Are you scrolling through social media wondering how people spend so much time traveling while you’re stuck in a windowless cubicle, scrimping and saving for your two weeks of vacation per year? To be honest, some traveler influencers probably can’t afford it, while others are wealthy enough not to worry about a 9-to-5.
But what if you’re just a regular woman who wants to see the world without draining her wallet? You could risk it all by quitting your job to travel, but it doesn’t take long before savings run out. If you want to travel long-term, there’s a better model: becoming a digital nomad.
What is a digital nomad, exactly?
Is ‘digital nomad’ just another term for ‘travel influencer?’ While some digital nomads earn a living on social media, all types of people have adopted the work-from-anywhere lifestyle. Professionals you might encounter working abroad include:
- Bloggers and vloggers.
- Freelance writers.
- Ecommerce sellers.
- Marketers and SEO pros.
- Software developers.
- Web and graphic designers.
- Language education teachers.
- Virtual assistants and customer service agents.
This is just a sampling of the types of jobs you can do as a digital nomad, and the options are only going to increase as more companies hire remote workers.
Downsides of being a digital nomad
Earning a living while seeing the world — what’s not to love? A few things, actually. These are the biggest complaints of long-term digital nomads:
- Starting over constantly.
- Living out of luggage.
- Lack of stability.
- Lack of privacy.
- Social isolation and loneliness.
- Travel loses its excitement.
How to support yourself as a digital nomad
Do you notice a common thread among the leading digital nomad jobs? Most of them involve working for yourself as a freelancer or self-employed business owner. There’s a good reason why: Being your own boss is the best way to get the flexibility a digital nomad needs.
You can start freelancing pretty quickly if you have a marketable skill like writing or graphic design. Lots of freelancers start on online job boards where you can bid for jobs as a blog post writer, logo designer, bot developer, or other freelance-friendly gig. At first, potential clients will base their hire on speed, cost, and reviews, but over time, you’ll build a portfolio that attracts clients to your blog writing services or other freelance biz for your unique expertise.
It’s possible to work a full-time remote job as a digital nomad, but it’s not very easy. Most companies expect employees to be available at certain hours, and those hours could be the middle of the night depending on where you are in the world. If going this route, look for remote jobs with flexible schedules.
Budgeting for life as a digital nomad
Of course, you don’t want to spend all of your time holed up working, instead of exploring all the amazing travel destinations you’ll visit. How can you manage costs while traveling alone? These affordable travel tips will help you build a travel budget that works.
1. Find cheap places to travel
When you can live anywhere, where should you go? Digital nomads should focus on affordability, internet access, and visa requirements when choosing a travel destination. Popular cheap travel destinations for digital nomads include:
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca Mexico
- Quito, Ecuador
- Budapest, Hungary
- Lisbon, Portugal
These cities are also great solo travel destinations because they have established digital nomad communities. With other expats to connect with, you won’t feel all alone in a strange new place. You don’t have to go abroad to be a digital nomad! Plenty of people make their living on the road stateside as van dwellers. However, living in such tight quarters isn’t for everyone.
2. Decide how you’ll travel
Some travelers team up with a digital nomad community to handle logistics like travel, housing, and co-working. However, you might find that traveling alone costs less because you can shop around for cheap fares and rentals. Plus, solo travelers can still make friends through online communities and local digital nomad groups.
Speaking of cheap fares: Because you’re not on a set schedule as a digital nomad, you have the advantage of flexibility. That means you can set fare alerts to find the cheapest day to fly or use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest destination. Digital nomads should also utilize airline rewards programs and travel credit cards to save money on flights.
Don’t rule out train travel! While train travel tends to be slow and expensive stateside, that’s not true everywhere. Trains can be both cheaper and faster than flying, especially over short distances, and it’s definitely less hassle than the airport. If you’ll be doing a lot of land travel you might even want to rent a car — Travepreneur has a guide on this.
3. Book budget-friendly accommodations
Where to stay is the next big question for your travel budget. Unless you’re living in a van or RV, you’ll need somewhere to call home during your travels. For most nomads, that means hostels or short-term rentals. Hostels are the cheapest lodging but don’t offer much in the way of privacy. For a bit more money, travelers can book a short-term house or apartment rental on one of the many websites catering to vacation travelers. Use a local real estate agent if you need to book a longer stay.
Traveling on a tight budget? Some travelers use websites like TrustedHousesitters.com and HouseCarers.com to house sit their way around the world, living for free in exchange for light chores. Keep in mind that home and apartment rentals may not be equipped with the latest technology. If you can’t find a tech-friendly rental in your budget, book accommodations with a coworking space nearby.
More tips for becoming a digital nomad
What else do you need to thrive as a digital nomad? These are the best tips from people who have been there:
- Save a travel fund before you go. Even with a job, travel is expensive. Save up so you enjoy the digital nomad experience instead of pinching pennies.
- Watch your expenses. It’s easy to overdo it while traveling. Take advantage of free activities, avoid dining out every meal, and most importantly, create a travel budget, and stick to it.
- Keep an emergency fund. Don’t wind up stuck abroad with no money to fly home. Set aside money for return travel and don’t touch it.
- Make friends! Traveling alone can be isolating, but you’re never really alone. From digital nomad communities to travel groups for black women, there are lots of ways to connect with fellow travelers.
- Prepare for a learning curve. There will be moments where panic takes over and you wonder if you made a huge mistake. Breathe and be patient. You might not love the digital nomad lifestyle right away, but after a while, you’ll be wondering how you ever spent 40 hours a week in an office.
There’s no doubt about it: Becoming a digital nomad is the best way to travel long-term when you don’t have a six-figure bank account. However, just because you have cash flowing in doesn’t mean you don’t have to budget for travel as a digital nomad. With this digital nomad travel guide, you’ll be able to see the world while keeping your bank account in the black.
Author: Amy Collett is the creator of Bizwell.org, a website that helps professionals and entrepreneurs build and strengthen their personal brand.