How to Become a Digital Nomad

How to Become a Digital Nomad

If you could work from anywhere, where would you go? For more and more people, it’s not a hypothetical question: Young or old, single or with a family, full-time employee or contractor, the digital nomad life is more accessible than ever before. But of course, becoming a digital nomad isn’t without its challenges and risks. From determining where you can legally and safely travel to making sure you’re set up for success when you arrive, this comprehensive guide offers tactical steps to help anyone truly put the “remote” into remote work. So ask yourself: Are you ready to take the leap?

In 2007, I had just finished up a freelance telecommunications project in Australia. My next client was based in Europe, but instead of hopping on the first plane home, I decided to start working on the project remotely from Southeast Asia. It was my first experience with digital nomadism — and it wouldn’t be my last. Today, I continue to embrace the digital nomad lifestyle, working and living along with my family all around the world.

But what exactly is a digital nomad? Well, it depends on who you ask. For me and my familybeing digital nomads means we have a home base in Spain, but we take frequent two-to-three-week “work-cation” trips as well as longer working trips of up to three months at a time, enabling us to have worked and lived in more than 60 countries over the last 15 years. It also means we are location independent: If needed, we can leave our home base at any time; we’re not tied to any one place with a mortgage or other major commitments. Other nomads travel for shorter or longer stretches, on their own, with a partner, with a group of friends, or even with pets. Some embrace the van life, some follow a passion like surfing or chasing an eternal summer, and some even develop entire travel-based educational programs for their children.

Over the years, I’ve met countless digital nomads of all shapes and sizes. I’ve learned about the wide variety of ways in which digital nomadism can work for people in different careers and life stages, and I ended up becoming a fierce advocate for the work-from-anywhere way of life. Based on this experience, I created a LinkedIn Learning course on digital nomadism, as well as a series of Digital Nomad Stories highlighting successful nomads from around the world. Most importantly, I’ve discovered that nomadism can be for anyone: Young or old, single or with a family, full-time employee or contractor, the digital nomad life — whether on a temporary or permanent basis — is likely more accessible than you might think. So, if you’ve ever thought about truly putting the “remote” in remote work, read on for a beginner’s guide to becoming a digital nomad:

Step 1: Choose the Right Destination for You

Iceland or Indonesia? Portugal or Panama? There is a literal world of choicesso before you embark on your digital nomad adventure, you’ll have to determine the best destination (or destinations) to meet your unique needs and preferences.

Somewhere you’re legally allowed to go

First and foremost, it’s critical to make sure you’ve chosen someplace where you’re legally allowed to go. I’ve compiled some basic information below, but since every situation is different, you should definitely do your own research and potentially consult a professional regarding passport limitations, visas, health insurance, taxes, and any other legal requirements you may face.

  • Passports: If you want to travel outside of your country, you need a valid passport. And make sure to check the expiration date well in advance of your planned departure, so you’ll have time to renew it if necessary!
  • Visas: Depending on the destination and length of stay, you may need a special visa. In some cases, a simple tourist visa is sufficient, some countries now offer specialized digital nomad visasand in some cases, a work visa may be the way to go.
  • Health insurance: Some countries require health insurance coverage for visitors, either through an international plan or a local provider. Make sure that you have the coverage you need lined up, so you don’t run into issues when you arrive.
  • Taxes: Most tax policies simply are not built for location-independent workers. In the EU, for example, even if you travel a substantial portion of the year, you’ll still need to choose a “Tax Residency” — that is, a location where you spend the majority of your time, own a house, or have some other large asset or interest. You’ll also need to make sure you’re appropriately classified as a full-time, self-employed, or contract employee, as these classifications can impact your tax status. As a digital nomad, it’s your responsibility to make sure you’re fulfilling your obligations (and giving your employer the information they may need to fulfill theirs).

Somewhere that’s safe for you

Even if you’re legally allowed to travel and work in a given destination, it’s important to consider other factors that may affect your safety. For example, one digital nomad I spoke with shared his experience traveling internationally as a gay man, explaining that there were certain locations he just wouldn’t feel comfortable visiting with his husband. While many places in the U.S., Western Europe, and other regions generally protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people, other areas are far less welcoming. In some places, there are explicit laws criminalizing certain activities or statements, while in others, discrimination can be subtler (though no less dangerous).

Similarly, there are many destinations that may feel less safe for solo female travelers. For example, women on one online forum reported feeling unsafe while traveling alone in certain areas in Africa, Central and South America, and Asia.

Of course, traveling always comes with some risk. But it’s important to be aware of the particular challenges you may face due to your gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, political opinions, or other aspects of your identity. That means looking into relevant regulations, making sure you’re aware of local cultural norms, and perhaps even talking to friends or family to learn more about their travel experiences.

