How to Become a Digital Nomad & Travel Around the World (15 Step Guide)


With black unemployment at high levels and a declining dollar, many brothas have been pushed out of their jobs and are looking for alternative solutions.

I’ve been blessed enough to have made most of my income online since 2009 when I quit my job and decided to start traveling the world.

Now, I didn’t just quit my job and look for another income source. I was reading business books like Rich Dad Poor Dad while working 9 to 5 for the man.

I was making a decent living online while working my day job at the same time. This gave me the freedom to have more income sources and better options.

That’s when I decided to launch my online businesses and embrace international travel by becoming a digital nomad and earning the majority of my income online.

What is a Digital Nomad?

A digital nomad is an entrepreneur who works remotely from anywhere in the world using a WIFI connection.

Working from anywhere in the world makes you “location independent,” meaning you can make money from anywhere.

Without needing to communte to a traditional job, most digital nomads travel around the world to popular places like Latin America, Europe, Southeast Africa and East Africa.

How Much Money Do Digital Nomads Make?

It depends. Your income will depend upon several factors including:

  • Your Skill Level
  • Your Marketing Knowledge
  • Your Ability to Scale and Grow Your Business
  • Your Industry

According to Forbes, 38 percent of digital nomads make less than $10,000 per year but 16% earn $75,000 or more.

Many digital nomads earn less than $1,000 per month but live in cheap places like Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia where the cost of living is super cheap.

According to FullTimeNomad, you should aim for $1,300 per month as a starting point. If you reach that income level, then you can live comfortably in many cities around the world.

The nice part about being a digital nomad is that once you boost your income, you can put money away for savings because your cost of living is much lower than expensive places like United States or Canada.

Want to earn more money? Provide more value.

Unlike a traditional job, your income is directly correlated to the value you provide. If you want more money, then serve more people.

If you want to earn more money, then simply find ways to either serve more clients, generate more sales or hire employees to scale your business.

Starting a blog is one of the most popular ways to increase your income and help more people. Many digital nomad bloggers use their blog as a marketing platform while making millions of dollars per year being location independent.

MakingSenseofCents and MillenialMoney are two very good personal finance blogs that will teach you how to increase your income and free yourself from a job.

Another popular way to earn more money is to start an online ecommerce store with Shopify or Woocommerce.

Lastly, you can simply hire employees to replace yourself and focus on keeping your clients and customers happy.

Why Are Digital Nomads On the Rise?

Simple. More freedom and more control.

Trooptravel estimates that 50% of the US workforce will work remotely as freelancers by 2028.

People are tired of the traditional 9 to 5 grind in a digital world where fast WIFI connections and technology allow us to collaborate and perform excellent work from anywhere in the world.

More freedom means less stress and more time to spend with friends and family members.

It can also mean more income as evidenced by tons of digital nomads who make more money with their online business than at their old job.

And the key to this puzzle is leverage.

Being a Digital Nomad Gives You More Leverage Than a Regular Job

Most people don’t earn a ton of money through their jobs since the highest salaries are reserved for upper management and key board members.

You can no longer rely on working for the same employer for 40+ years like our grandparents. Studies show Americans change jobs all the time. It requires time, patience and high quality work over a long period of time to successfully climb the corporate ladder.

Also, there’s the extra stress of earning more at a job. More money equals more hours. More hours equals less freedom and more stress.

If you have dreams of earning tons of money without any work, then I hate to break it to you: you are living in a fantasy world. All high income earners put in the time and effort to make their money.

Think about NBA Players. You see their million dollar salaries and big homes. But what else don’t you see?

  • Preseason Workouts
  • WeightTraining
  • Daily Shootaround
  • 82 Game Schedule (with plenty of back 2 back games)
  • Spending half of the season living in hotels

There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes that nobody pays attention to. That is why earning a large income from a job often means having a large workload.

