Category Archives: Finances and Budgeting

Tips for Digital Nomads: Find the Perfect Place to Stay

Bangkok

Being a digital nomad is a lot more than sitting at the beach with a laptop and a cocktail all day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it a number of times, but you’re going to be a lot more productive in a space that’s set up for work. For one, there’s not usually power or an internet connection at the beach, and you have a constant battle to keep your laptop from filling with sand! Your friends all envy your digital nomad lifestyle, but to become awesome you need planning –  especially if you want to simply up and change cities whenever you feel the inkling to move.

I’ve had so many friends tell me

“You get to work wherever you want, that’s freaking awesome!”

but there’s so much going on behind the scenes they never see. You need an iron clad will to balance work and travel, and personally I just want to get my work done, so I’m free to go out and enjoy the city I’m in. After a year and a half
as a remote freelancer, I’ve discovered a certain art in finding the right place to stay.

First you need to decide what you’re looking for. Do you want a fun social environment or peace and quiet to knock out a ton of work?

Hostels

Enjoy a party atmosphere and an unbeatable price on a dorm bed, and the best time to work is while everyone is out sightseeing. Combine this with a fun and social vibe as the evening kicks on, and you’ve got an ideal place to stay in almost every city. Check Hostelworld for the best deals or if you’re feeling adventurous Couchsurfing is another budget-friendly option.

Hotels

Perfect when you need to focus without any distractions and knock out massive work days. Combined with room service, a gym and even a swimming pool, and you’re all set. Agoda is a great site for hotels in Asia, or Booking.com for everywhere else in the world.

Apartments

This is my favourite because it’s more comfortable than a hotel when you’re staying somewhere for more than a week, and can be even better for your budget. Check out AirBnB to see your choices.

Must have

For the room there are basic necessities you need to get your work done effectively. Make sure that wherever you stay there is:

  • Internet. It’s impossible to work remotely without it, so double check there’s WiFi available.
  • Work space. A desk or table is essential, and saves your back from hunching over on the bed or the sofa.
  • Power points. Hard to judge, but conveniently located power points are vital for a remote office. Check the pictures and see if you can spot lamps (which mean power) on the desk, or on any bedside tables.
  • Kitchen. I don’t like eating out everyday, and cooking is a great downtime after 12 hours staring at my laptop.
  • Laundry. Being able to throw a load of washing on is a godsend, and saves you time that would otherwise be wasted sitting at a laundromat.
  • Size. The bigger the better, so find somewhere at least 40 square meters and you won’t mind being cooped up all day with your laptop.
  • A Separate Bedroom. Having a separate bedroom is fantastic if you’re travelling with your partner. It let’s you both have different areas to work, so you can get in the zone without being right on top of each other.
  • Location. Find a place with a large supermarket nearby to stock up on groceries, as well as being close to an internet cafe so you can change scenery whenever you need it. I like to be a little bit removed from the tourist centers to avoid all the commotion, so long as there are a couple of nice restaurants nearby.
  • Cleaning gear. Not the most exciting item on the list, but if you’re anywhere for more than a week it’s nice to be able to give the floors a sweep and keep your temporary home fresh.
  • Reviews. Read through what the others who stayed here have said. You don’t want to be stuck in a dark little apartment with dingy furniture and a shaky WiFi connection, so do your homework before you book!

If you follow this advice you’ll find the perfect place to get your work done, so you can get out and enjoy the best attractions in the city once you’re on down time.

The life of a digital nomad is unique, so set yourself up to work effectively and you’ll be out enjoying the local sights before you know it – as you live a lifestyle many others only ever dream about!

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Finances and Budgeting, Life Hacks, Location Independence, Travel Tips

The Advantages of Wearing Many Hats: Nurse, Writer, and Question Mark

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Antigua, Guatemala

So what happens if you trade in your regular every day job for a digital nomad life and find having a computer or cell phone chained to you at the beach was not exactly what you had in mind?

