This is a guest post by Nico Jannasch, a travel blogger dedicated to helping as many people become digital nomads as possible. He created a course ‘How to Become a Digital Nomad‘ to help newbies get on the road.
In early 2015 I bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. For the next year I traveled around Asia, living in 5 countries including Thailand, The Philippines and China. My name is Nico Jannasch and I’m a digital nomad.
Two years ago I wouldn’t have recognized the life I live today. I was stressed out, taking college classes I didn’t like, and wondering what was missing. I felt like everyone was living out a prewritten script that I didn’t want to take part in. I fell asleep in every class and read tons of personal development books that had me searching for more excitement and meaning in life.
During the last 4 months of 2014 I took up freelance writing to earn my first ‘location independent’ income. During my first week I earned over $600, and I felt a type of freedom I hadn’t experienced before. I flew to Chicago to test if this whole ‘nomad’ thing was possible, and took a similar trip a few weeks later to Puerto Rico. Tim Ferris was right, digital nomad lifestyle WAS possible. 🙂
Soon afterwards I dropped what I was doing in North America and flew to Asia. For the past year I’ve been living, dating, and earning income as a full-time nomad! I only brought $1,000 of spending money with me, which made the whole experience a ‘crash course’ in this new lifestyle. Sink or swim.
I’m glad to say… I didn’t sink! I successfully learned how to earn money, make friends, live well, and travel. Along the way I learned many important lessons about how to thrive as a nomad.
Here are a few tips I learned from my first year of a digital nomad lifestyle.
Getting work done
You’ll need money to fuel your new digital nomad lifestyle. This will involve work of some kind, and that’s true whether you want to stay employed with your current company, become a freelancer, or start your own business. This can be a nightmare when you’re traveling, so here are some of my best tips for working efficiently. You can also check this fantastic piece by Brian Kidwell on how you can increase productivity and creativity by traveling.
Don’t try to do important work in hostels. They’re typically full of people in vacation mode who are loud, trying to convince you to take shots, and probably spilling beer on your keyboard. It’s great fun, but not when you’re trying to close a deal with a potential client.
Co-working spaces are a much better option because you’ll be surrounded with other people trying to get work done. Be warned though, signing up for dedicated desk for a month can cost as much (or more) than your rent!
The best way I’ve found to be more productive is to travel slower. Constantly going new places is exhausting, and new distractions keep you from getting big projects done. When you travel slower, say 2-3 months per location, you can rent an apartment to give you some private space for working efficiently. Also, the unavoidable excitement of a new location dies down as it begins to feel like a home.
Fitness and health
If you’re going to be on the road long-term you need to build routines to stay healthy. Most people travel with a ‘vacation’ mindset that involves eating whatever they want, drinking every night, and never working out. That’s only okay if you’re away from home for at most two weeks.
When you get to a new location, work out as soon as possible. I usually throw on my workout shorts within 3 hours of getting into a new apartment. Most people throw their bags off and lie down on the bed for a few hours when they get to a new location.
Your brain learns that certain behaviors belong in certain environments. By working out immediately you tell your brain that you’re going to be healthy while you’re here. Start this routine when you arrive and continue at least every other day. I never missed a workout in Asia.
You never know where you’ll be when you’re traveling, so you want to build an exercise routine you can do anywhere. My go-to exercises are sit-ups, push ups, and squats, because I just need a little floor space and can find that anywhere. In addition to these, I’ve used 6-litre plastic water jugs as barbells for ‘pull’ exercises for biceps and back muscles. You probably need to buy them everywhere you go anyway!
I never got lonely during my year in Asia. In fact, I think it would have been hard to do so! I was always just a Skype call away from my family and I could always ‘ping’ my friends on Facebook, Twitter, etc. etc. Technology has made it so easy to connect, even when you’re a digital nomad on the far side of the world, so make sure to leverage these technologies!
I met so many travelers like myself who were far from home and looking to make friends. Hostels are a terrible place to get work done, but you’ll meet some amazing people there if you’re looking to bust a lonely feeling!
I also really enjoyed making friends with local families! I met a guy in Vietnam who brought me to meet his family in a nearby town. I stayed with them for a week, continued my traveling, and then returned to see them again before coming back to the USA! They’re like a 2nd family on the far side of the world.
Think connecting with locals who don’t speak your language is impossible? It isn’t. Even though I hardly spoke any Vietnamese and their family hardly spoke any English, we were able to communicate fairly well, laugh together, and share meals.
I really enjoyed hanging out with their kids as well, because everyone around the world speaks the same ‘play’ language that children do. Sports are also a great way to connect with locals. Soccer is a language spoken around the world!