It was my privilege and honor to live and work in Europe as a digital nomad this past spring 2022. From the bustling expanse of London to the luxurious leisure of Montenegro, these experiences have molded me, teaching me so much.
I share with you some general takeaways – comment if you would like to see a more detailed breakdown of the locations that hosted me for months in 2022!
Be a Good Student
The first thing I needed to do for my travels was be a good student, if no a better student than I have been in years.
For you, learn from others who travel for weeks and months at a time. What where their challenges, what have they learned, how did they deal with situations fine and foul.
The grief and generosity of others online, in videos, and on forums is invaluable. Google search “digital nomadism” along with the features of where you want to go (and check out my #travel tag).
Headed to Europe? Which country or countries? What is the local currency? Tipping culture? Language and medical system? Et. al. There will be no end to the questions, but it is up to you to do the groundwork before your trip.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
If you are working remotely, work remotely. There is virtually no reason to tell your workplace where you are working from, so long as there is a place to collect mail, an internet connection, and your time is managed.
Asked about where you might be – unless the boss or coworker is buying you a plane ticket for business – a simple “I am visiting folks” or “I am in a different time zone for now” is both true and vague enough that they ought leave it there. You are under no obligation to specify when it is no-one else’s business!
Time to Talk About Time
Speaking of time management, the easiest way to pull DADT is to adjust your working hours to the time zone of your workplace. If you are clocking in at the same time, any questions or talk of where you are are no matter.
As for adjusting to times abroad, unless they are on the same side of the planet as home, this can be a hard adjustment. What worked for me was:
- Eat little in transit. That way, when you arrive, you can either have a big meal to start the new day or go straight to bed if it’s nighttime. That leads to:
- Do as the locals do. Eat meals at the local time, start walking to destinations, take cold morning showers and hot evening ones, get groceries the first day, and get the right amount of light throughout the day.
- Avoid light at night. This is quality life advice – you will be ready for sleep sooner the sooner you cut out evening artificial light. And, if you feel the need to nudge yourself to bed, taking 1-3 mg of melatonin is extra effective (light hampers melatonin use)!
- Save your health. Take naps in transit (bring a hat or eye mask for light, earplugs for the plane noise), pop sprays or tablets of zinc every hour or so, wear a face mask, wash your d@mn hands. These measures help ensure you are going to enjoy the trip!
Pack So Much Less
Skip the roller bag – instead, go for a backpack, maybe two.
You think there isn’t enough room? Let’s talk about that:
You are going to be carrying everything you have for weeks and months. Most places in the world are likely to be cheaper than where you are now (looking at you, U$A), so purchasing any necessities will be a breeze. Dragging a bag makes it hard to move fast either through airports or across towns and tags you as an easy-mark tourist. And your human bias says to handle any possibility, when 20% of what you want to take will handle 80% or more of your trip.
To help you pack, a rule of thumb I came across was to pack your bags, then remove half of what you packed, taking the rest.
Another is a rule of 3 or 4, meaning only 3-4 shirts, undies, socks, jackets and pants, etc.
Ultimately, here is my packing list before I shipped off to London, all contained in 1 30-/35-liter computer backpack, a drawstring bag, or worn through airports:
- 6x shirts (all buttoned sans 2 for workout), undies, socks
- A useful number, since I have since lost wear to wear (holes and such). Still could have bought replacements!
- 1x pair of jeans, shorts, swimwear (look like shorts)
- 1x loafers, running shoes, flipflops
- 1x sweater
- 2x local power converter (and maybe a power strip, too!)
- Toiletries (day and night moisturizers, non-greasy sunscreen, clippers and tweezer, disposable razor, travel lotion, toothbrush and paste, sampler cologne)
- Electronics w/ chargers (work laptop, personal laptop, cell, watch, headphones, earbuds, Brio Beardscape trimmer)
- I highly suggest learning to cut and trim your own hair – it is empowering!
- Passport, vax card, scratch notebook, journal, wallet, local-currency cash (~400 was more than enough for more than a month).
- Snack food (2-3 high-quality protein bars, electrolyte mixes)
Things I ended up buying over 3 months:
- SIM cards for data and local calls in the country or area.