Digital Nomads Earn More Money With Leverage, Not More Hours on a Job

As a digital nomad, you can earn much more money with far less work. Most internet businesses only need 1 or 2 hours per day to run smoothly.

Write and record videos from anywhere in the world. Once you publish your content, it continues to earn money day after day.

You earn from the value you create, not the time you give.

Your articles, videos, courses, books and products can be consumed by millions of people 24/7/365. That’s the type of leverage that you need to become rich and make a lot of money.

Earning money per hour at a job will never provide you with enough income generating power like a digital business will.

15 Step Plan to Become a Digital Nomad and Live Anywhere

When I started my digital nomad jounrney in 2009, I was inspired by The Four Hour Workweek and considered working abroad while I traveled.

While the book is a great strategy for becoming location independent, I still made a lot of mistakes along the way.

I wrote this digital nomad guide to help the transition as smooth as possible for you. Follow this guide and you can make money online and live anywhere in the world within the next 3 to 6 months.

That’s how long it took me to set everything up but I didn’t have a step by step blueprint back then. You can achieve success much faster if you follow the steps outlined in this article.

1. Learn a New Skill or Leverage Existing Skills

Becoming a digital nomad requires a major shift in mindset. You won’t be relying on a regular 9 to 5 job or overnight gig to earn your income. You also need to learn a new set of skills because earning money online is vary different from working for a corporate employer.

How to Learn New Skills

The easiest way to learn a new skill is to take a course on the topic. There are many free and paid courses on a wide variety of topics. Here’s a list of my favorite course websites:

Another option is to take a college course at a local community college or university near you. College courses are a great way to learn a new skill that will help you escape the rat race and become a digital nomad.

For example, if you want to earn money as a freelance logo designer, then take a course on Adobe Photoshop.

If you want to become a freelance copywriter, then take a course on copywriting.

Youtube is also a great resource for learning new technical skills. Just search for long in-depth video tutorial that show you how to perform a skill.

How to Leverage Existing Skills

In my unique situation, I was already working as a web developer for a non-profit so I simply decided to build my own business. If you already have a marketable skill, then figure out how to leverage that skill and earn income.

If you have good skills but have trouble starting your own business or freelance company, then it’s time to get over your fear of being your own boss.

Remember this: you can be fired or downsized at any time. You don’t have as much job security as you think.

My suggestion is to start working on your side business before you quit your job. It’s very risky to just quit your regular job and become a digital nomad overnight unless you have a lot of money saved up.

2. Find a Target Market with a Common Problem

“Why would I give you my money?” That’s the question you need to ask before you start your digital nomad business.

In order to make money online, you have 3 basic options:

  • Sell a product
  • Sell a service
  • Sell other people’s products and services

The key is to find a target market with a common problem that you can solve with your products and services.

For example, many digital nomads work as freelance writers and designers because the work is in heavy demand. Every company in the world needs written content for their business while every website needs a logo and design. They are targetting small to medium-sized businesses who need content and design services.

That’s how you identify a market with a common problem. Think about how you can add value to someone else’s business.

Facebook groups and internet forums are the two best places for finding a market with a problem that needs your help.

For example, if you are interested in starting a basketball training website, join a few Facebook groups and see what problems/concerns people are asking about.

You may see several people asking questions like:

  • How to increase my vertical leap?
  • How to dunk a basketball?
  • How to play division 1 basketball
  • How to shoot free throws

All these questions will help you create content for your website and earn the trust of your visitors. You can recommend training products or create your own products to help them solve their problems.

3. Build a Website or Sell Your Services

Digital nomads earn money via 3 basic methods: building a website, working a job remotely or selling their services to other people.

Both methods work well and I do both in my digital nomad business. This site you’re reading is an example of how you can earn money with a website while I have several web development and SEO clients that pay me to help them with their online stuff.

