digital nomad working on a laptop on a beach

Last Updated on December 8, 2023 by Dr. Shannon Barrett

Have you heard the term digital nomad and wondered what it means?

Perhaps you have friends working remotely and think this may the right lifestyle for you.

Are you feeling the weary weight of a 9-to-5 routine and longing for flexibility to work from anywhere while uncovering global hidden gems?

My husband and I yearned for that liberation from the same routine and same scenery.

It steered us towards our digital nomad journey.

This article is your comprehensive guide to kick-start an exciting remote working lifestyle – with insights into what being a digital nomad entails, its perks, challenges and concrete steps on transitioning smoothly.

It’s time to buckle up for an incredible new adventure!

Key Takeaways

  • A digital nomad is someone who works online from anywhere.
  • Digital nomads have freedom to choose where they work, live and travel.
  • They must plan well and use tools like computers for working while traveling.
  • More people are becoming digital nomads because of advances in tech.
  • It’s key to think about workspace, internet access and health when living this way.
  • This life can be filled with new sights, friends or less stress but also hard times like loneliness or tech issues.

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Defining a Digital Nomad

Computer screen on digital nomad desk overlooking mountains

A digital nomad is a person who works from anywhere in the world.

They use tools on their computer or phone to do their job.

They can choose to live in one place for a bit, then move to another city or a foreign country.

Being a digital nomad means having freedom and choice about where you work and live.

This lifestyle relies on remote jobs.

Digital nomads must be good at budgeting and making plans because they often travel full-time.

In our case, we live in a beachside community for 2-3 months before moving onto a new one.

It’s not just about traveling, but also working while exploring new places.

The key is balance between work and life!

History and Origins of Digital Nomadism

Female digital nomad working at cafe

The digital nomad lifestyle wasn’t born overnight.

This new form of living and working has its roots in the growth of technology, specifically the advent of the internet.

Over time, remote work opportunities expanded beyond traditional boundaries as global connectivity improved.

Today’s digital nomads are a testament to this evolution of work culture, but do we know when it all started?

Who coined this catchy term ‘Digital Nomad’?

When did working while globe-trotting become popular?

A peep into these facets might give us greater insights into how far we’ve come in redefining ‘work life balance’.

When Did Digital Nomadism Become Popular?

Laptop of a digital nomad open on a tropical beach

Digital nomadism started to boom in recent years.

More and more people began living life this way as technology got better.

Now, working from any place was not just a dream but a real thing.

In the 1990s, some people lived this life but it was not common.

In 2020, many more workers in America called themselves digital nomads than the year before.

There were almost half again as many!

This is mostly because of remote work growing fast.

Big advances in tech made this possible and popular.

How and When was the Term “Digital Nomad” Coined?

female digital nomad working outside on laptop on suitcase

The term “digital nomad” first came up in the late 1990s.

It was Tsugio Makimoto and David Manners who made it popular. T

hey wrote a book in 1997 called “Digital Nomad”.

That’s where they used this term a lot.

So, we thank these two guys for giving us the cool tag of ‘digital nomads’.

Different types of digital nomad lifestyles

two female digital nomads working on laptops in apartment

There are many ways to live as a digital nomad. Here are some of them:

  1. City Nomads: They like big cities with fast internet and lots of coffee shops. They often move between top cities around the world.
  2. Country Jumpers: These nomads change countries every few weeks or months. They like to see new places and enjoy different cultures.
  3. Slow Travelers: These people stay in one place for a few months at least. They love to soak in the local culture and make deeper connections.
  4. Van Lifers: Some digital nomads live in vans or RVs. This way, they can move around freely whenever they want.
  5. Remote Workers at Home: Not all digital nomads travel far from home. Some just work from anywhere within their own country.
  6. Hub Dwellers: These nomads stick around in hub countries with low-cost living and good internet access.

We consider ourselves Beachy nomads and tend to adhere to the slow traveler lifestyle.

When we first started, we were changing locales every 30 days.

However we found this was not enough time to really get to know a place.

Therefore we have been staying in places for 2-3 months at a time.

For us, this is the perfect amount of time.

We get to know a town and feel a little like a part of the community.

We often make friends and get to try out lots of restaurants before moving to the next location.

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Digital Nomad vs. Location Independent: Understanding the Differences

blonde digital nomad working on laptop at home

Understanding the differences between becoming a digital nomad and a location independent worker is crucial to deciding which lifestyle suits you best.

While there are many similarities, these two terms don’t mean exactly the same thing.

