On Being a Digital Nomad
Almost two years ago, I donated almost everything I owned and left DC. I was at a job I was unhappy at, and I didn't know my future. I decided that rather than signing a new lease, I'd instead mostly live at tech conferences for the summer and crash at my parents' in between, and then start living out of AirBnBs in the Fall. I ended up retiring from the digital nomad lifestyle in order to work in an office gain (started 3 days before the COVID shutdown lol). That being said, I think this is a pretty unique experience, but more people may be able to do the same as remote work becomes more popular and (hopefully) the pandemic starts to subside. So, I wanted to write down my thoughts and advice on the experience.
As far as logistics go, I personally chose to live out of AirBnBs. The longer you book a place, the more discount you get normally. So, I'd book a place for a month at a time. The cost for AirBnB pluses ended up being less than my DC rent most months. The van life idea is so appealing to me, but the mechanical knowledge needed and the potential lack of internet intimidates me. I also personally stayed in the United States because of my dog, I didn't want to quarantine her which you need to do with most international countries.
I travelled from city to city in my car, which was super nice. I was able to visit a bunch of sites nearby cities instead of just staying downtown, which I may have had to without a car.
I chose cities by expense, activities available, and their proximity to National Parks. My biggest bucket list item is to visit all of the National Parks, so this very much helped in that goal. I loved being able to experience different areas, taste test different restaurants, and to never get bored of my surroundings. I also was using it as a way to vet cities before settling down -- I didn't know where I wanted to move longterm, so this was a way of trying out different cities.
There were two really difficult attributes of travel for me: the first was loneliness, the second was the lack of a routine. It's pretty tough to get to know people when you aren't staying in a city for long. Something I would probably prioritize if I did this again would be to go to cities with a big tech scene so I could go to meetups and potentially speak at them. I was also single at the time, so doing this with a partner or a family would probably help in that regard. As far as having a routine, I was changing where I lived every month. So it's difficult to get too settled. Part of that was nice, I would go on hikes every morning with my dog in Asheville and would go to a neighborhood coffee shop in Nashville. But, I definitely missed having a set workday schedule.
Taxes can get so complicated if you're moving around a bunch, especially if you move internationally or are self-employed (or just have side gigs like me). I hired an accountant who specializes in digital nomads, and it's such a weight off my chest. Here is his site in case you're interested.
Overall, it's an experience I really enjoyed and would highly recommend if your work and life situations allow it. I would probably go back to being a digital nomad once the country re-opens and my partner was able to work remote. If you're interested in moving internationally, check out this Ladybug episode. Please Tweet any questions to me, I'd love to help out!