In 2018, after returning from 12-months of full-time travel & setting up our travel blog, we had a thirst for adventuring & for digital nomad life. What we didn’t know, however, was truly how to become a digital nomad.
We dreamed of exploring more, of obtaining a location-independently lifestyle but that’s when the doubt started to creep in – was working from anywhere even viable or achievable?
Fast forward to now & here we are, sitting in our tiny home on wheels, a Bessacar E560 named Barnaby. We’re in sunny Cornwall, the birds are chirping away outside, it’s calm, it’s peaceful & today is a ‘work’ day.
We are living proof that living life on your own terms is possible.
In this post (that we’ve just updated) we’ll take you through the steps to becoming a digital nomad, how & why digital nomads are on the rise right now & we’ll also introduce you to some awesome people who have shared their stories & tips to help you get started on your digital nomad journey.
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Post updated by The Wilder Route on 1st May 2021.
Ready to learn more? Great, let’s get started!
What Is A Digital Nomad?
Digital nomads are people who use technology to work remotely, often travelling to different locations & working from places such as coffee shops, co-working spaces, or even from a campervan – basically, they (mostly) call the shots on their working lives.
There are over 35,000,000 digital nomads in the world, of which at the time of updating this post…
- 31% are women & 69% are men.
- 54% are older than 38 years old.
- 54% travel full-time, while 46% of digital nomads consider themselves part-time travellers.
- 70% of digital nomads travel to five or more countries per year.
- 31% of married digital nomads (including us) travel with their partners full-time.
Ok, now it’s time for a moment of rawness & honesty…
When we started on this journey most of the people that we surrounded ourselves with thought we were crazy! I mean, how on earth we were just gonna pick up our laptops & work from anywhere?
Now, look at those statistics above, people are doing it, & not just a few people, lots of them, including us & others who we’ll introduce you to shortly.
Becoming a digital nomad isn’t easy, it takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice & flexibility. It won’t happen overnight but what we can tell you is, if you have the will & you want to, you can do it.
The Types Of Digital Nomad
From people that are constantly wandering to those who chose to stay in one place for months at a time. There are digital nomads who reside in hostels, hotels, Airbnb’s, or even in their own home on wheels (like us).
There are many types of digital nomad but what you can probably be sure of is one thing… we all love to travel.
If you are serious about becoming a digital nomad you’ll find your way & pave your path – after all that’s what the adventure is all about.
The Benefits Of Being A Digital Nomad
Apart from the obvious lure of being able to work & travel at the same time, a digital nomad lifestyle offers many other benefits such as…
- A less stressful working environment – goodbye office/workplace politics.
- A choice of environment, fancy mountains one week & beach the next, that’s cool!
- Freedom & flexibility – to do & live as you choose.
- A cheaper cost of living – if that’s what you desire.
- No commuting every damn day – because come on, who likes doing that?
- Your schedule, your terms – want to wake up late & work in the evening, that’s on you!
- Challenge yourself – travel puts us out of our comfort zones & experiencing that regularly is a great way to learn & grow.
- Being part of an awesome community – like-minded people who love travel as much as you do… hello new friends!
The Downsides Of Digital Nomad Life
& what you can do to overcome these
Like any lifestyle, being a digital nomad also has its downsides, such as…
- The tiredness – which moving around can cause. Knowing your limits & taking proper care of yourself (eating well, sleeping enough, making time to exercise) is vital to avoiding burnout on the road.
- Motivation – or lack of it, whilst self-reliance is a fabulous thing it can sometimes work against you when you are the only person cheering yourself on. Always remember why you started & count your blessings every day, keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent way to do this.
- Relationships – as they will most probably suffer or at least change along with your lifestyle. Whilst yes, this is sad, keeping yourself small for other people is no way to live. Know that the people who love you & who matter most will stick around & support you, even if that has to happen thousands of miles apart.
- Other people’s shit – you’ll most likely get a lot of it, comments such as “when are you coming back to the real world?” or “You are so lucky to just travel all the time.” Smile, know their shit is on them & carry on living your life for you.
- Loneliness – something a lot of remote workers suffer from. Putting yourself out there, joining networking groups, attending meet-ups (physically or virtually) & keeping in touch with those who matter most to you will help. We’d also say though that becoming comfortable with just yourself for company is an amazing tool for self-exploration & growth.
