How to Plan Your First Trip as a Digital Nomad

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So you're planning your first trip as a digital nomad, eh? 

You've heard all about the amazing co-working spaces with unlimited coffee and friendships waiting to be made and seen the photos of nomads chillin' poolside with their laptops (which, let's be honest, is mostly just a front for the 'gram because who actually takes their laptop to a pool, but I digress).

It all looks incredible... and it is!

But before you can have your own "office anywhere" moment, you have to actually figure out where to go and how to get there ... and that's where the anxiety sets in.

Let's face it. Wrapping your brain around everything you need to do to prepare for your first foray into the wild world of digital nomadism can be totally overwhelming. 

But fret no more, mis amigos!  I've created a workbook that walks you step by step through the entire process of planning your first trip as a digital nomad so that you can focus on the epic experiences you are about to have without stressing.

Sound good? Okay, great! Let's get into it, shall we?

First things first, make sure you grab the free workbook that accompanies this post below. 

 

------- ADD OPT-IN / WB DOWNLOAD HERE ---- 

 

If you're looking at all of the words on this page thinking "Holy shiiiiet woman, get to the point!" then skip the reading and just watch the video below!

 

/// define your why

 There is a huge difference between traveling abroad for vacation where you can disconnect from reality and the responsibilities of everyday life and traveling abroad to actually live and work, which means it requires a different approach for choosing where to go.

Ultimately, you have to make sure that you choose a location that is in line with your goals and needs.

For example, if one of your primary goals is building your web development business, and you're planning to spend the next 3 months on Koh Phi Phi (aka the beautiful island of barf and booze), that might make a fab vacation buuuut it might not align so well with your goals.

Getting crystal clear on what is MOST important to you and what you're seeking to gain from this experience will help you make a choice that supports you in growing into the epic human you want to be, and that's what travel is all about! 

/ / / DO THIS NOW  Now turn to page __ in your workbook (if you still haven't grabbed it, **here you go**) and take a moment to really noodle on the questions listed in the exercise. Be honest with yourself.   

Alright, have you figured out why the heck you're doing this?

Great! Let's dig into the details.  

 

/// Choose the Perfect Location


1. Determine your budget

(We're on page __ in your workbook!)

  • Now this can be tricky if you're a freelancer whose income may fluctuate wildly from month to month or if you haven't actually figured out how you're going to make money on the road yet, but regardless, do your best to estimate your average monthly income.
     
  • Next calculate your total recurring monthly expenses (i.e. Adobe creative cloud subscription, college loans, etc.) *Pssst... this is also a good time to do an audit of your expenses and see if there is anything you're paying for that you don't actually need or that doesn't make sense for life abroad. Cancel those now and save that moolah. 
     
  • Finally, take your monthly income, subtract your monthly expenses (also taking into consideration your savings and investment goals), and voila! You have your monthly living budget! 

 INCOME - EXPENSES - (SAVINGS + INVESTMENTS) = MONTHLY BUDGET

Easy enough, right?

*Pro Tip: It's a good idea to always travel with a savings fund of at least 1-3 months of living expenses in case you are for some reason unable to maintain your income or something unforeseen happens (Case in point: When my laptop, aka the key to my business, died without warning while I was on vacay in Phuket... hellooooo unexpected $1,700 expense! )

>>> DO THIS NOW: If you haven't already, turn to page X in your workbook and calculate your monthly budget, as well as the amount you plan to save before leaving.

 

2. Consider your travel preferences

This is the time to brainstorm all of the features and characteristics of your ideal living environment and lifestyle.

What does your dream digital nomad life look like?

Are you traveling solo or with a friend or significant other?

Do you want to be surrounded by people, such as in a hostel or co-living environment, or do you need your own space?

Do you prefer to work at morning or night, and will the time difference of your destination affect that?

Do you have a way to make money while you travel or do you need to figure it out along the way?

What's the weather like in your ideal location?

