What was your biggest mistake while starting out as a DN?
By - ballin_in_tallin
Deciding to start in March 2020.
Used a whole 10 weeks of the year long Vietnamese visa I bought. 😩
My plan was July 2020 (long before Covid). Still lurking here and waiting for the right time.
I feel that
October 2020 for me.
February 2020 here :(
I feel you. My plan was always to quit my full time job in March. I wanted to turn my side gig into my main gig. Luckily covid impacted me very early, and in February I got 100% of my side gig shut down. I stayed in my job, and I was quite miserable for a while 😔
I resigned in February 2020 and quit in March.. Waited for a month for it to blow over and then decided it was time for a new job. I ended up going in Februari 2021.
June 2020 here 🙌
Not factoring in how my tech needs would change, both internationally and on the go. Staring at a 13 inch laptop for 10 hours a day sucks. And tech accessories can be extremely expensive or hard to find in many parts of the world.
Other than that, starting sooner. I should have started years ago. It’s amazing.
Agreed! Any good finds worth sharing?
I wish I had good advice besides, be ready to pay a premium for repairs and replacements if necessary. Factor that into your budget, because you don't have a choice. Get insurance for everything, bring duplicates on necessities. I travel with 2 MBPs, which seems dumb until you're one spilled coffee away from losing your livelihood.
I was tempted to have a second laptop too for the same fears. I’m lucky that I can back up everything in the cloud, and I can get started on a new laptop within a day with a moderately good internet connection. I do have an emergency budget for a laptop if I brick mine.
Good call! I’m in a place where my laptop would cost double, so it makes sense for now. Might minimize when I’m in Europe 😀
Whatever you do, don’t buy laptops in France… the import taxes are ridiculous
Good to know!
TBH this is the entire world except maybe USA or maybe 1 or 2 places in Asia (but the OS will be in the local language!!).
A gaming laptop that is like $1100 at Bestbuy USA is apparently $2000 in other countries. Multiple middle men taking a cut on what is literally something that weighs less than 2 kilos or whatever laptops weigh now.
I've had luck buying monitors on Facebook marketplace
Thanks for your input. :-)
take me with you hahha
Living in towns that were so small they had no travelers, expats, or students and no hospitals, supermarkets, or airports. I thought small towns would be charming, and they often were, but they came with many other constraints. Now I stay in big cities and travel around the local region of the weekends.
Good strategy for sure
Or heck being in a suburb of a major city. I get women on dating apps that won't meet me because apparently anything more than 5 kilometers is "too far". But if you rent in a trendy poshy area of a 1st world city (to be closer to online dating matches) then price of rent skyrockets up.
In every small town there is a local healer of sorts. Try speaking to the locals to track them down
Case in point, I did this the first time too ... and both clients quit between starting the work and boarding our plane! The last one was 3 days out - we were already living out of our suitcases in a friend’s basement.
So chose to go anyway. Had a 1 month vacation planned, so figured worst case scenario we would enjoy that and come home. Good holiday- no work to worry about!
Thankfully our planned base was London, so I could speak the language, work locally etc. It took a few months of hustle and some stress, but we made it work for a few years (albeit more “homebase and travel” than nomads).
What kind of job u do
do you have any job for an spanish native speaker?
Not budgeting enough. Things are inevitably more expensive than you expect them to be.
To be on the safe side take your budget and expect everything to end up being 1/3 more expensive.
Even before that, have a budget. Plan it out meticulously. I made enough money to think I didn't need to budget when I headed out the for the first time without an expense account. Add in the perceived tax savings, as I was away enough to change residency and tax home, and I treated it as essentially "free". 5 years later, it most definitely wasn't free.
The tax savings didn't nearly cover the types of expenses I never even imagined, from assistants to accomplish what would have been rote little tasks in the US, to the costs for food, travel betwixt, even the occasional bribe (err, umm, political donation for no reason other than love of democracy).
Believing I could be part of a DN community. In reality, digital nomads are some of the most strange and weird people you will ever meet.