How To Become A Digital Nomad
It is super important to remember that becoming a digital nomad is not a destination but a journey, a journey that will evolve as you change, grow & learn. From the outside looking in this lifestyle can seem perfect & whilst it has a lot of benefits we’re sure like us & many others you’ll experience the ups, downs & everything in-between. Now that you have an idea of what those ups & downs may be, hopefully, these next steps will set you off the right foot when it comes to planning your own digital nomad journey.
Step One – Making Money On The Road
There are lots of ways to make money remotely & with estimates of the global pandemic accelerating the digital world by 5-years, a lot more people have experienced the possibilities of working online.
Some options for working from anywhere are…
- Your existing job
If you have one, this could be an awesome option. In fact, 56% of workers have a job where at least some of what they do could be done remotely. — Source Global Workplace Analytics meaning that you might be able to stick with what you do & travel at the same time. Remember if you don’t have that conversation with your employer you will never know.
- Setting up your own business
Something we have done, creating multiple income streams for ourselves gives us added security & has safeguarded us through the pandemic. Now, we must add here that setting up your own business isn’t easy but building something around your passion, as we have, is one of the most rewarding things you can do.
- Searching for a remote worker position
Whilst setting up your own business is an amazing thing to do, the benefits of working for someone else should not be scoffed at. If sticking with your current job isn’t an option, there are plenty of remote worker jobs out there – these can be found on sites such as We Work Remotely or Flex Jobs – you can also check out this post which details more remote job boards.
What you do as a digital nomad, whether that be for yourself or someone else will very much depend on your skillset & desires. Remember that you can always learn new skills & equally, there will always be roles available to suit what you already know, it’s all about finding what works best for you.
Step Two – What Do You Really Want From This Lifestyle?
One thing we’d say for sure is that doing work that you enjoy is key. Life on the road, as enjoyable as it is, is sometimes not easy, so adding to that a job that you hate & yeah, it’s not a great mix.
As well as the work you are doing it’s worth thinking about why you want to do this? What is it that you want a nomadic life to bring? Keeping these thoughts in mind when the going gets tough (which no doubt it will) will help you to stay focused on what’s true to you.
For example, we have chosen to live in this way to be closer to nature & to make adventure (even if sometimes it’s just a little) part of our every day. When we get sidetracked or overwhelmed we remind ourselves that this is why we do what we do, with time in nature always helping us to get back on track.
Step Three – Choosing A Location
Ok, the most exciting part, where to go? We’ll be honest with so much to see & do & the freedom to do just that, sometimes choosing a destination can be overwhelming.
We’ve worked in locations such as Colombia, Mexico, Spain & Italy & in our van (which we live in full-time) have travelled extensively around our home country of the UK working from places closer to home, that perhaps we’d never of even thought of exploring before we lived this way.
Digital nomad visas are also a great option, enabling you to stay in a country for a longer period of time. Some countries that offer these are…
- Croatia (who have just started offering these in Jan 2021)
Each country has its requirements for entry. You’ll also find more info & 18 Countries With Digital Nomad Visas (For Remote Workers) in this excellent post by Matthew Karsten the Expert Vagabond.
Step Four – The Finer Details
After figuring on what you are going to do, where you are going to go & why you are doing it, it will be time to think about the finer details.
- Paying your taxes – which all depends on which country you are from/where you reside. Personally, our business is registered in the UK & we pay UK taxes. Now for some countries, if you are a resident but spend most of the year outside of the country you can claim tax relief. Some people even chose to set up their business in countries that are more ‘tax friendly’. Hiring a good accountant that specialises in remote workers is something worth thinking about.
- Receiving post – for our business, we have a registered office that scans & sends our mail to us. For receiving post & packages we’ve done several things, such as getting parcels sent to campsites that we stay on or even on one occasion to the town hall of a remote Spanish mountain town (hey, we got to know the locals!) Check out this post if you are looking for a UK virtual postbox.
- Internet – for us, living in our van, we use our UK mobile phones & hotspot to our laptops from those. As we are covered under European roaming as long as we have a phone signal we can connect. We have also used WIFI in our accommodation, in coffee shops & in co-working spaces which at times can be hit & miss, we’d recommend downloading an app such as Speed Test App to be sure the WIFI is sufficient enough before sitting down to work.
