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Becoming a digital nomad isn’t just about finding a way to make money online, quitting your job and going on your merry way. It takes a lot more than being able to work remotely – you need to make your entire life work remotely, too.
What do I mean by that?
Well, there’s more to life than work. And even though work is probably your main concern if you want to become location independent, you’ll need to think about the bigger picture.
Making my life work with my nomadic lifestyle has been a journey in itself. Even though I was well prepared for some things (like insurance – I found the best digital nomad insurance and bought a year’s worth of cover before I left), others have been a bit more of a challenge.
Some of those challenges are things I knew I’d have to face. I knew, for example, that my social life was going to take a hit as soon as I left London. I knew that being in a different continent would mean the end of spontaneous events and drinks.
But there were other challenges I didn’t foresee, too.
Things like fitness, hobbies and even banking fall into that last category. And I’m going to share everything you need to know about all life areas today.
If you’re thinking of becoming a digital nomad or just getting started, I hope this post will help you overcome some of the logistical issues you’re likely to face.
And if you’re just dreaming of quitting your job and jumping on a plane, perhaps this will make you think twice (or at least give you some more productive actions to take in the meantime!).
I know I just started this post by saying there’s more to think about than work, but you still need to think about it! So why not start with the obvious one?
The exact processes and products you might want to use are going to depend largely on the type of work you do. They’re also going to depend on your own personal preferences.
What I can share, however, are some tools that I use to stay productive no matter where I am.
It took me a while to get used to the Google way of doing things, but now I’m a complete convert.
Google Drive comes with all the useful ‘office’ programmes you need. It’s where I create word documents such as blog articles and keep records of website changes made for clients. It’s where I store all my spreadsheets, including my editorial calendar, financial tracking and anything else I need to access regular. I also use Google Slides for pitches and reports.
The reason I use Google Drive over Microsoft Office (or any similar software) is because you can use it offline. Once you make a document, sheet or other file available offline, you can work it on from anywhere. Then, when you next connect to the internet, it will automatically update.
That means my files are always available, always up to date and always safe no matter what happens to my laptop.
Evernote is like a bookcase of notebooks, bundled up in digital form.
Just like Google Drive, Evernote files can be accessed and edited offline. As soon as you have data coverage or WiFi, the notes will automatically sync across both mobile and desktop.
While I use Google Docs for all the documents I need constant access to, I like to use Evernote for making and organising notes on the go. Whether it’s scribbling down notes at a conference or jotting down ideas for my next video, I like to keep my ‘temporary’ notes separate from my more formal ones.
Evernote is a free app, but there’s also a premium version that allows you to save web pages and attachments within the app (super useful when you find a page you want to bookmark!).
I don’t know when I started using Trello, but I do know that I’d be a LOT less organised without it.
Trello is a simple task management app. Unlike others, which can be super complicated actually make life harder, Trello is straightforward and easy to use. Some might think it’s a little too simple, but you can do a lot with Trello with a little imagination.
I’ve tried many similar project management apps, but I always go back to Trello because it’s very visual. Everything is arranged on boards, which can then be organised by teams or projects.
I have different boards for EVERYTHING. But, for every day use, I have a notepad board where I dump any random thoughts that I want to deal with later, an ideas board for random blog post or video ideas, and a ‘processes’ board of checklists for tasks I do regularly.
Appear.in is a free, easy-to-use video calling programme.
When you sign up, you’ll get to make your own URL and can then share this with anyone you want to video call. All you do is visit this URL and you’re automatically added to the call. It couldn’t be simpler!
With a free account, you can create a single room (with a single URL) and invite up to 3 other people at once. If you need to add more people or create more rooms, you can upgrade to a Pro account for around $8 per month.
I find appear.in a lot easier to use than Skype because you only need a link, rather than having to add a contact and wait for them to add you too.
One of the reasons long term travel is so affordable is because of sites like Airbnb. Whenever I’m staying somewhere for a week or more, I usually book an apartment on Airbnb.
As well as saving a ton of money (it always costs less than my London rent!), Airbnb adds some normalcy to digital nomad life. It’s so nice to have a “home”, no matter how temporary, and all the things that come with that.
Banking as a digital nomad is SUCH a nightmare!
There are three main services I use to make my banking as digital as possible: Transferwise, Payoneer and Tide Business Banking. I won’t bore you with all the reasons why they’re great for international payments and transactions because I explained everything in this post.
I’ve talked a fair bit about just how hard it is to stay fit while travelling. But one of the best ways to make sure I don’t let my health and fitness slip is to simply be prepared.
I always have at least a couple of go-to workouts on my phone, so I never have an excuse to skip a workout! I also like to mix it up, though, and for that I use two websites you’ve probably heard of.
