Becoming a digital nomad – here are 5 things to note before taking your work on the road

Becoming a digital nomad has many advantages, such as increased flexibility, freedom of movement, and the ability to pursue an independent career. 

However, it takes careful planning and preparation to achieve success as a digital nomad.  From cost of living, time differences, Internet speeds and even your immediate networks, there are a five things you need to consider before taking the leap to a nomadic lifestyle!

  1. Can you work away from home for long periods?

Are you required to work in-office? Does your spouse or partner like the idea of you being away from home for extended amounts of time? Do you have a pet? Can your work be done with just a high-speed Internet connection?

These are just some factors to think of before you make the decision to work remotely. If you are self-employed, single, childless and pet-free, good for you. But if you work full-time and are on a hybrid arrangement, you can still float the idea of working remotely one to two months a year. Being a temporary digital nomad is still an option if a full-time nomadic life is not for you.

  1. Cost-of-living, time zones, language barriers and Internet speeds

If your client or employer is based in Singapore, choose a destination that is within a reasonable time zone. One to two hours is a good place to start. Areas like Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan are possible choices to look into. 

However, if you choose a location three to four hours behind Singapore, such as the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, you would need to wake up rather early to accommodate your clients or colleagues back home.

Internet connections should be fast and stable – minimal drop outs or power cuts, especially when you are chairing a virtual meeting!

Being a digital nomad means you can live anywhere, but as a self-employed person whose business ebbs and flows, be practical and set up somewhere that has lower living costs. 

Choose a location that has an international business community – it is likely that most of them speak English, and that your surrounding networks are able to speak some of it too. 

  1. Be prepared for culture shocks

If you choose a location with lower living costs, there’s a high chance that it is part of a developing nation, with thin resources and basic infrastructure. If there is a water issue in your Airbnb, it may take longer than what you are used to in Singapore to get it rectified. 

If you are on a tight deadline in a remote location and have no time to cook lunch for yourself, food delivery services are virtually non-existent. And if spicy food upsets your stomach, you may want to skip that the day before an important virtual meeting.

These are little things you should consider before deciding where to set up a base.

Be a responsible and mindful traveller by adhering to local customs and cultures, and make an effort to learn the local language. Interact with the local community, instead of being trapped in an expat bubble. After all, being a digital nomad is all about discovering new things.

  1. Quell feelings of loneliness

Without the company of your colleagues, friends or family, it does get lonely when you are on the road. Many digital nomads are also solo travellers, and have to deal with occasional feelings of loneliness. With the constant flitting from one place to another, maintaining romantic relationships can be hard.

Join a business networking club, work out of a co-working office, pursue social activities and take up new hobbies – these are ways to make it less lonely. If the loneliness gets overwhelming,  there’s no harm in going home for a few weeks or months.

  1. Have a backup plan if things don’t work out

If you are new to being a self-employed remote worker, it is important to have a backup plan in case things go awry. Have sufficient cash savings to tide you through lull periods. Get enough insurance. Update your loved ones on where you are in case of an emergency. Be responsible with your finances.

Being a digital nomad in a beautiful, exotic locale is not entirely impossible. At the same time, with the time differences, culture shocks, loneliness and frequent travelling, it is a lifestyle that may not suit everyone.

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