How to Become a Digital Nomad in 2020

How to become a digital Nomad - map background

Many people dream of working far, far away from the office, preferably in a warm, sunny locale where they can mix the fun with earning money. They want to spend time living out of a backpack, exploring the world while being their own boss, and seeing the places they’ve always dreamed of visiting. It’s for all these reasons that people are looking up ways on how to become a digital nomad.

What other jobs let you learn about other cultures, try new cuisines, and make tons of memories as you forge your career? If this lifestyle sounds interesting to you, keep reading to see how to make your dream happen by the end of the year!

Why are people becoming digital nomads?

digital nomads working and talking

People of all ages become digital nomads for all sorts of reasons. At the top of the list is freedom. They care more about living an exciting life rather than conforming to a life other people think they should be living. The ability to travel, whenever, wherever you want and to really absorb the experience is a major enticement for some.

Others want to develop new skills, often traveling to take courses. Being a digital nomad is excellent for developing language skills. You can use your new language skills to explore passions for art, music, or other hobbies like sailing. Being a digital nomad also allows those who have a desire to volunteer to find ways to help make the world a better place. You can work from your computer by night and help disaster relief efforts by day.

Most nomads challenge themselves to live on as little as possible, camping, staying in hostels, or sometimes sharing accommodation and even house sitting to look after pets or help with chores. However, if you want to build your career, and work from anywhere you choose, you will need to pick your career path carefully. It might help to take a professional digital nomad course to get your affairs in order.

Are there downsides to being a digital nomad?

Let’s cover a few things before you decide to walk away from it all. You don’t want to give up your current lifestyle only to find out digital nomadism isn’t for you.

Paperwork

digital nomad putting passport in bag

There will be tons bureaucracy, such as arranging visas and finding accommodation. While many countries allow U.S. citizens to travel freely for 60 or 90 days, this isn’t always the case. Also, some places may require you to have a work visa if you are a nomad. You will need to renew your passport and make sure it is valid before entering a country. Some places will turn you away if your passport expires in 6 months.

Time zones

Depending on what type of work you do, you might have to work U.S. business hours. Sure, this sounds alright now, but do you want to work from 1 AM to 9 AM every day? The time differences will also make it hard to speak with family, so be ready to take early morning or late night calls!

Do you have a social life?

If you have an active social life, it might feel a little lonely to be on your own. While you are sure to make friends in a new hostel or local hangout, you will have no one when you first arrive to a new place. Just when you finally make friends and have a solid social group, it will be time to see the next place on your list.

You can also alleviate some of this loneliness by having friends visit you if they’re close. You may not convince them to be digital nomads too, but you can still build tons of exciting memories.

Work space

One key issue to address is that you will have no fixed workplace. While you can type or design in a coffee shop, there are times when you’ll want more room to handle business affairs. In some countries, affordable accommodation doesn’t even come with fast broadband, so your room won’t do the trick. Most places now have shared workspaces or meeting rooms to rent by the hour, which are an excellent way for those who need to meet and greet clients as well as getting things done.  

What countries are good for digital nomads?

There are hundreds of places that you can choose to live in when you become a digital nomad. Where you work will depend on why you chose this lifestyle. Are you looking for a new place to explore, or do you want to learn a new language? Maybe you just want sunshine on a quiet beach.

With these thoughts in mind, take a look at some of my favorite places for digital nomads.

Bali

Most people who have been to Bali would love to come back. The reason Bali is at the top of this list is due to its beautiful scenery, friendly people, and low cost of living. Most people do not need a visa for stays up to 30 days, and you can apply for a 60-day visa by going to the Visa section on arrival before going through immigration. This visa can be extended once for another 30 days.

Vietnam

Applying for a visa before arrival is vital if you plan to stay here for some time. With the right documents, digital nomads can stay up to a year in Vietnam. Many people opt for Ho Chi Minh City for its vibrancy and large number of digital nomads coming and going. There are also other ex-pats from all over the world living here, so you will meet many unique people. Danang is also a popular destination, mostly for its beautiful beaches. If you get a year-long visa, be sure to see the entire country. The beaches are gorgeous, the food is delicious, and the forests are magical.

Argentina

It feels like summer all the time in most parts of Argentina, and the people are just as warm as the weather. It also has low costs and reliable internet access, making the country a place to keep coming back to year after year. With a 90-day tourist visa, you will have time to enjoy the vibrant culture and learn Argentina’s interesting Spanish dialect.

Prague

Prague is known for its fantastic architecture and incredible views. Digital nomads visit this historic city because it is charming and modern. Wi-Fi access is available in every bar, restaurant, and café in Prague, often at very high speeds. The city also has a large ex-pat community since rent prices are lower than at home, beer comes cheap, and the city is a short plane ride to anywhere in Europe. Digital nomads benefit from the year-long Freelance Visa that you can extend if you fall in love with the Czech Republic.