First of all, you are not the only one. You might think being a digital nomad (in my case, doing freelance writing through oDesk in Honduras) is your ticket to freedom, but once you find yourself sitting in a cafe surrounded by tropical plants, so engrossed in your computer or cell phone you are not spending time with real people or enjoying your setting, you might need a reality check. As a freelance writer, it is difficult to make a livable wage in a western country. Several writers often are expected to do free work for the privilege of being published. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted this issue when author, Philip Hensher, brought to the public’s attention that he was asked to write an introduction to a book for free and refused to do so. This is why I do my writing from Honduras where my budget for living expenses, food, and adventures is $300-$400/month. That way, I do not feel I have to be a slave to my work, and I make enough to get by and have some fun while working only part-time. However, my current financial state doesn’t give me much cushion in case of an emergency or if I want to take a spontaneous trip with friends. While I could sit in front of a computer full time and definitely make enough to continue my travel life style and still live in Honduras, the truth is I do not want to be in front of a computer for more than 20 hours. I love writing, but the computer part is torture especially when you take those jobs you really despise just to make a few extra dollars.

So this is where my solution comes in. Be a digital nomad with many hats. Know that being a digital nomad is only a part of your ticket to freedom and having lots of skills that have nothing to do with computers is the other part. In my case, I have a nurse’s license, and I have recently decided to return to the states to work as a travel nurse for three months and fill up my bank account. I can make in one week as a nurse the money I make as a writer working full time for a month. You do the math.

Being a published writer has always been my dream, but now that I am a writer, I am finding I want to start focusing on my own work not on doing freelance work for others. While all my oDesk and other freelance jobs have given me great experience and put a long list of published items in my portfolio, somewhere along the way I stopped writing what I want to write and for less than what I believe my work is worth. So now I am taking a step back and working as a nurse to put a significant chunk of money in my account allowing me the freedom over the next year to only take freelance jobs I want and focus on taking the time to do my own writing, the kind that is not dictated by word count, money, and deadlines.

You don’t have to get lost in the making money part of your digital nomad lifestyle. You can take breaks and find other skills. Sometimes instead of working all year long, a little here, a little there, and trying to be your own boss (which trust me is complex), it is good to work in the system, live cheap, and save for a few months. This way you can dive back into the freelance world, but on your own terms, and to fund fun adventures as needed instead of to make ends meet.

Keep life interesting while adding to your skills. Learn a language if you are in a foreign country. Volunteer where you are at. In my case, I started volunteering with different organizations in Honduras, and before I knew it, I was learning new skills like fundraising, which helped my application jump out to a foundation in the UK I am currently working for. I love yoga, and the next skill on my list is to become a yoga instructor. The more skills you have, the more options you have. One of the best books I ever read to help me gain perspective and see myself as more than just a nurse was The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. This three month book (in my case, it took a year) helps you to release your creative energy and find new hats to wear so that when you talk with people and they ask you what you do, you can reply, “What don’t I do?”

For the nurses and freelancers, be sure to follow my upcoming Remote Control posts on the 10 Alternative Nurse Careers that Allow You to Travel or Work Remotely and The Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing.

Written by: Beth Ann Nyssen

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Finances and Budgeting, Location Independence, Technology, Work and Business, Working Remotely

Budgeting for Your Breakaway: How to Determine the Costs of Moving Abroad

The big cull: if it didn't fit into the back of the bike...it was sold!

The big cull: if it didn’t fit into the back of the bike…it was sold!

Budgeting for a big move is a prospect often fraught with angst. Whilst I agree it may well be the hardest thing you’ve ever done up until now…it need not be all that difficult. I’ll start by admitting that helping digital nomads determine the actual cost of their move is a futile exercise, considering the endless contributing factors: where do you live now? Where do you want to move to? Are you single or with kids in tow? Are you planning to ship your car and a container full of belongings? Etc etc. You get the gist.

Instead, I think the best option is to share some tried-and-tested tips on the best way you can determine the cost for yourself and (perhaps more importantly) include some insider tips on how to reduce these costs.

After all…I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this may be everyone’s priority 😉

Separate the must-costs from the maybe-costs

Your first priority should be to make a list of all the costs you envisage for your move. Things like flights, above-mentioned container shipping; apartment and/or car rental and so on. Then, think long and hard about which costs are avoidable and which are not. Yes you will have to get yourself there somehow, so flights are (for the majority) unavoidable. Tick.

Apartment rental? Nope, don’t need that yet (more on this later.) Car? Definitely not at first. Double tick.

Now your turn.

Get at least three quotes on all the must-costs

Once you have determined what you must absolutely pay for (if you’re still undecided keep on reading) then best to get quotes as soon as possible. Making the move during low-tourist season in your target country can keep flight, shipping and accommodation costs down for example, so always keep this in mind when doing your research and you could save a small bundle right off the bat.

Sell more…take less

You know how I mentioned getting a quote for shipping all of your personal belongings? Yeah…not. Stop right there.