Don't worry about your budget in this exercise or if some of your "ideal characteristics" seem to be in conflict (i.e. up in the mountains vs. by the beach), just set a timer for 10 minutes and GO!

///DO THIS NOW >>> Turn to page __ in your workbook  to record your brainstorm results whhaaa idk make it sound pretty>>> 

 

3. Come up with your list of "MITS" or "non-negotiables"

Now that you've identified your goals and travel preferences, take a moment to make a list of your Most Important Things (MITs).

These are the features or characteristics a location MUST have to even be considered.

For example, for me this includes:

  • Walkability
  • Warm(ish) weather 
  • Reliable internet speeds
  • A safe environment for females
  • A kitchen so I can cook my own meals
  • A widespread understanding of English
  • Access to decent gyms + co-working spaces 

What are the things and resources you need to live your most happy and productive life?

DO THIS NOW >>> Turn to page X in your workbook and, using the list you came up with on everything you want in a location, write the ones that are MOST important to you and/or that you need in the chart on the next page, ranked (roughly) in order of importance . 

 

4. Use this information to do some research on potential locations

Now you may already have some locations in mind, but if not, here are some lists and resources to get you started: 

Besides Googling away, I recommend using the following resources to research locations:

  • Nomad List

----- Add gif of screen --- 

Nomad List is hands down my favorite resource for scoping out new destinations.

It's a crowdsourced database of cities in the world where digital nomads rate different aspects of the places they visit and live including cost, internet speed, safety, quality of life - pretty much everything you can imagine! 

There are also multiple forums and slack channels where you can ask any questions that you have and connect with other digital nomads who are traveling to the same location. 'Tis truly a gift from the heavens.

  • YouTube

    Reading about a place can only get you so far. I prefer to try and get a feel for the vibe of the place by finding YouTube videos of the location, particularly videos that have been created by other digital nomads, as they tend to focus more heavily on the details that will be more important to you as opposed to videos aimed at tourism which tend to focus more solely on sightseeing. 

If you haven't discovered him already, Chris the Freelancer has some truly epic content covering the locations that he's lived on his digital nomad journey. 

  • Facebook groups

    Many of the more popular digital nomad destinations (and yes, I do recommend choosing a place where there is already a thriving digital nomad community for your first trip as it will make things wayyy easier) have Facebook groups for digital nomads in the area.

    Join groups associated with the locations you're interested in living and see what people are saying, what events are going on, what the general vibe is, and of course this is the perfect place to ask any questions that you might have! Especially about more specific questions

    For example, it's one thing to search Google to learn about rental practices in a country, but it's much more difficult to find a specific apartment to rent this way. Some Facebook groups allow you to interact with locals to get better deals on housing or ______.
     
  • Other online forums

    Trip Advisor is the first one that comes to mind (and that always seems to have all the answers!) but there are tons of forums and blogs dedicated to covering travel. I'm also a fan of The Blonde Abroad's website!
     
  • Ask friends for advice (or bloggers 🙋🏻‍♀️) 

    Do you have friends who are already living the digital nomad lifestyle that you can reach out to? (If you don't yet, you will soon after departing for your first trip and word of mouth has been invaluable to me for determining where to go next and _____ what I need to know?? idk).

    If this is your first trip, there's a good chance that you are the pioneer in your friend group and don't have anyone you know personally to turn to, but reach out to people who are putting out related content on the internet and ask them your questions. Many would be happy to help!

/ / / DO THIS NOW - Turn to page X in your workbook. Along the top columns write in your MITs, Along the side column write potential locations. In each corresponding box, indicate if the location meets your requirements as well as any additional notes about things you want to remember.

 

5.  Look up the visa requirements for your top choices

  • Figure out if you need a visa to move to your top locations. What are your options? Can you get a visa on arrival or do you need to apply for one before-hand? How long can you legally stay in the country (or countries in the case of Europe and the Schengen Area)? Do they offer visa extensions?
  • Gather any necessary documents for your visa application.

    This will vary by location but usually includes things like passport photos, proof of sufficient funds, proof of accommodation, proof of an outbound flight before the visa expires.

    *Pssst... If you don't actually have an out-bound flight ticket yet and are not sure when/where you're headed next, you can rent one for about $10 using Onward Flights. Pretty nifty, eh? ***CHECK TO FIND A WEBSITE AND MAKE SURE ITS LEGIT*** Or, get on Skyscanner, Type in your destination country >>> Everywhere and buy the cheapest ticket available that comes up (often times under $20)
     
  • Make sure to apply for your visa with PLENTY of time before your trip. Do a little investigating to see whether the embassy where you'll be applying for your visa is generally fast or slow. The time it takes for you to get back your visa (and consequently your passport) varies wildly by location, so do your research!
     
  • If you're planning to live somewhere for an extended period (longer than a visa exempt stamp or tourist visa allows), do some research into how flexible the country is about granting back-to-back visas. Can you just cross the border and come right back in? Or is there a limit on how many days you can spend within the country during a given time period (i.e. 90 out of 180 days)? Do you need to investigate longer term options (i.e. a volunteer or education visa)?

 

6. Use Skyscanner to book your flight & Make it official!

Okieee, so you've done your research, you've checked into the legality of your presence in the country, now it's time to use all of this data to choose a location and make it official by booking your flight.

I personally always go straight to Skyscanner to book my flights.

--- ADD GIF --- 

If you can be semi-flexible with your dates of travel, you can score some major savings.

To find the best flight deals with Skyscanner, type in the airport you'd like to fly out from >>> type in the city or country you're headed to >>> set your departure date to "whole month" >>> select the month you'd like to leave >>> Press "search flights" >>> and voila! You can see an entire calendar of airfare prices for the month. Choose the cheapest date that works for you and accommodates your travel needs.

A few tips: 

  • Cheaper isn't always better. If a flight is cheap because it lands in a country you've never been to before at 3am and this is your first trip... probably worth an extra $50 to take a flight that gets in during the day when there are other humans around and you can get your bearings. 
     
  • I've heard so many horror stories about people getting ripped off by third-party ticket companies, so I typically use Skyscanner to find the flight and then go to the actual airline's website to book it.
     
  • If you're choosing a flight based on the lowest price, pay special attention to details like baggage allowances. Sometimes cheaper flights have really strict limitations on what you can bring with you, and showing up with more than you're allowed can result in MAJOR unexpected fees. 

 

/// Ditch travel Anxiety Using This Easy Method

 

Now if you’re anything like I was, you’re probably staring at your flight ticket confirmation pinching yourself like, HOLY SH!T I’M ACTUALLY DOING IT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL, I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!!! and about to burst from a combination of overwhelming excitement and crippling anxiety.

Put the squeezy stress ball down my friend, we're gonna nip those worries right in the bud! 

 
 

Every time I'm headed somewhere new I make a list of EVERYTHING I'm the slightest bit nervous about or that could go wrong (what if my luggage gets lost, what if nobody around me speaks English when I land, what if one of those creepy not real taxi guys perpetually hovering outside every airport kidnaps me, etc).

I usually set aside 20 minutes or so to brainstorm and then let the list marinate for a few days, adding to it whenever a new worrisome thought makes its way into my consciousness.

Then around a week later I go through my doc and tackle my fears one by one.

The beauty of the internet is that any question you have, someone likely had before you and they probably asked it somewhere publicly online.

And if they haven't - YOU can ask it and it's likely that someone out there will have an answer they're willing to share. This is where Facebook groups (The Chiang Mai Digital Nomads (link) group saved mah life hand praise emoji) and online forums like Trip Advisor come in handy. Even reaching out to YouTubers or travel bloggers who have covered your destination can be helpful.

I've found this approach to be super therapeutic because when you capture your fears on paper, you get them out of your head so that you don't waste time being distracted and worrying uselessly in the present moment, but instead know that you'll address it later when you actually have the proper time to dedicate to it.

