Full Disclaimer: My description of becoming a digital nomad might slightly vary with the traditional norm of it. Though I live as a location independent digital nomad, I have a fixed home and I tend to go back to my roots at a certain point.
Since the birth of gig economy in the early 2000s, people have started to realize that there is no point living in one location when their work basically moves with their laptop. Of course, there are companies that can’t work without an office but then there are freelancers, agency owners, internet marketers, bloggers and hundreds of other professions who don’t need an office.
It comes with a question. As I now don’t need an office to work and earn my money, do I really need to stay in one particular country?
That’s how the term ‘Digital Nomad’ was born. A digital nomad is someone who lives as a location independent person, without a permanent home and is always traveling. Travel and the concept of digital nomad goes hand in hand as one of the main reasons of someone becoming a digital nomad is the desire to travel.
Hi, I'm Khalid...
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Before I start discussing my personal experiences, let me quickly give you the formal definition of a digital nomad.
According to Wikipedia (and I agree with this definition), a digital nomad is someone who works with the help of internet and is always traveling.
Do I fall completely under the bracket of being a digital nomad? I don’t think so, however, I am close.
Let me explain…
How I Ended Up Becoming a Digital Nomad
I have told this story time and time again. By age 22 (It was 2013 and I was still in Bangladesh), I was making decent money to live my life. Of course, it was decent money for Bangladesh and not for an European country. Today, I have a number of methods that I use to earn my livings.
When I decided to come to Ireland back in 2017, my plan was to do my MSc in Ireland, travel around Europe and then simply move back. As you can imagine, it doesn’t clearly fall under the definition of a digital nomad as I wasn’t traveling to work alone. I had two purposes.
So I came to Ireland and started living in a beach side place in Bray. I wasn’t a full time digital nomad but I was working on my company and studying at the same time. Things were going great.
Then I started traveling.
The best part about living in Europe is that everything is nearby. You can take a weekend and travel to 30 odd countries. Flights are cheap, accommodation is cheap (compared to Ireland) and there are loads to see.
So I did that.
In 2018-2019, I traveled to these countries:
- UK (Nottingham)
- Belgium (Brussels)
- France (Paris)
- France (Nice)
- Spain (Barcelona)
- Netherlands (Amsterdam)
- Italy (Milan)
And of course, I went back to Bangladesh two times for about 60 days during this phase.
At a point, I was going somewhere every month and it was hectic. But I had my laptop, I was always online and I was always working.
That’s when I realized…
Life of a true digital nomad (who travels all the time) is tough. Traveling is a full time job and you can’t work while you are traveling. Of course, you can reply to emails and do things here and there but it is tough to live from hotel to hotel and work full time on your business.
I decided to do some digging….
Do Digital Nomads Prefer Traveling or Living Permanently in a Foreign Country?
Look, everyone travels to one-two countries every year. That doesn’t make everyone a digital nomad. As we are glorifying the idea of becoming a digital nomad, it is obvious that it has to be something meaningful and lucrative to cherish for.
So the question is, does becoming a digital nomad mean traveling constantly or living in a foreign country on a permanent basis?
I looked at some true digital nomad profiles, specially in our Internet Marketing community as I have contacts in this world.
What I came to realize is that the digital nomads are actually people from the western world who are now living in Asia.
That’s about it.
If we leave aside the bloggers and vloggers (as their job is basically traveling), every other internet marketers and digital nomads that you can find are now living in either Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia or one of these neighboring tropical countries.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong in moving from Western world to live in Asia, but why is it only this way and not the other way around?
I can tell you why this is the case in my industry (internet marketing). Companies and internet marketers want to receive value for their living expenses and we all know that Asia offers some of the cheapest living conditions and if you have moderate money, you can live a luxurious life in some parts of Asia that is impossible to accomplish in Europe.
Access to Quality Workers
Places like Philippines & India are quality producers of VA level resources that you can’t find anywhere else. Even inc 5000 companies like Empire Flippers went ahead and setup their head office in Vietnam for the same reason. You get access to a lot of quality people.
