Whether your digital nomad dream includes chillin’ on a beach in tropical Bali, or getting lost in an enchanted metropolis like Istanbul, it’s time to get the ball rolling on making this dream happen.
Living abroad is a huge undertaking, and that’s true regardless of whether your experience is a short or longer term stint.
The benefit of being a digital nomad is you can choose the type of place that fits your desired lifestyle and test out indefinite stays in multiple destinations. And we’re here to help you prepare for the transition and make it more enjoyable by sharing our top tips for starting your nomad journey.
The most important things to do when moving to a foreign country or nomading indefinitely are to:
- Learn as much about the country as you can beforehand.
- Make a short visit to the country prior to moving.
- Plan for expenses and accommodation.
- Check visa and other document requirements.
- Do a medical check and buy good insurance before leaving.
- FIND RELIABLE RESOURCES TO READ ABOUT THE PLACE YOU WANT TO LIVE IN
Before moving to your dream country or your nomadic home away from home, it is extremely important that you learn as much about it as possible.
You can start by visiting sites like TripAdvisor, visiting Reddit forums and joining Facebook groups. They will reveal to you a lot of details about residency and day-to-day life in your country of interest.
You can learn a lot from other people’s experiences and prepare to a greater degree than you would have been able to had you simply shown up to the destination. Another bonus of these online resources is that you can make a few friends along the way that you can meet up with once you arrive.
Online resources can also help you take an inventory of what is really important including your deal-breakers in deciding where you would or would not want to live!
Deal breakers can be influenced by a number of factors that are significant to you. They can include how a country treats animals, if it has adequate vegan or vegetarian food options, whether or not the internet is stable, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and dig deeper to find what your non-negotiables are. After all, you will be basing your whole life in this place.
Here are some questions to consider to find your deal breakers:
- How cold or warm does the weather get?
- Is there a lively nightlife?
- How do people treat animals?
- Is there enough diversity?
- Is the internet connection widely available, stable and affordable?
- Do people speak English and which language is the most generally used?
- Is public transportation well organized?
- Is there freedom of expression?
- Is there a general acceptance of differences?
If you are like us, one of the most important criteria is the strength of internet connection, stability and speed. If you work online, check which countries have the fastest internet speed here so that you don’t get any unpleasant surprises. Speaking of unpleasant surprises… The cost of internet per country should also be considered, which you can check here!
- VISIT YOUR DESIRED DESTINATION AND TRY IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE CULTURE
Theory is one thing, but practice can be surprisingly different. For that reason, it is very important that you spend at least a month in a certain city or country to get a strong feel for the lifestyle and decide if it is truly fit for you.
Reading about other people’s experiences in a country is a good way to have a benchmark with which you can compare your own eventual experiences, but others’ feelings and opinions are also subjective. One person’s perspective can be vastly different from yours, so soak in a new environment as much as you can.
When you visit a country, pay attention to the following:
- The price, coverage and strength of the internet.
- Prices of food in different markets.
- Transportation fees and routes.
- Different neighbourhoods and their strengths and weaknesses.
- The communication style of the locals.
- The general atmosphere of the place.
- The temperament of the locals.
- Whether or not you can connect and develop friendships with locals.
IMPORTANT: Use AirBnB or Couchsurfing to stay in different areas of the city. This way you will get a more complete and realistic picture for choosing where you want to live.
- PLAN FOR EXPENSES AND ACCOMMODATIONS IN ADVANCE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Knowing what the living expenses are can make or break your decision to settle down in a new country. For that reason, use numbeo.com to compare prices. It is very useful for finding the average prices for everyday living regarding:
- Restaurant prices
- School and daycare
Websites like Numbeo can also help you see statistics for other important factors such as:
- Air and water quality
- Overall satisfaction and quality of life
Being able to prepare for upcoming expenses can ease your mind to an extent. And since travelling can be unpredictable, it’s good to have an emergency stash of cash for emergencies that may come up.
You can also plan for expenses by reading about or visiting different areas in the city you want to live in. Visiting will help you understand average prices for renting monthly and annually. We highly recommend against renting a place you haven’t seen with your own eyes beforehand.
We also suggest renting an Airbnb for the first month. This makes it so that you don’t have to commit yourself to renting long-term before you are certain you like an accommodation wholeheartedly.
To help your renting decision, find out what neighbourhoods are famous or infamous for. Discover whether or not a neighborhood in question has any expat communities if that is important to you. Also consider the proximity of your potential accommodation to markets, cafes and public transportation.
The price of an accommodation can vary by hundreds or even thousands of dollars or euros, so it’s best to take your time and devote an adequate amount of attention to this.
4. CHECK VISA AND OTHER DOCUMENTATION REQUIREMENTS FOR THE LONG TERM
Some countries have it all figured out when it comes to digital nomads and the requirements and obligations this lifestyle requires. Some even offer digital nomad visas!
Other countries however may not have such options. You should do deeper research to find out how to stay in the country and work as a digital nomad freely.
Some countries offer long-term visa that you can acquire if you:
- Enroll in a state education program (language school, undergraduate, masters, etc.)
- Open a business
- Buy real-estate
- Have an annual apartment renting contract
And since we are still in a pandemic, it is important as well to check the requirements for Covid-19 related tests and documents.
IMPORTANT: Check the number of days in a year you are allowed to reside in the country of your choice. It can be anything from 90 consecutive days in a 6 month period to 90 days that reset after doing a border run.
5. DO A MEDICAL CHECK BEFORE LEAVING AND PURCHASE GOOD HEALTH INSURANCE
If there’s anything we’ve learned from surviving a pandemic, it’s that staying safe and healthy should never be taken for granted. When you find yourself in a foreign country with people speaking a language you don’t understand and don’t quite know where to turn to for help, that added stress can make any health issue even worse.
There’s also a number of problems you can encounter when seeking medical assistance in a foreign country:
- The language barrier.
- Not knowing where to turn to.
- Being sick and having to scramble to find immediate medical attention.
For that reason, it is best to do a general check-up prior to leaving your home country. Take care of everything that could be a hiccup down the road, from lining up a new GP to checking that your prescriptions are available in the new country. This will help you have a sound mind while you are tackling other challenges ahead.
Travelling can induce a higher level of stress for your mind and body, so be sure to adopt healthy habits that make you stay healthy in the time of transition. Practice daily supplement intake, get fresh air daily, exercise and meditate. You want to make sure you can function well to take on the challenges ahead and handle them like a boss!
Accidents and poor health can happen, and when they do, you want to be in control of your wellbeing as much as you can. For this reason, it is crucial that you obtain good insurance.
IMPORTANT: Bring relevant medical documents with you and get health insurance. SafetyWing has great digital nomad insurance plans that are valid in many countries, insure Covid-19 issues and cover lost luggage! Be sure to start the package a day before your scheduled departure.
But remember, no matter how much advanced planning you do, there will always be some unexpected challenges that you had no way of anticipating. Just be sure to take the problems that occur as opportunities for growth and nothing can stand in your way of a great travel experience!