Somewhere you want to be

Finally, once you’ve determined the options that are safe and legally available to you, it’s time for the fun part: Where would you like to go? Do you dream of days at the beach, on mountaintops, in bustling cities? Somewhere where you speak the language fluently, where you could get by without much work, or where communication barriers might be more challenging? Is there a particular type of food you like (or don’t like)? Certain types of entertainment or social activities you’re looking for?

This is a very personal choice, and there’s no right answer. It’s all about figuring out what really matters to you. Some people may choose a location based on a hobby or interest they want to pursue, like surfing, yoga, or learning a language. Others may be looking for a location with a strong existing nomad community, perhaps opting for a famously digital-nomad-friendly destination such as Croatia, where the government has organized a variety of events and initiatives specifically designed to support remote workers. Yet others may hope to participate in specific cultural events or festivals, like Octoberfest, the World Cup, or Chinese New Year. This is your chance to do some soul searching and figure out what kind of place would be the best fit for your unique priorities.

Step 2: Get Your Boss on Board

So you’ve decided you want to give the digital nomad life a try, and you’ve determined that it’s safe and legal for you to do so. The next big hurdle to clear is getting your boss on board (whether that’s a traditional employer or freelance clients).

Making the case for remote work

If you don’t currently work remotely, you’ll need to start by determining whether any form of remote work is feasible for your role. And if you think it is, don’t just rush into your boss’s office or send off a hastily written email. Carefully prepare your argument and a detailed plan, and then ask for a face-to-face meeting to share it with your boss and any other relevant colleagues.

In this conversation, start with an overview of the benefits of remote work to both you and your organization. Research industry norms, including whether competitor organizations offer remote work options, and have examples on hand. Then, dive into your own situation, and explain how working remotely would be effective in the specific context of your job and performance. Would it enable you to do your work better? Would your productivity increase? Present a solid case, complementing personal perspective with clear data and quantitative evidence on how allowing you to work remotely could benefit the entire organization. Finally, make sure you’ve put together a detailed plan for your remote work arrangement, including your schedule, any equipment you’ll need, and how you’ll track and report on your progress — and be prepared for your boss to offer feedback.

Making the case for work-from-anywhere

Next, remember that even if you already work remotely, it doesn’t mean that whoever’s signing your paychecks is necessarily okay with you doing that work somewhere else. For example, if your role requires a lot of synchronous communication, it may be necessary for you to be in the same time zone as your team or clients. Some organizations that work with government contracts or sensitive information may have policies against taking company equipment abroad, or other legal requirements limiting employees’ travel. There may also be tax and compliance considerations at play, internal company policies against working from certain locations due to local labor laws or security concerns, or your boss may simply feel uncomfortable with the idea due to their own fears or misconceptions about digital nomadism.

Some of these challenges can be overcome, while some are trickier to address. But you won’t know which are which until you try — and that means talking not only to your supervisor, but also to HR, legal, IT, and any other departments within your organization that may have an interest in where you do your work. Do your best to genuinely understand their concerns and find creative ways to respond (whether through a convincing argument, or a change to your own proposal). For example, if time zones are an issue, perhaps you could choose a destination with a similar time zone, or commit to staying up late to enable synchronous work? If a supervisor is nervous about a three-month stay, would they be more comfortable with six weeks? Or if international travel is off the table, perhaps a domestic trip could be a good compromise?

Many people are able to arrive at a solution that works. But if you just can’t get your employer on board, that leaves you with a choice: Abandon your digital nomad aspirations, or look for a new role that allows you more flexibility. That can mean a new job at your current organization, a new employer altogether, or even a switch to freelance work. Indeed, going freelance is an increasingly common option among digital nomads — but no matter how you structure your job, you’ll still need buy-in from whoever’s paying the bills. Whether it’s a client, a boss, a partner, or anyone else, you’ll need to take a proactive approach to managing expectations and developing a plan to navigate your transition into this new way of working.

Step 3: Don’t Forget About the Details

Big-picture factors like safety, legality, and whether you’ll be able to do your job at all are non-negotiables — but there’s a lot more to consider when it comes to setting yourself up for success as a digital nomad. So once you’ve got a general sense of when and where you plan to go, start thinking about the following tactical and logistical steps you’ll need to take to meet your unique personal and professional needs:


As a speaker and lecturer, I often give online keynote presentations and training sessions. So for me, a reliable internet connection, dedicated work area, and quiet, private meeting rooms to deliver talks and discuss confidential work plans are paramount. Other people may have other needs, such as an ergonomic chair, a standing desk, noise-canceling headphones, or lighting equipment. If you use any specialized software or equipment, check with your IT department to ensure your tech stack will work abroad, and consider bringing backups of devices or chargers. Every role (and individual) has different needs — so think about what you need to do your job well, and then determine what you can bring with you and what you’ll need to find there.


