A Tactical Guide to Becoming a Digital Nomad
Becoming a digital nomad is all the rage; here's what to consider
This week, PSFK launched a reportorial exploration of the digital nomad class. The Nomad Class Debrief looks at the benefits of remote working, the behavior driving it and the opportunities that seismic shifts in work are starting to provide. To celebrate the launch, here’s a crash course in how to become a mobile digital nomad.
How To Decide What Type of Digital Nomad You Will Be
For those of us facing a mobile life, there are ultimately three types of nomads. They break down as such:
Van Dwellers – Van Dwellers (and those who live in their cars) are just as they sound: they are people that have converted their cars into live/sleep areas. They do not have toilets and sometimes there are amenities such as electric hookups, but it’s limited in terms of work/life function. They often work out of coffee shops, co-working spaces and have buckets for late-night bathroom needs.
The RVers – The RVers are those that over moving homes. Campers, RVs and Tiny Houses. They either drive their house or they tow it behind a ½ to 1 ton truck. Most often, they have pets and even kids. RVers tend to be more outdoorsy and off-the-grid at times, as the balance of work and exploration are key for them.
The Airbnbers – The Airbnbers are those that have given up traditional renting situations and leverage Airbnb or home-renting platforms to see the world. They work wherever they land, often staying up to several months in one spot before they move on. Like the Van Dwellers, they leverage Wi-Fi where they can get it. Usually, the Airbnbers tend to spend more than the RV or Van Dwellers in terms of monthly outlays of cash. Airbnbers are also a more international type, they travel globally, not just locally.
How these digital nomads choose their lifestyle is largely due to life circumstances. For some, it’s a financial decision, for others, it’s a desire to learn and see the world. If you are thinking about doing it, it’s important to really dig into what you need day-to-day before you choose your type.
How to Get WiFi on the Road
Depending on the type of nomad you are going to be, you are going to need WiFi. Whether you are freelancer, a gigger or even someone like me whose main job allowed her to do it from anywhere as long as she made regular appearances in person—the biggest determining factor in your life will be Wi-Fi. Luckily, on the road, there are several ways to get it:
Coworking Spots and Coffee Shops – Coffee shops and coworking spaces are great ways to stay connected on the road—the connections tend to be stable and fast. They are also free to very cheap. While ShareDesk and DeskSurfing have great suggestions, also do a quick search in the area you’re in for local spots, not all of them are listed online; simply scout coffee shops on Yelp.
RV Satellites – For those of you that choose to live in an RV or tow your home, Internet is crucial, especially in more remote areas. Satellite is costly, so see if you can live with more cost-effective options like your cell provider. You are looking at $1000 – $6,000 in equipment and about $80 per month in fees.
Wireless Providers – Believe it or not, your wireless provider most likely offers plans that will keep you connected via their 3G and 4G networks. Costs start at $10-20 a month and go up, averaging about $50. Check out DIY RV or RV Internet for a list of comparisons and equipment. Also check out Gone with the Wynns‘ awesome post on running their business from the road.
No matter how you stay connected, the biggest lesson in on the road Wi-Fi is that free is exactly what it sounds like, slow, unstable and cumbersome. The best digital nomads pay for connection.
How to Set Off Like a Pro
Once you’ve decided what type of nomad you are going to be, it’s time to set off. Here’s how you do it:
- For those of you living in your car, SELL EVERYTHING. Storage fees are going to climb, costing no less than $600-$1,500 per year. If you are in this group, selling is best.
- For those of you who choose RV life, start to pair down to what will fit in the rig you buy. You don’t want to have too much or you will feel crowded. Store or sell the rest.
- For those of you that choose to do the Airbnb thing locally, if you love it, store it and save it. Also, make sure you have your must-haves in your vehicle as you travel around the United States. Same goes for those of you going international, but I’d also recommend selling what you don’t need, even a car, if you are gone more than one year.
Don’t let your attachment to stuff get in the way of your nomadic freedom, there’s a reason you are leaving. So see places, not save stuff.
Resources Every Digital Nomad Needs
Aside from PSFK’s The Nomad Class Debrief, here are resources that every nomad-er should have saved in their devices:
Read Other People’s Stories & Learn From Them – Techno Media, RV Share and RV RoadTreking (especially if you are a woman alone). Many people have travelled before you and still roam, so read, learn and leverage their knoweldge to make your transition easier.
Join A Community – Hashtag Nomads, RoadTrek Solos and RVing Women are great communities. Joining groups is a good way to stay connected, meet new people but also stay safe. If you disappear, someone can at least know your last whereabouts.
Learn Where to Stay – All Stays, Tiny Life and Nomad List are great resources to find places to park a rig if you aren’t Airbnbing it. But you can also find places to park on Airbnb. If you want to try it out before you do it, check out AutoCamp.
Do The Math – RV Share, Gone with the Wynns, Life Engineered, Tiny House Blog and Wanderly take moolah baby. You have to figure out if RV living is cost-effective enough to help you achieve your goals. Depending on your lifestyle, you may find it costs you more. And you may not want a 10-year payment on your rig.
Think that nomadic or transient existence is a bad thing? Well it’s where most of America seems to be heading, just check out OZY’s State of the Trailer Park. Is the American dream really to be saddled with debt, a limited ability to change situations or not to live a dynamic life? Not anymore. See you on the road.
Image Credit: Gone With The Wynns