The conflict between the thirst for travel and the need to work has always been a tricky one. You’re an avid traveler who lives and breathes travel. But your conventional 9–5 job necessitates you to be at your desk daily, with a handful of ‘paid leaves’ to spare. What do you do in such situations? You give up on your job or you give up on your travel dreams? What if you don’t want to give up on any? How can one have the best of both worlds, you’d ask? How can one balance work life while holding on to their ever-increasing wanderlust?
A couple of years back, circa 2016, I was sailing in the same boat. I was draining myself out over a regular job, exhausting my body by commuting to work daily, stressing about work after leaving the office and at times, even taking back home the burden of shitloads of work. I oscillated between the compulsion to work and my love for travelling. Sounds pretty much like your story, does it?
Cut to the present day, my life is very different from what it was, not so long ago. I work as a remote content consultant now and feel privileged enough to experience true freedom every single day. What can be more liberating and exhilarating to a travel enthusiast than the freedom to live and work from anywhere in the world? And when I say ‘anywhere’, I mean literally ANYWHERE (with stable internet of course)!
If you find my story relatable and are ready to take the leap of faith, here’s a checklist moulded by my experiences of the real world of remote-working. If I have managed to find the perfect ‘work-travel’ balance, so can you!
Yes. I DO NOT recommend randomly quitting your job to travel the world. I am a super practical person and I know that fanciful ideas don’t work IRL. If you aspire to become a digital nomad, you need to have a steady source of income and a well-chalked out plan (even if you have heaps of cash stashed for bad days)! For starters, there are a host of small and big companies offering remote roles across career niches. Aspiring freelancers can check out websites like Upwork, Fiverr, People Per Hour, Guru, Freelancer, Truelancer etc., whereas, job boards such as We Work Remotely, Remote OK, Nodesk, Remotive, Working Nomads, FlexJobs etc. can even help you land a kickass location-agnostic role for a competitive pay starting at $10/hour.
Also, don’t be stuck up about money from the very start. Instead, find a niche you are passionate about, set clear goals for yourself and get ready to work your a** off! Apart from setting up your own online business, there are a plethora of part-time and full-time options available. You can consider remote language teaching (check out Cambly, DaDaABC, VIPKID), voice-over jobs (check out Voices), transcription jobs (check out TranscribeMe, Rev), virtual assistant jobs, social media management, customer support, and many others. With some hard work and patience, money will follow soon after.
Well, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to manage your finances from the start. It is never too late to inculcate the habit of tracking personal expenses (I started in my late 20’s)! There are several apps out there such as Monefy, Clarity Money, Mint to make the tracking process less cumbersome. Knowing what I am spending on, comparing my monthly spend with my expected monthly income and digging deep into my spending habits has made me realize that I am often guilty of impulsive buys. My suggestion is, get a personal expense tracking tool on your phone, stop spending on unnecessary things and start saving up from today. A decent amount of money in your account is the first thing you need to set sail.
For a digital nomad, less is always more! You could be working from Seychelles this month and lazing around on a beach in Thailand the next. If you wish to be a citizen of the world and live out of a suitcase, you have to learn to say NO to any kind of extra baggage. Get my point, do you? Learn to live a simpler, less-complicated life with the absolute essentials and discard anything you haven’t used in the last 1 year! Trust me, you don’t need that thing at all. No matter how useful it may seem right now. A simple rule I follow is, I donate an item for every new thing I buy. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.
Pro Tip: Bid goodbye to all the clutter you have hoarded over the years and KonMari it instead.
Planning your trips at least 4–5 months in advance can save you a lot of money and time (think last minute bookings at exorbitant rates). Do enough research so that you’re well-equipped to tackle the challenges of a foreign place. Knowing beforehand where to go, how to go and the best places to stay at reasonable rates are crucial factors to consider if you are serious about redesigning your work around a life of travel. Reliable internet, for example, should definitely feature at the top of your list. For a remote worker, it all boils down to finding stable Wi-Fi ultimately! Don’t look beyond NomadList to narrow down cities based on your preferences.
Health is wealth, thus spake our grannies. The world today is plagued by maladies of all sorts and the least you can do for your own well-being is to take charge of your health. You wouldn’t want to fall sick in a foreign country especially and incur heavy medical expenses. In fact, even if you’re in the pink of health, never forget to get health insurance when travelling abroad to secure you against unexpected medical expenses. You can check out Policybazaar or My Insurance Club to compare, assess and buy a plan that meets your requirements and offers heavy coverage in case of sudden illness or injury.
Lastly, be mentally prepared to say no to your comfort zone as you start rebuilding your work around your life and not the other way round. It’s foolhardy to believe those who say it’s easy to live a nomadic life, working and traveling at the same time. It’s not, it’s not easy at all. But you know what? Giving it a shot is worth every goddamn thing in your life!
First published on the Letshead blog.