Next month I’ll have an important first anniversary.
The 5th of May, 2014 will put me at 12 months travelling throughout Asia. But if it weren’t for one fact, I wouldn’t consider this date particularly special: many people save up and take long periods of time off to travel.
The one fact that makes it interesting for me is my bank account balance. After 12 months of travelling, I’ll have more money in my savings account than when I originally left Australia.
I’m not saying this to boast. I’m saying this because it confirms something I’ve suspected for a long time. It confirms my belief that anyone can quit their job, make a living remotely and travel the world indefinitely. In other words, anyone can become a digital nomad.
I’ll say that again.
Digital nomads are individuals that leverage wireless digital technologies to perform their work duties, and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner.
Democratising Longterm Travel
It’s irrefutable: we all have access to the means to make a living remotely. Regardless of socioeconomic background, age or gender, we all have access to:
- Fast and free communication tools: Skype, HipChat, other IM tools
- International payment processing and invoicing: PayPal, Freshbooks, BitCoin
- Freelance contract marketplaces: oDesk, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour
- Cheap travel options: budget airlines, Couchsurfing, AirBNB, Hostelbookers, Agoda
- And most importantly: ubiquitous, fast Internet; even in developing countries.
The barrier to entry these days is a laptop, an Internet connection, and the persistence to push through and make it work.
… And the Secret Weapon: Arbitrage
All these things lead to one conclusion: we don’t need to live where we work. And if you want to work for yourself and travel the world, your best bet is to take advantage of arbitrage. Simply put: earn in a higher value currency, spend in a lower value currency.
For example, one of my friends says it’s very realistic to live in Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) for around $1200 (US) per month all inclusive; while in Sydney (Australia) that might cover my rent for the month… and nothing else.
So let’s run some napkin-math on that number.
Suppose you want to have some breathing room, and want to factor some extra money for travel in there. Let’s jack it up to a healthy $2000 a month.
That’s $24,000 a year, or $500 a week (supposing 4 weeks vacation in the year). If you can bill an average of 30 hours a week, you only need to be charging around $17 an hour to make it work (that’s a relaxing 6 hours a day, 5 days a week).
For a person with a marketable skill such as writing, marketing, development or design, that’s laughably attainable. Even if you don’t have a marketable skill at the moment, we’re talking months and not years to learn and develop a skill to the point where you can charge around $20 an hour.
Ok… But where to start?
So you’re sold on idea of travelling the world indefinitely and believe it’s attainable. But where should you start?
I’ll give you a hint: you need to do something that people will pay you for, and you need to do something that’s marketable. And that’s what I’ll talk about in my next post.