Is it time to sell everything you own, become a digital nomad, and travel the world while working from your laptop?

A couple of decades ago, it might have sounded like a crazy idea, but today you can join the legion of location independent workers that are doing exactly this.

Digital nomads come from many countries and endless professional backgrounds, but they all have at least one thing in common:

They value freedom and flexibility over security and comfort.

There are plenty of sacrifices to be made along the way, and you’ll probably get homesick, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worth it.

In my opinion, the upsides of becoming a digital nomad greatly outweigh the risks.

Honestly, if you want to get on the fast track to financial success while living a great life, there’s few lifestyles that even compare.

Becoming a digital nomad isn’t for everyone, but for the right person it’s an incredible opportunity.

Strap on your seatbelt and get revved-up for an exciting idea: you could spend the next few years bouncing around the globe.

It’s a beautiful reality, and it’s not as far-fetched as you think.

Without further ado, here’s the ultimate guide to becoming a digital nomad in 2021.

Note: This in-depth guide on how to become a digital nomad is several thousand words long, so you can check the table of contents below to jump to the section you’d like to dive in to more. 

​What Is ​A Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is someone who can work from anywhere in the world that has a solid internet connection and can travel as often or as little as they want.

Some digital nomads never stay in one place longer than a few weeks.

Others rent a villa in Bali for a whole year. 

One common misconception is that all digital nomads are entrepreneurs, but this isn’t necessarily true.

Many digital nomads are remote corporate workers whose companies allow them to “work from home,” wherever that may be.

Others wrangle freelance gigs, write articles, code websites, or do graphic design.

And sure, some carve their own path by starting an online lifestyle business.

The bottom line is, if you want to become a digital nomad, there’s a path for you.  

My Digital Nomad Definition

My personal definition of a digital nomad is someone who leverages online work to improve their quality of life while living from anywhere.

I think that adventure, fun, and excitement are even more valuable than a paycheck, but that’s just my opinion.

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I prefer to work smarter, not harder, and to have more time to do the things I love.

As a digital nomad, your passion project can become your life project, and you can make a lot of money in the process (if that’s something you’re into).

Here’s a short, but very good Digital Nomad Documentary shot during Nomad Summit in Las Vegas 2018.

Now in the next section let’s dive into some of the top benefits of becoming a digital nomad.

Benefits Of Becoming A Digital Nomad

When you lay it all out on the table, becoming a digital nomad has more than a few perks.

1. Low Cost of Living

Sure, you can live in an expensive city if you want, but why not save a ton of money and pour it into a business instead?

You can do this by living in one of the many affordable cities around the world. 

2. Fulfilling Experiences

RED ALERT! You will have more fun than you ever have. I chose to live the nomadic lifestyle because I valued awesome experiences just as much as financial success.

Plus, whenever I get tired of moving around, I can always head home to London or visit my family in Sweden.

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3. Lifelong Friendships

You’ll probably make some of the deepest connections of your life on your journey.

The road less traveled is full of beautiful people, and they tend to be more outgoing and open minded than folks at home.

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4. Learn New Skills

Traveling forces you to learn new skills ̶ you have to in order to adapt and survive! Prepare to become the Swiss Army knife of humans. 

5. Flexible Schedule

Your daily schedule is about to get flexible. “Surf when you want, work when you want” will be your new motto.

If you aren’t into surfing, replace it with something else ̶ it’s you location independent life! 

6. Pivot When You Want

When you’re caught up in a standard 9-5 grind, changing professions can be a cumbersome process. As a digital nomad, making big life decisions is a whole lot simpler.

Think of it like breaking up with your girlfriend compared to getting a divorce.  

Is The Digital Nomad Lifestyle For You? 3 Common Myths That are Stopping You From Making Traveling The World Your Full-Time Job

Becoming a digital nomad could be right for you if…

…you love constantly adapting to new situations and being at the helm of your own destiny.

It might seem like there’s a million obstacles in your way to making the transition into a digital nomad lifestyle, but I can assure you, most of them are in your head.

Navid Moazzez Lifestyle Entrepreneur in La Jolla
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Here are a few common myths about becoming a digital nomad:

  1. It’s expensive: Sure, it can be if you choose to ball out at the nicest hotels and restaurants and be constantly on the move, or you can pick a cheap destination and have a great life for only $1,500-2,000 month. The choice is yours. 
  2. It’s unproductive: Again, you can slack as much as you want, and there are certainly a lot of distractions that come with long-term travel. But you can avoid most of these traps by setting up shop in one place for a few months and establishing a routine.
  3. It’s too hard to build a business while traveling: Some of the best places to build an online business are in digital nomad hubs where you’re surrounded by like-minded people who are working on digital projects.