Take any freelance marketplace and you will see that Philippines and Indians are dominating. They are very good once they have a leader to instruct them. I have had years of experience dealing with freelancers for Philippines. I even have a few employees at this very moment who are working on a few projects. I know them well, they know me well and their work ethic is beyond questions. Unfortunately, even my own country doesn’t offer this level of quality.
How to Become a Digital Nomad?
Let’s cut to the chase and try to find out how you can end up becoming a digital nomad. I have started living in Europe from Bangladesh as a digital nomad so if I can make it happen, there’s no way why you can’t.
Here’re the things that you should keep in mind.
Location Independent Money Making Sources
This is no brain-er. If you are living like a digital nomad, you need a money making source (or multiple sources) that are location independent. That simply means that no matter where you live, you will be able to work off your laptop/pc and remote communication with your boss/employees is not an issue for you.
When I say, location independent money making sources, the obvious options come to mind would be stuff that are related to internet marketing or digital marketing (somehow). In fact, I have a page where I explain how I make money here.
However, internet marketing is not the only way of living a location independent life (internet will still be a big part of it).
You can start your own blog on any topic and monetize it later, you can start photography and sell those photos on stock sites, same for videos, you can teach English in foreign countries, you can work as a consultant with one of your skills- The list goes on and on.
Also, it is not important that you work as an entrepreneur when you are living the digital nomad lifestyle.
One of our employees at Passive Journal, Deesha is originally from Bangladesh but now lives in Thailand as a digital nomad. She’s not being an entrepreneur. She works with a company that supports remote work.
If you can’t find a company that allows remote work benefits, you can head over to places like Upwork to find your own clients. Freelance platforms are a great way to live a digital nomad lifestyle.
Solving Your Visa Restrictions
Not many countries will offer you a digital nomad visa. That’s not a thing (with a few exceptions that are close to the idea). Therefore, you need a visa to work in that foreign country.
A regular tourist visa doesn’t allow you to work on that particular country, however, there’s always ways around to it. It is not very clear that whether you are not allowed to work for a company in a particular country when you are on a tourist visa or you can’t work at all-
Personally, I have always worked whenever I was in a country on a tourist visa. Personally, what you do on your laptop shouldn’t be a problem for the work requirements as you are not taking money from someone in that country.
I know a few popular digital nomad destinations like Thailand are soon going to be introducing their digital work permit visa- So maybe look out for that?
Select Your Country Wisely
As I explained before, you will be needing a base country that’s different than your home country. For most Western digital nomads, it is either Thailand, Vietnam or a country nearby. You need a place that is closer to your favorite destinations so that you can keep most of your things there and move around.
It is not realistic to just move around with all of your stuff in every new country, you need a base.
For me, it is Ireland as I wanted to travel Europe. I already have a detailed article about Studying in Ireland so I won’t be repeating myself. But to cut it short, my base is Ireland so that I can travel around Europe, and I do that every month.
When you are selecting your country, make sure that you look at the living cost (and compare it with your earnings). The cost of rent is always going to be the major one. I recommend Airbnb (use the link from the right side to get a special discount link) but if you know someone from that country, staying with them for a month or two might be a good idea.
Pro Tip: Avoid Europe if you are not comfortable with the cold. Cold weather looks great, snow is a romantic feel, only when you look at it from inside. It is terrible in real life.
Have a Backup Plan
Many think having Backup plans is a weakness but I am telling you, when you are going for something as complex as choosing a different country as your ‘second base’, having an option B is generally a good idea.
My option B is always to go back to Bangladesh and I also have an option C where I go to a tropical country in South East Asia (Malaysia, Thailand or somewhere in that neighborhood) to retire.
Anything can happen when you are on a foreign country. You might lose your visa, you might face a change in immigration law and the list goes on.
The best idea, therefore, would be having a backup plan.
Once again, before I end this article, I should remind you that most of this was from my personal experience. I am not a true digital nomad as I mentioned above and I don’t intend to become one. I love the internet lifestyle and I enjoy traveling. That’s about it.