Same, but for expats. Speaking the same language does not mean you'll have anything in common with them.
Man, I have had some absolutely terrrrrrible experiences with expat communities. In Brazil, they were a VERY sad, angry bunch. Always make friends with the locals!
If you go on any expat Facebook group anywhere in the world, almost everyone in the group is sad, angry and full of hate!
Same for Facebook. Having connection there doesn't mean you have a lot in common with these people, beside having some interaction with them at some point of your life.
Most expats are either missionaries, mercenaries, or misfits. DNs doubly so.
Most expats, at least in major global cities, are bankers, investment people, and corporate executives and their spouses/families.
Of course you see things that way, CB Hanson *the third*.
Lol. That's fair.
I suppose but they tend to go to lower cost locations as they have less need to be in the big global capitals. Obviously there are exceptions and some seem to like the cultural and other amenities in these cities.
This is so accurate
Hey what the heck man
Where are you meeting so many mercenaries? Lol. I have never met one.
A lot of scary places that I don't want to talk about. The horror. *The horror.*
Naw, but seriously: mercenary doesn't always literally mean soldier-of-fortune. It often refers to anyone who plies their trade for mainly financial considerations.
99% of them are just unemployed bums, either on a trust fund, or trying to make it as iNfLuEnCerS. Most dIgItAl nOmaDs are actually terrible people.
Can I sell you an ebook? It will help you nomad better. Also, chapter on yoga.
👀re-evaluates life choices…
100% agree with this. They are some of the worst people you will ever, ever meet. Not to mention trying to exploit people in third world countries.
Wait, why? I’m so curious about the people themselves. What rubbed you the wrong way?
same. i plan on starting my dn journey next year and one of the biggest things i'm looking forward to is finally finding my tribe.
i had assumed most dns would be entrepreneurs or developers/marketeers/designers with a passion for travelling and new experiences. i'd love to meet more people like those
Not saying it doesn’t exist. I Wouldn’t count on it
It does exist, but in my experience only maybe 10-15% of nomads are like that, at most.
yeah fingers crossed
Hi, I’m a DN that has a full time job working in Marketing with a passion for new experiences and travel. We really do exist!
I was the same before I started. I honestly believed I would finally find a tribe and a place where I could 'fit in'.
Instead of entrepreneurs, you will find a lot of people who just decided to move someone and 'figure it out' once they got there, and hope you can teach them.
Also, there are so many shady people shilling anything they can and desperate to survive to pay the next month rent and the cost for a 'border run'. They prey on new nomads and run 'mastermind groups'. They will try to shill you for coaching, to buy their course for $997, or their ebook. Or they are long-term backpackers trying to become travel or instagram influencers and using #digitalnomad gives them more likes on Instagram.
Most of them are desperate and will literally do ANYTHING just to survive the next week or month.
Something I also found strange was that so many nomads don't actually travel at all. Instead they stay in one place, because they can't afford to leave, and in reality they are just long-term (illegal) expats.
I would say that maybe only 10-15% of nomads at most fit the idea that you (and I also used to) have. But a lot of these people in this category have a huge ego and attitude problem, and believe they are better than everybody else, and just aren't down to earth, kind people.
These are just my experiences, maybe it will be different for you.
After a while, I realized I had nothing in common with most nomads, except that I use my laptop to work remotely. Even then I worked as a freelancer, whereas many have a 9-5 remote job.
I guess what I value more than anything is authenticity and real connections, and I found the vast majority of digital nomads to be completely fake.
That's really sad to read, but not surprising now that I think about it. Good thing I've mostly gotten happy with my own company.
Finding remote entrepreneurs IRL is quite a hard thing. Some use Coworking spaces while others avoid them.
Returning to Bansko this year for instance presented us a choice of 7+ coworking spaces. Some were all about community. Others about silence & thought, others about entrepreneur networking & business expansion.