- Banking – from the very start we have used Wise a multi-currency account that allows us to receive & spend with minimal fees. We also use ‘the UK’s best bank’ Starling which also offers multi-currency.
- Insurance – goes without saying really that you need this. We’d recommend Safety Wing which also covers COVID19.
Step Five – Mindset & Taking The Leap
One of the biggest things that will hold people back from becoming a digital nomad is the belief (or lack of belief) that they can. Mindset is perhaps the single most important thing when embarking on this journey as without believing in yourself you’ll, quite frankly, be pretty stuffed.
As well as knowing that you can do this & why you are doing it (see above for what you really want from this lifestyle) a shift in values & old ways of being often happens. For example when we moved into our van full-time we sold mostly everything we owned & have lived with very little (possession wise) ever since.
One of the most amazing things about living in this way is rediscovering how much you need to be happy & what really makes you happy. For us it’s been a massive awakening, shedding a lot of old to make way for the new.
& as for taking the leap, there will never be a perfect time, if it’s something you want to do then it’s something that you just have to get on & do!
Reporting From ‘How To Start Life As A Digital Nomad’ – A Live Event
Right, now we’ve taken you through the steps, we want to take you back in time & bring you some inspiration from some really awesome people!
In February of 2020, we travelled to the UK’s biggest holiday & travel event Destinations London & had the absolute pleasure of speaking alongside Shiree of SAF Coaching & Larch from The Silver Nomad – hosted by the fabulous Lyn of Wanderlust Magazine, together we shared our stories of how each of us, driven by our passion for exploration, have made travel an integral part of our lives.
We answered questions on ‘How To Start Life As A Digital Nomad‘ & shared our hacks, tips & tricks on exactly how we all live location-independent lifestyles.
Introducing Lyn of Wanderlust Magazine
Host of the ‘How To Start Life As A Digital Nomad’ Panel
Lyn & her late husband, Paul Morrison, met in the corporate world but had a deep passion for travel. Having decided to spend the winter of 1992 in South America, they were bored on the flight there with nothing to read, & so schemed out their ideal travel magazine on the back of a sickbag. The idea stuck so they bought a notebook in Quito, worked on a business plan in the Galapagos, &, on their return to the UK five months later, they launched Wanderlust magazine from their spare bedroom. There were no other travel magazines at the time, & all the ‘experts’ told them there was no market for one, but they felt there must be other people who felt about travel in the same way they did. Sure enough, 2,000 people subscribed before the first issue was even printed in November 1993.
Wanderlust gradually grew through word of mouth &, despite many more travel magazines launching in its wake, it has remained, with numerous awards under its belt, as one of the UK’s leading travel magazines. In 2008, The Times lauded Lyn as one of the ’50 Most Influential People in Travel.’ In 2012, Lyn was presented with an Outstanding Contribution Award in the British Travel Press Awards. & in 2014, was awarded one of the ‘Top 60 Most Influential Women in Travel in the Last 60 Years’ by the AWTE.
Lyn is still editor in chief of Wanderlust, across all its channels. She has a passion for wild places, wildlife & wine, & so her favourite trips combine all three. She has had a massive brown bear lie down just a few feet from her in Alaska, been “kissed” by a grey whale in Baja California, & spent a lively night in a sailors bar in the Azores. She believes in travel as a force for good, benefiting local communities, wildlife & the natural world.
Meet The Digital Nomads
The digital nomad community is going strong & is growing. You might even know of a digital nomad or two yourself but these ladies, well it was an honour to speak alongside them in London & we are delighted to introduce them to you…
Shiree of SAF Coaching
Location Independence Coach
Shiree has been traveling full-time for 6 years now. She has lived in places like the U.S, Australia, New Zealand & Bali & is currently living in Mexico. She shows people how to live a life of passion & freedom running a business they love from anywhere in the world!
A full-time Digital Nomad & Virtual Assistant Sales Coach – Shiree’s mission is to help millennial women, start an online Virtual Assistant business & land clients so that they can travel more & work less.
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Larch from The Silver Nomad
A Digital Nomad of 20 Years
Larch lives a semi-nomadic life. Her life changed 20 years ago when a silly accident left her with restricted use of her right arm & neck & she was told she would never work again.
