Adjusting to a remote lifestyle—and living in a new country—is a major transition to manage.
Whether you're seeking a new beginning as a digital nomad, repatriating back to your homeland, or leaving "Babylon", there is so much to consider. For these reasons, it’s wise to lock in a remote writing job before you leave so that you can get acclimated with everything on the other side; your new location and a new way of making a living.
Let's dive into some starter ideas to get you off on the right foot.
Seek a Remote-first Company
Many remote writers that are digital nomads recommend finding a job at a remote-first company — where most if not all of the workforce is dispersed — rather than at a company where you’re one of the few who work offsite. Keep an open mind to small startups and tech companies.
During your search, target companies that truly value their employees and freelancers.
Explore Their Company Culture In Advance.
Connect with current employees or freelancers on social media (such as LinkedIn), particularly those that have some longevity with the remote-first company. Most definitely, check out the company's 'About Us' pages and newsletters (when accessible).
Going from an office job to remote work is a huge adjustment on its own. It involves much more time alone. It forces you to communicate differently with your colleagues. It requires a lot of self-motivation. And it means dealing with extra tax and health insurance bureaucracy if you’re a contract or freelance worker.
Do Your Research ASAP.
Before your exodus abroad, take some serious time out to research tax implications, establish remote relationships with clients in the U.S. and abroad, and figure out your daily work rhythms. For example, will you need to work around other people at an internet café (to keep your sanity) or have the capacity (both mentally and emotionally) to work alone in your new home abroad?
Speaking of housing and technology, here are a few more starter tips to keep your prep mode flowing.
Passports, Visas, and Travel Insurance
You need a visa to live abroad if your country does not have a policy or agreement that waives them. When such agreements exist, they usually last for a short period — from three to six months.
Check with the embassy or consulate website of the nation where you’re planning to travel to find out if you need to apply for a visa. Unless you are planning to stay for more than three months, it’s usually enough to get a tourist visa. Apply early, as the process can take several months, depending on the country and type of visa.
Make sure your passport is not close to expiring. It’s a good idea to renew it before you leave your home country, even if you still have some time on it, as you never know how long you may want to be abroad.
Though many nations have universal health insurance, if you’re not a citizen or don’t have a work visa, it’s likely you won’t be eligible.
Go Abroad has a great guide that explains health insurance abroad and how to get it. Before you leave, you may want to stock up on any prescription medications you take in your home country, so you don’t have to navigate that while abroad. And prepare yourself by researching primary care doctors and emergency care options at your destination—especially during this unfortunate shift with the pandemic.
Budget Now and Discover Various Financial Advantages
A draw of digital nomadism is working in places that are cheaper than home, such as parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. Still, it’s smart to start saving money and budgeting before you go. Here’s some advice (and examples) on the financial front:
Save money, whether that means moving into a cheaper place or cutting back on dining out and other non-necessities.
Budget by anticipating the costs of your biggest expenses abroad: travel, housing, food, and insurance. Since you’ll likely be spending more on travel than if you were living at home, plan to save in other areas when abroad. Anticipate costs with Worldpackers’ list of the cheapest cities, Nomadlist, and Expatistan‘s tool to compare the cost of living between your current city and others. Gigi Griffis of the Ramble also has a helpful list of expenses for different cities where she has lived.
Find a debit card that doesn’t have ATM fees, or that refunds them, like the Charles Schwab High Yield Investor Checking Account (The world isn’t cashless yet).
As an encouragement, don't be too hard on yourself for any mistakes you make along the way. We all make mistakes by paying too much or too little for items and resources. This is why it's a great advantage to join expat community forums and seek other online platforms to connect with the vets of remote working from abroad.
Find Housing in Advance
Countless remote writers have uniformly recommended it's best to start off by finding a place through Airbnb, the popular home share site. Using it led several to longer term stays, either at the same place or through friends of the owner. If you’re staying for a long time, you can try to negotiate a discount with the owner.
Always ask about their internet access (especially as a remote writer.) Ask about their fiber connection or satellite access—and how much data/internet may cost in that area.
Check out these resources for housing:
Airbnb now has a “sublets” section for longer stays.
Of course, it’s never going to be the same as living in your own space. Remember, you are living in someone else's rental or vacation home, but these resources make it easy to feel a bit more relaxed—and legally protected. You can look at them as a gateway to meeting your next landlord, too! The opportunities are limitless.
Know the Basics: Things to Gather About the Place You'll Be Living
Head off confusion upon arrival by researching (in advance) basic facts of life about the country and city where you will be basing yourself and working as a remote writer. Here are a few questions to consider:
Find out local modes of transportation: Will there be public transit available? A bike share program? Cabs or other ride shares?
Tipping situation: Is tipping a convention? If so, how much?
What is the address of the nearest embassy or consulate.
What is the local currency and exchange rate?
What are the emergency number(s)? Add them to your phone. Not every country uses 911.
What are basic words and phrases (if you’re not in a country that speaks your native language), such as “hello,” “how are you,” “how much does this cost,” “I’ll have,” and “thank you”?
Where do you go for a health emergency?
How do you get from the airport to where you’re staying? (Your Airbnb host should have recommendations.)
Create your own checklist and make sure it's updated several days before departure.
You've Arrived! Now what?
The most important thing you will need now—at least two solid days off of work before you start remote writing. This is so critical because you'll need to:
Get rest (due to any time zone changes/jet lag);
Properly set up your workstation at home (and finding the nearest internet café, coffee shop, or any resource that gives you secure internet access to due your remote writing work).
Let's Talk Tech Requirements!
Expect Internet Problems—but There's Hope!
It’s especially likely, if not guaranteed, you’ll have a wifi connectivity problem at some point.
Here are a few ways to avoid issues:
Is your wifi speed fast enough for your needs (Check your speed at fast.com)?
Get a SIM card for a carrier of the country you’re in, and get a very high or unlimited data plan on your mobile phone so you can set up a hot spot.
Check in with your Airbnb or other lodging in advance to make sure they’ll have working wifi when you arrive, and find out what the speed is. Just because wifi is advertised doesn’t necessary mean it will always work.
Sign up for a coworking space. Check out the Coworker for a searchable list and map of spaces around the world.
Find coffee shops that are good to work from (good wifi, plenty of available outlets, won’t try to shoo you out after an hour) with resources like Workfrom.co, Coffices, or Workmode.
“If I can do calls from a mountain in Rwanda, I can pretty much guarantee you can make it work,” says Shannon O’Donnell, who started traveling the world and and working remotely in 2008, which she chronicles on her own blog.
Here's an additional checklist to help you manage those other tech requirements in advance:
Do you have a call that requires the download of a special software, plugin, or browser?
Do you need to install a VPN because you will be somewhere with a firewall?
What’s your nearest computer service store in case you have a tech emergency?
Do you have the right adapter for your country?
Do you have a travel-friendly external battery for when your computer is dying and you can’t find an outlet?
Although this general guide contains the basics to getting started in your preparations, we're confident that you will now have a better sense of how you can make your new remote life—and remote writing jobs—work for your lifestyle while abroad. Enjoy your journey and stay safe in the transition to come!