Digital Nomad Survival Guide: Overcoming Common Risks and Hurdles

Who doesn’t want to lounge on a shaded terrace on a Greek island on a lazy afternoon? How about a sunset walk through the picturesque lavender fields of Provence? Why not experience the historic architecture and cosmopolitan lifestyle of a two-millennia-old city like London?

Digital nomads use the newest technology and the internet to work as they travel. Most digital nomads write, do graphic design, teach, or run online businesses. They follow new opportunities and adventures unbound by the conventions of permanent residency or neighbourly obligations.

Stay-at-home peers often envy their highly Instagramable lives. However, it’s not always a cakewalk. Digital nomads have to do some careful planning to organise their seemingly perfect lives. Let’s take some time to digest these six concepts before you start looking for a new set of luggage!

Digital Nomads Need a Decent Income

Freelancers and entrepreneurs don’t always have a consistent income. For example, cash may dry up at the beginning of a big long-term project or while waiting for clients to pay their bills. It’s better to diversify your income sources. It will help prevent feast-or-famine cycles.

It’s also easy to underestimate the costs of setting up shop in a new destination. Even seasoned travellers can’t expect to learn the ropes of a new city in just a few days. At first, you’ll pay the higher “tourist rates” for everything until you find your feet and discover the local favourites, shortcuts, and best buys. It’s better to make ample provision for higher costs for the first week in every new location.

Pay Attention to Your Finances

You’ll need a reliable global payment service and or travel cards. It must simplify the handling of multiple currencies, fluctuations in exchange rates, and the additional handling fees on overseas transactions. Remember to keep tabs on your bank accounts and credit cards so you can act quickly if something goes wrong.

Set aside some money so you can afford to take a complete break from your daily circumstances. For example, two nights in a ridiculously expensive hotel with room service and a few spa treatments can provide an emotional refuge and give you a new bounce in your step.

Experienced Digital Nomads Don’t Travel on a Whim

Digital nomads must do solid research on their intended destination. Will there be decent but cheap accommodation? How’s the internet? How long will you be allowed to stay? What documents do you need to prove your income or eligibility for a visa or rental contract? What if you get sick?

It’s a good idea to prepare a quick-reference document that covers such eventualities. It should list the address and phone numbers of the nearest embassy, hospital, coworking spaces, transport, and accommodation options. Coworking hubs are a great source of formal and informal lifestyle information for visitors.

Take Care of the Tools of Your Trade

Everyone has a special, tried, and trusted mix of devices, such as cameras, laptops, smartphones, or tablets. We even have favourite peripherals such as external keyboards, mice, voice recorders, Wi-Fi routers, or special cables. If you lose or break anything, it might be hard to repair or replace it. Insurance coverage is a good idea, but getting your claim approved may take a while.

Digital nomads can’t afford to lose a day, so set aside an emergency fund to quickly rescue your communication and work tools.

However, you run an additional risk that your device gets stolen. A thief can do untold damage if they break into your smartphone or laptop and start clicking those handy one-tap logins and browser shortcuts. They might clear your bank accounts, wreck your confidential work data, and hijack your social media accounts.

  • Use a password manager. Even a 12-digit password can be cracked in less than a minute. A password manager is vital for creating and storing secure logins for all your online accounts.
  • Use tracker blockers in your browser. For example, a reliable VPN tracker blocker extension will also provide additional browser security by filtering out ads and links that might contain malware.
  • Only store the absolute minimum data on your device. It’s better to store all your work in a safe, encrypted cloud storage solution. If you lose your device, you can pick up where you left off once you get a new device.

No Connectivity, no Digital Nomad

Wi-Fi and cell phone data will assume an outsized importance in your daily life. Smart devices communicate with other Wi-Fi-capable devices around them, so each one can become an entry point for cyber attacks. Cybercriminals know this. They roam Wi-Fi hotspots in hotel lounges, cafés, and tourist hotspots, ready to launch undetectable man-in-the-middle attacks on people using free Wi-Fi connections.

Don’t travel without a premium VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN creates a private tunnel for your internet traffic. It encrypts the data in transit so attackers can’t intercept and use it against you. A VPN secures both public Wi-Fi and your private data packages. It also protects your devices when you log into your hotel or coworking office’s network. It keeps your online activities confidential.

Don’t Overestimate Your Capacity For Flexibility

Should you pre-book a long-stay apartment or find some central digs for the first week in your new country? Advice columns often use the magic word “flexibility” but fail to distinguish between work flexibility and personal or lifestyle flexibility. Either one could make or break you.

Work flexibility

How flexible are your work hours? You’re miles ahead if you have a permanent position with a supportive company. You’ll know what they expect from you in the next few months. That will allow you to plan your move between countries or cities around known work deadlines and goals. You obviously would not pile on the pressure when you’re on the verge of launching a major new campaign.

Things are trickier if you’re a freelancer. You’re constantly juggling several clients, any of whom might either start a massive new campaign without prior warning or go cold when you need the income the most. But what would happen if a lead you’ve been nurturing for ages suddenly calls you just as you get on the plane? You won’t have time to get comfortable, look for great deals, or explore your new city.

Ensure you have extra funds to cover emergency expenses so you can get working immediately.

Lifestyle Flexibility

The second way in which you must be flexible is in your lifestyle. DMs must be able to roll with big changes in their environment. But what happens if you get plunged into a big project unexpectedly and can’t spare the time to find nice digs? Can you deliver your best work from a gloomy hotel without a proper desk in a noisy neighbourhood far from public transport?

The first step is to anchor yourself to a suitable work environment. Coworking spaces can provide that anchor. Find a bright, modern coworking space with excellent facilities and a vibe of productivity. Establish a steady work routine. It will satisfy an important part of your lifestyle needs and give you a breather while you sort out your accommodation and other needs.

Plan Well for a Great Experience

You can’t plan for every eventuality, and you’ll doubtless have some unforeseen encounters. However, if you do your research, secure your devices, set a budget, and stick to a work schedule, you’ll find your feet very quickly. Use the internet to help maintain relationships back home. Phone calls and social media can help curb feelings of isolation when you come up against big cultural differences.

The digital nomad lifestyle will equip you with greater self-confidence and teach you to be self-reliant, adaptable, and flexible. That’s an almost tangible asset in future job markets.


Photo credits: Coworking London