YouTube is FULL of fantastic workout routines and longer term plans. I love using it for workout inspiration as well as to follow along with challenges by channels like Blogilates and Chloe Ting.
Of course, the one downside of YouTube is you need a WiFi connection to use it. I recently subscribed to YouTube Premium though, and it means I can download my favourite workouts. Again, it’s all about making sure there are no excuses!
Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi. This handy little device will give you unlimited data for your trip to Japan, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
If I’m looking for a workout that I can just get on with, I usually turn to Pinterest. The upside of Pinterest is that I don’t need video or audio, so I can’t use the “need to charge my headphones” excuse.
There are tons of workout ideas, usually summarised in a long pin, so you can just follow along.
Maintaining friendships and relationships was the thing I was most worried about when I decided to become a digital nomad. And, while it’s definitely been one of the most challenging parts of the lifestyle, I didn’t really have any need to worry.
In fact, in some ways it’s been really great. I’ve hung out with friends in Vegas, Kyoto, Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur, among others, simply because we happened to be there at the same time. There have been some pretty fun catch-ups, for sure!
It also means I get to schedule my catch-ups far in advance and spend more quality time with people. Instead of a quick catch-up over dinner, I’ll spend an entire weekend hanging out with my friends when I’m back in the UK. And, as people begin to move further from London, it would have been this way anyway!
No matter how long I’m away for, I schedule regular calls with friends. We usually just use Whatsapp video because it’s the easiest way to talk and it seems to be the most reliable. It’s not always ideal – and navigating time zones and full time jobs can be tricky! – but it helps fill the gaps.
I basically never shop IRL any more.
The truth is, it’s usually just easier and more convenient for me to shop online, especially when I’m only spending a few days somewhere. I can shop more consciously, avoid getting distracted and stick to the products I know will do the job.
Wherever I am, I tend to shop on the local websites. But there are two sites I always come back to.
Well, there’s definitely going to be a theme in this post…
Amazon prime is my go-to for electronics and day to day needs. I love that you can get stuff delivered the same day – such a life saver when I have a flight in less than 24 hours and realise I forgot to stock up on something!
Every time I go back to the UK, I stock up on the makeup and cosmetics that I struggle to find abroad. I have pretty sensitive skin and I like to stick to what I like, especially when it comes to skincare.
Unfortunately, those products aren’t always so easy to find.
Feel unique is my go-to for toiletries and cosmetics because I can repeat order the products I love and pick them up when I’m back in the UK. They stock some of the less popular brands that I love and they nearly always have discounts, which is an added bonus. At the very least, I know I’ll get free delivery.
Living nomadically obviously means I have to give up a lot of household items and home comforts. That includes a TV, speakers and other entertainment systems. So, here’s what I have instead.
I can’t imagine travelling without a Kindle! When I was younger, I used to frantically stock up on magazines and ‘buy 1 get 1 half price’ books in the departures lounge, but now there’s no need. I can fit a lifetime worth of reading in my pocket.
Carrying a Kindle means I can bring an entire library with me without adding much weight to my hand luggage. Which is always a good thing given that my hand luggage is always overweight…
[ Related Read: Wondering whats in my camera bag? I listed everything I use on this page. ]
Not only are Kindle books easier to carry around, but they’re better for the environment too. On a full charge, my Kindle can last several back-to-back flights without needing power, and Kindle books also seem to be cheaper than “real” books, so it saves money too.
If you read a lot and you want to save loads of money, you can read as many books as you like for just £7.99 per month with Kindle Unlimited.
Sure, you lose that cosy feeling of picking up a book, but it’s a small price to pay.
I use the Kindle Paperwhite, but there are several versions of the Kindle now. Some of them have built-in 3G and others are waterproof or have handy features like a front light. Click here to see all of the options.
Although packing a TV is put of the question, we don’t always go without one entirely.
Most Airbnb apartments and hotel rooms come with a TV. That’s fine if you want to watch cable TV or local channels, but what if you just want to stream YouTube videos or watch up catch up TV from home?
That’s where Google Chromecast comes in. This tiny device plugs into the TV’s HDMI input and let’s you “cast” your phone, laptop or other mobile device to the screen. It’s great for streaming TV and films (see the services I use below) or even for watching YouTube.
This one doesn’t really need an introduction because, let’s face it, who doesn’t have Netflix? (If that’s you… you can get it right here.)
I use Google Prime primarily for speedy shopping needs and the unlimited photo storage.
Those are just two of the many benefits of Amazon Prime, though. Prime Video is another, and it gives you access to loads of TV shows and movies for free.
The other essential…
Even though you hope you’ll never need to use it, travelling with insurance will make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Plus, unlike with other companies, you don’t need to go home to take out a policy or renew your existing one. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here: