How I’m Preparing to Become a Digital Nomad

 I decided almost a year ago that I was going to finally start traveling abroad with no rigid end date. It’s something I’ve dreamed of doing since middle school and has only grown since I developed my passions for culinary arts and photography, but I never seriously considered it because I’d convinced myself I needed to have a stable job at a physical location to be successful (which, clearly, is not true in the slightest).

Last year, two of my friends took the leap and went fully remote, traveling around to different countries each month, and I immediately changed any plans I’d had for myself to follow in their footsteps. It was like all my discomfort and unhappiness with my current lifestyle had bubbled over to the point of explosion, and my excitement and jealousy toward their new journey was the final push I needed–so I finally recruited a travel partner and got to planning.

We’ve been preparing our itinerary for about a year now, and there have been lots of new obstacles to overcome, possibilities to consider, and advice from people in this community to sift through. All in all, there have been a number of things that have helped me immensely with not only my actual planning but my nerves about traveling abroad for the first time as well. I always like to be over-prepared even when I try to be spontaneous, and I’ve been able to find a good balance by doing the following.

1. Having reliable remote income (multiple streams, or substantial savings).

This seems obvious, but I think it can be something that people overlook in the excitement of travel planning. Freelancing can be extremely lucrative and flexible, but it’s also incredibly unpredictable. Take for example my intended career path a year ago: teaching English as a foreign language online. I got myself TEFL certified and planned on joining the huge community of online teachers traveling the world, all mainly teaching through prominent Internet platforms based out of China.

Then last summer, pretty much overnight, the entire Chinese-based online TEFL community dissolved due to new restrictions implemented by the country. Platforms shut down, teachers’ entire workloads for months out disappeared. Hundreds and hundreds of people whose footsteps I was planning to follow in (including my personal friends, who had literally just left for Greece that day) lost their jobs, their daily routines, and their entire income in the blink of an eye.

When I say reliable income, that can still mean freelancing–but if you don’t have enough savings to cover your travel or to help you in a pinch, I think it’s incredibly important to have more than one stream of income if you’re working fully remotely while traveling. Personally, I’ll have a contracted remote job for the majority of my travels, plus any freelancing I do on the side for extra cash. That way, if the worst-case scenario happens (like it did just last year for a huge community of digital nomads), we aren’t left scrambling in a foreign country or forced to cut our travels short.

2. Making ALL the spreadsheets.

Spreadsheets have become my saving grace and my one true love this past year. They make literally everything so much easier to organize and understand when you’re planning out all aspects of your travel process and itineraries. Seriously, I have a separate Google Sheet for all of the above:

  • Potential countries to travel to
  • An overall travel timeline by country/month
  • Overall finances broken down into like 12 categories
  • Weather patterns by month for all potential countries
  • Average public transportation costs by country and city
  • A “Before Leaving” checklist (bank info, medical info, visa info, etc.)
  • Packing lists, luggage, equipment, etc.
  • A monthly overview of each country, flight info, Airbnb info, excursions, etc.

…and that’s not even all of them. But you get the point–organizing everything to death can be time-consuming, but in the long run, it’s SO helpful to see everything laid out as plain as can be. Every detail, every note, every helpful tip will make traveling so much easier for you thank you think.

3. Booking as much as we can ahead of time.

This one really helped more than I thought it would. I knew I wanted to have at least our first destination booked a while in advance, but I figured once we started traveling, we’d just decide where we wanted to go next and book Airbnbs and flights a few weeks out. We’ll be traveling from June-December at first, and we already have almost everything booked for our first 3 months. Airbnbs, flights, train tickets, hotels, some events/activities; not only does it take the stress out of the actual travel we’ll be doing, but we’re paying for it all now while we’re still at home, which means we won’t have to worry about spending those large sums while we’re abroad.

4. Being open to new paths.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed that’s helped me during this planning process is just staying open to new things. Being able to branch out of my comfort zone and plan all of this traveling is huge for me in general, but for anyone in the digital nomad space: things aren’t always going to play out how you think they will, even during the planning process. Like I said, we haven’t even begun traveling yet and we’ve already hit some bumps in the road. Having a plan gives you a solid foundation, but being able to go with the flow when needed is so important for smooth traveling and planning alike.

Again, I’m super new to this. Like, I didn’t even have a passport until two months ago. I’m taking it all day by day, but I’m excited to immerse myself in this new community and see all it has to offer me. I’m also excited to share more here and on my rebranded blog when it launches, which I’ll link to my profile here when the time comes. If you like food and travel, keep your eye out for it!

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