We started a revolution from our sunbeds during the lockdown and it is now spreading to beach clubs. Realizing that remote working is entirely possible, many people are taking that ethics overseas. A 2021 report from Airbnb showed that 11% of the company’s long-stay bookers lived a nomadic lifestyle, and 5% planned to give up their main home.
Barbados, Malta, Iceland, Bermuda, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Estonia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia (especially Bali) are among the countries that establish digital nomadic visas and similar schemes for remote workers.
But how does a person who has never been a freelancer, let alone worked abroad, prepare for such a dramatic lifestyle change?
The case: Luisa Tulouna works at Melbourne’s Victoria Market, selling chicken. She is studying digital marketing, web development and copywriting, as well as Tesol (teaching English as a second language), with the idea of freelancing or teaching while she immerses herself in combat sports abroad.
The expert: Diego Bejarano Gerke is the CEO of WiFi Tribe, a community of over 1,000 digital nomads from 63 countries who travel together. The logistics of life in each country are sorted according to the hosts of the chapters employed by WiFi Tribe. He is also the co-founder of Beach Commute, an online course aimed at getting people to work remotely.
Diego is in Bali when we do Zoom and wears a nice pair of cans, indispensable for the digital nomad. He tells Luisa that he finds his research recognizable: he stopped working in startups (“failing miserably”) in favor of being a freelance marketer himself.
WiFi Tribe was born in 2016 when Diego invited a group of friends to work in a house owned by his parents in Bolivia. Gradually that group has become more nomadic, eventually turning into a formalized deal that accumulates newcomers as they go.
Luisa wants to pursue her passion in muay thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which could take her to Thailand, Brazil or the Netherlands. Her interest in combat sports was lifesaving. “She has helped deepen my desires for personal growth and the constant challenges are enough to give anyone purpose and motivation,” she says. Getting to know the cultures of the country you visit through martial and traditional arts would be “the best way to live”.
Before leaving, Luisa plans to save enough for five months to live, around AU $ 9,500 according to her estimates. Diego agrees. He thinks people need a minimum of three months of living capital, plus enough money to go home in an emergency.
“If you go to the Nomad List, you can just search for destinations and they’ll tell you what the cost of living there is, as well as the ‘livability’,” he says. “I’d take it with a grain of salt because you can usually live cheaper.”
Diego advises Luisa to avoid any tourist spots, as the cost of living is higher. Koh Phangan in Thailand has a healthy digital nomad community, as does Florianopolis in Brazil. The Netherlands would be much more expensive. Arriving out of season will also reduce costs.
Luisa will have suffered a sports community because she will enter a combat gym. To find a working community, Diego recommends searching for digital nomad groups on Facebook and following threads on Reddit, as well as finding a coworking space that emphasizes community building.
She says realistically it will take a good month for Luisa to find her feet and will probably be distracted by tourist stuff. For this reason, it is best to move somewhere for a minimum of three months.
“The first week, I’d probably take a look at the gym you’re going to,” he says. “Decide if you need a coworking space or which bar is the right place to work.” Diego says he should make sure his room has a desk and a good Internet connection “as a backup”.
Most digital nomads use Airbnb, but paid community couch surfing services may be “worth a try,” says Diego. “I wouldn’t recommend a hostel because most people are at a different stage in life, trying to party while trying to work.”
It’s smart to sweat the little things before you get there. “You get health insurance, you get travel insurance, and you get a few different credit or debit cards because you will inevitably lose some or get blocked.” Diego also recommends international banking systems such as Revolut and Wise. “They allow you to exchange currency at probably the best rates.”
Related: Thought of the sky: new rules allow digital nomads to work in the sun
In order for Luisa to land ready for work, Diego tells her to make sure her phone isn’t locked to a provider and to buy a SIM card as soon as she lands. “You get 30GB of data [with the sim] so that if there is an internet outage, you can keep working using your phone as a hotspot, “says Diego. It’s also worth bringing a pocket wifi router like GlocalMe in case you can’t get to a sim store.
As for actual work, he warns that finding a job locally, such as in retail or hospitality, is often not an option. Tax rules and visa requirements also vary from country to country.
Diego advises Luisa to immediately start building a marketing and copywriting portfolio using a platform like Upwork or Fiverr. “I started my marketing with a family contact and asked if I could learn on the job and only charge him half the time, then I went to Upwork to put myself in too,” she says.
Getting good reviews now will be key to attracting new customers. “If you have a first client you’re working with, ask them to bill you through Upwork,” says Diego. “You will lose some money because of this [Upwork takes between 5% and 20%], but the most important thing is that you will create a portfolio and eventually they will give you a review. Just make sure they give you a review. The same goes for teaching English: you can also put it there “.
There are many platforms for finding remote jobs (some are free and others have a subscription system): Remote Jobs for Digital Nomads; World of digital nomads; Pangian, We work remotely, Flexjobs and Just Remote.
One caveat though: it’s common for freelancers to go through phases of celebration and famine, which is why those three months of savings are so important.
Luisa joined Nomad List and Diego signed her up for free on Beach Commute.
“Phase one is the preparation phase,” he says. “I need to put more effort into my studies before I’m distracted by any potential jobs I might get.”
“Phase two is building the portfolio, working for free or cheap to put a foot in the door, and phase three is trying to figure out where I’m going and what I need to do to be legally in that country.”