Preparation is the antidote to fear ladies and gents! If this is your first time traveling alone (change to something diff... moving abroad to live + work as opposed to emphasis on alone), a little extra preparation can go a long way and make your experience much more enjoyable. Don't skip it.

DO THIS NOW >>> Brainstorming page in workbook (maybe also create a Google Doc that people can copy to record their fears.

 

/// before your trip...

 

1. Vaccines

Yaaaay! Because nothing is more happy-making than paying to have a needle shoved in your arm. Safety first, human friends!

  • Look up the recommended vaccinations for your travel destination on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's website (Sometimes certain vaccines are required before entering a country).
     
  • If you don't have a copy of your vaccination history, you'll want to get that from your doctor before you go. Compare this with the list of recommended vaccinations and figure out which ones, if any, you will need to get.
     
  • Check the prices of vaccines at home AND in your destination country. For example, the shots I needed to get for my trip to Thailand were going to cost me over $2,000 in NYC... but only cost me a few hundred bucks in Chiang Mai. 

    Do This Now >>> Psst. We're on page ___
     

2. Find the neighborhoods best suited to your needs

Every city has their good and er... not-so-good neighborhoods.

Do some research into the better areas (particularly for foreigners) to live in your destination.

Also do some research into cafes, co-working spaces, gyms, etc. that you think you might like, and try to find a residence that is near those locations or else is conveniently reachable.

DO THIS NOW >>> 

 

3.  Find a place to call home

First things first, when moving to a new location, you need a place to live!

Make sure to do research into what the rental process is like in your destination country. Is it best to book an apartment online in advance? Or can you show up and find a short term rental once you get there?

For example, in many places in Southeast Asia you can just roll up, walk into an apartment building, ask to see their available rooms, and if you like what you see, sign a lease for as little as 1 month and move in that same day. Easy peasy.

In these cases I recommend booking a hostel or Airbnb for the first few days after your arrival so that you orient yourself and get a feel for the city before going around to local apartment buildings and finding your future home.

In other places it will be nearly impossible to find a lease for under 6 months, so in those cases, I usually just suck it up and use Air BnB (which is typically highly inflated compared to local rental prices, but has some pretty great deals if you can stay 28+ nights and get the monthly discount).

IF you want to live non-traditionally or need some extra support financing your trip, consider one (or a combination) of the following options:

  • Couchsurfing - This service let's you stay with locals who have an extra room or couch to spare, free of charge. It's a great way to get to know a new place, because since there's no money involved, the people who host are typically genuinely interested in cultural exchange.
     
  • Workaway.info - Workaway allows you to trade some of your time and skills for a place to stay (and sometimes meals as well!). Examples of jobs include helping out at hostels or with farm work, home maintenance projects, or babysitting children. The options are pretty endless so if you need a creative way to travel cheaply, definitely check it out! 
     
  • Au pair jobs - Travel the world (and even make a bit of money) by babysitting in exchange for room and board. It's also a great way to authentically experience a new city because you get an inside look at how locals live. 
     
  • House Sitting - Live in a beautiful home for free on the condition of (usually) taking care of the homeowner's pets while they're away. Not a bad deal. 
     
  • Hostels - The go-to cheap accommodation for budget travelers. You can typically find a ton of solo travelers here so making friends who are up for new adventures is ridiculously easy. I love staying in hostels for short trips under a week, but tend to prefer more privacy for longer stays.
     
  • Co-living spaces - Not always cheap, but co-living spaces instantly provide you with a community of like-minded individuals which can be especially appealing if you're traveling solo.

Take some time to research what the options are wherever you're headed and determine what appeals to you the most given the resources that you have available.

Do This Now >>> Notes page for finding homes

 

///  GETting YOUR SHIT TOGETHER

1. Money

  • Alert your bank(s) that you will be traveling. You don't want to swipe your card upon arriving to your destination only to find that your account has been flagged and locked down. A quick Google search or phone call should give you all of the info you need for how your specific bank handles this process.
     
  • Look into the financial norms of your destination. Can you use a credit card most places or will you need to have cash on hand? 
     
