The world beyond the built-up and structured comforts of home is large and exciting, and as my friend Willy said: “Developing countries are so much fun.” Going by the stats, many subscribe to this idea and aspire to hotspots like Bali, Costa Rica, Panama, Thailand, and South Africa, among many others. The question is: How prepared are you for these digital nomad havens?
While digital nomadism is on the rise and professionals are taking to the road en masse, there is a cosmic amount of advice on the internet, yet there are still aspects we overlook in our preparations. So, to remedy the latter, I have compiled a list of things I didn’t know until I learned them through experience.
#1 A Laptop with a Backlit Keyboard
As a digital nomad, the laptop is the most important tool. It is key to sustaining the lifestyle, and therefore, we favor reliable, portable, and functional devices but often forget that we may have to work in low-light environments like airplanes, overnight buses, dimly lit cafés, bars, and dorms.
Another aspect challenging the digital nomad’s work, are power failures. In South Africa, for example, darkness is a regular thing. The country has power outages (locally known as “load shedding”) due to the deterioration of its national power utility(Eskom). The latter being the case, a nomad may find themselves having to work in the dark.
These are the reasons a device with a backlit keyboard is essential. With that said, having one creates the obvious benefit of being able to work in various low-light environments with fewer mistakes and more efficiency.
Pro tips for visiting South Africa:
Download the Eskomsepush mobile app to stay abreast of the scheduled blackouts.
Load shedding affects the whole of South Africa, bar a short-term residential building called the Neighbourgood East City in Cape Town (due to its proximity to parliament). This entity is not perfect but in my five months there, it was never affected by load shedding.
#2 Battery Backups
This point ties into the previous one.
You need to ask yourself: How far off the beaten track do I plan on going? Do I intend to pull over for the night, camp, or wild camp to capitalize on nature’s serenity for inspiration?
Another thing for consideration is that certain wildlife lodges in countries like Botswana and Namibia run on generators and are known to turn them off for intermittent periods throughout the day, making a fully charged battery bank essential.
And, as I mentioned before, you do not even need to go off the beaten track to experience power challenges. For this reason, having a reliable battery backup becomes essential. These devices (provided that you keep them charged) will allow your productivity as a digital nomad to remain intact, irrespective of the local electrical challenges(for a time at least).
Pro tip: Keep your devices charged and use battery backups only when necessary.
#3 A Reliable Phone
The purpose of a reliable phone for a digital nomad is obviously for communication with friends, family, and work colleagues, but more so for emergencies. Other than that, it is a map, an information source, an alarm clock, a payment method, and a miniature though more agile version of your laptop. It does not need to be state of the art, but but properly perform essential functions. One of these essential functions you will find is as a substitute for WiFi.
As far as cellphones and other accessories go, the less flashy, the better – flashy things draw unwanted attention and make you a target for mischievous elements.
If you want your device to perform optimally, keep it updated and healthy. Get rid of unwanted apps and close those in the background so your battery lasts longer. Spend as little time on it as possible. Instead of spending time on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter, give them a break and apply your senses to your new surroundings. You can always post your photos on social media when there is electricity in abundance.
#4 A Sense of Humor
Having a sense of humor generally makes things fun.
As a digital Nomad, you are not quite on holiday, and when things do not go according to plan, you may find yourself in a panic or frustrated. There will be times when service providers will drop the ball, or unforeseen issues shake your schedule and impede productivity.
Being able to laugh about issues like these will make the load lighter, help you stay on task, and work through problems. Another reason to smile and laugh is that it will help to meet new people and build relationships, and your travels and experiences will be more memorable.
So Laugh. It is a success secret, I promise.
#5 Laundry Detergent
You will not always have access to laundry services, and sometimes you may find them outrageously expensive. By carrying your own laundry detergent, you can cut that expense and save money.
Digital nomads should never allow their dirty laundry to accumulate. Wash them out by hand as they become dirty – if the establishment does not have handwashing facilities, basins and sinks in bathrooms work fine.
But, showers work better: Place your dirty laundry on the shower’s floor and pour detergent over it, open the faucet strip naked and stomp it like there is no tomorrow. Once you are sure your garments are clean, rub the foam out of them by hand under the water running water, ring them out, and hang them in some place to dry.
I would do this in hotel rooms, and their extractor fans would have my garment void of moisture and bone dry within 24 hours. (Kudos to the imagination.)
#6 Financial Savvy
Not all digital nomads have a stable income and even those who do can be tripped up by unexpected medical expenses, unforeseen travel costs, and the like. The answer to this is budget! Not only for the expected (and a bit of cash to play around with) but also for the unexpected too.
Always nurture a nest egg. Keep two bank accounts and only spend from one. Break the card for the other account and make it your golden parachute.
Another way of approaching money management is by putting more energy into generating money than spending it. Spend economically and do not get too comfortable. Live light and stay smart and in the long run, your journey will be much more rewarding. Research the prices of the areas you plan on visiting (so you do not get ripped off) and do not be shy to bargain.
Do price comparisons, book in advance, and go direct – and you will save money. I am not saying be a miser. I am just saying make your money count. (Something I am still learning to do, by the way).