How to Become a Digital Nomad In 10 Steps

Are you ready to take your proverbial first steps towards becoming a digital nomad?

There’s a heavy focus on budgeting, saving up, researching, and of course, figuring out how to make money online.

Ultimately, some sort of “passive income” is the key to unlocking the ultimate digital nomad lifestyle.

Without it, you can still have a blast, but to live the best life possible you’ll want build a revenue machine that makes money while you sleep.

To succeed as a digital nomad, you’ll need at least four things:

  1. Disciplined cash flow management
  2. Location independent income stream
  3. Laptop
  4. Solid internet

Aside from these essentials, your skills and resourcefulness are your only limitations.

Here are ten simple steps to becoming a digital nomad:

Step #1: Identify Your Skills

Don’t be modest, you know you have skills.

Never underestimate the power of leveraging what you already know!

“Fake” It Until You Make It Mindset

You’ve been on this earth for X-number of years, and in that time, you’ve gotten pretty knowledgeable about a thing or two.

When you look at the people who succeed as digital nomads and the ones who don’t, it isn’t a phenomenal skillset or massive expertise that separates the winners from the losers, it’s the boldness to market themselves…hard.

You don’t have to be the best in the world, but you do have to position yourself with the best.

This is one of the main reasons why hosting my first virtual summit made my business a success.

Instant authority is one of the biggest benefits you get from virtual summits. By hosting a virtual summit, your audience instantly sees you as an expert among experts.

Rappers call this “clout,” but lifestyle entrepreneurs like myself just call it an incredible strategy for rapid growth.

As you brainstorm your skills, think of what you know you’re capable of, not just what you have a ton of experience with.

It’s this mindset that’ll carry you to digital nomad greatness.

And remember, you can always use virtual summits like I did to rapidly boost your growth.

Brainstorm Your Skills

What hidden (and not-so-hidden) skills do you have?

  • Copywriting / Writing 
  • Email marketing
  • Sale funnels
  • Social media marketing / advertising
  • Data entry 
  • Website development 
  • Graphic design 
  • Translation 
  • Video & Photography

It doesn’t matter what skills you have as long as you use them to solve significant problems for your audience.

When I started my personal brand blog in June 2013, I only a had few of the skills listed above, but I knew that I could learn, and outsource the rest when I had the need (and money) for it.

In fact, English is my second language, but I’ve managed to polish it as I’ve built my blog and doing 100’s of interviews with expert influencers over the years (for my podcast and several virtual summits).

Can Your Skills Provide Value to an Audience?

Here are some of the main factors to consider when choosing your skill:

  • Can you offer significant value with your skill?
  • Do you enjoy the work? Are you creative, introverted, or outgoing? You can only go against the grain of who you are for so long before you implode. Your path should match your personality. 
  • Are there online resources for developing your skills so that you can grow your business and earn more faster? 
  • Can you leverage powerful strategies like virtual summits to get faster results? 
  • Do you have a clear idea of the people who will benefit from your skills? 
  • Can you package your skills in a way that will solve your customer’s biggest problems?

Will Your Path Improve Your Quality of Life?

Before you decide what type of lifestyle business you want to build, you’ll have to pick an industry that match your strengths and personality.

After all, you’re becoming a digital nomad because you want to improve your overall quality of life, not just have the freedom to live in exciting places.

If writing articles will drive you certifiably insane, then you might want to avoid starting a blog.

If you hate talking, then learning how to make money podcasting is out of the question.

Both of these options deliver slow returns anyway, which is something I found out the hard way.

On the other hand, maybe you can tolerate writing for a short time as you develop another skill.

At one point, I wrote over 40k words in a single month while I was building my blog. Now look at me…

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I’m as happy as a clam and live a busy but balanced life, and I focus mostly on improving my Virtual Summit Mastery course and hosting virtual conferences.

Side Note: It’s okay to use your skills to find a temporary freelance job if you need to  ̶ it’s not okay to distract yourself for too long from building your lifestyle business.

Find a healthy balance between short-term survival and climbing the digital nomad ladder to greatness.

Step #2: Develop Skills and Start Your Lifestyle Business

Before you quit your current job and start designing your perfect lifestyle, it’s always a good idea to get one foot out the door.