  • Figure out how and where you're going to get local currency
     
    • The absolute best way to go is to get a debit card with no international ATM fees (see the next bolded bullet point) and get money from the ATM at the airport when you land. Of course, always google ahead of time to make sure the airport actually has an ATM, but I have yet to come across one that doesn't.
       
    • Airports typically offer the worst exchange rates, so switching your money there should be a last resort option.
       
    • If you want to avoid crappy airport exchange rates and need to have local currency on arrival (i.e. to pay your taxi driver), do some research before you leave your home country into which offices offer the best exchange rate and get a small amount of cash.
       
    • Pro tip: I always keep around $100 in USD on me in case, for some reason, my ATM card or credit card were to fail me. USD is a strong currency and you should always be able to find a place to exchange it. 
       
  • If you live in the U.S., get a Charles Schwab debit card likeee RIGHT NOW. 
    • No foreign transaction fees, no monthly fees, no minimum balance, and you can use it at pretty much ATM in the world without any extra charges!?!? I mean do you need any more convincing?
       
    • One thing that's a wee bit obnoxious is that there is 4 (business) day hold on transfers, which means that if you transfer money from your primary checking account on a Friday evening, you might not see your money in your Charles Schwab account for SIX days, but just be sure to keep an eye on your balance and you'll be fine! The benefits far outweigh this little annoyance.
       
  • Look for a credit card with no international transaction fees
     
    • My top picks are the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred credit cards.
       
    • Why you ask? PERKS ON PERKS ON PERKS. No foreign transaction fees, baggage delay insurance, trip delay and lost luggage reimbursement, and more. Get a full run down of all of the benefits here.
       
    • Not to mention you can earn $600 in free travel just by spending $4,000 within the first three months of having the card (which of course, I only recommend if you can actually pay off the balance. We're not tryin' to go into debt here people! ) .
       

DO THIS NOW >>> Checklist on page XXX of your workbook

2. Travel Insurance

Yes, yes I know bad things always happen to "other people", but you? You'll be fiiiiine. Cool. Got it. Now go buy some anyway.

I personally always use World Nomads (APPLY TO BE AFFILIATE AND ADD TO TRAVEL ESSENTIALS PAGE; Create FAVES PAGES in PDF form). They cover a wide variety of potential accidents beyond standard health issues ($5,000 for dismemberment, say whaaa!? 😳). 

Especially appealing is that if your stuff gets stolen, they will cover up to $3,000 in replacement costs.

3. Communication

  • Make sure your phone is prepared to be an international jet-setter
     
    • Is your phone unlocked (meaning can it be used with any mobile service provider)? If you're unsure, the answer is just a quick Google search away.
       
    • Check your phone's frequency compatibility.  Different countries and cell companies use different technologies and frequencies, so it's important to make sure that your phone supports the frequencies used in your destination. The good news is for almost all newer phones this won't be an issue, but still check here for good measure.
       
    • Beware of international roaming fees! It's almost always a bad idea to use your mobile service provider from home while abroad, and it's not uncommon to come back to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in unexpected fees. Look into what kind of international plans your mobile service provider offers, and then...
       
  • Research the local SIM Card options
     
    • Where will you get one? Can you get one at the airport and if so, should you? (It's often a relief to just get it taken care of right away, but you're also more likely to pay entirely too much for it). 
       
    • Try to do some research on the available options beforehand because most places will try and sell you a "Tourist SIM" which is code for RIP OFF
       
    • *Pro Tip: I always travel with a paperclip that I use to pop open that pesky little tray that holds your SIM card (at least on iPhones). One of those little things that can save you a LOT of hassle down the road.
       
  • Thanks to the good 'ol interwebs, staying in touch with the folks back home is much easier (and less expensive) than it once was. Consider using one (or all) of the following services/apps:
    • If everyone in your circle is Team iPhone, just keep on living life as usual with iMessage and use Facetime Audio for calls.
    • Facebook Messenger - Facebook is an easy solution for messaging, video chatting, and audio calls since pretty much everyone in the world is already on it.
    • Whatsapp
    • Viber

If you have clients back in your home country who will need to be able to call you while you're away, I highly recommend purchasing a Skype phone number.