Digital NomadLocation Independent
A digital nomad is someone who travels frequently, often changing cities or countries every few weeks or months. They work remotely and depend heavily on technology and communication tools. A sense of adventure is a key part of the digital nomad lifestyle.The term location independent refers to someone who works remotely, but doesn’t necessarily travel frequently. They may have a home base and do not change their location as often as a digital nomad. This lifestyle offers more stability and routine than that of a digital nomad.
Digital nomads have to be comfortable with constant changes in their environment and must be willing to live with minimal possessions. Their lifestyle is funded by their remote work.Location independent workers, though remote, may have a fixed home, family, or community ties. They enjoy the flexibility of working from anywhere, but they may not travel as much and can maintain a more traditional lifestyle if they choose.
The digital nomad lifestyle often involves exploring new cultures, languages, and experiences. It’s all about being on the move and embracing the unknown.Location independent workers may also travel and explore, but their lifestyle can also accommodate different priorities such as raising a family or maintaining ties to a specific community. Their travel is typically less frequent or long-term than that of a digital nomad.

So, while all digital nomads are location independent, not all location independent workers are digital nomads.

The key differences lie in the frequency and intensity of travel, as well as the degree of adherence to a traditional settled lifestyle.

Essential Attributes of a Digital Nomad

male digital nomad working on laptop at cafe

Being a successful digital nomad requires more than just an adventurous spirit.

You need a stable workspace, where you can focus and work efficiently.

Reliable internet connection is crucial to stay connected with clients or employers.

You must also consider health factors like insurance coverage, regular check-ups and maintaining a balanced lifestyle while constantly on the move.

For instance, we set up all of our doctors appointments before we started our digital nomad journey so they are all due the same month.

Now all of our doctors appointments will be due at the same time.

This makes it easier for scheduling so we can get them taken care of at one time and we know in advance where we will be staying the month they are due.


As a digital nomad, my workspace is everywhere.

All I need to work is my laptop and a good internet signal.

This can be in a coffee shop, a park or even on the beach.

I love being able to pick any place that suits me as an office for the day.

Since I do not have “set hours”, I often work on my blog and YouTube Channel at the beach on the weekends.

It does not feel like work since it is my own company.

I also don’t mind putting in a few hours on the weekends since my schedule is now so fluid.

Internet connectivity

Digital nomad computer with wifi symbol

Good internet is a must for us digital nomads.

We use it to keep up with our work while traveling. It’s very important to have steady WiFi access.

Since we stay at VRBO’s or AirBnB’s, we always ensure the WiFi is good prior to booking.

Always ask about the upload and download speeds.

You can also ask the hosts to send you a speed test to show the internet connection.

There are several free sites that will instantly show you the internet speed including upload and download speed such as Speedcheck.

If you cannot find a place to stay in your budget that has good internet speeds, you can also consider working at places like cafes, co-working spaces, or hotels where the internet is good.

Fast internet helps us stay productive and keep in touch with colleagues no matter where we are in the world.

Advancements in technology make this lifestyle possible by letting us work from anywhere as long as there’s WiFi.

Health considerations

digital nomad on laptop at outdoor table

Taking care of your health is key as a digital nomad.

You might deal with new bugs and diseases in different lands.

A good plan for health insurance coverage is a must.

Some places will ask you to show it before you can move there.

Be smart about where you decide to live.

Look for safe spots, with doctors close by if needed.

Being a digital nomad can make work less stressful and boost your overall well-being.

But, be careful not let the lack of routine or feelings of being alone harm your mind’s health.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

female digital nomad working at coffee shop on laptop

Embracing the life of a digital nomad comes with its own set of unique pros and cons.

On one hand, you enjoy the liberty to work from anywhere, explore new cultures, live a simplified lifestyle and maybe even have lesser work stress.

However, it’s not always rosy as there can be frequent issues like unreliable internet connections or time zone differences hampering work communication.

When we were living in the Forgotten Coast of Florida, we stayed in Port St. Joe.

This beach community was wonderful. However the adjacent beach,

Mexico Beach, was in the central time zone.

We were in the Eastern time zone in Port St. Joe.

Since these 2 towns were separated by the time line and therefore a 1 hour time difference, planning dinner or flights could be tricky.

Especially since the closest airport was in the central time zone.

This is just one of the many adventures you will encounter on your nomadic journey.

Battling loneliness is another challenge many digital nomads tend to face as making long-term connections becomes hard due to mobility.

So before taking the leap into this lifestyle, weigh in all these factors carefully.

Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad

three digital nomads working in a cafe

There are many benefits of being a digital nomad.

You can work from any place with internet access.

This means you can travel and see new cities and countries.

You might save money, too.

Many places cost less to live than your home town.

We are saving money as digital nomads.

Our current monthly spending has actually decreased since we became digital nomads.

You also do not need to budget for a vacation since your downtime becomes a vacation.

Meeting folks from around the world is another plus point.

New friends bring new ideas and experiences into your life.

The best part?

Your work-life balance may get better because you choose when to work and when not to.

We definitely spend our non-work hours exploring each new city.

It’s easy to fall into a boring routine when you live in the same place.

However if you change up your location often, you want to see as much of each place while you are there.

This prevents you from falling into a rut.

Each day is like a new adventure.

No more sitting on the TV every night and watching the same TV show.

Why not go for a beach walk instead?

Cons of Being a Digital Nomad

digital nomad sitting at desk editing a video

However, being a digital nomad can be hard at times.

Loneliness might hit you when you are far from home and family.

Time zones can make work tricky if your job needs real-time chats with coworkers.

Bad internet can break up your work flow, making it hard to get things done.

The constant moving means it’s tough to keep routines or balance work and life well.

Plus, the cost of living this way adds up – places to stay, ways to travel, they all need money so budgeting is key.

One of the biggest cons for us is packing and unpacking our travel trailer each time we switch locations.

Since we do not travel light, we have a travel trailer attached to our Kia.

It contains our winter clothes, cooking supplies, dog toys and beach cruisers.

It takes us a few hours to pack and unpack this each time we move.

This is definitely a con of being nomadic but for us, it is worth it to have certain comforts.

How to Become a Digital Nomad?

digital nomad desk with laptop coffe and papers

Begin by assessing if the digital nomad lifestyle aligns with your personal and professional goals.

Next, get clear on your financial situation, knowing what you can afford will guide destination decisions.

Figure Out Your Budget

dollars currency money-499481jpg

Knowing how much money you have is the first step.

After that, decide what you need to spend on food, stay and travel costs.

Make sure to add in a bit extra for fun things or sudden needs.

This number is your budget.

Keep track of all your spending so you don’t go over your budget while traveling.

You can choose places that fit with your budget best.

We did a lot of budgeting exercises before deciding on this lifestyle.

You need to know what housing you can afford each month and then look for places to stay in that budget.

For us, this was a critical first step.

We knew we wanted to stay in beach communities.

If we could not afford to do this, then we did not want to pursue the nomadic lifestyle.

For others, choosing a place may depend on cost of living, local culture or community of other digital nomads there.

Location may not be your primary concern.

Enhancing your current skills or acquiring new ones that are in demand for remote work may be where you start.

If you are not working remotely in your current job, then you will obviously want to find a job that allows you this flexibility.

Researching the work-from-anywhere job market is essential; it’s diverse ranging from freelance gigs to full time remote positions in various industries.

Research the Work-from-Anywhere Job Market

Start by looking for online jobs.

Websites like FlexJobs have job listings from all over the world.

These are jobs you can do from any place with internet access.

Jobs in writing, design, teaching and project management are common picks for digital nomads.

Don’t rush into picking a job.

Take time to find something that fits your skills and interests.

Make sure it can fund your travels too.

With the right job, you will enjoy work and life on the go as a digital nomad.

Determine If It’s a Good Fit

Digital nomad apartment with laptop and desk

We took a hard look at our lives.

We had too many things.

We could not take all of them on the road with us.

So, to be a digital nomad, we knew we needed to live with less.

Once you have decided to be nomadic, this is your next step.

Living a nomadic lifestyle means you have to become a minimalist.

This means different things to different people depending on the type of nomad you become.

Since we travel through the US by car, we have the luxury of traveling with more personal items.

However if we decide to move overseas, we would need to pare down these items and become even more minimalistic.

The reminder of our items are in a storage unit. This is something you will want to decide before starting a nomadic life.

What will you bring with you?

What will you store, if anything?

Then, think about what you want from this life.

You might find joy in constantly traveling and working at the same time.

Or you might like being free from an office or set hours.

The digital nomad life is different for everyone but it should feel right for you.

Decide on a Destination(s)

beach paradise island-1761410jpg

We enjoy picking where we will go next. It’s fun and part of the digital nomad life.

We think about what we want to do, learn or see. As long as it is by the coast, we are happy.

For others, it may be a new language or an old city full of history.

Some places need a digital nomad visa, so check that too.

Having a home base is nice but going on work trips to other countries is fun!