Trial and error seems critical but then if you have a bad experience on a particular day you have to ask was it due to one person, possibly a misfit themselves, who set the vibe. The next day may be different.
well 10% is better than 0% for sure.
in my current circle, i know noone who's excited about travelling or entrepreneurship.
ig i'll just have to be selective with the people i choose to hang out with
How are you meeting so many? I backpack a lot as a nomad and rarely meet other nomads, but when I do they tend to be alright. Never had anyone want to coach me or sell me an ebook. I don't go to nomad meetups or seek out groups, I could see those settings attracting types you describe.
I might be wrong but I think you are confusing digital nomads, expats, and illegal immigrants. Just because they are from a rich country it doesn't make them an expat. An expat is a very different thing. And a digital nomad is also very different to these 2.
You are grouping these 3 very different types of people together and this is why you have the wrong perception. You are looking at an apple and complaining that it's not the type of orange you were expecting. These 3 different groups attract very different people who also have very different goals and lifestyles. Just because you meet another American/European living in Hong Kong it doesn't mean they are a DN.
I am well aware of the difference between digital nomads, expats and illegal immigrants.
I started this lifestyle in 2017.
Illegal immigrants are people who are not able to enter a country based on their nationality.
Whereas, someone from a first world country is able to, and lives there long-term without the correct visa, either doing border runs, or just overstaying months or years, then thinking they can pay a 'fine' when they leave.
Expats have immigrated to a country legally, and either have a local job, or often have married a local.
I never understood people who move to another country just to hang out with expats from their own country though.
You only need to browse Facebook groups to find out that the vast majority of expats are bitter, angry, and hate filled, no matter which city or country they moved to.
Digital nomads are still the worst type of people I have ever met.
What a bizarre thing to say in a DN community. You must mean the other people.
No, I literally mean nomads. I make friends with locals instead anywhere I go.
These are not mutually exclusive enterprises. You’ll find you can enjoy almost anyone’s company regardless of their propensity for travel if you treat their idiosyncrasies as sympathetic curiosities rather than objects for ridicule.
🎯🎯🎯 this is a great mentality to have.
Yeah no wonder they've probably been excluded from communities for being a jerk
1) Definitely underestimating how much more $$$ monthly expenses would be. In particularly, lodging almost always ended up being more expensive that I originally budget for
2) Moving too frequently between cities. The constant moving got tiring quick. These days I would recommend staying at least 2 months in a city.
Partying every night. When I first began it was the idea that I’m on vacation, so I should be going out and having drinks each night with the locals after finishing work at 9 or 10pm.
My work performance degraded and I felt like crap most of the week. Now, I’ll do one day on the weekends and it gives my life more balance, I get to be the cool American in Russia or Ukraine who can party with the best of them but I also maintain the ability to keep my work as my priority so I can keep living in these places and enjoying the life they provide.
Just curious, how was getting a Russian visa as an American? And was that prepandemic you got it?
I paid a company about $300 to do the work for me. You get an invitation letter, mail them your passport and in about a month you have your visa. It was prepandemic for the visa. I got my latest visa in December 2019 for May 2020. It’s valid for 3 years so a pretty good deal overall.
The month without a passport is annoying tho…
Edit: thanks for the reply
The US will issue you a second book for such situations.
Not sure on other countries.
Wait really? Wow I never knew
"Examples of cases when we may issue second U.S. passport books include:
You need multiple visas on an ongoing basis because of frequent international travel. Example: you work for an international airline or a multinational company"
Not sure how strict the State department is on this. Maybe 1 trip they won't let you have a second.
What company did you pay? I may want to do this
World Visit Center. It’s nice for the 3 years, you just must leave every 6 months, but can do a border run and be all set.
Thanks! Yeah that makes sense. My goal is to visit as many countries as possible so I might do a month each
How did you meet people to party with so easily?
Simply go to a bar, order a beer, and exist
Or hostel common rooms. I did that in my early 20s. I've met some of the best people this way that lead to stupid good opportunities. Believe it or not, I met the CEO of a London-based media agency staying at a hostel in Ukraine because it reminded him of his youth and he liked hanging out around young people. I got one of the best consulting jobs of my life 2 days later.