- New jeans because the brought pair ripped.
- Another journal, some pens.
- 1:1 replacement toiletries.
- Groceries and hair conditioner.
- Supplement vitamins.
That’s it 🤷♂️
Apps to Save Your Bacon
A shortlist of apps to check out that made my stays a breeze (none of which I get kickbacks for):
- Airbnb – turns out that even in the US many places will have cheaper stays than paying apartment rent (let alone hotels!). The price, safety, and flexibility of Airbnb is unparalleled.
- Hoopla (or other media app) – through my local library, I get 20 free pieces of media to check out a month.
- NordVPN (or other VPN) – safety is important. I have my VPN on literally at all times – it secures my digital presence so I didn’t have my financial or personal information stolen abroad.
- Skype – I bought a phone number and a US-calling plan for less than my regular phone service. Using data, I could call any US number for free and receive free texts (send for 11c). Great when I needed to give a US number for others to call.
- Traveling Mailbox – Get your mail sent to a US address. Dozens of cities to choose from, pretty affordable, and I haven’t hit the max mail received or opened for many months!
- WhatsApp (and perhaps Telegram) – a standard for any international traveler. Be able to text, call, and send pics to folks on WhatsApp who have your phone number. It uses data instead of cell service, so you can stay in touch even when you don’t have your old phone number.
- Wise – international banking and conversions for better rates than your bank. Also can use any ATM twice a month without incurring fees from Wise (though the ATM may have its own). A must-use for getting cash when your bank doesn’t operate where you are!
All this fails to mention your flight provider’s app, social apps to share the adventure, banking apps, payment apps like Venmo, and ride and delivery apps local to your new area. Get what you need before you need it!
Explore New Places and Palettes
Get out. First day, if possible. Get out and keep getting out.
Go to the places that don’t speak your language. Eat the foods you can’t 100% identify. Enjoy the famous locations, sights, dishes, and events your trip’s location is known for. Yet, schedule in days of rest every 3 or 4 days or so – you need to recover to fully enjoy things!
It is so easy to take an area for granted if you are there for a long time. “It’ll be there tomorrow” you might say – don’t believe it. Before you know it, it’ll be time to move on!
That said, meander. Take your time to experience things, especially the casual atmosphere of being a local. If you are going out, think of one or two things to do that day, and linger on those things. Again, the time will be over before you know it, so be present for it. If there is anything left over at trip’s end, all the more reason to come back 🙂
Bring a Friend
Sometimes you need an excuse to get out, sometimes you may feel safer having someone watch your back. While not required, I encourage you to try nomadism with a friend.
Yet, a partner your friend must be. This means they are on your wavelength – they are the same socioeconomic class, have outgoing energy, have your endurance, have similar interests, are OK spending time on their own and with you, and are companionable without a negative mindset.
Without any of the above (a nonexclusive list), cracks will form over time, making the travel a bit more bitter. Try not to resent each other, communicate, and get after it ~
Set a Date to Leave Without Return
Go. Do it now. Within the next 3 months, within your means, buy the ticket, even if it departs later on. Commit. Any plans you make are less valuable than hot air without some action towards it.
Have your departure ticket? Great! You can start making other plans (tourism, housing, etc.), but don’t buy a return ticket just yet.
Again, stay in your location for awhile, at least a month (you can get the biggest discounts this way). A lot happens in thirty days, though, so hold off on returning home.
Perhaps you will want to visit a neighboring country, visit friends in your nation of residence, have to show up to jury duty, get an injury or sickness, lose or gain a job, who knows. Try not to close out your adventure before it even begins ~
Now Go Forth!
You have all of mine that comes to mind. A one-stop-shop to begin the rest of your life.
Being a digital nomad has been transformative for me. Going to Europe for the first time (and for 3 months!) was amazing. Great for my health, great for my finances, great for my productivity, great for me.
Long-term working travel will be great for you too. All you need to do is take action to make it so.
More questions? Take action here to let me know! I am happy to share finances or on-the-ground insights – heck, might write more posts here regardless 🙂
When you get to Europe as a digital nomad or anywhere else, let me know! Your experience will embolden my next trip out. Cheers to us both!