Making sure your passport and visa are in order is important before you pack your bags.

Common Jobs for Digital Nomads

digital nomad on beach working on laptop

Some popular job choices for digital nomads include being a writer or editor, working as a project manager, teaching or tutoring online, managing social media accounts, serving as customer service representatives, designing websites and creating content.


As a writer or editor, you have the freedom to work from anywhere.

This job is perfect for the digital nomad life.

All you need is your laptop and a good internet speed.

But it’s not just about writing stories or fixing grammar mistakes all day.

To do well in this role, strong communication skills are key.

Let’s say there’s an issue with an article you’re editing; you may need to contact the author who might be halfway across the world due to time zone differences.

It’s exciting though – every day is different and new challenges keep you on your toes.

Plus, meeting people from around the world opens up lots of chances for networking which can lead to more job opportunities down the line.

Project Manager

Being a project manager is great for a digital nomad.

You can work anywhere if you have an internet link.

The job lets you plan, track and finish projects with teams around the world.

This type of work also helps save money as you can live in places that cost less.

Also, you get to meet many people from different parts of the world while working online or at co-working spaces.

Online Teacher/Tutor

As a digital nomad, you can work as an online teacher or tutor.

This job lets you live in different places. All you need is your laptop and a good internet connection.

You can teach English to kids in China while living in Mexico.

Or help high school students with math homework from a beach house.

Some countries want you to have a special visa if you are going to work there.

It’s called a digital nomad visa.

You should check this before you go somewhere new for your online teaching job.

Being an online teacher has its ups and downs though.

One cool part is that you get to learn about new places and people.

It feels great to live lightly, not having many things ties you down.

But it can feel lonely at times too since it’s just you out here on your own most of the time.

Social Media Manager

As a social media manager, you can use your skills to keep social media accounts lively.

You make content and chat with followers.

It’s also your job to look at the numbers behind each post.

This helps you know what works best on pages.

Websites like FlexJobs help people find jobs like this that they can do from anywhere.

These roles are in high demand because most businesses need to connect with their customers online these days.

Being able to work remotely makes it a perfect fit for life as a digital nomad.

Customer Service Rep

Being a customer service rep is a top job for digital nomads.

You use tools like chat, email, and phone to give help to customers from anywhere in the world!

This job needs good skills in talking with people and solving problems.

More businesses need customer service reps who can work from any place that has internet. It lets you travel while you work.

Web Designer

Consider being a web designer.

This job lets you work from anywhere that has good internet.

You can make websites look nice and easy to use.

For this work, you use tools like HTML, CSS, and design software.

Most times, you take on many work tasks at once because these jobs are often short-term or freelance gigs.

Consider checking sites such as Fiverr for people looking to hire web designers.

I use it all the time when I need help with my website.


As a blogger, you can become a successful digital nomad.

This job is all about sharing your thoughts and experiences online.

Anywhere you are, with an internet connection and a laptop, you can create content for your blog.

You need strong skills in communication and technology to be a great blogger.

Your work can pay for all your travels as this kind of work does not tie you down to one place.

You get to live that nomadic lifestyle that many dream of.

I have been blogging for a few years but since we started our digital nomadic lifestyle, I created a blog to focus on our digital nomad adventure and travels.

Content Creator

As a digital nomad, you can also be a content creator.

This job is all about making things for people to see, hear or read on the web.

You might write blog posts or make videos.

Maybe you enjoy designing websites or crafting social media posts.

Like most digital nomads, many content creators are designers, developers and programmers too.

To be good at it, you need to have fresh ideas and know your way around some tech tools.

But don’t worry! There’s always space to learn and grow in this job.

It’s fun because every day brings something new.

I am constantly learning how to create YouTube videos for our channel and add them to our blog.

Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Nomads

digital nomad laptop on beach

COVID-19 made a big change for digital nomads.

Because of the virus, many people had to do their jobs from home.

This made more people become digital nomads.

It was not just about travel anymore.

People found they could work from anywhere and it became normal.

With this change, countries saw a chance to help out.

They created a “digital nomad visa.”

This lets remote workers live in those countries and do their jobs there.

Spain, South Africa, and Dubai all did this.

But COVID-19 also gave digital nomads some trouble.

All of them needed good internet to work online.

With the virus around, it was harder to find good places with strong internet.

They also had time zone problems when dealing with others who lived far away from them because everything is now online due to COVID-19 precautions.

Not being able to see any family members or friends was another tough part as social gatherings were discouraged due to the spread of the disease.

