Digital Nomad Guide

How to Become a Digital Nomad

I’ve lived in and worked from more than 50 countries around the world as a digital nomad since 2012.

I’ve taken the lessons that I learned on my journey and from helping other people become digital nomads and put them together into this free digital nomad guide for you.

Digital Nomad Getting Started Guide Contents:

What is a Digital Nomad?

Digital Nomad is another way of saying, “a person who works online while traveling.” It’s a lifestyle choice made possible by the existence of the internet.

The digital in digital nomad refers to the idea that many jobs, especially knowledge work like programming, graphic design, and online marketing, are performed on a computer.

Unlike in traditional jobs, the people performing these jobs often do not need to be physically present in one specific location. Instead, they are able to work from anywhere, so long as they have access to a reliable internet connection.

A nomad is someone who moves from place to place, instead of settling permanently in one location. In the case of a digital nomad, the nomad part refers to taking advantage of the freedom of being able to work from anywhere.

So, instead of only working from their office, home, or a coffee shop in their home town, a digital nomad thinks, “If I can work from here, why can’t I work from Bangkok? Barcelona? Or a beach in Brazil?”

Who Can Become a Digital Nomad?

Anyone can become a digital nomad. There is no official certification or qualification for becoming a digital nomad, but this guide will help you get started.

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Airbnb’s New Nomad Policy

Howdy 🤠 This issue of Never Normal is all about Airbnb — the company at the center of the ongoing transformation in work, life, and (especially) travel.

Full Disclosure: I’m a (small) investor.

Airbnb’s New Nomad Policy

CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter that Airbnb has adopted a new remote work policy.

We’re already over two years into the mainstream adoption of remote work, but Airbnb’s new policy is notable, because the company now explicitly condones employees working from other countries and they pledge not to adjust compensation based on the employee’s location.

In other words, now you can get a job working for Airbnb, making Silicon Valley money, while hopping between Mexico, Bali, Budapest, and Lisbon (or wherever you want).

Plenty of remote workers are already traveling while working, but this is the first time I’ve seen a company the size and stature of Airbnb make such a flexible policy. I suspect that more tech companies will follow suit.

Spend It Where You Earn It

Of course, Airbnb stands to benefit the most from such policies.

After all, where are all these workers going to sleep if they move out of their homes to travel and live all over the world?

Its already happening.

Airbnb released their latest earnings statement this week. The numbers are up. Big time:

Revenue of $1.5 billion increased by 80% from Q1 2019, and by 70% from Q1 2021—demonstrating the strength of the travel rebound.

The comparison with 2019 is especially interesting, because it shows how the company has grown relative to where they were before the pandemic. The included letter to shareholders explains:

Two years since the pandemic began, a new world of travel has emerged. Millions of people are now more flexible about where they live and work. As a result, they’re spreading out to thousands of towns and cities, staying for weeks, months, or even entire seasons at a time.

Where have you heard this before? 🤔🙃

Perhaps most interesting of all, the shareholder letter also teased “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade” to be announced on May 11.

But there’s a downside…

As I’ve written about over the past few weeks, it’s become significantly easier and much less of an extreme lifestyle choice to travel and live all over the world these days.

And as more and more well-paid workers become digital nomads, competition and prices for Airbnbs in desirable locations is heating up:

ADR [average daily rate] averaged $168 in Q1 2022, representing a 37% increase compared to the same period in 2019…

As a result, seasoned digital nomads have started talking about Airbnb prices the way Brits talk about the weather. It’s the single biggest threat to our lifestyle. Especially for the many (most) nomads who don’t have a cushy Silicon Valley salary.

The accommodation affordability crisis is most acute in Europe at the moment, thanks to a perfect storm of the summer high season, pent up demand from American travelers, and constraints on vacation rental supply (imposed by local governments whose residents complain they can’t afford to live in their own cities anymore).

All of this has prompted some nomads to abandon Airbnb in favor of alternative platforms and strategies for finding cheaper places to stay.

More on that next week…

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I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

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The emerging nomad economy

I wrote last week about what we should call ourselves (and leaving America). Whether you like the term or not, one thing is clear…

The number of people who are digital nomads or interested in becoming digital nomads is growing.

In 2015, Pieter Levels famously predicted that there would be 1 billion nomads by 2035. We’re not there yet, but the MBO Partners® 2021 State of Independence research study found that “15.5 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, increasing 42% from 2020 and 112% from the pre-pandemic year 2019.”

This rise in the number of digital nomads is an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs — a new market that’s often not well served by existing products and services.

That’s why I got excited when I heard about Genki a few months ago from one of their investors (who also happens to be married to my cousin. It’s a small world. Also #familymafia).

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What should we call ourselves? (and leaving America)

I’ve noticed over the last few years that, as the term “digital nomad” has become more common, so has the resistance to being labeled as a digital nomad.

I still use the term, because I don’t think there’s a better, more succinct way to describe the same idea. But I do worry that it can give the wrong impression.

People hear “digital nomad” and they imagine a 22 year old strapping on a backpack and hopping to a new country every few weeks.

But you don’t have to be 22 years old to travel the world or move to a new country. And although traveling constantly can be fun for a while, most digital nomads I know tend to slow down at some point and spend more time in each place.

Slowmad Life

Steve Tsentserensky is a perfect example. He was recently profiled by CNBC’s Make It:

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Pablo Picasso and Ben Franklin did it too

In my last email (learning like Mr. Beast), I wrote about how Jimmy Donaldson went from being a socially awkward teenager with “terrible acne” whose YouTube videos made less than $1 / day to earning an estimated $54 million dollars last year at just 23 years old.