How to Build a Website

It’s really easy. First, determine what kind of site you want to build. The most popular choices are:

  • Content Website (aka Blog like ExpatKings.com)
  • Ecommerce store (like Amazon.com)
  • Online Marketplace (like eBay.com)

These are proven business models that will make you a lot of money if you set them up right, add high quality content and take care of your visitors. Setting everything up is pretty simple. I’m going to write an in-depth tutorial later but here are the basic steps:

  1. Choose a market – Do some research and choose a lucrative market that has a large audience and people who spend money.
  2. Brainstorm Ideas – Write down what kind of site you want to start. Be creative. Think how you can add value to the marketplace.
  3. Find a Target Market -Your target market is where you will do research and find a product/service/idea to offer. This could be anything from stock market investors to iphone screen repair. Look through magazines and popular websites to find good ideas.
  4. Get a domain name and website – I recommend Siteground to all my clients. You can build a simple website in 10 minutes and their customer support is 24/7 phone/email/live chat. They are very cheap, too. Only $5 per month for a starter hosting account. I’ve talked to some brothas who run their entire business through social media. This is a dangerous approach because you don’t own the asset. What if Facebook or Youtube deletes your channel? Owning your domain is the first step to becoming a digital nomad. It’s your web address where everybody can find you easily. Many of you have probably noticed how black Youtubers are losing their channels in droves. This is why I advocate owning your domain vs using social media for everything. It’s too risky in the long run.
  5. Start Creating Content -Your next step is to start creating content that answers your target market’s questions. A survey is a great way to discover the problems within your market. These questions can be answered with articles, podcasts, blog posts, and videos. I use WordPress (for this website) and Youtube as my 2 main content creation channels. These strategies drive traffic to this website where I offer more content to solve my visitor’s problems.
  6. Sell a Product or Service -Once you began creating content, your audience will respond with questions and comments. These replies will help you create your first product/service. I used this strategy to write my first book, Best Countries for Black Men. I noticed brothas were asking the same questions again and again. So I decided to solve the problems by writing that book.
  7. Scale Your Business – This is the key step to taking your digital nomad business to the next level. You cannot do everything by yourself and need to find ways to scale your business through automation, delegation and elimination. Automate repetitive tasks by investing in better tools or resources, delegate your boring but necessary tasks to employees/freelancers and eliminate the tasks that take time but add little value to your customers and bottom line.
  8. Rinse and Repeat – Once you start earning money through sales and advertisements, you should keep doing what is successful to keep seeing results.

How to Find a Digital Nomad Job

The easiest way to find a digital nomad job is to apply for a job via job search engines or company websites.

Employers understand that many digital nomads are talented freelancers so they won’t have a big problem with you working abroad as long as you deliver quality work.

How to Sell Your Services as a Freelancer

Freelancing is a popular choice for digital nomads because you can manage several clients at the same time while still earning good money. Most freelancers find their clients via cold email outreach or freelancing websites.

Here’s a list of some good freelancer sites to find work:

I hope this motivates you to start your own business and build up your own assets. With the digital economy booming, you can use all that extra money to fund your trips, move overseas permanently, or increase your standard of living.

4. Write a List of 5 Countries You Want to Visit

This is an important step that will help you make the transition from corporate employee to digital nomad.

Motivation and excitement is one of the main reasons why digital nomads say goodbye to traditional jobs and travel the world. Yes, earning money online is great but the lifestyle is even better.

Write a list of some dream countries you want to visit. Or make a list of cities you want to visit inside your own country.

Visualize yourself relaxing on the beach in Rio de Janeiro or partying it up in Bangkok.

When I first started my digital nomad journey, I was frustrated with my day job and the American rat race.

I dreamed about traveling solo through Latin America, enjoying year round warm weather, and meeting beautiful Latina girls.

I choose 5 countries:

  • Costa Rica
  • Mexico
  • Panama
  • Colombia
  • Brazil

This became my motivational tool whenever I thought about giving up and sticking with my corporate gig.

