On June 24, 2022 I will officially become a "digital nomad." That date marks the beginning a six month, 5500 mile road trip across the United States, with stops in 16 different cities.
Seriously awesome... and... seriously anxiety inducing!
The trip comes as I celebrate a decade of life post-undergrad. So, I figured... what better way to celebrate having lived 10 years of my life as a full-time employee than to go on a big trip?
The only things tying me down to my current location are my lease (which is up in two weeks), my dogs, and my friends (many I consider to be family).
My dogs are great road trip buddies, so they get to come along for the adventure. My friends, however... they're all staying behind. I am actively trying to convince as many of them as possible to come stay with me while on the trip. *hint hint*
Acknowledging my privilege
I wish I could say that getting to this point of my life, where I have the privilege to go on what I expect to be a life-changing trip, was easy...
I wish there was a "get rich quick" scheme that I could share with you that would allow you to be able to do the same.
It's important to acknowledge that I can walk through all of the places I am going to visit as a white male.
I wish I could make every corner of the United States a safe place for all people, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.
As a non-binary person of queer experience, I have my own reservations about some of the places I will be staying. I will attempt to be as much of a chameleon on this trip as possible, and will only take off my armor in place I feel safe.
What it means to live as a digital nomad - The Planning Phase
Since I've put in so much work to prepare for this trip, I thought it would be worth sharing some tips for anybody who is looking to possibly do the same thing one day.
Take what advice works for you. No story is the same, so forge your own path.
Tip #1: Determined if the lifestyle is right for you.
Just like everything in life, your digital nomad journey will be unique and what you make of it.
When I came up with the idea for this trip, I started reading articles and watching videos on YouTube about the lifestyle. There are so many digital nomad content creators out there, so there's no shortage of posts (like this) to find advice.
Scour the web for both the good and the bad... it's all there. Plus, with the YouTube algorithm, once you find one video on the topic, it's easy to find related content.
The biggest barriers of entry to becoming a digital nomad include:
- Roots. Being a digital nomad is much easier for a single, childless, animal-less person.
- Work limitations. You will either need a remote job or a skill that you can do from anywhere.
- Financial uncertainty. From travel to accommodation, you need to have a good understanding of your finances in order to become a digital nomad.
- Safety and fear. Whether you want to become a digital nomad who travels the world indefinitely, or you want to travel 100 miles away for a month, being in a new place can be scary and poses unforeseen safety issues.
Tip #2: Make the decision to become a digital nomad.
This might seem like an odd tip, but it's one of the biggest hurdles in the journey to me becoming a digital nomad: Decide to actually do it.
It's easy to fantasize about living life as a nomad and simply store those fantasies away in a "someday" folder... it's another to take the leap and do it.
Tip #3: Create an emergency fund.
Having a safety blanket to fall back on is key... for any emergency in life, really.
As a digital nomad, being in a new city can make emergencies scarier, especially when you're in places where you don't know anybody or don't speak the local language. Having extra cash to fall back on is a great way to reduce some of that fear and anxiety.
If, for some unforeseen reason, you need to cut your trip short and "get out of Dodge," you'll be a lot better off in the long run if you're using cash instead of credit cards to make emergency purchases.
Tip #4: Know what you can afford.
If you want to do anything in life that requires a resource, you need to know what you can afford.
And I'm not just talking about money. You also need to know how much time and energy you can afford.
If you're a spreadsheet person like I am, start there. Create an itinerary and start budgeting it out. Create your dream trip (my initial itinerary was nine months) and then boil it down to something more realistic.
If you're looking for more money tips, check out my post about why I started my first budget spreadsheet in 2015. I share a lot about my own money journey and how I got to where I am now.
Tip #5: Realize that this lifestyle requires a lot of continuous planning and pivoting.
- Am I going to put my stuff in storage, sell it, or leave it with friends/family?
- How long do I want to stay in each location? I'll get a bigger discount from Airbnb if I stay for a month...
- What holidays will I have to spend alone? How will that effect my mental health?
- Do I know anybody in each city? How will I socialize and meet new people?
- How does bringing my dogs effect the trip?
There are a lot of "hidden costs" related to being a digital nomad, so don't expect to ever be fully prepared before you set off on your adventure. You should, however, be able to come up with a list of questions for your own personal situation and triage most issues in advance.
Tip #6: It's ok to not know what you're doing.
When people ask me what I will do at the end of the trip, I like to reply, "Most of the time I don't know what I'll be having for lunch tomorrow... let alone what I'll be doing in six months."
The person I will be at the end of the six months is not going to be the same person I am now.
It's the classic story told in the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho:
“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still, we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.”
Don't let the fear of the unknown stop you. Have faith in yourself.
I hope this post gives you some inspiration, even if the digital nomad lifestyle isn't right for you.
Chat again soon!