When A Gap Year Isn't Enough

For some, a year of travel and freedom just isn’t enough. Neither is two, or even three. These people want to spend their lives exploring the world, working when and where they want and making their passion their work.  

It’s not just a wistful want, where they talk about it, spout travel quotes, read 4-Hour Workweek and then come back off their lunch hour to slave away miserably for someone else. They’ve used their skills, qualifications and passions to engineer their life to suit them.

For them it’s not about getting a job and living life around that like everyone else. It’s living life and creating or finding a job to fit them – they’re called digital nomads.

Being a digital nomad

Being a digital nomad means the world is your office

I recently went to the DNX Digital Nomad Conference in Berlin and was joined by over 800 others who were either living the digital nomad dream or just about to take the leap.

There were Wordpress developers, start up directors, Amazon shop owners, UX Designers, inventors, travel bloggers and no doubt another few hundred trades in the room. All with different skillsets, interests, stories and life histories but all with the same passion for somehow making their life pan out differently from the school-uni-work / 9-5 society.

As digital nomads they can combine their work and indulge in their fun, spare time interests too. Some locate themselves in destinations specifically for surfing, for kitesurfing, for the beaches, the sun, the city, the festivals, the lifestyle, the culture – wherever it is that allows them to work alongside their idea of fun.  

Do you have what it takes?

Koh Phangan, Thailand is a popular destination for digital nomads

Sounds like a pretty sweet life, hey? To be a digital nomad you need endless self-motivation. There’s no one to check you were in at work at the right time, or how long you took for lunch. You do the time because you want to. For some, like me, you need to be able to adapt quickly to change and try to stay one step ahead of your peers. You need to understand when to work as a team, and when not; you need to know how to say yes, and sometimes more importantly no. You need to know when to roll with an idea, and when to realise you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

If you want to be a digital nomad who works for yourself I’d also recommend you have the wheels in motion before you leave your current job or education. If you don’t, try to find a job that will enable you to work remotely, or even spot a gap and create one in your current company.

It’s not a good idea to leave security to become a digital nomad. You need to have another skill, trade, idea or income source to make the digital nomad part the lifestyle rather than the focus.

Popular digital nomad spots

Berlin, Germany is becoming a hotspot for digital nomads.

Thanks to their infrastructure, cost, transport links, ease of local activities and the Wi-Fi speed, certain destinations around the world have become real digital nomad hotspots.

1.      Chang Mai, Thailand 

2.      Ubud, Bali

3.      Berlin, Germany

4.      Tarifa, Spain

5.      Saigon, Vietnam

6.      Austin, Texas

7.      Medellin, Colombia

Digital nomad initiatives

Combine your work with something you're passionate about - like surfing

As the number of digital nomads grows so does the number of cool initiatives around the world to house them all. If you’re passionate about getting a business idea off the ground – or spending some serious time dedicated to your craft - you could consider one of these projects. You never know who you’ll meet.  

Remote Year: You could apply to travel for a year with 75 other entrepreneurs to 12 different countries around the world with Remote Year. Everything is planned for you, from your accommodation to your transfers and flights.  

Surf Office: Based in different locations including Lisbon, the Canary Islands and California, Surf Office is exactly what it says. You get to mix up surf lessons with your work to keep fit and keep the Vitamin D levels up. You can either just pay for a co-working space, or use their recommendations to actually live with other digital nomads too.

Digital Nomad Cruise: The Digital Nomad Cruise sets sail from the Canary Islands to Brazil over nine days. There’ll be workshops, activities, fitness classes, networking and plenty of time for work – all in the name of working independently. Check out Coboat for a similar idea.

They all generally work on the same premise; you work hard, have a few beers, enjoy your weekends and revel in the creativity and innovation of your fellow nomads. They’ll all have comfortable accommodation, great Wi-Fi and some even have healthy meals included every day too.

5 steps to digital nomad success

Become a digital nomad success story

1.      Work out your passion – what is it you’re doing when time flies?

2.      Who does this for a living? Identify your peers and idols.

3.      Study them and consume as much information as to how they do it as possible. How have they made this their life?

4.      How can you do it better? And if it’s not obvious, how can you do your passion and travel at the same time? Make a plan.

5.      Put in the hard graft to make it work. Constantly refine your plan, learn, go to conferences, keep an eye on your peers, your idols and the up and coming.

Digital nomad life and me

I’ve been a ‘digital nomad’ for 15 months now. I work as a blogger, writer, adviser, social media consultant and ecourse creator. I’ve travelled very fast and visited over 30 countries during that time, as you can see from my gapyear blog. It’s been tough to keep up with work as well as all the travel but if I don’t work, I don’t travel, so if I have to miss out on an activity here and there, I do. For me, this is a lifestyle, not a holiday.

As a digital nomad I’ve been able to do what I want when I want without the worry that I’m spending too much, as I don’t have any bills to pay for at home. My only direct debit is my phone. I’ve been able to spend weeks at a time with friends and family and every day I can do pretty much what I want. It’s incredible.

Life as a digital nomad

The digital nomad life isn’t for everyone. For some people it lasts a few years and for others it’s a lifetime. But if you have the motivation, the means, the savings, the ideas and the passion, I’d definitely recommend you give it a try.