Once you make the leap to digital nomad, you’ll already have a sample itinerary to follow.

5. Eliminate Toxic Expenses and Relationships

In the last step, you wrote down exactly where you want to go. Now, it’s time to eliminate things and people who are holding your back.

I stopped smoking and going out to nightclubs to reduce my expenses. I needed to save money for a plane ticket to Costa Rica so I stopped buying things that added little value to my life.

I stopped hanging out with friends who enjoyed club hopping on the weekends.

Some people in your life don’t support your goals and dreams of becoming a digital nomad so you need to eliminate them.

I know it’s sounds rought but toxic people & associates will hold you back if you let them.

Replace these people with new relationships that push you towards your goals.

For example, I stopped hanging out with the club hoppers and spent more time with my Latina friend practicing my Spanish and Portuguese.

I stopped going on dates with American girls because I wanted to live overseas and meet foreign women.

I hung out with my frugal friends who believed in saving money.

Who do you need to replace in your life? Take an honest look at your relationships and see where you can improve.

5. Get Your Passport or Renew Your Existing Passport

If you plan to relocate within your own country, then great. The process is much easier than traveling abroad.

For example, many US digital nomads move from colder areas like the Northwest, Midwest and Northeast to warmer, sunnier cities like Los Angeles, Houston or Miami.

Sometimes, you cannot obtain a passport (due to things like unpaid child support) or have a fear of flying. Domestic travel will best suit your needs.

BUT this website is all about traveling around the world to cool places like Colombia, Thailand and Kenya.

Getting your passport is a must if you want to give yourself more freedom as a digital nomad.

I wrote a guide to obtaining your US passport for American citizens. If you live outside the US, then call your local department of travel consulate and inquire about getting your passport.

If you already have a passport, make sure you have at least 6 months of validity before your passport expires. Some countries will not let you enter with an upcoming expired passport.

Need your passport in a hurry? We partnered with RushmyPassport to help you obtain or renew your passport in just 24 hours.

6. Research Flights & Accommodations Before Your Trip

Flights and accommodations will make up the bulk of your expenses during your trip.

You will save the most money booking your flights at least 3 months in advance. I wrote a bunch of ways to find cheap airline tickets so you can save money on your airfare.

After you research your flights, you need to decide where exactly you want to live.

Traveling to a new country or city is weird at first so I recommend spending your first couple of nights in a hotel or hostel. You may experience jetlag and need a couple of days to restore your energy levels.

Go to Booking.com and start researching hotels in your desired destination. Fast WIFI is a must so make sure your hotel has free WIFI access. Some hotels require you to pay for WIFI or don’t offer WIFI. Be sure to double check.

One option is to live in hostels to save money and network with other travelers. You’ll meet lots of interesting people from around the world and could find a travel buddy as well. Most hotels have a monthly discount if you book month to month. You can save up to 50% if you pay well in advance.

The bad part about hostels is you don’t have your own room or privacy if you want to have dates at your place. My recommendation is to stay at a hostel/hotel then move into an affordable condo/apartment.

Living in a condo/apartment gives you privacy, piece of mind and the best environment for building your online business.

Do a Google search for “apartments for rent in CITY” (replace CITY with your desired destination). Browse a couple websites and look for a place that’s under your budget. Picking a cheaper place than you can afford is crucial because you really have to budget your money as a digital nomad. If you run out of money, your trip is over.

7. Circle a Date on your Calendar and Stick to It

To prevent proscrasination, I recommend circling a date on your calendar as your goal to make the transition to digital nomad.

Why?

Because you remove fear and doubt from your decision making. Most digital nomads report being much happier after making the transition but you have to take the first step.

When I first started my journey, I found a cheap flight to Costa Rica via Jetblue Airways 3 months in advance. I gave myself 90 days to get my act in order and prepare for my upcoming trip.

3 months is a good starting point because you need time to learn new skills, make mistakes and adjust to earning your money in a different manner.