This allows you to purchase a phone number (very inexpensively) based out of any state that you want. Then, whenever a client calls you, they will be charged as if they were calling the state/country that your phone number is based out of regardless of where you actually are in the world. This means no crazy high international calling fees!

It's also nice because as you move around from place to place and get new SIM cards (and therefore new phone numbers), you'll always have a consistent number for clients to reach you at.

(Psst.. if you still have to, you know, actually TELL your clients you're leaving, make sure to check out the e-mail template I created, based on when I broke the news to my clients).

DO THIS NOW >>> 
 

4. Transportation
 

  • First and foremost - how are you going to get from the airport to your Airbnb or hotel?

A pre-arranged driver, an app like Uber, a taxi (make sure it is indeed a real and reliable one), a tuk tuk? 

If you're not sure what is best, usually your Airbnb host or hotel will be able to provide some guidance and recommendations.

I highly recommend you figure this out ahead of time instead of when you're jet-lagged and disoriented (not that I've learned from experience or anything 🙈).  

  • How will you get around once you're settled in your new place?
     
    • Can you walk everywhere?
       
    • Is there public transportation? Is it easy to navigate / English-friendly?
       
    • Look into what (if any) apps are used locally for getting rides. For example Uber, Grab, Car:Go, or Taxify.
      • Also note that just because the app says its available in a certain country, doesn't mean it actually is (a lesson I learned quickly in Canggu, Bali). In many (especially developing) areas there is a bit of a taxi war between ride-sharing apps and the local taxi services. Ask around and do your research before relying on it to be your main method of transport!
         
    • Can you (or do you want to) rent a motorbike or car to get around? Is there any kind of license you need to do so? 
       

DO THIS NOW >>> 

5. Maps

If you do ONE THING in this post before setting out on your trip, make it this.

  • Download Google Maps (LINK) if you haven't already
  • Type the name of the city you are traveling to into the search bar and select it.
  • Now tap the bottom section of the screen where it says the city's name.
  • Tap "..." in the upper-right hand corner of the screen.
  • Press "Download offline map"

BOOM! Now even if you're service-less and wifi-less when you land in your new location, your maps and navigation will still work (which is even more comforting than you can imagine when you touch down in a new place).

Another alternative that lets you download offline maps is the app Maps.Me

DO THIS NOW >>>  

6. Language

Now, if you're reading this post, you've likely chosen a country where there is some level of English fluency.

Even if speaking the local language isn't necessary wherever you're headed, you should still make a point to master at least a few basic words. 

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hi
  • Thank you
  • Do you speak English? 
  • I don't speak ____
  • Please
  • Bye
  • Excuse Me
  • Water
  • Bathroom 
  • Help
  • Where is ____ ?
  • 1, 2, 3... 

In my experience, "hi" and "thank you" are definitely the ones you'll use the most.

However, I encourage you not to limit yourself to what is necessary. Even if your speaking skills aren't perfect, a little bit of effort goes a long way. Locals will usually be more helpful and accommodating when they see that you are at least trying.

If you're interested in actually learning the language I recommend Duolingo, hiring a virtual tutor on Preply, or signing up for local language classes once you get there.

Also, be sure to download Google translate if you haven't yet.

  • For some languages, Google translate offers offline translation so that even if you have no wifi or service, you can still translate text (especially handy for those first few moments after landing). Details on how to do that here. 
     
  • Another cool feature that Google Translate offers is translating images, which means that you can hold your camera up to something like a menu, and Google will translate all of the text on the screen. Pretty cool, right? Details on how to do that here.
     
  • In general, you'll be surprised by how much us humans understand each other, even if we don't have a common language to communicate in. You may feel like your life is one big game of charades, but with body language & gestures and a little help from Google Translate, you can get by pretty much anywhere you want to go!