She turned her life around, retrained herself & set up as a self-employed website designer. This allowed her to work wherever she was in the world.
Her passion for travel led her to start her travel blog to inspire over 40’s to explore new destinations & expand their horizons. In 2019 Larch qualified as a CAA Drone Pilot which she combines with her travels.
Larch regularly travels solo – check out her ‘Awesome Travel Solo Tips‘
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More On Our Digital Nomad Story
Driven by a love of nature & the outdoors, after a year of full-time travel together we chose to pack everything up, into our tiny home on wheels & committed to calling it our permanent home.
Having created a life for ourselves that we don’t wish to escape from we are passionate about helping others to do the same. We share regular inspiration through The Wilder Route, provide inspired digital marketing through The Green Thread, & even have our own natural & sustainable clothing range Nature Threads.
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How Do We Keep The Spark As A Digital Nomad Couple?
This is a burning question for a lot of people & was something we were asked at Destinations Show. How do we live in a tiny space & do everything together? In a nutshell, it all comes down to a shared passion for life & adventure, understanding the importance of your own space & having strong boundaries, not only with each other but with ourselves too. We’ve covered more of this in ’14 Tips For Van Life As A Couple’
More Hacks, Tips & Inspiration For Becoming A Digital Nomad
As well as sharing our personal stories in London we also covered more of the how & the what on living a digital nomad lifestyle. Here’s what came up…
Know Your Niche
If you’ve done some research into starting a blog or business before now you’ve probably heard a lot of people saying ‘find your niche’ – this is something that all of us on the panel agree on strongly, but what does it mean?
Do what you are good at – the thing that can only be done in the way that it is done by you. Do what ignites your soul like nothing else & sets you apart, that is your niche!
Being yourself is a vital part of all of this. It can be so easy to get caught up in what you ‘should’ be doing or what you feel others are doing ‘better’ but as Shiree pointed out when we were chatting people will need your skills & only you can deliver them in the way that you do.
Become Your Own Cheerleader
The reality of this lifestyle is that a lot of people that you think will ‘get it’ don’t get it at all. Larch shared her experience of people in her life who still, after 20 years do not understand what she is doing & this is the same for most people living in this way. You know what though? It doesn’t matter, work hard, believe in yourself & you’ll reap the rewards of living a location-independent lifestyle (can you hear those mountains calling yet?!)
After the show we were featured in a write up in Wanderlust Magazine which was later published on their blog. Check out that feature ‘how to start life as a digital nomad’ here.
Traits You Need
Everyone is unique & that’s the beauty but we did agree that resilience, a sense of adventure & flexibility will serve you massively – working on the road is an absolute dream but it does come with challenges for which all of these traits will help.
Tools To Help
The ability to communicate will serve you like nothing else – not just with others but with yourself too.
Online tools are an important part of remote working. In fact, 44% of respondents claimed real-time communication tools like Slack are important for helping them stay connected. — Source And.co
We ran through the tools that we use to communicate with our clients whilst we are working remotely – a fav of ours Trello came up which is one of many of the digital resources we have in our toolbox.
The Future For Digital Nomads…
The question of whether or not we would continue being digtial nomads came up last year when we were speaking in London. The answer from the three of us was a resounding absolutely!
Larch has been doing this for 20 years now (so yeah, recent times haven’t stopped her), she has paved the way for people like us & is exactly what we aspire to be.
Shiree loves to travel & will continue doing so, building her business along the way. In fact, since last year she has moved from Bali to Colombia & is currently living in Mexico.
& us, we adore the freedom that van life has gifted us with & wouldn’t change it for the world. Granted things have been a little different for us recently, but we’re delighted to say we’re still living in our an with our online business going strong & we plan to be back on the road again very soon.
Pretty sure we’re not the only ones either, in fact, we know for sure that the rise in digital nomad visas being offered & the pandemic accelerating people’s ability to work remotely will have brought this movement on quite a bit.
Question is, are you ready to take the leap?
If so, here’s to a life of freedom!
Kelly & Adam x
We hope that this post has given you both insight & inspiration – if you have any questions or comments at all please leave them at the bottom of this page as we’d love to hear what you have to say.
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