I know how enticing it is to want to duplicate your life at home once abroad but this does contrast with most of the reasons you decided to make the BIG move in the first place. This isn’t about duplicating, this is about reshaping. If you do want to take ALL of your material possessions and envisage placing them in your new home overseas, you may want to rethink your reasons for moving. It’s a hell of a lot of hassle just to get away from the mother-in-law! Just kidding…

Placing everything in storage and leaving with the bare necessities is a great option, although if you can stomach the idea, I suggest you actually sell off as much as possible before you leave. Not only will this generate more cash (there’s your flights!) but the psychological impact it will have on you may allow you for greater flexibility in your new home-country.

I did in fact leave all my belongings in storage before going travelling. The next time I saw them was three years later when I dashed home to sell it all off: I had spent $2000 a year on storing things I never thought about, nor needed, ever again.

Food for thought? Goodie.

The dreaded housekeeping

One of the hardest decisions you’ll make will be whether or not to keep your house, if you happen not to be renting at home. This is definitely a tough choice to make. Due to my fatalist philosophies I will come right out and advice you to get rid of it; the only thing it will gift you is hours and hours of worry and work; both things you can do without. However, I also understand and accept that this may be easier said than done. Well, I did do it and it was rather easy, but you get my point.

Factoring in the costs of keeping your home at home can be hard-going. Will you rent it out? What about unexpected repairs? Will you leave someone else in charge of managing it? What about the extra expenses: can you factor them into your digital nomad income?

It will soon will become painfully obvious that keeping your home is a huge commitment, one which is hard to maintain if you happen to be on the other side of the planet; and this is just taking practical matters into consideration. I can only imagine how many digital nomads have lost countless nights’ sleep over a major issue with their homes. I don’t envy them one bit.

You’ll need less than you think

This particular credo works for just about everything you can think of. Please excuse the hanging preposition.

First of all, let’s talk high tech gizmos. By and large, I would suggest that whatever you need for one full day of working remotely from Starbucks is all you’ll ever need. I’ve seen digital nomads look like walking computer stores, whilst all I own is a small netbook, an external hard-drive and a couple of memory sticks. All three, by the way, can be purchased in almost every corner of the globe. I keep things stored on Dropbox and continually email my work to myself. Should the inevitable happen (things also go walkabouts in every corner of the globe) I won’t be jumping out of a 4-story window in despair.

Here’s something else to think about. Just because you can’t go down the road to buy milk without hopping in your car, it does not mean you ought to export this habit to your new home-country. Living without a car is not only possible and incredibly refreshing; it is also much easier to do it from the moment you arrive, when you have not yet become accustomed to the luxury of depending on one. Shipping your car overseas can be an awful waste of your heard-earned cash so I suggest you don;t even contemplate it. Likewise, leave the car rental/purchase expense in your new home country for a few months down the track. Unsurprisingly, most digital nomads who live abroad never even make this step, even after many years.

Homes are highly overrated and I do mean this in the nicest possible way. Yes it would be nice to land in Calcutta and head straight for your rental apartment, but the problem with this is that you’ll never really know how good a choice you’ve made until  you’ve seen it, smelt it and lived in it. Food and accommodation are life’s basics costs, yet holding off just a wee while on the latter can see your initial costs reduced drastically. First of all, you may want to spend a few weeks scouring suburbs of your intended abode and decide which one suits you best. Secondly, I don’t care what expat blogs/guide-books say, you are the only one who can determine what is good/bad for YOU so you do need to see it all for yourself.

Spending a few weeks in a cheap hostel will not only reduce your initial moving costs but it can prove to be highly beneficial in lots of other ways. I love hostels because they give me the convenience to stay in the heart of a city or town whilst giving me the freedom to suss it all out. You can get a private dorm to yourself/ves and enjoy the convenience of cooking your own meals, thus saving you money on food consumption as well. Most hostels will discount for long-term stays so consider it a bona fide genial option. The great thing about doing this is that you don’t need to yet budget for a rental-apartment deposit within the first few weeks. Give yourself some time to recover financially from the move before forking out even more cash and you’ll be a much happier digital nomad.

Budgeting for your move abroad is a task best tackled with nerves of steel and a sunny disposition; although most seasoned digital nomads will tell you to just chill right out. The whole point of this life-changing decision is to simplify your life and get back to the basics.

May as well start your spring-clean today.

Written by Laura Pattara

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Finances and Budgeting, Location Independence, Preparing to Breakaway