Digital nomads have a passion for travel, desire for adventure, and interest in new cultures. Becoming a digital nomad has increased a dramatic 131% from 2019 to 2023. Our latest research found that more than 17 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads. A nomadic lifestyle can be both exciting and challenging. If you’re thinking of becoming a digital nomad, here’s what you need to know.
What are the Benefits of Becoming a Digital Nomad?
High levels of work satisfaction
Becoming a digital nomad allows people to combine a passion for travel with their work, so it may not come as a surprise that digital nomads have higher levels of satisfaction with their work than other types of workers. According to our latest research, 80% of digital nomads report being highly satisfied with their work compared to 59% of non-digital nomad workers.
Opportunities for geoarbitrage
Many digital nomads work from places with low costs of living while keeping their same higher level of income, a strategy known as geoarbitrage. This allows them to focus less on the hours they work and more on things they are passionate about like exploration and travel.
While the majority—68%—of digital nomads work full time, many work only part-time (32%) and others work on and off throughout the year as they need. Income varies widely, but 42% of digital nomads say their household income is $75,000 or more.
Better work/life balance
The digital nomad lifestyle tends to be flexible, which is a big draw for many people. Many digital nomads say the ability to travel when and where they want is the best part about their lifestyle. Digital nomads enjoy. Experiencing new cultures and meeting new people. The digital nomad life comes with a lot of autonomy and the opportunity to truly decide how you balance your work and non-work life.
What are the Challenges to Becoming a Digital Nomad?
Contending with a return-to-office policy
The COVID-19 Pandemic had a significant impact on the number of people who decided to work as digital nomads. But as pandemic fears and hype has waned, more employers are pushing for a hybrid approach with employees spending a few days a week in the office. This has influenced the growth of digital nomads, and year-over-year growth is leveling out. Over half of digital nomads say they plan to travel exclusively in the US, as it has become more difficult for many to negotiate a fully nomadic work situation.
Managing the logistics of working from afar
The digital nomad lifestyle, while it comes with many benefits, can be difficult as well. Top challenges reported include managing work and travel, being away from family and friends, personal safety, and time zone differences making work difficult. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone and it can often be hard to manage loneliness and being away from family and friends.
Traveling with a family
Over half of digital nomads are married or living with a partner, and 24% report traveling with their children. Many see being able to expose kids to new people, places, and cultures as a benefit, but education on the road can be a challenge. Some digital nomads home school kids, but the majority enroll in private or public schools. There are programs and companies in many countries that cater to families that may only be in a place for a short period of time. Other families spend more time in fewer countries to make this easier.
4 Steps to Prepare to Become a Digital Nomad
1. Secure a job or business that allows you to work remotely
Digital nomads come from many different backgrounds. Some are traditionally employed, while others are independent. If you plan to become a digital nomad, start by making sure your job is amenable to doing so. Inform your sponsor or your clients of your intentions, discuss work arrangement details, and make sure any specific requirements they have surrounding taxes, work hours etc. are met.
2. Prepare financially and set a budget
Financial preparation and budgeting is an important part of becoming a digital nomad. Consider what rent costs might be like in the cities or countries you want to visit as well as other costs such as food, transportation, coworking spaces or internet. You’ll also want to consider travel insurance, visas, tech equipment, international phone bills, and having an emergency fund in case you get sick or need to fly home.
3. Get set up with the right technology
The great news about becoming a digital nomad today is that there is a wealth of technology available to help make your life easier. The basics include a lightweight laptop, smart phone, cables and power strip, electrical outlet adapters (depending on your country of travel), a Wi-Fi hot spot and booster, a VPN, a portable power bank, and an external hard drive.
4. Decide where to go
The fun part! There are many factors in deciding your travel destinations including your employer or client’s flexibility, your personal budget, and whether you are traveling alone or with a family or partner. When choosing where to go, you’ll also want to consider how easy it is to work in that city or country, what the climate is like, what internet access is like, if you need a visa, and whether there are other digital nomads working there.