By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur and writer. Amine is the CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO.
I have been working online for over a decade, as the businesses I run have a strong focus in the digital space. So, when I needed or wanted to travel, I just took along all the things I needed to stay on top of my work and set sail.
Back in those days, digital nomad wasn’t even part of our professional lexicon, or at least I hadn’t heard of it back then. As the years progressed, I realized that I didn’t necessarily have to stay put in one place all the time thanks to having a non-physical, internet-based business. So, I traveled widely and enjoyed short stays in various locations around the country and world.
I figured if I wanted to be at the beach in the summer and the mountains in the winter, I could actually do that as long as I had a stable internet connection. Today, these professionals are called digital nomads—internet-based professionals who work and travel at their discretion.
Although it’s not a lifestyle well-suited for everyone, as the stress involved is sometimes astronomical, it’s still enviable to many. If you think it’s right for you, here are some of my top tips on how to become a digital nomad and get the best experience out of it.
1. Set a clear division between work and leisure.
Balancing your work requirements with your leisure time at your new destination is going to be vital in guaranteeing your success while traveling. You are going to want to explore your new surroundings, get to know the place and enjoy new foods or attractions.
So, it’s best practice to set yourself a schedule and stick to it. Outlining when you work helps create the commitment to get the work done. That way you know what time you have for your leisure activities. And you won’t be feeling guilty since you did the work you were supposed to do.
You can set several hours a day, but make sure those hours are at the same time every day. Or you can set yourself a few days to work in a row, then take a day or two off. Whichever formula you choose, make sure you stick with it.
2. Have your work lined up before you travel.
If you have just started an online activity, make sure you have reached a level where you have enough work to keep you busy and guarantee your lifestyle—unless you have enough savings to live off while your business grows. I say this because living abroad or away from home can be expensive.
3. Travel slow.
Some digital nomads change destinations every week or even every few days. I honestly don’t know how they do it. I prefer spending several months at a new destination; this way I get to know and live in the place. The experience is much more rewarding than jumping from one place to another without ever getting to know the place where you were staying.
4. Check the Wi-Fi.
Fast Wi-Fi connections are of supreme importance when you work online. Check the destination’s internet service before you make a move. Is it wideband? Is it easily accessible? Can you get a sim card for data?
A good place to find information about all the different countries’ Wi-Fi speeds is nomadlist.com. It’s a great resource for up-to-date data on the Wi-Fi situation in many countries. Also, check with your host what Wi-Fi connection they have. They could even send you a screenshot of the connection speed and bandwidth.
5. Download a VPN service.
Connecting to public Wi-Fi can be dangerous, even the Wi-Fi connection at your rental may not be entirely secure. So, if you’re on the go, it’s a good idea to download a reliable Virtual Private Network. VPNs secure your internet connection by masking your digital signature. In this way, your private data is protected from the possibility of being stolen.
You may also have problems from being in a different location to your home country. Some internet services are not available or bring different results when you are in a different country. With a VPN, you should be able to set the country to appear as though you are still at home when you are online.
Some VPN services are free; however, I find that for an improved user experience it’s better to pay a few bucks. Most services have prices that are below $10 a month, here’s a list of ten VPN services.
6. Prepare travel and health insurance.
If you are going to be on the road for extended periods, you must have yourself covered in case of adverse events. Some small mishaps are bound to happen, like lost luggage. This may be annoying, but you will at least get something back in insurance payments. Other events can be more detrimental, like a stolen passport or wallet, so make sure you have some backup.
Health may not seem an issue, and as we usually tend to continue being healthy, we may not feel there is any risk. However, the problem here is accidents. Knock on wood, nothing is going to happen. But what if you badly sprain your ankle one day?
Is the local health care system going to pay for the care you need? Most likely not. Check to see if your current health insurance offers coverage abroad. If not, get yourself covered, at least for accidents.
No doubt, being a digital nomad has its pros and cons. But for those of us who love changing places, seeing new sights and experiencing new cultures, nothing beats it. With a little foresight and preparation, you can make your digital nomad experience even more enjoyable as a borderless digital entrepreneur.