If you start developing your skills and get a location independent income stream going at home, then making the digital nomad jump won’t feel so daunting.

Take High-Level Courses

You never know where your new skills will take you, so be prepared for big things.

There’s tons of premium online courses out there that give you detailed step-by-step advice for how to break into different industries.

These courses can save you massive amount of stress, time, energy, and will give you the best shot at succeeding with your first project.

The DIY route is noble, but unnecessary.

Other lifestyle entrepreneurs have made the major mistakes for you so that you don’t have to.

You might as well learn from them and get on the fast track to winning.

There are also plenty of cheaper resources for learning digital skills like:

These sites are packed with courses on how to improve your writing and creative skills, how to leverage Instagram to build a personal brand, and how to run Facebook ads, but they usually aren’t very in-depth.

I usually like sites like Skillshare for learning skills such as editing, photography, and other more technical skills.

If you’d like in-depth, more premium online courses that you’re more likely to get results from, you should consider following influencers you connect with.

Collect Customer Testimonials

When your first getting started online, testimonials and case studies are even more important than a paycheck. 

Hit it out of that park for your new online audience and treat them like royalty.

The first launch of my Virtual Summit Mastery course was successful for two main reasons:

  1. The exposure I got from hosting virtual summits.
  2. The incredible customer testimonials I earned during the pre-launch.

No matter what your strategy, you should always aim to get feedback from your customers.

Even negative / constructive feedback is better than no feedback because it will help you perfect your product. 

Step #3: Grow Your Online Business

Congrats! You’re getting closer to galavanting around the world while having the time of your life. 

I’m stoked for you!

It’s time to live an epic lifestyle while building an incredible online lifestyle business.

My Online Business Success Story

I waited to hit the road until after my personal brand website took off following my virtual summit.

Believe me, I had been ready to go location independent for a long time, but I wanted to wait until I had a little money in the bank.

The $20K+ I generated from the summit was enough to leave for the beaches of Mexico.

In January 2015, the month right after my summit, I pulled in another $40K and became Ramit Sethi’s #1 affiliate.

I hosted a few more summits and did so well that people wanted to know how I did it, so I started teaching others how to crush it online with virtual events.

Today, my Virtual Summit Mastery course is the world’s leader in virtual summit instruction.

I’ve done multiple six-figure summit launches and teach others how to do the same. 

Use Virtual Summits to Explode Your Growth

Most of my students have very little experience working online when they host their first virtual summits, and guess what? They still work! And they work in any industry.

Mitch Asser was a personal trainer with no previous experience working online when he started his intermittent fasting website.

Over the course of six summits, he generated multiple six-figures in revenue and grew his email list from zero to 35K subscribers.  

Today, virtual summits and his membership site continue to be Mitch’s core business model.

Virtual summits do a few incredible things to boost the growth of your brand:

  • Generate revenue: sell all-access passes to your event and turn your virtual summit into your first digital product.
  • Collect quality emails: build an email list incredibly fast by giving free access to the original airing of your event.
  • Build rapid authority: when you position yourself as the curator of an epic event with industry leaders, your audience sees you as being on the same level.

Leveraging “Respect Based Marketing”

If you feel like your market is saturated and that an online business won’t work for you, think again.

Plenty of online markets are saturated all right, but most of the content is garbage.

You can always set yourself apart by making a genuine connection with your target audience and earning their respect (as my friend Bastian of Wild Audience would say).

Virtual summits are one of the best ways to cut to the chase and offer real value to your audience, and influencer marketing is one of the best marketing strategies to increase sales in a non-pushy way.

Step #4: Calculate Costs and Start Saving Money

Before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it, I’m going to show you how financially feasible becoming a digital nomad actually is. 

You’ll be so excited to live in paradise on the cheap that saving money at home will feel easy.

You’ll Be Shocked At How Much You Can Save

Southeast Asia is the home of affordable luxury, but you can find inexpensive places in most parts of the world.

In Chiang Mai, Thailand or Bali, Indonesia, you can live comfortably for $1,500/month, but if you really need to bootstrap, you can cut those costs down to $1,000.

Although there are extra costs like plane tickets and Visa fees, when it all shakes out, you still save money.

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I’ve spent some time in Mexico, mostly in Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, which aren’t known to be the cheapest options for digital nomads, but I can say from personal experience that there are plenty of ways to cut costs.

And if you really want to save a lot of money, consider starting in Chiang Mai which has the biggest digital nomad community in the world. I’m actually looking forward to spend some time there at some point soon as well.

