This content was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 13th, 2021
In today’s work-from-home world, you may have heard the term “digital nomad” more than ever, whether alongside enviable selfies from influencers or in targeted ads proposing ways for you to switch up your work routine.
But what is a digital nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely from anywhere they want, using their laptop to telecommute to their job while living a nomadic lifestyle.
What’s With All The Nomads These Days?
First things first: let’s get to the root of the digital nomad trend.
Technically, the term digital nomad was coined in 1997, when Tsugio Makimoto and David Manner released their book, Digital Nomad1. They declared that the advancement of technology would eventually enable workers to work remotely and travel as they pleased.
As you know, they were right—now that we live in a technologically driven world with access to high-speed internet right on our phones, embracing the digital nomad lifestyle is easier than ever.
- Between 2018 and 2020, the population of digital nomads doubled. And that was before the pandemic had us all working from our couches in our pajamas.2
- Since we abandoned our offices in March 2020, digital nomadism became even more common as workers realized that they really could do their jobs from anywhere.
What Do You Do As A Digital Nomad?
What’s in a digital nomad’s job description? The options are as varied as the locales they visit.
While a remote worker can’t wait tables or paint murals from a screen, if you can work remotely and are not tied down to a specific location, you can join the digital nomad community.
Vanlifers often practice this digital nomad lifestyle, as it allows them to make an income while maintaining the freedom of a nomadic lifestyle. Other nomads travel overseas, bouncing around and working in hotels or coffee shops.
What Industries are Digital Nomad-Friendly?
More and more companies are giving their full-time employees the option to work remotely. Likewise, countless freelancers leverage their flexibility to embrace the lifestyle.
Some common industries for digital nomads include:1
This is by no means an exhaustive list—if you can do it from a laptop with a WiFi connection, you can probably do it as a digital nomad.
And of course, with remote work becoming more common even in the corporate world, more traditional salaried workers are also trading their desks for travel.
How Much Do Digital Nomads Make?
Because nomads work across various industries, yearly income can range widely.
Since the term “nomad” conjures images of rucksacks-toting people in rustic locales, you may be surprised to hear that 18% of digital nomads make $100k per year.3Of course, that’s on the higher end, but even so, 22% of digital nomads make between $50k-99k.
And that income can stretch further for a digital nomad than it might for their office-occupying counterpart.
The good thing about working on the road is that you can usually forgo typical living expenses such as rent or mortgage payments. So, even if you aren’t raking in the dough, this digital nomadic lifestyle is flexible enough that most travelers can make it work.
How Do I Become A Digital Nomad?
Ready to learn how to become a digital nomad?
There are a few things to consider before you embark on your journey, and you might want to ask yourself some questions before you commit.
- Are you productive while working remotely or do you get a buzz from being an office socialite?
- Do you already have a remote job? If not, do you have a skill set that can remotely bring in income?
- Are you a homebody or does traveling invigorate you? Can you concentrate in unfamiliar environments?
Once you’ve decided the nomadic lifestyle is the life for you, there are a few best practices to keep in mind, both in regard to finances and lifestyle.
Before you can become a modern nomad, first you must downsize. Unless you’re planning on keeping your home as-is or storing your things elsewhere, chances are you’re going to have to figure out how to pack up your life and make it mobile.
If you’re going to be traveling and staying at various locales, you’re going to need to downsize to fit your life into a single suitcase and maybe 1-2 extra carry-on bags—max. Luckily BÉIS has all the luggage and tote bags for work in every size you could need.
It’s good to designate one of the smaller bags as your “work bag.” In it, you might want to keep the following things
- Laptop & charger
- An ergonomic mouse & mousepad
- Noise canceling headphones
- An external hard drive
- Any other essential work items
Of course, when you’re not remote working, you’re (hopefully) going to be adventuring—and no one wants to lug around a huge suitcase all of the time. For those quicker trips during nomad life, The Weekender is your best friend. And for day excursions or hiking trips, try our travel black fanny pack (yes, they are back in style).
Finances can look a little different when you don’t have a home address. What credit card should you use? What about health insurance?
Luckily, tons of people have adopted this lifestyle lately, so internet advice overfloweth.
- Cut your expenses – Think about all the things you pay for that you wouldn’t need while on the road: subscription boxes, your spin class membership, etc.