Not choosing my accommodation wisely.
It's easy to overlook crucial issues with an apartment when it has good photos on Airbnb. I picked a few in the first six months of nomading that taught me to always check for these things:
* Internet (yes, some airbnbs, even in major cities, don't have an internet connection)
* A dedicated workspace
* Separation between the bedroom and living space (studio apartments are not good for a couple who both WFH)
* A washing machine
* Gym and supermarket within walking distance (not a deal breaker if Uber or similar service isn't too expensive in the city, or if good public transportation is available)
* Air conditioning (if in a warm location)
I've fallen in love with laundry service. $3 to drop off all my laundry and get it back 3 hours later washed, dried, ironed and folded? Yep.
Yeah laundry services are great, just depends on where you are in the world and the proximity to your apartment. Living in the center of a Southeast Asian city? No problem, laundry services are cheap and everywhere. Living in the suburbs of an Eastern European or Middle Eastern city? Not as easy, and at that point I'd rather just do my own.
I think the more you do it, the more you start to build a strong picture of exactly what you want from them!
My list is basically the same (I’m not as picky with the work space) except I’d add a good bed!!!! Beds are so important but appear to be an afterthought in some airbnbs
Yeah you are definitely right about the bed. It's hard to gauge the quality of a bed from photos though (other than size of course).
Regarding the workspace, I am fine as long as there is a dining table. I have booked a few apartments without one, which leads to you working, eating and relaxing all on the couch, haha.
Thinking that I could DN with the same onebag setup I had when I was just solo traveling around as a single dude on my own. This thought led to me giving away my good quality hard luggage from non onebag trips before I left home.
While I \*\*\*can\*\*\* do it like that, I wish I had kept my medium sized checked luggage so that I could have a better selection of clothing with me and a few more comfort items rather than cutting down to just bare essentials. I also didn't account for how much more wear and tear my clothing would go through when gone for longer periods of time and only wearing the same few things constantly.
Starting so late in my life.
Not speaking for myself, but I see a lot of people focusing more on finding DN communities, and not focusing on integrating with the local culture.
Do you find it difficult, language-wise?
I can only speak for Mexico, but people here are very accommodating if you’re trying hard to learn the language and understand. The best thing that happened to me was finding a girlfriend who I speak with daily. I started off by talking to her on tinder and just using Google translate for everything, but now I pull it out maybe 3-4 times per week. It all starts coming together quickly as long as you don’t give up.
Similar story for me in Spain :)
Starting off as a freelancer by taking crappy contracts, not budgeting enough for the location, staying in an area/small town with unreliable internet, going out with friends too often, trying to get way too invested in the "digital Nomad" label, and only hanging out with other DNs or expats.
I do not regret becoming a remote worker though ❤
Calling myself a “DN”. Flawed concept, awful crowd imo.
I work remotely and (slow) travel occasionally. Obsessing over the label or the frequency of said travel was exhausting and honestly pointless. Enjoy the freedom, don’t let it dictate your attitude about everything else.
Agree with this - I am not a 23 year old guy going country to country every few months. Not that this is true for every DN demographic wise.
I’m more of a slow traveler as I have a family. I don’t really identify with the crowd much.
That being said, my advice would be to start whatever it is you are thinking about starting 1 year before you even think about leaving your home country.
I kind of know what you mean, at least as far as this sub is concerned. Someone posted a pic of a very cool library in NYC and people immediately started having a go about how NYC is a bad choice because it's too expensive and I realized this community can do as much gate keeping as any other identity based sub.
"Creator." Same same.
Everyone knows a DN or Creator who said what was going to happen then it didn't. It makes us all look bad.
OTOH, if someone says they are a DN, I think maybe they are easier to work with.
Bringing too much stuff. First time I left home I brought 5 suitcases between two people LOL. That was severely limiting (though we did have a long term apartment stay we could do shorter trips from with a backpack).
