9 Steps To Getting Remote Work And Living As A Digital Nomad

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(This was the first article related to being a digital nomad I wrote after just arriving to start my new life in Zipolite, Mexico.)

Many of us have dreamed of escaping the humdrum of our corporate, or simply normal lives in order to live differently.

We’ve spent countless hours daydreaming about kicking our feet up on a lounge chair or hammock while sipping a refreshing beverage while we ponder the necessity of the rat race.

Some of us have ambitious desires to work online or focus on that creative project or an online business.

Others simply desire to take a long breather to decompress and relax from the stresses of society.

Regardless of your unique situation, here is a list of some of the top things you can do to turn what may seem like an unattainable dream into a new reality.

1. Research possible destinations:

I’m sure you’ve already spent days/weeks/years fancying certain exotic locales. From Thailand or Bali to Portugal and Greece, the world is full of exciting and exotic places of all colors and styles to choose a new home (whether temporary or permanent).

Some obvious factors to consider with each should include climate, cost of living, infrastructure, safety, cuisine, visa requirements, etc.

Depending on your desires, you may feel more comfortable in close proximity to western hotels and restaurants, or you may want the opposite, to get off the grid and live in a shack in the jungle.

Many will likely prefer to be somewhere in the middle, getting away from the crowds but still having access to solid internet and some basic creature comforts.

Related: Best cities for digital nomad

2. Save up a moderate nest egg ($$$) and/or begin creating an online income stream.

This will come easier for some over others.

Depending on your current employment and income situation, you may be able to save enough rather quickly (or already have plenty in the bank). Others may need to work on creating an online income in order to make the escape possible.

Either way, you’ll need to research your destinations’ cost of living index to estimate how much money you’ll need for each month there.

For instance: I’m currently living in a small beach town in Southern Mexico where my rent is $135 USD/month; meals eating out cost on average $2-$4, and coffee & adult beverages are $1-$2. I recommend looking at both numbeo.com and nomadlist.com to estimate your needed budget.

If you are wanting an online income or may need one to sustain your new lifestyle in the future, there are a dizzying number of options out there on the world wide web. Some are more legit and worth pursuing than others.

Some promise you’ll get rich quick (sorry, but you won’t), while others may not prove to be worth your time in the end.

Here are some basic ideas of valid ways real people are making money online (*note, however, especially for online businesses, that just because someone’s doing it, doesn’t mean it will be easy for you to follow suit.

Many individuals who have found success earning money online have done so only after years of hard work, creativity, and blood sweat & tears put into building their businesses).

However, don’t be discouraged, as the internet is vast, and more and more, the opportunity to work remotely or have a valid online business is a real possibility. 

Opportunities you may wish to pursue:

  • Teaching English online
  • Coding/programming
  • Remote VA (virtual assistant)
  • Remote customer service
  • web content writing, or other skills you can provide to clients on Upwork.com
  • Start an online drop shipping business
  • Create a niche Amazon affiliate site/s
  • Create a blog or niche website featuring Google ads
  • Start a vlog channel on YouTube and feature affiliate links to products you use or feature
  • Create a Udemy course if you are an expert in a topic people are willing to pay to learn about

There are many opportunities to make money online, you just have to do the research and find something that fits you.

Related: The best jobs for digital nomad lifestyle in 2022

3. Plan your escape from the 9-5.

Next, you’ll need to work on a legitimate plan to make your escape.

Will you have to quit your job?

Give up your apartment if you rent (or find a subletter perhaps)?

Put your belongings in storage?

Sell your car?

Where will you live once you arrive?

There a myriad of issues and loose ends that you’ll need to plan on tying up before leaving, and this can become too scary or stressful for some. But, as long as you think things through and have a semi-solid plan (a backup plan or two couldn’t hurt, as well), you should trust that you’re doing the right thing for you at this moment!

Sometimes having a little faith in the universe (or entity of your choosing) is helpful as things get stressful or scary.

4. Set your plan in motion.

You’ve made your plan, you’re stoked to go, and you’ve worked out most of the details. Now, it’s time to set this adventure in motion!

Perhaps you’ve already given notice at your job and with your landlord. If not, now is the time to do those things and get your subletter in place for your apartment.

Getting a storage locker or moving a few boxes into Mom’s basement?

Now is the time to do that and execute all the other tasks on your list of to-do’s before you say au revoir to your old life (at least for now) so that you can feel confident boarding that plane, boat, or driving across country and past border checkpoints, knowing that you have done as much as you can to tie up any loose ends.

