'What I Wish I Knew Starting My Nomad Journey..."

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but even better is being able to predict pitfalls before they happen.

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Living the life of a digital nomad has many blessings, but one of the biggest is the community. Nothing brings people closer together than being able to understand each other’s struggles. Not only can this community be a shoulder to cry on when things get bad or a fist to bump when those little victories come our way, it can also be a valuable learning tool.

I recently reached out to a few friends and asked, if they were to begin their nomad journey all over again, what nuggets of wisdom do they wish they had been armed with at the start?

Here are some of my favourites:

Talk to everyone: I can relate to this. If you are going to be staying in one place for a few months, you might think that making a couple of friends at the beginning is all the effort you need to put in to get the most of your experience. I met some cool people very soon after arriving in Chiang Mai, but continued to chat to everyone who crossed my path...as a result it was only after being here for 9 months that I met the people who have become the most important to me, the ones that I will make every effort to never lose touch with. Finding real connections can take time, so don’t just settle for beer buddies when you can have those who feel like family.

Don’t work at night: Unless your job in a different time-zone requires it, this can have many drawbacks. Look at the peak hours of any coworking space and it will tell you that most people choose to work in the morning and afternoon, so by choosing to work late, your social life will take a beating. They will be going out for dinner and drinks and you’ll have barely powered up your laptop to begin your days work.

South East Asia is not only CHEAP, but Beautiful: Yes, this part of the planet can be fantastic for bootstrapping a startup, but it becomes a sorry state of affairs when the only nature Pete The Programmer sees are the views that his Momentum Chrome Extension serves him upon opening a new tab. Your priority may be getting your business up and running or making ends meet, but spending even a couple of hours on the weekend away from the screens and the hustle and bustle can re-energise you for the week ahead and can seriously increase your productivity.

You NEED a co-founder: This not only lessens the workload, but more importantly it reduces the psychological load. Starting a new business can be an all-encompassing vortex that can swallow you whole. Find someone to share the worries and successes with.  

Say NO: ‘Smelling The Roses’ is crucial to having a healthy mind, but your work schedule will differ from those around you. If a trip to a waterfall today with your buddies seems tempting, but ruins a deadline and causes you more stress than it’s worth, let them go without you. The water will still be falling tomorrow.

Some Youtubers are EVIL LIARS: With the exception of a few who are genuinely there to give the correct information, a lot of these channels are there to sell a lifestyle (and possibly an ‘online course with a 95% discount for 1 day only’). The best research can be done by joining the myriad of Nomad groups on Facebook and asking questions and striking up conversations there.

What worked in UTAH does not work in UBUD: You need to reinvent your productivity/creative process when you have a new lifestyle.

Goodbyes are a drag: This is one of the most difficult things about this lifestyle; Meeting people you connect with only to find out they will be 3000 miles away by Tuesday. But don’t close yourself up in order to avoid getting hurt. If you find people who are worth a sad goodbye, dive deep and you will likely cross paths many times in the future.

Cheap Freelancers may be cheap for a reason: Outsourcing tasks is pretty common now, but be diligent in checking the work of those you hire. Check references.

Don’t go home with your tail between your legs: Get creative in how you extend your journey, even if the bank balance is running low and no work is coming your way. Services like Workaway mean you can stay in many locations with accommodation and food for free. Each host has different requirements in the tasks they want you to do, but most will leave you plenty of time to continue plugging away at your business, levelling up your skills, or applying to jobs.

Get your Motorbike license before leaving home: You will find it much easier doing it in your home country than trying to figure out what hoops you need to jump through to get it sorted elsewhere. You may also be covered by your Insurance if you sort it at home too.

Have some form of Cryptocurrency: Even if it is not a large amount, it will come in convenient at some point, maybe for purchasing services if your country’s bank card isn’t accepted, or a host of other reasons that have not even occurred to you. Better to be safe than sorry.

Vary your diet: Street food can be cheap and delicious, but my friend Nicola ended up in a Bangkok hospital due to a lack of Fibre. So don’t feel guilt or uncultured by eating a lot of what you would back home and mixing in local dishes for enjoyment.

And last, but not least, some amusing advice from my buddy Danny:

“Do not go to Bali thinking you'll be productive.”

Author: James Dennan

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

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