need it as contact platform for your customers. The blog is needed to get a serious Google ranking.

Find a niche. Do not fight the big fishes. You can not win. Then think twice: can this be done 100% digital or do you still need to sell physical products? If the answer is 100% digital you are on the road.

There are many jobs out there which can be done online only. You can do web design projects, do controlling stuff, making online marketing for customers, or plan their products. Maybe you are an architect and you can work on plans (digital of course). All this can be done online!

So, once you are at your favorite location remember this: best time to work is in the morning or the evening. Maybe, if it is too hot at your travel destination you might work inside at high noon. But as long you have internet and your laptop you are on the road! And yes, this needs discipline. Lots of!

Can it be done with family and children?

This is definitely NOT a chapter for all those famous lifestyle designer out there. If you search the web you will find various lifestyle designer telling you about their glorious freedom and how happy they are to travel whatever jungle with their girlfriend with a backpack. Reading this I feel like somebody kicked me in my ass. Having family – wife and two children – this is pure mockery for me. I can not just leave and travel the world. Having family means responsibility and I am happy with that.

So how can we combine location independence with family? Well, it is really possible. But it is different from what all these geeks out there are promising.

Yes: it’s me. Back smiling. The tour driver spend a beer after his tough jungle ride. You can see me with my son during a digital nomad travel to Caribbean. As my family knows that I have to work even during travel they are used to relax on their own. Which does not mean we’re not doing family excursions at all. Remember, that – as a digital nomad – I’m free to work whenever I want to work. So this is why we can do travel adventures whenever we like!

I assume that you are reading this because you are in some similar situation. And maybe you want to be location independent but family activities restrict you from having location independence. I can tell you that there is really a solution: you can start as part-time location independent and become one day a full-time location independent.

Always keep in mind: children grow up and will (hopefully) live their own life. This is exactly the moment when you can shift from part-time to full-time location independence. Oh, I forgot. You are reading all this because you have younger children.

Having younger children does not prevent location independence. As a fact you can have both. You can take school holidays to work as location independent and to earn your money somewhere at the world. There is absolutely no need to stay at home just because you have your 9-to-5. OK, you don’t want to take work with you to your holidays? Hell, I am sure that your children have lot’s of fun at some resort while you can earn your money for 4 hours a day. They can handle it. Believe me, I KNOW that! You are not that interesting once they have encountered all the facilities at a children-friendly resort.

I will frequently focus on exactly that topic and how you can find your way to get that children-friendly Location Independence. You can do it and I will guide you on your way.

So how can you plan your digital nomad lifestyle?

You cannot begin your digital nomad lifestyle if you’re neck deep in debt worth a hundred thousand dollars or so. Till you’ve completely paid off your debts, stick to your old job, and prepare systematically for digital nomad careers. Save enough money to afford the flight ticket, initial cost of living in a new location as digital nomads – which includes the cost of food, lodging, internet and transportation. Also have enough for an emergency fund – if things go horribly wrong. How much money do you really need? Well, save enough for a month’s stay in a new country, plus enough to get you home if you have had enough by the end of it.

Carry a laptop in excellent condition, an iPhone or an Android phone, a 3G USB Modem, plugs that make it possible to use your cell phone data network as internet for your laptop (in an emergency), anti-theft software, an account in a cloud-based online backup such as Dropbox, a 1 TB external hard drive, a language learning software, a small notebook, pens, pencils and you are done! That’s all you need for a digital nomads career.

Becoming a digital nomad is like scuba diving. You need to plan your work destination, prepare your equipment well and always have a buddy with you assisting in problematic situations.

One of the reasons being digital nomads works in low waged, third world countries and not in, say, Germany or the United Kingdon is because your money is worth a lot more in these countries, and you can get by with very little. Some of the countries with highly affordable living where it is also possible to have a reasonable lifestyle with all modern amenities and where the rule of law holds true are Thailand, Cambodia, Argentina, Columbia, Laos, Vietnam, Malta and Costa Rica. As long as you can live a tolerably decent lifestyle and have an excellent WiFi connection, it doesn’t really matter where you live. But it helps to know the local culture first.

What are you really good at? What’s your most marketable skill? How can you add value to people’s lives, what product or service can you sell to people that makes them happily part with their hard earned money for that? Based on these criteria, think of the best location independent business ideas that suit your purposes perfectly. There are so many things you could do – you could be a self-published Kindle writer, create a popular blog, work as a web developer, graphic designer, photographer, a small entrepreneur with an online store selling info-products, or as a website owner earning passive income by selling ad space – the list is endless.

The thing about being a digital nomad is that you spend more time on travel and play, than at work, and pack in a lot more in the few hours that you actually work. Digital nomads are small entrepreneurs, managers, rather than workers. They outsource almost everything to a small army of virtual assistants in India or Philippines, and restrict themselves to only the most important and critical work that requires their own specific input. What’s the fun in being a digital nomad if you end up doing all the work?

Conclusion

There is one restriction you need to know about working as location independent. If you are one of these socializing persons who are in need of “real” colleagues around you, being location independent might be the wrong choice. As location independent you tend to work alone, from home, in a coffee shop or library, most of the time. All of these locations are isolating and can be lonely, even if you are surrounded by people.

Well, that’s it – our step-by-step instructions on how to become a digital nomad. Do you think you’re up to the challenge of becoming one yourself? We would love to hear from you, so keep the comments and suggestions coming!