Considering what most people pay for rent, car insurance, gym memberships, and eating out in their home countries, it isn’t hard to see how easy it can be to save money abroad.

In many digital nomad destinations, the food is so cheap that most foreigners only eat out.

I personally prefer to mix it up a bit so my girlfriend and I tend to do some cooking at home. That way we can have a super healthy diet, and we know exactly what we’re eating too.

Sometimes, the food is actually more expensive when you buy ingredients at the grocery store and cook home, so it’s worth double checking depending on the budget you’re working with.

I know it sounds like an absurd claim, but when you break it down, it can pay to eat out if you’re on a budget.

The Importance of Budgeting

In step #5, I talk about picking the perfect first destination so you can fine-tune your costs, but before we get there, it’s time to commit to a budget that’ll allow you to save money faster and leave sooner. 

When I was still working part-time for a bank in Sweden and struggling to get my blog off the ground, my income was inconsistent at best. This forced me to budget because I needed to put any extra money into my business.

I’m just grateful that I came across virtual summits because it’s the ONE THING that finally let me escape from the grind.

Reduce Expenses at Home

Do you really need that gym membership or can you get by with some good ol’fashioned calisthenics and yoga?

What about eating out?

You’ll be able to dine like a king while you’re living abroad, so you might as well cook at home and grow your savings.

Learning to do without unnecessary luxuries is good training for when you’re on the road.

Depending on what your income stream is going to look like, you might end up going for weeks or even months without income. 

Will you be frugal enough to survive?

How Much Money Should You Leave With?

Honestly, I’m a big believer that once you’re living in a foreign country, survival instinct will kick in and you’ll find a way to thrive no matter how low your bank account gets. 

With that said, there’s no reason to torture yourself by leaving before you’re financially prepared.

At least for native english speakers, there are so many options for making money online that when push comes to shove you’ll be able to make it work.

With that said, the conservative amongst you will want enough money saved up to last at least a few months.

If you’re going to Southeast Asia, that’s around $5k, but I’ve met more than a few newbie digital nomads that started with much less and still managed to succeed.

Justin Fowler-Lindner left Seattle for Chiang Mai with only $2k, and at one point he had close to zero dollars in his bank account. Yikes!

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Two months later, he had a pile of freelance work and was making over $30/hour while building a website in the health and nutrition niche.

No excuses! If he can do it, so can you.

I Waited Until After My First Summit

My digital nomad journey actually started in my home country of Sweden, and this is how I suggest most people do it.

It’s easier to build momentum in a familiar environment where there’s less distractions.

I became “location independent” in the comfort of my own home (although I still had my part-time job until I quit a few weeks into my hosting my first summit), then moved to Cabo san Lucas with my girlfriend after I got paid from my first virtual summit.

I had about $10,000-$15,000 saved up when I quit my part-time job, primarily coming from the virtual summit I hosted in November-December 2014… and I had quite a lot more coming in after that so I knew I’d be fine for some time.

I first went to Thailand for a well needed holiday with my family, then decided to make the move to Cabo San Lucas and Cancun in Mexico beginning of 2015 to start my own digital nomad journey.

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Cabo and Cancun aren’t known to be the cheapest options out there (it’s cheaper than some places in US and Europe for food and rent though), but I still had a blast and don’t regret choosing it over South East Asia.

The most efficient route is to focus on the ONE THING that can make a massive impact on your growth.

Once your lifestyle business has some early traction, it’ll be the perfect time to hit the road.

Sell Everything That Doesn’t Fit Into a Couple Suitcases

Take most of what you own and sell it over the next few months… (or like me, sell and give most of your stuff away in a week or two before I moved abroad… I donated most of the stuff I couldn’t sell, and left some of the things with my parents).

The extra money from the things you sell will bring you that much closer to your savings goals, and it’ll be good training for living without luxuries.

The digital nomad life is more complicated in many ways, but in terms of material possessions, it couldn’t be simpler.

Anything that you can’t sell can go into storage.

Next, we’re going to choose your first digital nomad destination so that you can fine-tune your budget.  

Step #5: Pick a Digital Nomad City that Fits Your Budget and Lifestyle

Drum roll please…it’s time to get pumped about moving to the most fun, most affordable places on Earth.

Best Digital Nomad Cities

A few of the best cities for meeting other digital nomads are:

  • Canggu, Bali, Indonesia
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Playa Del Carmen / Tulum, Mexico
  • Medellin, Colombia
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

The great news is that many of these place are also the most affordable  ̶ it’s one of the main reasons why so many digital nomads congregate there.

