How To Become A Digital Nomad

How to Choose Your Nomad Type

This week we launched the PSFK exploration of the digital nomad class. It is a fantastic read that looks at benefits of remote working, the behavior driving it and the opportunities shifts in work are starting to provide. But as I read it, I felt it missed some critical information on van lifers and those taking a more analog approach to transient living. So here is a crash course in how to become a mobile digital nomad.

How to Decide What Type of Digital Nomad You Will Be

For those of us facing a mobile life, there are ultimately three types of nomads that I have found in my research about living and working on the road: the Van Dweller, the RVer and the Airbnber. They are defined in the following ways:

  1. Van Dwellers  – This group includes people who have converted their cars into live/sleep areas. They have buckets instead of toilets, and sometimes have amenities such as electric hookups that are limited to work/life function. Van Dwellers often work out of coffee shops and co-working spaces.
  2. The RVers – This group prefers moving homes and tiny houses. They either drive their house or they tow it behind a truck. Most often, they have pets and even kids. RVers tend to be more outdoorsy and off the grid at times, as the balance of work and exploration are key.
  3. The Airbnbers – This group has given up traditional renting situations and leverage Airbnb or home renting platforms to see the world. They work wherever they land, often staying up to several months in one spot before  they move on. Airbnbers use WiFi where they can get it. Usually the Airbnbers tend to spend more than the RV or Van Dwellers in terms of monthly outlays of cash. Airbnbers are also a more international type, they travel globally, not just locally.

Life circumstances dictate how these digital nomads choose their lifestyle. For some, it’s financial, for others it’s a desire to learn and see the world. If you are thinking about doing it, it’s important to really dig into what you need day-to-day before you choose your type.

How to Get WiFi on the Road

Depending on the type of nomad you are going to be, you are going to need WiFi. Whether you are freelancer, a gigger or even someone like me whose main job allows her to do it from anywhere, you will need WiFi. Here are a few places where you can find it:

  1. Coffee Shops and Coworking Spots – Coffee shops and coworking spaces are great places nomad-trailer-livingto stay connected on the road because the connections are stable and fast. They are also free to very cheap. While ShareDesk and DeskSurfing have great suggestions, also do a quick search in the area you’re in for local spots because not all of them are listed online. Simply scout coffee shops on Yelp or use Work Hard Anywhere.
  2. RV Satellites – For those of you who choose to live in an RV or tow your home, Internet is crucial, especially in more remote areas. Satellite is costly, so see if you can live with more cost effective options like your cell provider. You are looking at $1,000 – $6,000 in equipment and about $80 per month in fees.
  3. Wireless Providers – Believe it or not, your wireless provider most likely offers plans that will keep you connected via their 3G and 4G networks. Costs are $10-20 and up, averaging about $50. Check out DIY RV  or RV Internet for a list of comparisons and equipment. Also check out Gone with the Wynns awesome post on running their business from the road.

No matter how you stay connected, the biggest lesson in on the road WiFi is that free is exactly what it sounds like: slow, unstable and cumbersome. The best digital nomads pay for connection – literally!

How to Set Off Like a Pro

Once you’ve decided what type of nomad you are going to be, it’s time to set off. Here’s how you do it:

  1. For those of you living in your car, sell everything! Storage fees are going to climb, costing no less than $600-$1,500 per year. If you are in this group, selling is best.
  2. For those of you who choose RV Life, start to pair down to what will fit in the rig you buy. You don’t want to have too much or you will feel crowded. Store or sell the rest.
  3. For those of you who choose to do the Airbnb thing locally, if you love it, store it and save it. Also, make sure you have your essentials in your vehicle as you travel around the U.S. The same goes for those of you going international, but I’d also recommend selling what you don’t need if you are gone more than one year.

Don’t let your attachment to stuff get in the way of your nomadic freedom. There is a reason you are leaving. See places instead of saving stuff.rv-van-life

Pro Tip: For those of you who choose RV life, I’d recommend buying a rig that has the trailer separated from the vehicle. Unhitching a trailer makes maneuvering and exploration easier. Often times, the RV teams try and sell you the whole thing about how the integrated package is more cost effective and you get a generator, and that it only costs $40k-$60k!

All in, $35,0000. Theoretically spend $10,000 on a trailer with $5,000 to upgrade it and $20,000 on a truck. For $3,000, you can retrofit a trailor, stick a generator on it and secure it. For another $500-$1,000, you can have the ugly wallpaper and upholstery changed to something nice and get a satellite added for another $1,000. For $35,000 I have a place to park and call home, but in the future, I can park it, Airbnb it and still drive the truck!

Resources Every Digital Nomad Needs

Aside from the PSFK Guide to the Nomad Class, here are resources that every nomad should do on their mobile devices:

  1. Read Other People’s Stories and Learn From Them: Techno Media, RV Share and RV RoadTreking (especially if you are a woman alone). Many people have traveled before you and still roam, so read, learn and leverage their knowledge to make your transition easier.
  2. Join a Community: Hashtag Nomads, RoadTrek Solos and RVing Women are great communities. Joining groups is a good way to stay connected, meet new people but also stay safe. If you disappear, someone can at least know your last whereabouts.
  3. Learn Where to Stay: All Stays, Tiny Life  and Nomad List are great resources to find places to park a rig if you aren’t Airbnbing it. You can also find places to park on Airbnb.  If you want to try it out before you do it, check out AutoCamp.
  4. Do the Math: RV Share, Gone with the Wynns, Life Engineered, Tiny House Blog and Wanderly take moolah, baby. You have to figure out if RV living is cost effective enough to help you achieve your goals. Depending on your lifestyle, you may find it costs you more. And you may not want a 10-year payment on your rig.
  5. Apps & Services: Six Tools Digital Nomads Actually Need is a great article on apps.

Do you think that a nomadic or more transient existence is a bad thing? Well, it’s where some of America seems to be headed. Just check out OZY’s State of the Trailer Park, is the American dream really to be saddled with debt, a limited ability to change situations or not to live a more flexible life? Not anymore. Maybe I’ll see you on the road!

Photos: RV Living | RV Living