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How to be a digital nomad and work from anywhere

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Updated ·5-min read
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Young woman working on the beach. (Photo: Getty)
Young woman working on the beach. (Photo: Getty)

As the pandemic disrupts how we work, people are increasingly open to working anywhere that is not the office. Some prefer the convenience of working from home, while others like to do work on the move.

But when your job doesn’t allow you to travel and work, becoming a digital nomad feels like a dream. Before you enthusiastically tender your resignation, you should know that being a digital nomad has its cons too.

Even though it is nice to set your work schedule and go around experiencing new cultures, your productivity may suffer and you may find yourself alone in a big world out there. But if you’re ready to let go of the stability and predictability of the life you currently have, it’s time for a change this Digital Nomad Day (8 August). Here are some tips on how you can (finally) become a digital nomad.

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1. Find your source of income

Before you embark on your nomadic life, you must first figure out how you’re going to make money online. There are several ways to go about doing it. You can be a freelancer, taking up projects based on your niche. Or you can become a content creator, like a blogger or a YouTuber.

You can also look for companies that allow remote work — jobs like virtual assistant, customer service, software developer, website designer, etc. The more ambitious can set up your own business, selling products online or creating online resources and courses.

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2. Settle your finances: emergency fund, insurance, taxes, banking

People always say you should have at least three to six months of your income as an emergency fund. This is even more important for a digital nomad, who faces an unsteady stream of income. You wouldn’t want to be broke in a foreign land with no one to turn to for help.

Getting covered by insurance is equally important as you are your own boss now. There won’t be any HR for you to submit your medical claims to, and all the costs incurred will be out of your own pocket. You can save yourself some trouble by getting insured, if you haven’t already.

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One of the most complex, and some may say, frustrating things to do is to file your taxes. Generally, in Singapore, overseas income is not taxable unless it is received through partnerships in Singapore. Rather than leaving all the accounting work to the end of the financial year, it is wiser to regularly document your earnings.

As you travel, it may be challenging to do banking. You can make use of online wallets that let you receive, manage and use multiple currencies with minimal fees. Alternatively, you can source travel credit cards that do not charge foreign transaction fees, give you points to redeem free flights, and provide you with perks like access to airport lounges and travel insurance.

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3. Stay (securely) connected

For your online work to take flight (no pun intended), you will need a fast and reliable internet connection. While most places have decent connectivity now, you can also rent portable Wi-Fi to ensure you’re connected wherever you go.

As public Wi-Fi lacks security, you should also install a reputable VPN, which can encrypt your internet connection. VPN is also useful in accessing websites that are blocked in other countries but are otherwise accessible in your home country.

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4. Sign up for a virtual mail service

Virtual mail services can help you manage your mails as you wander around the world. They provide a physical address to receive mails. You can then read your mail online and get it forwarded to wherever you are in the world.

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5. Embrace minimalism

As you’re constantly moving around, it is ideal to travel light and bring only the essentials. Filter out your worldly possessions and sell or donate them away. The remaining important items can be kept with your family members or in a rental storage unit. The things that you bring with you should be able to fit into your suitcase or backpack.

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6. Join social groups

Digital nomads often find themselves getting swallowed by loneliness. Joining digital nomad groups or local communities and events to meet new friends can mitigate that feeling. Who knows, you might even learn a trick or two about remote work when you connect with like-minded people!

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7. Manage your time

Just like how we manage work-life balance, digital nomads need to set a schedule for work and travel. Some prefer working a few hours every day and use the rest of the day for travelling. Others may work alternate weeks. Some choose to work like a nine-to-five job and spend the evenings and weekends exploring. Whichever it is, choose one that suits your lifestyle.

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8. Choose where to go

Lastly, you just have to pick a place to land! Several factors to consider: the cost of living, the climate, and the culture. Depending on your destination and the passport you hold, a travel visa may be necessary. Some popular locations for digital nomads are Thailand, Indonesia, Mexico, Spain, Hungary, and Portugal.

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