Estonia

Estonia attracts young nomads with its incredible nightlife and low cost of living. It also has lots of coworking places and good Wi-Fi connections. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, Estonia has been the home of many startups. The country is establishing itself as the best place for nomadic entrepreneurs to register a company and become an e-resident, complete with a government-issued digital ID. A dedicated digital nomad visa is coming soon. It is ideal for professionals working online and traveling around the globe. With this visa, both long and short term stays will be covered.

How can I become a digital nomad?

People are working remotely more and more each day. Some work from home, others work at coffee shops, and some even work from atop a mountain. Companies are allowing remote work for many positions, but these are usually only given to experienced remote workers. It might be hard to get one of these remote jobs right out of school.

The good news is that you can find short-term remote gigs all over the web. Unfortunately, these jobs for digital nomads do not pay that well, at least until you build your reputation.

Jobs

Digital nomads carry out many tasks, and it is not limited to only a few types of jobs. Here a few common fields that support the nomadic lifestyle:

  • Programming and Development: Front-end development is insanely popular since coders can find work locally or on many online job boards
  • Design: From creating websites to designing artwork for books, there are endless opportunities online for creatives
  • Writing: Copywriting, blogging, editing, and more. Many clients need someone to help them find their voice
  • Photography and Videography: You can start a photoblog, sell your photos to companies, or help companies improve the images on their site
  • Advertising: Many digital nomads help with Pay Per Click ads on Google, Facebook, and other popular sites, but there are many paths to take here
  • Administrative: Social media management, project management, human resources, and other tasks are included here

Personality and Skills

Although there are popular articles on how to become a digital nomad with no skills, a better option is to focus on your key interests. Leverage your work experience, business acumen, and technological skills to create a freelance resume. Don’t forget it will take sheer determination to make it happen.

You may also be amazed at what you learn when you realize that the buck stops with you. You do not get paid if you do not find clients and sell yourself! You need to become an entrepreneur who can be trusted to deliver high-quality work on time.

Start building your reputation by doing some freelance work. Be assertive in asking for recommendations as well as asking for LinkedIn referrals. You can also read my helpful post for finding freelance jobs.

Last but not least, join Facebook groups for digital nomads to get advice from others. They can help you leverage your interests into viable careers.

Plan ahead

After choosing your path and determining your skills, you will need to get your affairs in order. Here come essentials like getting your passport sorted and finding out what visas you need. 

You will also need to manage your finances. Set aside some cash for emergencies. I recommend saving enough to cover:

  • Seeing a doctor
  • Buying a ticket home
  • Two months of expenses 

Make sure you have comprehensive travel and medical insurance, just in case. Although many places will let you stay for 30 days on a tourist visit and don’t ask questions, others have more stringent requirements. Be honest about your intentions to avoid visa issues. 

Being a digital nomad is not just about exploring new places; it’s about finding work that will allow you to continue to travel. Treat this lifestyle like a career and keep developing and pushing yourself forward.

Gear for Digital Nomads

Some people say traveling isn’t always comfortable. I disagree with that line of thought. Here are a few of my favorite items to make traveling easier and relaxing!

While you’re at it, be sure to check my guide on the Best Laptops for Writers! 

Travel Backpack

backpack for digital nomads

You’ll be living out of a backpack from time to time as a nomad. The Arcido Akra Backpack is ideal for traveling workers who need to a small, sturdy bag to carry their laptop, clothes, and other personal items. With a 35 liter volume, it has enough space to pack what you need but still make it through airport security!

Travel Duffel Bag

duffel bag for traveling worker

Your backpack won’t be able to hold everything, so you’ll need a bigger bag. I don’t recommend getting a suitcase. The last thing you want is to be stuck in the rain, rolling your suitcase down a muddy path. 

I love the North Face Base Camp Duffel Bag because it can hold just as much as a suitcase but can be carried on your back. Sizes vary, but you should go with the medium or large duffel to ensure you have enough space. 

Travel Jacket


You never know what the weather will be like during your journey. As a digital nomad, you will also be carrying tons of gadgets and electronics for work. I recommend the SCOTTeVEST Jacket to keep you and your devices safe from the elements. This jacket is incredible, with 25 pockets and neat features to make traveling fun and comfortable!

You Can Become a Digital Nomad

Before becoming a digital nomad, you can test the water with programs like RemoteYear. These services do all the planning while you get on with the work and enjoying the sights. It’s not necessary, but it makes it a bit easier to travel and meet like-minded professionals. 

Eventually, you will need to take a leap of faith and just go for it. Keep adding to your savings, developing skills, and researching the places you want to explore. Some digital nomads visit a new place every month, while others might keep renewing their visas. Come up with a plan and a budget based on your preferences.

Take the leap before it’s too late to become a digital nomad in 2020!

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