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Lifestyle / Digital Nomad

12 Practical Steps to Become a Digital Nomad and Live a Location-Independent Life

Reliable internet access is all you need to make a living anywhere on this beautiful planet.
12 Practical Steps to Become a Digital Nomad and Live a Location-Independent Life
Image credit: Tom Werner | Getty Images
- Contributor
Entrepreneur, software engineer, author, blogger and founder of WanderlustWorker.com
8 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In 2014, Freelancers Union estimated that approximately 34 percent of the American workforce, or about 53 million people were freelancers, with that percentage expected to rise to 50 percent by 2035. 

So what is a digital nomad and why such an allure to this lifestyle? The truth is that many people are unhappy with their jobs (more than half of U.S. workers). They're unfulfilled in life. Of course, income bracket has something to do with this. But living in one location for your entire life will also do that to you. And the everyday grind often becomes too much to bear when stress and problems begin stacking on top of your already weighted shoulders. 

That might be why people opt to roam the world, living, working and playing in remote destinations across this planet. Now, I've always had an affinity for this lifestyle and have never really enjoyed being in one place for too long. Of course, unless you're living entirely off significant streams of passive income, this lifestyle can be too expensive to support, especially with a family. 

The beauty that attracts most to the digital nomad life is the ability to live in exotic destinations replete with sugary-white-sanded beaches and coconut palm trees swaying in the wind, or even bustling global metropolises halfway around the world, places that have a lower cost-of-living but a higher overall quality of life. But it's not just about the cheaper costs for most, it's about the new experiences and relationships created while moving from country to country.

Related: 8 Lucrative Careers You Can Start From Your Own Couch 

How to become a digital nomad.

So if you're serious about becoming a digital nomad, there are definitely certain tips and tricks that you could implement to embrace this lifestyle. First, you need to have a love for travel and new experiences. if you lack that, then this lifestyle could become tiresome. Depending on how often you move around, it could mean instability or increased uncertainty, especially in regions that might not be as welcoming to foreigners. 

If you're serious and committed to it, you need to relinquish many of your worldly possessions at home before you decide to embark on your journey. There are many people who embrace this lifestyle and simply don't want to go back. They fall in love with certain cities or countries and decide to make it their home base for some time. That's easy to do when you have an American, Canadian or British passport, but harder to do for others. 

Here are 12 things to consider before you embark: 

1. Reduce or eliminate your debt.

You don't want to start traveling around the world with lots of local debt. It might become taxing on you, especially considering that your mind will be elsewhere. If you're serious about becoming a digital nomad, downsize and reduce all your debt first. If you can, leave your home country debt-free to avoid having that weight on your shoulders.

Related: 6 Steps to Get Out of Debt and Stay Out of Debt

2. Sign up to a credit monitoring service.

Find a good service that can monitor your credit while you're gone and send you alerts. You never know when problems could arise and you wouldn't want to have your identity stolen only to find out about it six months or a year later and not have much recourse then. You can even freeze your credit (called a security freeze) through all three major bureaus while you're gone. 

3. Purchase an unlocked phone that's not tied to one carrier.

You need a phone you can use internationally. If you've never traveled around anywhere, then you should know that if you didn't buy your phone outright, then it's likely locked to your carrier. That means, if you try to put a different SIM card in it from an international carrier, it won't work. Replace or upgrade your phone and buy it outright to avoid this problem or having to use subpar phones while traveling.

Related: A Guide for Using Mobile Devices When Traveling Abroad

4. Get a Skype forwarding number and give it to everyone.

With a Skype number, you can forward it to any phone in the world. Plus, Skype numbers are available in just about any area code, so you can get a local number and use that as your primary number and then forward it to any phone as you travel around. This is important for having people get in touch with you when they need to.

5. Get good travel insurance for emergencies.

Problems can and do arise while you're traveling, so be sure that you have good travel insurance. This should be valid the entire time you're away and should help to cover any emergencies or health-related incidents that will arise. Remember, healthcare is a primary concern and not every country is going to have the same type of healthcare system you're used to, so get good insurance that works in the places you intend to go to.

Related: 25 Things You Need to Know to Happily Travel the World 

6. Sell or rent your home.

If you’re absolutely serious about becoming a digital nomad, then you should sell or rent your home. You don't want it sitting empty while you're gone. If you get tenants, hire someone they can call locally to deal with issues that might arise and handle the rental payments. Property managers are another option if you decide to do it professionally.

7. Get a storage unit and move all your belongings in.

Have a garage sale for everything you don't need and move everything you absolutely don't want to part with into a storage unit. Pay for that storage six months to a year in advance so you don't have to worry about it while you're on the road.

Related: 9 Business Ideas Under $1,000 You Can Run From Anywhere

8. Find someone to provide long-term care for pets.

Don't even consider taking your pets with you while you embark on your travels. You'll have to deal with quarantines, immunizations and a whole slew of other regulatory issues. Leave the pets at home and find someone to provide long-term care while you're gone.

Related: 5 Lessons From Kid Entrepreneurs Making More Money Than You

9. Bring a credit card with no international fees.

Many credit cards have international fees for purchases and ATM withdrawals. You want a credit card, such as an American Express card, that doesn't have those charges. You'll want to access your cash without paying a hefty fee for it. A good credit card is really important.

Related: 4 Credit Card Tips to Make Business Travel Easier

10. Network with people where you intend to go before going.

Use websites like couchsurfing, nomad list and Facebook Groups to network with people where you intend to travel to. It's important to get to know the area and some people before you arrive to help acclimate you to the area. They can give you insider tips you might not be able to find on a Google search.

11. Find a way to generate income on the road.

Okay, you'll need a way to make some money. Clearly, you can find ways to make money fast no matter where you are, but you'll also want to rely on a steady income. Use sites like Fiverr, Upwork and other freelance sites to generate some income. You could also tutor English locally to people, and of course find ways to generate affiliate income, build online courses or write ebooks to help you grab some passive income as well.

Related: How I Built a Startup While Traveling to 20 Countries

12. Find housing before you arrive.

Do your best to source some housing before you arrive. Whether you stay in a hostel, do some couch surfing, find an AirBnB, or opt for something more long term, be sure to arrange it before you arrive. In my experience, it's been best to find something temporary, then if you love the place and the area, look for something long term while you're there.

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