One sure way to get a sense of how the world is thinking is to look at the stats for Google search terms. Searches for the phrase ‘digital nomad’ increased from 1,300,00 in January 2019 to 4,520,000 in April 2020. ‘Pieter Levels, the founder of NomadLists predicts a billion digital nomads globally by 2035’. Now, that prediction may stretch plausibility but even so, it is clear that digital nomads are on the increase; in America, numbers have risen from 4.8 million in 2018 to 10.9 million in 2020. The global pandemic has had the effect of supercharging the trend: all around the globe, people are looking afresh at their office walls and thinking ‘I could do better than this’.
It is of course the internet which has brought us this new liberation: not only can we earn a living online, but we can also book our travel and accommodation and keep in touch with our friends and family. Our smart phones have become a golden key which unlocks the world. So, what are the constraints on our freedom? The biggest one is perhaps psychological, fear of the unknown, trading in secure predictability for a future of uncertainty. That is also of course, the thrill of it all, the opportunity to bring the shock of the new into your life. The other key constraint is financial. Will you be able to keep the money flowing once you pack in the day job? The answer to this depends on how well you prepare for your adventure.
Jumping on a plane and deciding that you’ll find out how to earn a living as a digital nomad once you get there is always going to be a bad idea. You need to get your digital career up and running before you set off and you need to put in the hours necessary to ensure that you have multiple income streams up and running before you set off. You are also going to need some savings, enough to sustain you for about six months in your destination of choice, just in case things don’t work out as planned. And, however tough things get, you need to be sure that you’ve always got enough for that flight home in your savings account.
Becoming a digital nomad is going to involve a steep learning curve, as well as adjusting to a new culture, you’re also going to have to get to grips with tax, banking, health cover, visas and all that complicated stuff. So, instead of heading for the most far-flung place you can think of it makes sense to start with somewhere which is digital nomad friendly. In Europe, Lisbon has become a hub for digital nomads – great weather, low cost of living, but if you’re looking for somewhere with even cheaper, try the island of Madeira. They have even set up a digital nomad village, offering free workspace and Wi-Fi to anyone staying over a month and property prices are much lower than Lisbon and other European cities. So, in short, the answer to the question ‘Can I be a digital nomad and have financial stability?’ is a resounding yes, but only if you put the preparation in first.