The lessons from Jimmy’s story don’t just apply to becoming a rich and famous YouTuber…

You can use the same principles to achieve your big goals too:

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Learning Like Mr. Beast

In my last email, I wrote about why it took me five years after quitting my job to actually start my journey as a digital nomad. In short:

Making a big change is extremely difficult if you are trying to change your life in a way that makes you different from the people around you.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is something I think about often…

If you want to become a doctor, the path will look something like this:

  • Study hard and get good grades in school
  • Go to university and study biology or pre-med
  • Take the entrance exam and apply to medical schools
  • Go to medical school
  • Work as a resident
  • Get your medical license
  • Congratulations you’re a doctor! 🎉

Becoming a doctor is not quick or easy, but at least there is a proven path to follow.

And perhaps even more important — while you’re on that path, if you tell people what you’re doing, they will cheer you on and encourage you.

“Wow, a doctor! That’s great! Your parents must be so proud…”

But what if you don’t want to be a doctor?
(or a lawyer, or an engineer, or an investment banker…)

I’ll never forget Justin Gary telling me the story of how his mom cried when he dropped out of law school to pursue his dream of becoming a game designer (spoiler alert – he’s now one the most sought after, successful game designers in the industry).

I was reminded of that story again yesterday, listening to Joe Rogan interviewing Mr. Beast. There are a bunch fantastic life lessons in this 15-minute clip from the interview:

In case you’re not familiar, Jimmy (aka Mr. Beast) is one of the most successful YouTubers on the planet. Across his network of YouTube channels, he has nearly 200 million subscribers and his videos have been viewed about 24 billion times. 🤯

Forbes estimates that he earned $54,000,000 from YouTube in 2021. Not bad for a 23 year old who never studied or even brought his books home from school.

Naturally, these days Jimmy’s mom is supportive and proud of her son (how could she not be?), but there was a time when they fought constantly about his poor performance at school and his obsession with YouTube.

Jimmy started uploading videos when he was just 11 years old. But with “terrible acne” and general awkwardness, he was an unlikely social media star. Especially since, “professional YouTuber” wasn’t even a thing back then.

He spent years making videos that earned nothing. So how did he stick with it for so long when it seemed so unlikely that he would succeed?

Joe credits Jimmy’s success to his having a ‘hyper obsession’ and being willing to put in the hours to become the best at his craft.

But there was another important ingredient too…

Early in his rise to YouTube stardom, Jimmy formed a mastermind group with a few other aspiring YouTube “lunatics” who shared the same vision. They spent hours each day talking, experimenting, and analyzing popular videos.

They all went on to become successful YouTubers, including of course, Mr. Beast himself.

That’s the power of learning together in a group — you get to accelerate the learning process by effectively increasing the number of iterations / experiments you’re exposed to.

Having a group of supportive peers also provides accountability (you show up because you don’t want to let the group down) and best of all, it provides a counter to all the naysayers and people nudging you to abandon your dreams.

That’s why I decided to create a cohort-based, live course (taught by me) for people who want to become digital nomads.

The first cohort kicks off in May. I’ll share the syllabus next week.

In the meantime, if you think you might be interested, and you haven’t done this already, then please click the button below and fill out the two-minute survey.

​There’s no commitment required, it’s just a couple of questions.

Your feedback will help me make the course extra awesome, and in return, you’ll get a $100 discount if you decide to enroll later.

Again, there’s no payment or commitment yet! This is just letting me know that you’re interested in the course when the time comes.

That’s all for this week. More soon!

Not a subscriber?

I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

Want to learn along with me? Join my Never Normal Newsletter:

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It took me 5 years…

In my last email, I shared my Digital Nomad Getting Started Guide.

I created the guide as part of my mission to help more people escape from the boring “default life plan” and live life on their own terms instead.

There was no guide back when I got started on my journey.

I had to figure it out all by myself.

I spent years stuck in a corporate job — sitting in a cubicle and daydreaming about traveling the world instead.

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Digital Nomad Getting Started Guide

In my last email, I shared five reasons to become a digital nomad in 2022.

This week I want to share my Digital Nomad Getting Started Guide with you, plus a nice surprise I just received on Twitter (at the end of the email).

The digital nomad guide is available on my website now (totally free). Here are a few of the most popular sections:

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5 Reasons to Become a Digital Nomad in 2022

The world is reopening for travel, and there are more opportunities to work online than ever before. Here are five great reasons to take advantage and become a digital nomad now:

Explore the World and Experience it All First Hand

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Turning Passion into Business

This week I’ve got a brand new episode of the Never Normal show for you, plus 36 ways to be Never Normal, and my advice for Digital Nomads.

Vikram Seth is back to talk about turning your passion into a business. You might remember Vikram from episode 018, where we discussed his sabbatical – How to Take a Year Off and Balance Your Life.

In this new episode, Vikram shares how he approached making money without a job, and the process and struggles of turning something you love doing into a business.

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Your Alternate Reality, What I’m Building, and 0% Tax

Most of what I write in this newsletter is about how to break free from the default plan and create a life you love. And on the Never Normal podcast, I share examples and stories of people who have done just that.

But the truth is, as much as I love thinking and writing about bending the rules and changing the world, the most important changes are always in our own minds.

That’s why the first line of my journal every single day — before I get to the goals and to do lists and notes about what I’m learning — is gratitude.

“Creating a life you love” requires taking the time and making the effort to love your life.

And it’s in that spirit that I want to share this…

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Home-as-a-Service? Living in Airbnb vs Buying a House for 1 Euro

Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, tweeted: “Starting today, I’m living on Airbnb. I’ll be staying in a different town or city every couple weeks.”

As longtime readers know, this is something that I started doing in 2012. Since then, I’ve lived in Airbnbs (as well as other short-term rental apartments and the occasional hotel room) in hundreds of cities across 50 countries.