Still keep bringing too much stuff. It doesn't quitee fit in a backpack and it's a pain in the ass.
Over time you get less and less attached to stuff.
You start to just think of them all as holding you back, you can also just buy replacements where you go - I personally have no issue heading to a thrift store for a jacket wherever I visit
It's kind of a weird situation this time because I didn't actually plan to get on the road, I started with a music festival camping trip and just didn't come home, so I have some stuff that I don't need for this particular situation but that is hard to replace and that I use ALL THE TIME.
Like my $350 custom made coat. I was going to ship it home but that would cost me $60 and I'll be going to a colder spot in a month anyways, seems pointless to spend that much to ditch it, so for now it's getting carried in a tote bag. I have my $400 custom built LED smart hoop with me which I JUST got and DEFINITELY don't plan to get rid of and that I can't really ship easily so I guess I'll just carry that around. I have my hiking boots and my regular nice shoes, again I... Kinda need both, but one pair has to ride strapped to my bag, I'm not gonna buy new $300 hiking boots everywhere I go (I really wanna go to one pair of shoes but I've yet to find the ones). I might ditch my laptop stand because I rarely use it, but it's work equipment so it has to go home. I have too much warm clothing in general but... I'll need it in a month, so it's not that I'm attached but rather that I don't want to be wasteful by throwing it out and buying new (not really in a condition to be donated).
When I move from place to place I normally have some leftover food too. I don't really wanna throw it in the garbage just to buy new. So I end up just carrying it.
I have a 40L backpack but it doesn't end up fitting and I have a full tote. It's just too much.
ANYWAYS. Just a rant.
Trying to visit all my friends. Everyone wants you to come visit. I just wanted some space to myself to do what I want
There are worse problems to have :)
Buying return flights
Mental health meds
It's a concern for me - I'm stockpiling now. How has it been for you?
I didn't stock pile, and spent much of my time in Germany, where mental health is not... treated on the same scale as it is in the US.
It was a rough period after rough period, with almost no empathy from doctors.
I had a very difficult time; it was harder than expected to manage the chronic and often compounding *stress* of being a foreigner, especially with immigration in mind.
I'd get an Rx occasionally (just saw different doctors a lot) but was always told that pills are temporary and can't really fix anything, they won't refill it, etc. Made the anxiety all the worse.
I had some absolutely horrible experiences with doctors as well, particularly in the treatment of me as an American/ that I must be some unstable pill seeker, and that the US culture as a whole has a mental disorder (with the abundancr of Rx meds, maybe the commericalization of it all?) etc...
I was crying over a breakdown, asked for any kind of help, guidance, support, and the Dr found that to be the best time to rant about my native country like this.
Stock UP on meds, keep the RX labels, and KNOW when things are illegal in certain countries (i.e., ADHD is not a medical diagnosis in Europe, Adderall is illegal, etc) - I generally kept Adderall in a small ibuprofen bottle as a carry on with no issues, for example.
Mannnn what a shit show! Sorry you had to go through that, especially for such an anxiety-ridden topic. My experience in Spain has been very similar to my experience in Canada - fine, but a little blaisé. I didn't know Adderall is illegal in Europe! Interesting, because I'm thinking of checking about an ADHD diagnosis. I've been eyeing an online therapist - have you tried any?
Online therapy - you have to get it where you are physically located usually, based on laws of Rx and treating patients within their medical license.
For example, I couldn't get a therapist in the US while based on Europe, but it would have been fine if I had lied and said I was in the US, and just had my parents pick and mail any RXs.
I couldn't find ANY online therapists that spoke English in my travels in Europe (but covid made everything so hard).
Cancelling a month long Airbnb reservation because of misrepresentation of the place - and getting almost nothing back - and also not getting to use the place.
Thinking that you’ll be able to start a YouTube channel at the same time as moving across the world, bringing a bunch of new equipment with you that you neither need nor have expertise to use to its fullest (or half of its fullest).
