Becoming a Digital Nomad | How I Got There
How do you become a digital nomad? It's probably the most frequently asked question I get and not one that comes with one simple answer. But how did I become a digital nomad? Well, that I can tell you.
Nowadays I spend 6 months a year working remotely, and the other 6 months in my home in Amsterdam. While my journey is not your journey, I know that hearing about other people's experiences often provides perspective, ideas and inspiration. So, I decided to pen it all down, while trying to keep it as short and sweet as possible. How did I become a digital nomad? Here’s the story.
A short background story
Can you relate to the term ‘wanderlust itch’? This inner knowing that tells you there's a whole big world out there beyond your backyard? Even as a kid, I had this inkling that I wasn't destined to plant my roots in the Netherlands forever. The itch never left me, and I couldn’t wait to break free and explore the world on my terms.
My opportunity struck when I was able to participate in a 4-month Erasmus Exchange in Finland. Shortly after, I moved to Madrid for a year. Learning new languages, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures - I loved every single minute of living abroad. The best part of it all? I didn't have to leave after only two or three weeks of vacation.
Fast forward to my return from Spain, and I found myself head over heels in love - with a fellow Dutchy. We moved in together and agreed to settle down in our favourite city: Amsterdam. We found jobs that we enjoyed, rented a place, and eventually bought an apartment. Life in Amsterdam was great, and we fully enjoyed it for a solid five years. Until that feeling of restlessness crept back in.
The adventure begins
“How about we live and work in another country for a while?” A question that popped up in a cafe in Amsterdam, and set 18 months of researching and saving money into motion. In June 2017 we took the plunge: we quit our jobs, put our apartment up for rent and applied for an Australian Working Holiday Visa. It was time for a new adventure.
We lived in Melbourne, found jobs, travelled the east- and west coast by camper and thoroughly enjoyed the Land Down Under for a year. What an adventure, what a way to step out of our comfort zone. Once the year came to an end we were certain: we needed to do this again. Soon. But how?
How to find jobs that allow us to become digital nomads?
It was 2018 and there we were, working a 9 to 5 office job back home in Amsterdam while dealing with the same question that keeps most aspiring digital nomads awake at night: how can we travel and work at the same time? To add to the challenge: we were in our thirties and were not looking for just any type of job. We wanted to expand our careers, and do something that we actually loved.
It took us 2.5 years to figure it all out. We explored job opportunities at international companies, considered moving back to Australia, contemplated buying a campervan, and explored tons of other options. Eventually, patience and persistence paid off. In my case, the breakthrough happened when I reached out to a remote travel company and got the job. One down, one to go!
2020 arrived and Covid handed us another nudge in the right direction. Even though my work hours got reduced to part-time, my husband's job transitioned to an online setting, and he was not required to work from the office any longer. I decided to expand my knowledge in the world of copywriting, took tons of online classes and started reaching out to potential clients. Finally, in October 2020, when my husband's employer gave him the green light to work abroad and my freelance work was taking off, we decided it was time to take the plunge. We relocated to Portugal for six months.
Three years of being a digital nomad
Since our first adventure in Portugal, we have lived remotely in Spain, Mauritius, South Africa, Greece, and now, Brazil. As we still love our home base in Amsterdam, we come back every spring and summer to catch up with friends and family, and enjoy the comforts of home.
I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for my life right now, and how deeply I enjoy my digital nomad adventures. But - as cliche as it sounds - while our life might seem like a dream, it’s not always smooth sailing. As the pandemic initially paved the way for remote work, most companies now want their employees back in the office. Keeping up with our digital nomad lifestyle therefore remains a constant challenge, and sticking to our dream requires flexibility and lots of self-discipline.
Since I work as a freelancer, I need to be on the lookout for new clients continuously. Needless to say, not all of them embrace my nomadic lifestyle. If you’re wondering how I secure remote work and need tips, check out the blog I wrote via the link below:
Some practical tips for life as a digital nomad
Besides managing my work, there are several other aspects I keep in mind nowadays when planning my trips. Perhaps these tips can assist you in your preparations too:
Searching for destinations
When selecting a new digital nomad destination, I initially pick from my list of ‘I’ve-always-wanted-to-live-there’ places. After that, the actual research starts. I check timezones, assess safety and explore the cost of living and visa requirements.
A great development over the past years has been the rise of digital nomad visas. Did you know that they are now offered in over 40 countries worldwide? Digital nomad visas allow you to live and work in a country for up to one or two years - a dream for remote workers. Here’s the full list to help you find your ideal destination.
Finding the right accommodation
Each to his own, but when I work remotely, I prefer to stay somewhere for a longer period of time. My work requires me to be focused, have a stable internet connection, and work long hours. For this, comfortable housing and a solid home base are required, which makes the search for good accommodation usually the most difficult and stressful part of the preparation phase.
So how to find a great place that elevates your remote work experience? In the past, I have found accommodation through Airbnb and local real estate agents (tip: check digital nomad Facebook groups). Other booking platforms such as Nomad Stays and NomadX might support you in your search as well, and co-livings such as Selina or Outsite are great alternatives if you want to socialise and get to know other digital nomads. Good to keep in mind: bargaining often works for stays of a month or longer, and can save you a significant amount of money. Do you have other accommodation tips? Please share them in the comments; I’d love to hear about them!
Digital nomad essentials to take with you
When it comes to packing, remember that most things can be bought wherever you go. That being said, over the years I have identified a few essentials that I make sure to always bring with me as I travel:
1. International Wise Card Wise’s multi-currency debit card is the ideal travel companion when working remotely. You get to skip sneaky bank fees and spend your well-earned money freely. Another great thing about Wise? You can transfer money from over 160 different countries, in 40 currencies, without exchange rate markups.
2. Contact lenses, medication, and all that stuff While most things are for sale everywhere, there are certain items that are easiest to bring from home. For me, that’s my contact lenses, my preferred make-up brand and birth control stuff. For you, it could be other things. Make sure to list items you can't go without, and stock up before your trip.
3. VPN A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your online messages and hides your IP address. Why that's important? You need it as it protects your online identity and data when working in public areas like co-working spaces, libraries or coffee shops. A nice little extra: your location is hidden from the world, which means you can bypass geo-restrictions and keep watching your favourite shows and movies on online streaming platforms.
These essentials, plus my clothes, are roughly the only things I take with me as I travel. Of course, there are plenty of other products you may want to consider buying before you leave, such as a power bank, a portable monitor or a Bluetooth speaker. For inspiration on some great digital nomad essentials, I encourage you to read my blog ‘The best gifts and essentials for digital nomads’.
Your road to becoming a digital nomad
I hope this blog has provided you with inspiration for your own digital nomad journey. Choosing this path is not always straightforward, and it's easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged at times. Just remember you’re not the only one, and that each step, no matter how small, brings you a little bit closer to your dream life. Want to follow my stories or receive more digital nomad inspiration? Follow me on Instagram or sign up for my newsletter via the link below!