- Build Up Savings – Life as a digital nomad can sometimes be unpredictable. Be prepared and expect the unexpected. It’s good to have some savings before you leave your permanent dwelling home. You can even rent out your home or sell your car if you won’t be needing either.
- Set a Budget – Then, stick to it. Like real life, nomadic life also requires basic financial upkeep. This will help you plan your expenses so you don’t run into any sticky situations while traveling.
- Choose The Right Credit Card – if you pick a good credit card, you could end up racking up cash rewards just for charging all your travel expenses.
- Get Travel Health Insurance – If you’re a freelancer, make sure you enroll in a health insurance plan that will work everywhere you visit. If you work for a company, check with HR about international plan coverage.
- Have a Plan – Beyond building your savings ahead of your journey, it’s a good idea to have a steady job lined up (or at least a solid plan, if you’re a freelancer) so that you can support yourself on the road. Figure out what your skills are and how you can market yourself from Bali. Or California. Or anywhere.
Working is a huge part of digital nomadism, but it’s easy to get distracted by all the beautiful places you’ll visit. There are some important things to keep in mind each time you travel to a different place for work so that you can be as productive as you would be in the office.
Setting up a solid workspace is one of the most important things for focus. The right setup will help you work smarter, not harder.4After all, you want time to explore all the cool places you visit! Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice style while bouncing around from place to place, ensure you’re workspace is functional and stylish with our work accessories no matter where you are.
- Whether you're in a foreign country or your home country, make sure you have reliable internet and phone service so you can stay connected to your co-workers or clients. If there’s no reliable WiFi, look into your phone plan to see what hotspot options you have.
- When booking accommodations, consider where you can set up shop. A desk or communal workspace (co-working space) works better than your hotel bed. And if you can’t find a distraction-free workspace, you’ll definitely need a good pair of headphones.
- Consider Working from a laptop can wreak havoc on your hands and wrists, so invest in a decent wireless mouse. In addition, try to make sure you’re sitting properly. While it might be comfy to work slouched on a sofa or a beach chair, your back will thank you in the long run if you work from an ergonomically aligned workspace.
Set a Routine
When there’s no office to go to, it’s easy to roll out of bed whenever you feel like it, open your laptop, and start working. But this habit can easily lead to blurred lines between work and life.
You might benefit from setting some sort of morning ritual. Maybe that means waking up at the same time every day, going on a walk to mimic a “commute,” or making yourself a pour-over coffee with oat milk every morning like clockwork.
Having a routine can help break up the day and establish good work-life boundaries.
Build a Community
With digital nomadism comes a lack of face-to-face interactions with co-workers. Loneliness can easily become a problem for those who work on the go. And if you’re traveling alone, after entertaining yourself by reading all of the best travel books and listening to all of the podcasts for road trips, a nomadic lifestyle can still feel lonely and hard to feel connected to people in a meaningful way. Thankfully, there are many online communities for people who work and travel.
And if you’re looking for an in-person community, you can choose to stay in a “digital nomad hub”—cities that are known to attract digital nomads. You might even find some co-living or co-working spaces.
Some popular places for the digital community include:
- Southeast Asia: Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh City & Bali
- Costa Rica: Tamarindo & Santa Teresa
- Mexico: Mexico City
- South Africa: Cape Town
- South America: Medellin, Quito & Buenos Aires
Embrace the Lifestyle with BÉIS
Does digital nomadism and being location independent sound like a dream come true? With the flexibility that being a digital nomad offers, it’s no wonder that workers are leaving behind their more traditional lives to travel and work.
Before you hit the road with the other aspiring digital nomads, make sure you’re set up with all your travel essentials. Our luggage and travel bags are designed to help you take all your essentials on the road and keep them well-organized as you jetset between locales. Shop with us to streamline your nomadic life and show off your sense of style wherever you go.
- Investopedia. Digital Nomad. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/digital-nomad.asp#what-is-a-digital-nomad
- BuiltIn. Digital Nomads Are Here to Stay. https://builtin.com/remote-work/digital-nomad
- TechRepublic. One in five digital nomads make more than $100K per year working remotely. https://www.techrepublic.com/article/one-in-five-digital-nomads-make-more-than-100k-per-year-working-remotely/
- Geller, Elina. How to Become a Digital Nomad: 7 Useful Tips. NerdWallet. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/travel/how-to-become-a-digital-nomad-abroad