Edit: just keep it simple. If it doesn’t fit into a carry on plus a backpack, *strongly* consider leaving it behind or finding an alternative.
How did it work out?
Travelling too much, too much partying, always seeking the company of other people, trying to show (via social media) that I was better than other people as a DN.
Lol, thankful for the growth. These days, I’m more thankful about the incredible lifestyle I live, I value more alone time, I have deeper connections with friends/romantic partners, and don’t feel the need to “flex” on social media anymore.
Thinking I was the only digital nomad in the world. I soon realized there are just people like me everywhere.
I started backpacking also and it was really hard to find balance, stay productive and keeo good mindset.
Yes! I feel like I'm neither vacationing nor working properly. Slowing down my pace of travel, not counting on doing any/much work on travel days, and having days entirely dedicated to work has helped!!
Forgetting to take the weekends off.
YES! It makes a big difference.
Putting my stuff in storage. After 2 years I'm finally going back to get rid of it all and honestly I don't even remember half of what I own, it's all meaningless. What a total waste of money.
I did a short-term test run back last year. I learned as a woman not to trust American DN men: one assaulted me. I never felt unsafe from any of the locals. Sadly, scuzzy Americans travel everywhere.
Sorry to hear that. Try not to let one bad apple ruin the batch! ❤️
Whenever a woman reports that a man has harmed her, she's told that she must go on trusting men because it's supposedly only a tiny minority of men who are predators. It's implied that if she doesn't obediently go on trusting men, she's being over-emotional, unreasonable, paranoid, and even mean. Funny, though, that nearly every woman has at least one, (and usually many) stories of being harassed, assaulted, or even just made to feel unsafe by men. So this "tiny minority" of men must be very busy? Or women aren't seen as credible witnesses of their own lives? Or, maybe, our society is in collective denial about just how many men engage in predatory activities. Maybe, if we wish to make the world safer for women, we could focus on stopping those predators and not on pressuring the victims out of doing whatever they need to do in order to feel safer.
There's certainly no expectation or obligation for her to go on trusting men - I just assume that's easier than not trusting them (to some extent) since they're half the population. I'm on board for focusing on the predators, and for OP to do whatever feels safest for her. But let's not pretend that most men are predators, cuz that's prejudice.
Not having perpetual income. You WILL run out of money if you don't, even if you pre plan .
Staying too long with friends/other people. It's nice to save on paying rent/accommodation, but man, it also sucks to not have peace and quiet when working and in some cases, having to do things on their schedule.
Also, I should have planned my first DN trip to Europe better and perhaps stayed a bit longer.
Not focusing on having enough cashflow / savings before flying to Asia, and then getting sucked in to all the tourist activities while I should have been working.
This resulted in me running out of money before my business made enough money itself to live off every month, so was forced to go home after few months and get another job. Tried again years later, and this worked out much better :D
Basically the lack of discipline / focus was a big problem when I started out. I lived as if I already made it, which I hadn't.
brought too much shit. started out with a giant bag. whittled it down to carry-on only. no need for more than that.
Not having a partner when I started.
"I'll eat out everyday because it's cheaper"
Turns out if you eat out everyday for a whole month it's still easy to spend $1000+ on food. And you don't remembers the meals a year later... sometimes even 3 days later I can't remember...
Probably staying in 1 location for too long. The most was 6 months, in two places. Got a lot of work done though.
Bad - late 2019/early 2020 I thought I might travel to Asia. Many borders still closed/long quarantine, new visas don't look that useful
Also found out about Irish Foreign Birth Registry a bit late, applied in 2019. Still waiting for office to reopen 26 months later.
Good - Got a good remote contract in March 2020, extended twice. Contract ended but should have enough saved to be good for a few years.
I've been working remotely for 5 years or so. Digital is good. Constant travel/moving every 3-6 months sounds more like a nightmare than a dream to me. That said, lots of the digital and visa issues discussed here are relevant.