Becoming a Digital Nomad

In March, I am taking a drastic step.

While my friends are slowly settling down, buying houses, moving to the suburbs. I am going in completely the opposite direction. I am giving up the flat I have been renting for the last four years, getting rid of most of my stuff and becoming officially ‘homeless’.

I will be attempting to live out of a suitcase in short term accommodation. Airbnbs, couch surfing, youth hostels and hotels.

The internet and cheap flights have really opened up the world for people to live and work wherever we want. And then to move on at the drop of a hat.

On the online blogs and communities where I spend my time, they call this act ‘becoming a digital nomad’. Personally, I think that sounds pretty pretentious, but whatever you want to call – vagabond, minimalist,  location independent or just plain crazy – I think it sounds awesome.

Which brings me on to why am I doing it? You probably know that I am massive believer in self-growth and getting out of my comfort zone. But my last year or so has been pretty comfortable, even with getting beaten up most days and chasing criminals around Tower Hamlets. I haven’t made many new friends, I haven’t experienced that many new things and I haven’t really grown or pushed myself (except with this blog). Once again, it is time to mix things up.

The other main reason is to see the world. I am planning on spending a fair amount out of the UK. With this change, there will literally be nothing holding me back from grabbing the suitcase, and hopping on a plane. I won’t need to worry about house sitting, or paying my bills, or wasting money on rent.

If there’s a conference in San Francisco I want to go to? Just book it and hop on a plane. If it turns out I like San Franciso, then why not stay for a few weeks?

If a friend is getting married in Italy. I can just go and combine it with a week touring vineyards.

If there is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament happening in Brazil, I can just book it and go.

And all for less money than I would spend living in Lonon!

Not convinced? Let me try and sound a bit less like I’m going through a mid-life crisis.

What does a digital nomad do for work?

Almost all of my ‘work’ (if you can call what I do work) is online and can be done anywhere. What an amazing privilege. Provided there is internet access I can simply open up my laptop and earn money from anywhere in the world.

Well… almost all of my work. There are certain parts that are tied to London, particularly The Wren, the coffee shop.

Which is fine. I will still be spending a lot of time in London. If I happen to be out the country and something pressing comes up, then this lifestyle is perfect. I can simply hop on a plane from wherever I am and be back in London for the next day.

The Wren is actually the least of what is holding me here. Mainly there are my family and friends, relationships I care about and want to grow. But as I will still be spending a half or a third of the year in London those relationships shouldn’t be affected. In fact, it will probably mean I make a real effort to see people when I am here.

Perhaps the biggest impact on the work I do is that I will probably be having so much fun I won’t get as much done.

Don’t you need to be really rich to become a digital nomad?

It is certainly cheaper to rent long term than it is to rent on a weekly basis. But that doesn’t mean I will be spending any more money than I currently do at the moment.

The real key to this digital nomad business is leveraging the earning potential of a Londoner against the cost of living of everywhere else in the world  – earn in pounds while spending in pesos. This is known as currency arbitrage.

London accommodation is just so crazily expensive that I calculate that if I spend 50% of the year out of London I’ll actually end up saving money. Plus while I am here I will get to live in parts of London and meet people I never would otherwise.

For instance, I expect my first stop will be Buenos Aires where the cost of living is 65% lower than it is here.

But even if it does cost me a bit more. That’s not really a problem as my income is well on track to be much higher in 2016 than 2015.

After the experiment is done it will be interesting to compare my digital nomad expenses to what I have been spending over the last 12 months.

But what about your stuff?!

Ok, I am slightly cheating.

I am getting rid of a lot of my stuff, but there are some non-portable things that I don’t want to lose. Mainly mementos (and this little model of myself I 3d printed). Luckily my parents have said I can store some of it in their house. If I didn’t have that option I would probably rent some small amount of storage somewhere.

But I really don’t have that much stuff to begin with. Most of my entertainment is digital – books, music and on-demand tv. I don’t own any furniture. And since starting to learn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I have grown out of a lot of my clothes.

Aren’t you just going traveling?

Not really – but kind of. That is what I have been telling people so as not to have to explain this whole digital nomad business. There will certainly be a lot of travel and living in different places, but this is more of an attempt at a lifestyle change rather than a short-term escape. Plus I will also be spending quite a bit of time in London – that’s not really true traveling.

As I see it, this is a no risk change. My income won’t really change, my expenses won’t shoot up, and If I decide that I hate the lifestyle after a few months, I can simply go back to renting long term.

But till then, on with the adventures!

What do you think of this experiment?

Over the next few weeks, I will be researching exactly what items and services I should get before taking the leap. Be sure to subscribe to my mailing list and I will email you after I’ve written another post detailing exactly what steps to take in order to make this digital nomad transition a reality.

If you live in an exciting part of the world, are already a digital nomad or are currently traveling then send me an email and I will try and drop by.

  • Luciano Napoli

    Also Colin Wright began his trip as a digital nomad in Buenos Aires in 2009. Here you find an old interview

    • Ahh cool, thanks. I haven’t heard of Colin Wright before, so thanks for the tip – I will check it out

  • Ale_S

    Oh man! This is such an amazing idea! I myself will be travelling a lot this 2016 (like 5 months) but not like a digital nomad, instead, more like I have been saving for years to do it! But it sounds really awesome your plan and would love to see how it goes to you. Please visit Uruguay, my country. If you want any reason for it, just look the lonelyplanet 🙂

    • Awesome, I don;t really know much about Uruguay but will add it to my list!

  • I’ve been contemplating doing something similar for a while. I’m moving towards more self-sustaining businesses in 2016 and hope to follow you in 2017 to doing the same. It sounds really excited and I’m really looking forward to keeping up with how things are going.

  • gc

    I spent 3 months in Buenos Aires and it was certainly cheap. Especially due to the blackmarket demand for foreign currency. Official exchange rate was 1 usd = 8.5 pesos. But blackmarket rate varied between 13-14 pesos. You might want to double check the costs now that the currency exchange rate is no longer fixed by government. But I am sure it will still be cheap

  • Joe

    Very jealous!

    We’ve just moved back to England after a few years abroad.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks! Did you get homesick while you were away? Where did you spend your few years?

  • Christopher Moran

    If you come to to Hawaii (the most beautiful place on earth), you’re welcome to come surfing or wakeboarding with my friends.

    • Thanks, I’ll certainly look you up if/when I end up in Hawaii