DO THIS NOW >>> 

 

7. Safety

  • How do you call the police or an ambulance if you find yourself in an emergency situation in your destination country?

This is one of those details that most people overlook until it's too late.

Take a moment to look up important numbers of emergency services and either screenshot them, add them as contacts to your phone, or save them in a note.

  • What are the most commonly reported crimes/scams in the area, especially targeting foreigners? There are general crimes that you'll find everywhere:  pickpockets, children sweetly "giving" you items and then demanding money, taxi drivers refusing to let you out without paying them a ridiculously inflated fare BUT many places also have scams and crimes that are specific to their area. Look into what to watch out for in your destination so that you can prepare accordingly.
     
  • What is the country's stance towards recreational drugs, alcohol, etc.? Something that's not a big deal in your home country could be a HUGE deal (with a nice long jail sentence) somewhere else. Familiarize yourself with the country's policies towards these substances if you plan to use, buy, or bring them with you.
     
  • There are tons of little things you can do to make yourself a lot less of a target while traveling abroad, and fortunately I've already written an entire post on the topic. Be sure to check out it out here >>> "XX Important Travel Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers (or Anyone Hitting the Road)"

DO THIS NOW >>> 

     

    /// What and how to Pack

     

    *Hint: NOT like that 👆🏽

     

    1. Get a feel for the local culture

    Find out what dress customs are like where you're headed and respect them. Does this mean you have to dress like a nun if you're headed somewhere that is more conservative? No, not at all. But there's a big difference between wearing a flowy sundress somewhere where the locals tend to be more covered and wearing booty shorts and a crop top, ya feel?

    Dressing in a way that can be considered offensive not only screams "tourist" and makes you a huge target, but also can be seen as ignorant and arrogant by the locals and draw their hostility. You'll get a lot farther (and be much safer) by dressing in a way that demonstrates respect.

    2. Determine what to pack

    PACK LIGHT. In my opinion traveling with hand luggage and a carry-on bag is the only way to go.

    B-b-but HOW, you say? How can I possibly fit my entire life into two teensy little bags?  

    The truth is it's a lot easier than you think. Traveling with a carry-on saves you tons of time, money, and overall hassle.

    And with each new trip you take, you'll get better and better at honing in on what you really need to live comfortably and productively on the road.

    To get you started here's my list of digital nomad travel essentials (LINK), that come with me wherever I go.

    --- PACKING LIST CTA ----

    3. Pack 'ER up

    As equally important as what you pack, is how you pack it. Check out this post I wrote on the art of packing light for long-term travel (LINK) (and make sure you grab the free checklist that goes with it!).

    DO THIS NOW >>> In your workbook, space to write "What to buy now // What to buy there // etc."

    -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

    - In this section direct them to my blog post on what to pack / my travel essentials / packing light guidelines. Remind them to check their airlines weight requirements and baggage allowances. The fake it til you make it trick. Even if you're D-Y-I-N-G from lugging it around, try and make it look light as a feather as you stroll through security and as you lift it into the overhead compartment (Ladies, this is why we don't skip shoulder presses!). As long as your carry-on bag looks like it's the proper dimensions and you're not obviously struggling, most airlines won't bother to weigh it. 

    In your workbook, space to write "What to buy now // What to buy there // etc."

     

    /// Prepping for your flight

    Before your flight there are a few things that you're going to want to make sure that you do:

    • Make copies of all your important travel documents (I usually have these stored on a USB, somewhere online, and printed out on paper because I'm Type A like that 😅).

      This includes your:
      • Visa
      • Passport
      • Driver's License
      • Travel insurance
      • Basic health info + vaccinations
      • Hotel or Airbnb reservation confirmation
         
    • Scope out the airport(s) that you'll be landing in ahead of time. Is it easy to navigate? Are there signs in English? What's the food situation like? Are there lounges you can make use of for long layovers? Educate yo'self.
       