So yes, COVID-19 changed life for digital nomads quite a bit – in both good ways and bad ones.

In my opinion, it opened the door even wider to become a digital nomad.

The Future of Digital Nomadism

digital nomad sitting on mountain with laptop

The future of being a digital nomad looks bright. More people can work from anywhere.

This will continue to rise.

There was a big jump in American workers saying they are digital nomads in 2020, up nearly half or 49%.

The rapid boost is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking ahead, we see some changes too.

Some countries want more remote workers and “digital nomad visas” are becoming more common.

They are also extending the length of time people can work in foreign countries.

It entices more people to move to foreign countries as remote employees.

These countries realize that most digital nomad jobs pay well and this brings more money into their economy.

Most countries are becoming digital nomad friendly.

Travel Health Insurance for Digital Nomads

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Travel Health Insurance is an essential consideration for digital nomads, providing a safety net for unexpected medical expenses, trip cancellations, and even lost belongings.

Unlike traditional travel insurance, specialized plans for digital nomads are tailored to cater to the unique needs of a location-independent lifestyle.

These policies often include coverage for extended stays in multiple countries, along with additional features such as worldwide medical coverage and emergency evacuation services.

The importance of having travel insurance cannot be overstated: a 2019 study published in the Journal of Travel Medicine found that medical emergencies abroad can cost upwards of $100,000, a significant financial burden to bear without insurance.

A few reputable companies that offer digital nomad travel insurance are SafetyWing, World Nomads, and Cigna Global.

Each offers various plans tailored to different types of nomadic lifestyles, making it easier to find a fit that suits your needs.

How to Be a Digital Nomad with a Pet

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Being a digital nomad with a pet adds a layer of companionship and joy to the location-independent lifestyle.

However, it also introduces unique challenges like pet healthcare and international pet travel regulations.

Whether you’re working from a beachside café or exploring a new city, keeping your pet’s needs in mind is essential.

Veterinary consultations may not always be readily accessible, making pet-specific travel insurance and an updated pet emergency kit crucial for nomads.

How to Be a Digital Nomad with a Dog

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Embarking on the digital nomad journey with a dog enhances the adventure but also requires meticulous planning.

We travel with our German Shepherd, Griffin.

However we always make sure each rental has a yard and is dog-friendly.

This adds a an additional layer of planning and often more cost.

However it is completely worth it!

If you are wondering how to be a digital nomad with a Dog, it is completely possible.

Just remember that dogs need consistent exercise and socialization.

Local dog parks and pet-friendly co-working spaces can be invaluable resources.

According to a survey by, 67% of dog owners travel with their pets; staying informed about dog-friendly accommodations and local veterinary services becomes vital for the nomadic lifestyle.

How to Be a Digital Nomad with a Cat

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As a digital nomad with a cat, your travel considerations take on a feline twist.

Cats generally require a stable environment, so frequent movement may be stressful for them.

Essential items such as a portable litter box, a secure cat carrier, and cat-friendly lodging are crucial.

Studies in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior show that cats are more sensitive to changes in environment, emphasizing the importance of gradual acclimatization when you switch locations.


digital nomad on sandy beach with laptop

If you are thinking about being a digital nomad, do it!

There will always be obstacles to overcome. Just don’t let these obstacles turn into excuses.

We wanted to make this life happen and took each obstacle and found a way around it. We are so happy we did.

We are living our best lives and hope to inspire more people to do the same.

Anyone can become a digital nomad, it’s an amazing life!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of lifestyle do digital nomads lead?

Digital nomads live the nomadic lifestyle. They are independent workers who lean towards less stressful work environments as they explore new cultures while working.

Where do most digital nomads tend to work?

Digital Nomads work virtually from anywhere.

We work from our VRBO but many others will work from co-working spaces, coffee shops or even hotel rooms provided there’s reliable internet access for them to perform their job smoothly.

Do Digital Nomads connect with other people leading the same life?


There are many local events and online digital nomad communities, where like-minded people living as a Digital Nomad come together and share experiences about this unique way of living.

There are also several facebook groups for digital nomads.

Dr. Shannon Barrett

Dr. Shannon Barrett

Veterinarian/Travel Writer/Digital Nomad

Dr. Shannon Barrett is a veterinarian and digital nomad. She owned a housecall practice, Island Veterinary Care, for over a decade and now travels full time. She lives in different beach towns and then writes travel guides based on her time there. If you’re looking for resources on travel destinations or how to become a digital nomad, then you’ve come to the right place! Love to bring your pets with you? Even better!

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