One common mistake is to book a trip too far in advance because life gets in the way and spoils your plans. Things like unexpected emergencies, accidents, job loss and family problems will derail your trip before you get started.

8. Take Inventory of Your Stuff and Sell/Donate Stuff You Don’t Need Anymore

Digital nomads understand the importance of not owning too many possesions and traveling light. The fewer stuff you own, the less money you spend on maintaining and upgrading your possessions.

Firstly, take inventory of all your major possessions and make 3 piles: keep, sell or donate.

The Keep pile is for stuff you plan to take with you or leave with a friend/family member.

The Sell pile is for valuable stuff you own but don’t want/need anymore. Sell these items on places like Craigslist, eBay, Etsy or your local flea market.

The donate pile is for stuff like old clothes and toys that kids and less fortunate people would enjoy. Thrift stores accept charitable donations, plus you receive a tax deducation for the total value of donations.

9. Get a Digital Nomad Friendly Bank Account

It’s a good idea to notify your bank of your upcoming travel plans because some banks will freeze your account if they notice suspiscious activity coming from a foreign country. Also, most US banks charge foreign transaction fees on every purchase you make.

Talk to your banker about which account is best for international expats and travelers. Transaction fees add up quick and I stopped using my Paypal debit card because of them.

Need to switch to a travel friendly banking account? Charles Schwab offers zero fee ATM withdrawals while overseas.

10. Get a Good VPN

Another useful tool is a VPN aka Virtual Private Network for accessing popular websites & apps while traveling outside of your home country.

A VPN is a service that lets you connect to other websites/apps using a secure, encrypted connection.

How a VPN Works

I use PUREvpn to connect to my favorite websites & bank accounts while traveling as a digital nomad.

11. Build a Sample Travel Itinerary

A travel itinerary helps organize your travel plans and save money on flights and hotels because you can book them well in advance.

Tripit, Travelfy and Inspirock are great travel apps for planning your digital nomad travel itinerary.

12. Get Your Required Visas

If you own a US passport, then many countries either don’t require a visa or issue a visa on arrival. Here’s a list of visa-exempt countries for US citizens.

However, popular countries like Brazil do require a visa in advance to enter the country. Check out this list of countries that require visas for US citizens.

You’ll need to fill out several forms, provide photocopies of your passport, and pay the visa fees to get an approved travel visa. The process for most countries takes between 2 to 5 business days but you can pay more for a faster visa approval service.

12. Book a Ticket to the First Country on Your List

So, you’ve got your passport and visa in order? Great. The next step is to book your plane ticket.

First, refer to my article on how to find cheap airline tickets. I use the following websites when looking for deals:

A good way to save money is to book a ticket through a major airport hub (New York City or Bangkok) because you have more cheaper flights to choose from. Choose flexible dates as well because the price can vary widely depending on which day you plan to travel.

Budget airlines are cheaper but I don’t personally feel comfortable flying on the cheaper budget airlines in places like Africa and Southeast Asia. It’s worth paying a bit more for a premium airline that provides better service and will keep you safer.

Booking a one-way flight is a good strategy if you aren’t sure when you plan to return home. It’s a lot cheaper too plus you can easily bounce to another country without worrying about missing your return flight.

Now, there is one problem with one-way flights: many countries won’t allow you to enter without a return ticket. But there is a simple solution to this problem: purchase a throw away ticket.

A throwaway ticket is simply a cheap one-way ticket to another country that you don’t plan to ever use.

For example, let’s say I want to fly from New York City (NYC) to Bangkok (BKK) on a one-way ticket. All I have to do is buy a cheap throwaway ticket from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) for around $50 on a budget airline like AirAsia.

I never have to use this ticket but when I arrive at the NYC airport, I show this ticket to immigration and they’ll let me on the flight.

You must purchase an ongoing ticket or you will be refused entry into the country unless you pay for an expensive round-trip ticket at the ticket counter.

