The digital nomad lifestyle is an aspiration for many. The ability to travel the world and work from anywhere is appealing to us all (particularly cubicle dwellers) as is pursuing a life and career that you love, which is often the tagline of digital nomad stories. We’ve been featuring digital nomad content since 2016, including a how to guide and a roundup of the best locations for remote workers, and the concept continues to grow in popularity.

Though with all the FOMO inducing stories and social media, being a digital nomad is not as easy as it appears: the effort in creating a local network, establishing a good work/life balance, missing your friends & family back home, and not to mention the logistics of moving from place to place are a struggle for most.

If you’re looking to work remotely, here’s a checklist of tips and tricks I’ve gleaned to maximize your digital nomad success. Good luck!

Keys to Digital Nomad Success

Pick the right spot

The digital nomad phenomenon is super popular these days, with various hubs popping up around the world. Getting started, it can be a bit daunting choosing where you’ll go, especially with so much anecdotal information out there from others who are successfully working remotely. It’s important to be realistic about what work/life qualities you need to be happy and productive and not be sucked into the hype of certain spots. What’s your budget? What type of weather makes you happy? Do time zones matter to you? Do you have dietary restrictions? And last, but most importantly – what are your visa options?

I love the beach. And while I love to vacation in these tropical destinations, I’ve found that they aren’t ideal for my work. Often it’s too warm during the day to open up the laptop and I’m constantly feeling sluggish. But that’s just me. I’ve met tons of other digital nomads who are perfectly suited to beach towns. I also try to avoid very touristy cities as it’s a bit of a distraction with a constant coming and going of people.

Stay in one spot for at least a month

Too much moving around eats up your time and makes it difficult to establish a routine (which is my third digital nomad key to success below). It takes awhile to get into a good groove, like finding the perfect apartment, the best wifi, and the strongest espresso. That being said, if a place doesn’t feel right to you and you feel that it might not bring out your most productive self, don’t hesitate to move on.

Establish a routine

The beauty of the digital nomad lifestyle (for most) is flexibility in when you work, allowing you time to explore your temporary home. Though for many digital nomads it’s hard to say no to local activities and attractions (which makes sense as that’s why they picked that spot) and soon personal time starts to outweigh work time (“where did the time go?!”). And there’s really no point in being a digital nomad if you’re significantly less productive than at home.

To maximize your success, develop a daily and weekly routine. Having a set schedule for the hours you work each day and what days a week you take fully for yourself will help to maintain your productivity. It doesn’t need to be intensely planned out, but knowing that you’ll work for a few hours in the morning, go for a swim in the ocean at midday, head to your favourite coffee shop in the afternoon to check off more on your to-do-list, and join friends for dinner in the evening will ensure you’re not getting distracted.

Have a few work locations

As soon as I land in a new spot, I go on a scouting mission for the best work locations from co-working spaces and libraries to cafes and restaurants. I also make sure that I pick accommodation with a good work setup so that I can roll out of bed right to my laptop if I choose.

Having a roster of work locations where you know you’ll be able to concentrate and get things done is vital. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery to reinvigorate your productivity, and having an established list of spots reduces transfer time and maintains your work flow.

Have the right gear

You could really go buck-wild getting all the latest gadgets but simplicity is best in my opinion, based on my personal experience.

Laptop: It goes without saying that you’re going to need a good laptop. I’m partial to my MacBook as it’s super fast and super light, though I’ve come across a number of other remote workers who swear by Microsoft Surface. I rarely bring along my digital hard drive as it adds unnecessary weight and I’m petrified I’ll break it, so I just use iCloud to backup all of my files.

Unlocked phone: An unlocked smartphone is key so that you can pick up a local SIM card wherever you are and buy a package. I also buy an extra long charging cable so it doesn’t have to be out of reach while it’s getting more battery.

Roost Laptop Stand: I saw a fellow digital nomad using this laptop stand in Mexico City and bought it immediately. I have terrible posture, and slouching over my laptop at a desk or in coffee shops takes a toll on my back. Within a month of embarking on entrepreneurism and leaving my office job (and my comfy ergonomic office chair), I was at the physiotherapist once a week for shoulder and back pain. The Roost Stand is so light and compact, it’s a no-brainer for anyone working from their laptop.

Portable charger: I use my iPhone a lot. I rely on it for directions, it often acts as my camera, and keeps me connected all day via email and social media. And as you can imagine, all of that drains my battery so damn quickly. I’ve used a few different power banks over the years (many of which I broke along the way), and Poweradd Pilot is my absolute favourite. It’s compact and durable, which are the two most important things for anyone working on the road.

Plug adapter: This is an obvious one, and you may be heading somewhere where it’s not needed. But – if you’re embarking on digital nomadism for an indefinite amount of time, pack one just in case as you never know where you’ll end up (this one is epic). And in my experience, it’s always such a hassle (and always more expensive) to track a local adapter down when you need it.

Establish a local network

It’s important to integrate into the community whether it’s local or expat. Keep an eye out for local meet ups and expat groups, and head to Facebook, Reddit and NomadList for online forums before you arrive. Not only is it important to be social and move out of your comfort zone, but you never know who you’ll meet that might inspire your business or become a collaborator.

Have a good budget

Keeping the money from running out is a challenge for most digital nomads. Expenses can build up rapidly when you’re away even if you’re in a country with a lower cost of living than your own. If you want to maximize your remote longevity, make a realistic budget and track your expenses. A budgeting app that many digital nomads swear by is Trail Wallet, which has an intuitive design and simple interface.

Continue to push yourself

Complacency is easy when you’re enjoying the good life. Ensure you’re still pushing yourself to grow your business and are finding opportunities for growth. If you run your own remote business, consider entrepreneurial groups or masterminds – either online or in real life – to keep you motivated and accountable.

Keep connected to home

It’s easy to get wrapped up meeting new people, but it’s crucial to keep your links back to home. Make time for the people who truly know and appreciate you and try not to lose touch with meaningful people you meet along the way. Many digital nomads return home in the long run, and you’re going to want your core group intact.

Know when to go

If you’re not feeling energized in a certain location – pack up and move on to a new place. If you’re feeling drained or are missing your creature comforts – move home. Don’t feel like a failure if you cut your remoteness short – it’s a difficult lifestyle that’s not for everyone. If you still want to mix it up by traveling and working abroad, consider splitting your time between your home town and a few month stints in other countries. Just do what feels right for you.

Keys to Digital Nomad Success photos courtesy of Kevin Bhagat and Domenico Loia

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