For most digital nomads, reliable internet connectivity is critical. If possible, test the Wi-Fi at the place where you’ll be staying with a virtual live speed test, and look into coworking spaces and cafes nearby in case the Wi-Fi in your lodging has issues. You can also buy a local sim card to make calls and access data, and especially if you plan to use public Wi-Fi networks at cafes, airports, etc., make sure to set up a virtual private network (VPN) to keep your internet traffic secure.


What will you do if your wallet is stolen, or your credit card stops working? Without a plan, a situation like this can be really scary — so it’s important to come up with backup options in advance. Talk to your bank about its travel policies, explore options for an additional card you can keep somewhere safe, or consider bringing some emergency cash. You can also do some research to see whether your bank has any partnerships with local ATMs to help you avoid transaction fees, as well as whether apps like Apple Pay or Alipay are common in your destination.


Beyond whatever is necessary to meet bare minimum legal requirements, you may also want to consider additional health insurance. Different travel and health policies include very different services and termsand some providers are now offering policies specifically designed for digital nomads and frequent travelers. Think carefully about whether you have any specific needs, such as English-speaking doctors or specialist care, and do your own research to ensure those needs will be met. Relatedly, if you take any medications, make sure to pack as much as you need, and if you plan to refill a prescription at your destination, confirm that you’ll be able to do so at local pharmacies. And remember that even common, over-the-counter items in your home country may be hard to find elsewhere — so when in doubt, bring a little extra of whatever you’ll need.

Step 4: Find Your Community

It’s easy to get caught up in the many legal and logistical challenges associated with becoming a digital nomad. But one of the biggest (and least talked about) challenges of this lifestyle is the loneliness and isolation. Finding like-minded people to connect with while abroad can be hard, so it’s important to be intentional about participating in organized groups and activities, proactively attending events, or even just engaging in chance encounters.

Online platforms like, Nomad Listor local social media pages can be a good place to start, but don’t be afraid to initiate events, create groups, and host get-togethers yourself as well. Consider learning a new hobby or sport as a way to meet people, and check whether local coworking spaces or other community groups are hosting any events or offering any resources to help connect digital nomads.

To be sure, there are plenty of benefits to being a solo nomad. There’s no way to replicate the sense of independence and adventure you get when you’re truly on your own, and no better way to develop razor-sharp problem solving and communication skills. But there’s also a lot to be gained by building connections and a network of mutual support and comfort. Especially since my daughter was born nine years ago, it’s been important for me to actively seek out communities at each new destination we visit, both to connect with other families and to ensure my daughter has peers her own age to socialize with. Of course, connection looks different for different people — but we all need it, in one form or another. So reflect on the kinds of communities that you value most, and identify opportunities to connect with people in whatever way will feel meaningful to you.

Step 5: Give Back

Finally, remember that it’s not all about you. When you travel, you leave your mark on the local environment — and it’s your responsibility to make sure you give back more than you take. Find ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and connect with locals to identify effective avenues to support the local community. For example, Mita Carriman, Founder and CEO of the digital nomad support startup Adventurely, advocates for a more sustainable approachsharing that for her, “shopping local, minimizing plastic consumption when possible, and giving back to locals through charitable donations or volunteer work are some ways I consider the planet when I travel as a digital nomad.”

When done right, digital nomadism can be a major force for good. Some governments are even taking steps to attract and retain remote workers through new visas and incentives, recognizing that digital nomads can provide a much-needed boost to local economies. However, without active effort to engage with locals, co-living and coworking spaces may run the risk of becoming a bubble, benefiting digital nomads by exploiting local communities.

To make sure you’re not contributing to the problem, choose your destinations and activities carefully. Rather than visiting a popular destination that’s already overrun with tourists, consider rural options. Many off-the-beaten-path co-living spaces offer a wonderful way to experience a new culture while bringing economic benefits to communities that really need them. For example, I spent a month with a co-living program in rural Spain that’s specifically designed to help participants integrate with a local village community and revitalize its economy. You don’t have to make any grand gestures to make a difference. You don’t even have to speak the language to communicate on a human level. Just show that you’re interested in learning more about people’s culture and needs, and you’ll be surprised at how profoundly you can connect.

. . .

It’s easy to romanticize the digital nomad life. Who doesn’t want to work while sipping mai tais on the beach, taking Zoom calls between scuba lessons and spa sessions? Of course, the reality is a lot more complicated, as the many benefits of digital nomadism are accompanied by their fair share of hurdles and risks. But if you’re ready to take on the challenge, the freedom and adventure of truly remote work is more accessible — to more people — than ever before. So ask yourself: Are you ready to take the leap?

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