5. Arrive at your new destination and take some time to relax – you’ve earned it!

Yay! Congrats! You’ve made it.

You worked hard, got over your fears, and took the plunge and now you’re sitting at a beachside bar, sipping that freshly squeezed fruit concoction in your bathing suit while watching the waves endlessly crash in front of you, oh, and the most beautiful sunset imaginable is turning the sky pink, purple, and orange, seemingly just for you (or some other equally joyful scene is taking place.)

Take your time and enjoy this – soak it in.

Stressful thoughts of back home and various what if’s about your new time here will likely try and sneak up to break your peace because that’s what your mind has been used to back home, but don’t worry about all that for now.

“Cause every little thing gonna be alright” – to quote the great peaceful warrior, Bob Marley.

6. Make friends with the locals (networking!)

So, you’ve ended up in a foreign place, perhaps without knowing a soul, or maybe you’re lucky and have a friend or two there already. Regardless, one of the best tips I can think of to make your life easier and more enjoyable is to get to know some of the locals!

Whether other expats or natives to the area, these other people know much more than you do about that place and can, therefore, help you in many ways.

For instance, I had pre-booked a hotel room online for a week before I arrived at my current location, but once here I quickly realized that there were a ton of other, better options nearby for the same price.

So, thanks to a new friend I met, I was able to find a better spot to stay temporarily. Then, after meeting more people I was able to score my awesome apartment deal for $135/month. Deals like that are most likely only found through word of mouth!

So, be polite, introduce yourself, offer to help out – you never know what kind of opportunity may present itself. That, and if you’re in a small town, having a few new friends or acquaintances will make life that much more enjoyable.

7. Find an apartment.

As I mentioned in the last topic, try networking to find yourself a good apartment that has the comforts that you need and can afford.

Don’t think that you can find the best deal online, especially if you’re not arriving in the most highly developed country.

You should plan on hitting the streets to look for “for rent” signs and always mention to people you meet that you’re looking for a place. They may know of a something available and can tell you the going market rates as well.

Also, depending on the country, negotiating the price of rent may be encouraged or expected. Many regions may also have varying prices depending on whether it’s the high or low season.

8. Create a balanced, healthy, and productive routine.

Great, you now have a small but growing network of people you can talk to or have a coffee/beer/dinner with, you’ve got a comfortable place to call your own for the next month or more, and you have plenty of free time (assuming you didn’t show up with a gig already, which some of you will have.)

Now your job is to not become a beach bum for the rest of your life.

(*To clarify, you should become a bum partially or temporarily, in the sense of getting some serious deep relaxation in and adjusting away from the rat race.)

Part of your mission now is self-awareness and self-control. Are you someone that feels great sitting on the beach drinking cervezas all day? Or, do you feel better emotionally, mentally, and physically, if you get in some regular exercise, yoga, meditation, or some other balancing activity?

Find your perfect blend of relaxation, work/productivity, socializing, hobbies, etc. and make it part of your everyday routine.

You have the freedom now to create whatever life you desire, so think about it and act accordingly!

9. Dive deep into your passion project of choice and live your dream!

Whether you had been dreaming of working on that creative project, starting or building that online business, or simply working and enjoying a better quality of life (either online or in your new community perhaps, teacher or otherwise)—now is your time to get to work and DO IT!

Think about it—many (or most) people live out their lives without accomplishing some life dream they had always desired to fulfill. For many reasons, people are held back from these dreams.

Well now, life is saying to you, “You’re here, half of your dream is already complete. You are ready to take life to that next level. You must simply act. Commit & act.” 

I think that should be your mantra—it’s mine now: “Commit & Act” every day.

Don’t worry about perfection, or making mistakes, or having the perfect grand scheme. All you need to do is pick a path and start down it.

Work diligently each day toward that goal. Perhaps the goal will change, but you will pivot and continue on.

Start small and grow. Regardless of the passion you pursue, you’ll get better and better over time and that small first step you took will have grown into something incredible that you never imagined.

Then one day while you’re plugging away, you’ll pause from what you’re doing and look up to see the waves crashing nearby, or an incredible sunset, or hear the sound of a gentle evening rain pattering off the jungle leaves outside your room, and with a deep sigh, you’ll realize that your dream from long ago has now become your reality.

Elijah – Zipolite, Mexico

Elijah Etc.

About the author

Elijah Charbonneau is a copywriter, content creator, and email marketer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. When not working on this website, he enjoys making art, traveling, and trying new foods. Follow his journey at ElijahEtc.com.

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