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7 Things You Must Do Once You Decide to Become a Digital Nomad

Last year, I was at a fork in the road.  I either had to become a digital nomad, or settle for a life of comfort, but full of what ifs and unfulfilled dreams.


I took the red pill.


Fast forward 9 months later, and I’m glad I made the choice to travel the world and live life on my own terms.  But… not everything was as smooth as I would’ve liked.


Here are the seven things you must start working on, right now, whether you’re three months or three years out from starting your adventure:


#1 – Get Your Spending Under Budget and Under Control


The leap from steady paycheck to the up-and-down cash-flow of an online business is not an easy one.  If you haven’t started yet, get your financial house in order.


Pay down and eliminate credit card debt if possible.  Get out of that vehicle lease.  If you own a house, decide whether you’ll sell it, or rent while you’re away.


In short, get out of as many financial commitments as possible before making the move.


#2 – Establish Your Credit Lines


This goes hand in hand with #1, though they seem at odds at first.


Pay your credit cards down to zero, but while you have credit, also request additional credit cards.  These are not to be used, but to stash away in case you need funds for a rainy day, or need to buy an airline ticket due to an emergency.


Getting a credit car overseas can be a fairly complicated business, so make sure you carry those with you on your way out.


#3 – Know How You’ll Get Money Overseas


Take care of this before leaving.  For an online business (or any business), the correct thing to do is to open a business checking account.  That way, come tax time, you don’t a hard time separating business expenses from living expenses.


Set up PayPal to receive incoming payments, and link to your business account for seamless transfer of funds.


On that topic, I recommend you get THE best check-card ever created for overseas travelers.  I won’t rehash it again, just read this and open the account.  I’ll wait here :)


#4 – Minimize, Minimize, Minimize


Whether you’re traveling overland, or even worst, flying, the amount of “stuff” you’ll be able to take with you will be vastly less than what you have in your house now.  I guarantee it.


So, right now, start de-cluttering your home.  Donate that stuff you haven’t worn in three years.  Sell that old junk gathering dust around the house.  Throw away those magazines you swore you’d read one day.


Get rid of the unessential in your life.


To read about how I dealt with it, go here.


#5 – Save, Save, Save


I can’t stress enough how important it’ll be to have an emergency amount stashed away, even when business is booming and cash is rolling in.


You don’t have to stash away a small fortune (though it helps).  Have enough so that you don’t have to sweat it out the down months, when the business is not producing as much as you expected.


Besides, being frugal is a good idea anyway, no matter where you live.


#6 – Get Your Working Gear Before Leaving


Depending on where you live, your geeky toys will either be super-expensive (Europe), or non-existent (Guatemala).  Have all your toys, laptop, iPads, cameras, etc., on hand before you leave, or be prepared to pay through the nose for them.


I’ll tell you my story.


Recently, I decided to upgrade my camera.  My trusty little point-and-shoot, a Canon Elph 100HS, began to feel inadequate.  Nothing wrong with the camera, as it takes great shots (look at any of my Friday Travel posts for proof).  I highly recommend it for beginners because it is of great quality, inexpensive, and gives you plenty of options.


Unfortunately, I had outgrown it and was looking for a DSLR I could do better pictures with and some HD video (stay tuned!)  After much researching I finally settled on getting a Canon T3i Rebel, great for pictures and HD video.


Well… good luck getting one in Guatemala at a decent price.  While the Canon T3i retails for $739 [worldcurrency curr=”USD” value=”739.00″] in the US, it costs well over a $1,000 here… that is if you can find it.


I ended up buying the little brother, a Canon T3 Rebel model, which is a great camera in its own right, but one for which I paid close to the same price I would have paid if I bought it before leaving, as I had originally planned.


Point is, take advantage of prices and get what you’ll need before you leave.


#7 – Have Fun Researching Where You’re Going!


Wherever place in the world you decide to jump to as your first destination, do the research!  Get into the expat forums of the country you’re going to.  Ask questions, watch YouTube videos, read expat blogs, or the local papers online.


Whatever will keep you pumped up for the trip, working hard, and keeps you learning about your future home, is a worthwhile investment of your time.  That way you don’t get blindsided when things aren’t what you expect.


become a digital nomad


And that’s a wrap!


Sorry for the length of the post.  I’ve kept it as short as possible to give you the necessary practical advice I’ve personally learned about making the transition as painless as possible.


What other tips do you think should be added to the list? 




I’d love a shout out on Facebook and if you sign up for e-mail updates.


Also, check out my Pinterest page about Antigua Guatemala, one of the prettiest colonial cities in the world and latest digital nomad destination I’m trying out.


Pic by: JD Hancock @ Flickr

About Rich Polanco

Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook.
Currently exploring: Guatemala.


  1. Gina says:

    Its like you read my mind! You should write a book about it or something.

    An excellent read.

    • Rich says:

      Thanks for the praise Gina! I’m flattered :)

      I’m working on something… stay tuned…


  2. Reba says:

    Your right about saving but it is very hard to do. What do you think is a good amount to have minimum?

    • Rich says:

      Hi Reba! Good question.

      It totally depends on what you want your experience overseas to be and where you’ll be living.

      For example, in Guatemala it is easy for a family of 3 to live on less than $1,000 a month. If you’re talking France, you would need a lot more, depending on whether you live in the city or in a rural area.

      Research your ideal place and budget at least 6 months of expenses. This is provided you have an established, reliable income source. If not, have at least a year in reserve.

      Hope that answers your question :)


  3. Tony Hill says:

    The layout of the site is awesome. Great tips too.


  4. Hal3001 says:

    I am always learning new things with your blog. This is very good.

  5. Was hoping you could give us the name of the checking account from #3. The link didn’t seem to work. We are having a hell of a time trying to find a solid business checking account that doesn’t rape us every time we need to withdraw cash overseas…


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