    • Find out the meal situation for your flight. Some airlines offer complimentary meals for international flights (everyone always hates on China Eastern but I swear they fed me like 6 times en route from NYC to Shanghai) while others (*cough* Norwegian) don't even offer complimentary water and charge $45 for a crappy airline meal. Know this ahead of time and prepare accordingly.
       
    • Tie a ribbon or add a keychain to your suitcase (especially if you're checking a bag). Do something to make it stand out. This makes it infinitely easier to distinguish your luggage in a sea of other people's bags, and also helps prevent someone from mistakenly grabbing your bag thinking it's their own.
       
    • I TOTALLY recommend having a portable external battery. Sometimes finding an available outlet to charge up is a challenge and the last thing you want is to be stranded in an unfamiliar place with 0 battery.

    Also, make sure you check out my post on tips for dealing with a long flight >>> (LINK)

     

    /// The Fun Stuff

    The best part of travel is getting to immerse yourself in what makes each destination unique. Is there a certain local food you need to try, or a special style of dance originating from the country? Maybe natural wonders like waterfalls or man-made architectural masterpieces? Figure out what makes the country you’re visiting special and make a point to experience those things.

    I recommend scouring the internet for:

    • Lifestyle-based places of interest (i.e. co-working, cafés, gyms, etc.). You should have already done this earlier when choosing a location, but now that you've settled on one, go back and add any new findings to your notes!
       
    • Opportunities to meet people - Many co-working spaces host awesome networking events or activities that you can attend even if you aren't a member. Look for local meetups, or even a free walking tour where you're likely to meet fellow travelers.
       
    • Cultural events while you're there - festivals YiPeng
       
    • Sights to see - What are the top attractions that draw tourists to the location? Does the tourist thing get obnoxious? But usually there's a good reason why something has risen to fame, so, in my opinion, most things are worth a visit once, even if you never go again.
       
    • Restaurants - Cuisine is a great way to learn about the local culture. I don't know about you, but I'm personally on a quest to find the best tacos in every city I decide to call home.
       
    • Side trips - The great thing about being somewhere that isn’t isolated like  the U.S. or Australia or Antarctica is that once you get to a location, you can usually fly or take a train or bus to neighboring countries really cheap. Is there anywhere you want to go nearby?  

      My favorite way to find cheap opportunities to visit nearby countries (by plane) is to get on Skyscanner, enter my location in the "From" form field, and enter "Everywhere" in the "To" form field which will automatically show you the cheapest flights out of the country. It's a great way to discover affordable adventures that may not have even been on your radar!

    While you're at it, learn a thing or two about the culture

    •  Are there any topics that are off limits?
       
    • What is considered rude (i.e. in Thailand it is considered rude to point your feet at anyone)? Any cultural taboos that you should know about? 
       
    • What is proper tipping etiquette (the one thing that I NEVER seem to be able to find a straight answer on)? 
       
    • What is dating like there? PDA? Gender roles?
       
    • Is it LGBTQ friendly? 
       
    • What is freedom of speech like? Are there local libel laws that could land you in trouble for bad-mouthing the government? 
       
    • Family dynamics? Relationship between younger people and their elders?
       
    • Religion? 

    There are a lot of things that you'll have to learn as you go, but it's helpful to try and discover what you can ahead of time 'lest you accidentally offend you're new friends!

     

    /// congrats, future nomad! Our work here is done.

     
     

    Whew! If you’ve stuck with me this long you should be feeling a lot more confident about your trip.

    Go back to the list you made at the beginning and see if there is anything that we didn’t cover in this guide, and then put your super sleuthing skills to use and get to googling or feel free to drop me a line with any questions.

    Now, I must know, where did you decide to start your digital nomad journey? What are you most excited about? 

    If this isn’t your first time around the digital nomad block, what are your tips to ensure a smooth trip? 

    Let me know in the comments below! 

    And if you know someone who would find this post helpful, please feel free to share it with them :) 

    **CTA FOR PACKING LIST**

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Mas text pretend this is a sidebar - add trip planning workbook, further down add PDF packing list (my travel essentials, blank one for people to download)