13. Get a Durable Travel Suitcase

Your travel bag is crucial to having a successful trip as a digital nomad. Cheap travel bags break easily and add extra stress to your trip because they cannot deal with rough terrains (hills, rough sidewalks) that you will most likely encounter on your trip.

I wrote about the best travel bags for digital nomads so be sure to check out that article.

If you plan to pack light, then a simple travel bag without wheels will do the trick. The only problem is you cannot wheel around your stuff and may do damage to your back. That’s why I don’t recommend wearing a huge backpack like most backpackers wear.

A durable wheeled travel bag makes travel easier on your back, plus it’s harder for someone to break into easily or steal.

14. Get a Good Quality Laptop and Smartphone

You’ll need a good travel laptop and unlocked international smartphone to make money online as a digital nomad so I recommend purchasing these items before your trip.

Good quality doesn’t have to be expensive, either. Here’s a list of recommended products that won’t break the bank:

15. Get a Skype Online Number

While you are away from home, you need a cheap way to keep in contact with your family and friends as you travel. Many people use free social media apps like WhatsApp but the problem is you cannot make calls to US (or your country) landlines and cell phones.

What happens if you need to contact a family member immediately? What if you need to call your bank? How can your clients back home reach you overseas?

I use a Skype online number that comes with a US based phone number but redirects all calls to that number directly to my Skype account.

If anyone calls my number, I can answer the call on my laptop or smartphone. I can also call any US number (landline or mobile) for $7 per month.

It’s much cheaper than paying international roaming charges plus anyone can reach me immediately without needing to download a smartphone app.

Have Fun!

That’s it! Follow the 15 steps above and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a successful digital nomad who can work and travel anywhere in the world.

I love the freedom of working from wherever I please and not worrying about answering to a boss or dealing with the stressful 9 to 5 US rat race.

Of course, being a digital nomad isn’t perfect. You will encounter problems like inconsistent income, problem clients, technical issues, and explaining to businesses back home why you are accessing your accounts overseas.

Most of these problems can be solved with a simple phone call/email but sometimes you must send a photocopy of your passport/driver’s license to confirm your identity.

It’s a small price to pay for the freedom and privledge of controlling your time and doing whatever you want when you want!

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Here is a list of frequently asked questions along with some helpful anwers.

Got a question? Post it in the comments and I will add your question and answer to this section.

How Do Digital Nomads Pay Taxes?

The Foreign Earned Income Exclusion allows digital nomads to avoid paying taxes on earned income up to $100,000. That means if you earn less than $100,000 working online overseas, you don’t have to pay anything.

If you earn more than $100,000 then you will be taxed at normal rates. However, there are several ways digital nomads can save money on taxes. These methods include setting up a corporation and using other tactics to lower your tax burden.

How to Meet Other Digital Nomads

Sometimes, traveling alone as a digital nomad can be a little loney. Luckily, it’s really easy to connect with other digital nomads while traveling.

Digital nomads are all over the world but there are certain countres that attract the most online remote works.

Thailand is the mecca for digital nomads and you’ll find most of them living in Chiang Mai. For a complete list of countries, check out NomadList for ideas and inspiration.

If you want to meet other digital nomads online, then Facebook, Meetup and CouchSurfing are good places to start.

For more tips on meeting online entrepreneurs on the road, check out this article on how to meet other digital nomads.

What are Your Reasons for Becoming a Digital Nomad?

Post your reasons for becoming a digital nomad in the comments. Are you a complete beginner or already working remotely and need more tips? Share your questions and opinions in the comments section below.


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Tarik

Tarik is the founder of ExpatKings.com. If you need personalized consulting or advice, I am available for hire. Please check out my Services. Send tips & comments to: editor@expatkings.com.
  • Your Way is very Different compared to other Bloggers I’ve read A lot of posts. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I will just Adding this blog to bookmarks.

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