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How to Avoid Common Digital Nomad Mistakes
When you picture the life of a digital nomad, you probably imagine someone with a laptop working on the beach, or on a mountain top, or somewhere in the desert. It's not impossible to make these dreams a reality, but you'll need to avoid common digital nomad pitfalls to pull it off.
We've got six suggestions to help you avoid starting your digital nomad experience on the wrong foot.
Secure a remote job first
If you don’t have a solid remote gig, you probably won’t stay a digital nomad for very long. We all love the fantasy of storming out of the office forever and hitting the road, but the reality is that digital nomadism ain’t cheap. You’ll need a steady income to afford gas for your car, wireless data to connect your devices to the internet, and a generator to keep everything up and running. Digital nomadism is doable (even on a budget), but you’ll want to land a remote job first.
Remote work has never been easier than it is now, but that doesn’t mean you can find something overnight. The most common jobs for digital nomads usually revolve around some combination of social media and technology, and these aren’t typically entry-level jobs. You’ll likely need a decent amount of experience and cache with a company before you can get the green light to take your work on the road.
Don’t mistake digital nomadism with a vacation
Stop and ask yourself the question–”Do I really want to drop everything and live the digital nomad lifestyle, or do I just really need a vacation?” Try taking a road trip before deciding anything and see if some time away refreshes your batteries. Many digital nomads start out with the mentality of only working a few hours a day and spending the rest of their time hiking, swimming, and exploring. In order to keep the pay checks coming, you’ll likely need to spend hours in front of a computer getting your work done.
I recently read about a full-time digital nomad trying out New York City for a few months. As glamorous as that sounds, she spends 10+ hours a day working out of a tiny apartment in order to afford the touristy attractions on the weekends. Fast-forward a few months and now she’s burnt out and looking to buy a home and settle down. Keep in mind this is a person who worked remotely for years and had a reliable job.
We all love the idea of digital nomadism being more like a semi-permanent vacation, but you’ll likely still need to work 8+ hours a day. As long as you understand that going into it, you’ll have an easier time striking a work/life balance.
Create a comfortable working situation
If you’re going to spend hours of your day working, you’ll want to make yourself feel comfortable. Don’t assume you can work out of the back of your sedan for hours a day, or you can just hang out at McDonalds and Starbucks all day to mooch off the free Wi-Fi. You deserve better! Set up a comfortable work environment where you can get things done without feeling miserable.
The easiest way to find a comfortable working solution is just to rent an Airbnb with a desk setup. If you’re living the van life, set aside a corner as a mini-office where you can comfortably work from a laptop without hurting your back or neck.
As a rule of thumb, book all of your Airbnb stays for at least a month to qualify for the best discounts. You can bounce from Airbnb to Airbnb every month for a cheaper rate than rent in a big city with the included discount.
Airbnb hosts can now make internet speeds public by running a test and posting the results to their listing. Look for listings that include an internet speed with at least a consistent 50 Mbps, or else you’ll struggle streaming Zoom meetings and staying connected to the internet. If you don’t see any information about the data speeds, take a look at the Airbnb reviews for the unit to see what other folks experienced.
Let your coworkers know you’re a digital nomad
If your coworkers (and your boss, of course) know your situation, they won’t be surprised if you’re slow to respond to Slack messages due to time differences, or can’t get a reliable enough connection for a Zoom meeting. It’s smart to set a status in Slack (or whatever communication platform you use) to remind people where you’re at.
For Slack, you can set a status by clicking your picture in the top-right corner and selecting “Update your status”.
Now when your coworkers go to send you a message, they’ll see what time zone you’re in, and whether or not you can respond quickly.
Get a reliable cell phone plan with hotspot data
Your cell phone plan arguably matters more than anything else when it comes to digital nomadism. If you have a cell phone plan that hooks you up with reliable coverage and plenty of hotspot data, you can basically work from anywhere in the country.
As far as coverage goes, Verizon currently covers about 70% of the country with 4G LTE coverage, with AT&T not far behind, covering 68% of the country. Check out coverage maps for each carrier and compare them with where you plan traveling. For example, if you plan on hitting up the regions like Utah, Nevada, and Idaho, Verizon will offer better coverage than any other carrier for those areas.
Visible makes a lot of sense for digital nomads due to its excellent coverage (it uses Verizon’s network), affordable price, and unlimited hotspot data. Your hotspot data can’t go beyond 5 Mbps, which means you won’t have blazing-fast internet speeds, but you should have enough to browse the internet and communicate via Slack.
If you want high-speed hotspot data that allows you to host Zoom meetings and stream Spotfy while you work, we recommend Boost Mobile’s $50 Unlimited plan.
This Boost Mobile plan gets you 30 GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data every month. That means you can stream about 30 hours of content on YouTube (or 30 hours of Zoom) with your hotspot before running out of data for the month.
Satellite internet can also work
You can also use satellite internet instead of mobile hotspot data. Satellite internet doesn’t offer the fastest data speeds, but you can get internet access just about anywhere. Check out our picks for the best satellite internet providers:
|Viasat Internet||$30–$169.99*||12–100 Mbps||12–150 GB||View Plans|
|HughesNet Internet||$54.99–$149.99†||25 Mbps||15–75 GB||View Plans|
|Starlink||$110–$500‡||5050–15000 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
Recap: Common digital nomad mistakes
If you go into your digital nomad adventure with the right mindset (it isn’t a vacation all the time), and prepared logistically (cell phone plan with hotspot data), you will absolutely have a wonderful experience. There’s nothing quite like signing off work for the day and exploring a city full-well knowing that you don’t have to cram everything in a few days. Here’s a quick recap of things to know to avoid common digital nomad mistakes:
- Secure a remote job first
- Remember you’re not on a permanent vacation
- Make your work life comfortable
- Take advantage of Airbnb discounts for extended stays
- Let your coworkers know you’re traveling
- Get a good cell phone plan with hotspot data