man sitting at a cafe working on his laptop

How to Survive Your First Year as a Digital Nomad

The digital nomad lifestyle is a relatively new occurrence, but it has spread like wildfire thanks to remote work. Only ten or so years ago, only a small group of true adventurers dared abandon their comfort zone and venture into the unknown.

However, the trend is here to stay, and Southeast Asia seems to be a remote workers’ paradise. People from all over the world are flocking to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and neighboring countries to experience the culture and explore while working remotely.

If you want to join in on this trend, you should know that it will be challenging, but it will also be incredibly rewarding.

Before You Go, Settle Affairs at Home

Soon, you’ll be leaving your hometown to embark on the journey of a lifetime. Before you go, it’s important to tie any loose ends and not leave any unfinished business at home. For example, make sure that you clear any debt, return the things you’ve borrowed and address any issues in relationships with important people.

It’s a good idea to rent your place while you’re away and get an additional income stream. You don’t need to worry about managing your property from abroad, as you can hire a property management company such as SCK Group to do it for you. They can handle everything for you, from letting and maintenance to taxes and accounting.

You Lose Your Home Base — Make Your New Base Digital

If you want to be a digital nomad, you need to make peace with one fact — you will lose a feeling of home in a physical sense. Even your hometown will stop feeling like your base after some years abroad.

However, as you lose the home base, you can turn to your fellow digital nomads online. Your new base and sense of stability will likely come from a digital place, i.e., various online groups where you connect with people who follow the same lifestyle. You can search Facebook for these communities by typing, e.g., “digital nomads Vietnam.” 

You can also find a therapist online if you think you might benefit from professional help.

Don’t Fall for the Holiday Trap

One of the most common mistakes new nomads fall for is getting overly excited and treating their stay in a foreign country as a holiday. The excitement is perfectly understandable — that sense of adventure and exploration is why we become nomads in the first place.

However, if you want to make your new lifestyle sustainable, you need to find a balance between work and play. Otherwise, you’ll run out of money and be forced to return to an office-bound nine-to-five before you know it.

The best solution to this problem is to stay in one place long enough so that you can have enough time to experience it fully while managing your work comfortably.

Pick Your Accommodation Wisely

Your choice of accommodation depends largely on your priorities. Of course, your number one priority should always be a great internet connection. Think about your budget and your options. You may go for a standard choice — hostels and Airbnbs. If you’re on a tight budget or don’t like living alone, you may team up with another nomad (or a local) for co-living.

You should think about the location carefully. If you’re not planning to work from home, it’s best to find a place close to coworking spaces or cafes where you’ll do the bulk of your work. You don’t want to waste time basically commuting to work every day — that’s part of the reason you’re not at a traditional job.

Get International Banking

As a citizen of the world, it’s best to get an international banking option. This will save you a lot of money in unnecessary charges. For example, you can use your ATM card to take out your money without incurring various foreign transaction fees.

What’s more, be careful about what ATMs you’re using as they can burn a hole through your pocket. For example, Thailand is notorious for its huge foreign transaction charges, so it’s best to ask your nomad community for recommendations. Those who have been in the country for some time can save you a lot of trouble by providing useful tips and tricks.

Make the Most of Local App Services

If you’re used to relying on Lyft for transport or UberEats for food delivery, you don’t have to give up your habits. These services are convenient and especially useful when you’re a foreigner in a new country. So why not get the right apps and have everything you need only a couple of clicks away?

For example, you can try Gojek or Grab for transport, delivery, and running various errands. They will save you a lot of time and energy, and they’re quite affordable. Once again, depending on your country of choice, there might be other options. You can always ask locals and fellow nomads for recommendations.

Find Places to Anchor

If you feel nostalgic or generally off-balance, remember that that’s perfectly normal. You’ve just uprooted your whole life — it’s normal to feel a bit disoriented and strange. To create a sense of stability, you need to find places to anchor, i.e., establish some constants in your new, adventurous life.

Wherever you drop your bags, and no matter for how long, get familiar with the neighborhood and establish some kind of routine to help keep you from burnout. Having a somewhat fixed work schedule also helps.

Make Peace With Making Mistakes

Finally, get ready for the fact that you’ll be making tons of mistakes in your first year as a digital nomad. No matter how well-prepared and enthusiastic you are, you’re bound to encounter issues, unpleasant situations, and problems without an easy solution — that’s part of the whole adventure thing.

The sooner you accept this as an inevitability, the more comfortable you’ll be with making mistakes. So you shouldn’t beat yourself up about them. You’re trying to navigate this entirely new lifestyle in a foreign country, and that takes some adjusting. Instead, let your mistakes be opportunities for learning and adopting various hacks and tricks, which you can then impart to the next newbies in your digital nomad community.

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