Cutting right to the chase, diversification is the most important part of the process. Diversification is important part of financial health even if you have a regular stationary day job, but it becomes vitally important if you are a person living a nomadic lifestyle. You need to keep a stable social life and keep your mental health in check just as much as your financial health.
If you’re thinking of starting a life as a digital nomad or a traveling solo-prenuer you probably have questions about how stable your lifestyle can be. In this post we highlight several simple, and easy ways to make sure you can balance the freedom and joy that this lifestyle offers and the financial security you need.
Financials: Get at Least 2 Streams of Income
There are a few resources here on Nomad Era about popular digital nomad jobs for people looking for inspiration on how to get worldwide remote employment. We prefaced this list be stating that diversification is the key to success, and financially speaking this is especially true. A few of us have met people in fairly desperate situations who, for one reason or another, were forced to go back to their home countries with barely a penny to their name and no home or job to return to. If you are not a citizen or permanent resident of the country that you are living in, it’s important to remember that your job and your visa are your lifelines.
If you are a more traditional expat with a local employer who may have sponsored your visa then you are of course dependent on that employment and should make sure to at least somewhat prioritize savings in case you need to buy a flight home unexpectedly. Even if your visa is not tied to a local employer (many digital nomads in particular don’t have visas under this circumstance) then you will still need to ensure that you can sustain yourself. This may all seem like extremely basic information, but it is important to remember. Your streams of income could be active income, passive income, capital gains, dividend income, rental income, royalties or any mix of all of the above.
Social Life: Have Both Local Friends and Expat Friends
A healthy social life is important for the mental and emotional health of all people, but especially so for people living overseas. Even the most outgoing people can find that after 6 months of living somewhere, despite having made new friends they find themselves a bit lonely or homesick. Homesickness can range from being a light nostalgia about where they grew up to being a complete emotional breakdown complete with plane tickets booked for the next flight home. No matter where you fall on this spectrum it’s important to remember that the feeling is often temporary and if you do return home, in a few months you will likely find yourself longing for the country you had just left.
Try to have a balance between local friends and expat friends. Nearly every country in the world has a facebook group for expats living in that country. These expat connections, wether you share a nationality or not, will be invaluable for two reasons. First and foremost, there will likely be times where you will feel like a foreigner and you will likely need someone or a group of people who immediately understand what you’re going through. This does not necessarily mean that you will face discrimination as a foreigner, but you likely will have experiences that remind you that you are a foreigner. Secondly, these people are already somewhat kindred spirits. Even though international travel continues to get cheaper, and cheaper and in 2019 there were 1.5 Billion international tourist arrivals reported worldwide living for any extended period of time outside of your home country is still extremely uncommon even in the most cosmopolitan countries. The expats you meet are unique people who have at least expressed an openness to living abroad, even if it was only for economic reasons and not personal preference.
Local connections are incredibly important as well. No matter where you go or how long you live there you will never be able to get the most out of your experience without local friends. If your hometown is a tourist hub you have probably cringed listening to the things people want to do when they visit your city. New Yorkers avoid Time’s Square like the plague and people in Sydney don’t spend their free time hanging outside the opera house and they don’t rush to Bondi Beach the second they have a free moment. You’ll never be able to make somewhere truly feel like home without the context provided by people who have called it home for their whole lives. They’ll show you the hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants that have a real sense of community. They’ll tell you about local events that may not be on expat radars. Most importantly, they will eventually tell you how many locals feel about foreigners and expats. These connections are your insight into the country you’ve chosen to settle in and they are invaluable, but how do you make these connections?
Maybe you’re not an extrovert and you feel uncomfortable striking up a conversation at a bar. You can still find ways to connect with locals in an organic manner. Most people would suggest joining a group on Meetup.com or joining a sports league or book club (all of which are still great ideas) but we have a tried and true approach that we think works much better and goes much deeper. Go become a patron at a local establishment. It can be a café, a tea parlor, a restaurant, a bar or anything in-between. If you’re a regular people won’t just recognize you, but they’ll expect you. This builds a deep rapport within the establishment’s community because familiarity builds trust. If you go to a café every morning to get your morning coffee or tea and strike up some casual conversation not only will you likely become fast friends with the baristas but they will also see you as someone who is more than just a careless and aloof expat or tourist.