I can’t recommend any particular city for you  ̶ that’ll depend on your budget and interests.

Here are my top cities in each part of the world for bootstrapping + great digital nomad community + high quality of life:

  • Western Europe: Lisbon, Portugal
  • Eastern Europe: Budapest, Hungary
  • Southeast Asia: Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • South and Central America: Medellin, Colombia

In all of these cities, you can keep your total monthly costs as low as $1,500/month.

Overall, Medellin and Budapest are more expensive and Chiang Mai has the largest digital nomad community.

Calculating Costs

Nomad List is a great resource that ranks the cities in the world according to cost, digital nomad resources, and lifestyle.

Digital Nomad Noamd List
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Here are some of the main expenses that you’ll need to consider:

  • Plane tickets: Some cities cost more to get to.
  • Coffee shops: Are you a coffee drinker? Hanoi, Vietnam and Bali have some of the best coffee in the world. Chiang Mai is loaded with coffee shops too. Try Bali’s legendary poop coffee!
  • Food: Got cheap food? Chiang Mai sure does.
  • Eating Out: In general, European cities are way more expensive in this category, Budapest included.
  • Rent: Many of the most popular digital nomad destinations crush it in this department.
  • Transportation: Scooter rentals and petrol are absurdly affordable in most parts of Southeast Asia.
  • Gym: Compared to most English-speaking countries, gym memberships are more affordable elsewhere in the world. In Chiang Mai, you can hit the gym for 30-60 Thai baht, or $1-$2 for a day pass. Prices drop significantly if you get a month membership.
  • Coworking: Coworking spaces have been popping up like dandelions in major digital nomad hubs like Bali, Thailand, Lisbon, and Medellin. Day passes range from $3-$12, but monthly memberships can be as low as $60.

Cut Costs with Long-Term Stays

Staying put in one place for a longer period of time has plenty of advantages, but one of the main ones is that rent, coworking, gym memberships, and scooter rental become a heck of a lot cheaper.  

I definitely saved a good amount of money by staying in places for longer (for example a few weeks in Cabo San Lucas and several months at the time in Cancun when I started living the digital nomad lifestyle and traveling the world a few years ago). 

With a monthly discount, your rent can get cut by 50-75% in many cases  ̶ same with transportation and memberships, not to mention you’ll be way more productive while staying in one place.

Are you pumped for how affordable the digital nomad life can be?!

You must be running out of excuses to stay at home fast…I can tell.

Now that you have the numbers all worked out, it’s time to put the digital nomad idea to the ultimate test: a pros and cons list! 

Step #6: Make a List of Reasons to Stay and Reasons to Go

SPOILER ALERT! Most of your cons will be fear-based.

Sorry for blowing the ending, but when most people weigh the pros and cons of going rogue, the reasons to stay have to do mainly with insecurities and comforts. 

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With that said, there are plenty of positive reasons for staying put too:

  • Closer to family
  • Consistent long-term friendships
  • Tighter sense of community
  • Better healthcare and easier access to supplements and medicine

In the end, your decision will come down to your personality.

If you enjoy spending a lot of time alone and are healthy as an ox, then that takes care of the the four reasons I listed above.

Keep in mind that you can always head back to your hometown for a few months, or even years.

As a matter of fact, I’m actually writing this in-depth digital nomad guide from my home country. It felt right to swing back to Sweden to visit my family for a few weeks after living for almost 2 years in London (and I still consider London my official residency and home base by the way), but soon I’ll be off to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for a little while. 

That’s the beauty of being a digital nomad  ̶ you can live your ideal life anywhere as long as you make enough money to afford the city.

Is the fantasy of freedom starting to feel like a viable reality?

Now that you have a nice, fat carrot dangling out in front of you, it’s time to put together the final BIG piece of the puzzle: your location independent income stream.

Step #7: Practice Makes Perfect

Test the waters before you get rid of all your stuff, buy a plane ticket, and quit your job. 

Who knows, there’s always a chance that you’ll hate life as a digital nomad.

It might seem kind of weird, but try living out of your suitcases for a few days while you’re still at home. I know you’ve probably traveled before, but living and working out of a suitcase is different.

You’re going to need to be comfortable with just the essentials, and the best way to figure out what those essentials are is to do a practice run.

If you have the time for it, take a “work-cation” for a week and bring your laptop with you.

Here I am somewhere in Curacao in the Caribbean, “work-cationing” permanently:

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