If you work fully online, you can live anywhere with access to Wi-Fi and modern technology. That opens the door to becoming a digital nomad, which offers fantastic new lifestyle choices. The first step to becoming a digital nomad is often as easy as asking your boss to bless the move.

But, make no mistake, immersing yourself in foreign, exotic surroundings for a long time can be an overwhelming experience.

That’s because “normal” life goes on, even when you live it against an exotic backdrop.

While living in paradise, you’ll experience minor emergencies like finding a decent hair salon or gym or losing the buttons from your only smart jacket. You may battle to find shoes in your impossibly large American size. You’ll still need a private space to cut your toenails. And, unless you permanently live in a ruinously expensive hotel, you’ll still have to do dishes, buy groceries, and rinse the hair from the tub.

Overwhelming or not, it’s still the adventure of a lifetime!

So, arm yourself with lots of research about your country of choice, the support of an understanding bank, a VPN, and a few other digital tools, and hit the road, Jack!

Choose a destination that is popular with peers

Heading alone into the Amazon jungle on your first trip is a bad idea. Sooner or later, you’ll find that hooking up with peers at a local co-working space can be a lifesaver. Choose a city or country with a sizable digital nomad community for your first trip. They are usually welcoming and helpful and help you smooth the rough spots while settling in.

Don’t leave loose ends behind

Initially, your plans may be for a 3 or 6 months interlude in some exotic place. That still means you should tidy up what you leave behind.

Consider listing your apartment on Airbnb or another rental service to generate income while you’re gone. Store or sell your stuff while you’re still around – it’s murder to arrange a hasty retreat from a tropical island with unreliable communications or a different time zone.

Think ahead to what might happen if you can’t manage to be home by next Thanksgiving. Remember COVID-19? Due to vastly differing international quarantine, vaccine, and travel requirements, some digital nomads were forced to live wherever they could for months.

Get your finances in order

You’ll need cash. Some banks charge a fee when you use another bank’s ATM, but as a digital nomad, you could face a double whammy if the ATM in your host country also charges a fee for foreign bank card transactions. Open a travel-specific account at a bank that reimburses or offers a rebate on worldwide ATM fees.

You’ll need a credit card. Look for a travel-friendly credit card that doesn’t add a nasty 3% foreign transaction handling fee every time you swipe. If you can snag a card that waives foreign transaction fees, offers travel insurance, and pays travel- and lifestyle-related discounts and bonuses, so much the better.

You’ll need to access your bank accounts from time to time. If you log in from a foreign country, your bank will likely slam your account shut. To prevent an account lockout, get an advanced VPN – not a low-powered free one – that will make it look like you’re at a different location.

Get travel insurance

Traveling is fun – that’s why your feet are itching! But you will doubtless lose a few valuables, get stung by an unfriendly bug, gobble down a dodgy street kebab, or smash a toe on a zipline in a forest.

It makes sense to ensure your belongings, but getting emergency medical cover is even more important. While healthcare can be cheaper than medical coverage in the U.S., you should strongly consider purchasing travel insurance. Let’s remember COVID-19 again: That was when even the healthiest travelers, with the most carefully laid plans, came off second-best if they found themselves trapped in countries where they could not access premium health care when they needed it.

Sort out your phones

Roaming costs can be devilishly expensive. Before you go, get an alternative VoIP international phone number and route your calls via your laptop. Keep your phone on airplane mode and only connect to a Wi-Fi network when necessary.

At your destination, load a local SIM into your regular phone to take advantage of cheaper local rates. However, as backup, you could also store your phone with the original SIM in a safe place. In that case, buy an additional cheap mobile phone with a prepaid SIM card and a data plan to use in your host country.

Protect your computer

As a digital nomad, your new motto is “No computer, no income,” so remember these two words: privacy and security. If either gets compromised while you work abroad, you’ll have a pretty miserable time.

Don’t go anywhere without a reputable anti-malware solution and a VPN for your Android or other operating systems. You’ll encounter local foreign language websites about attractions, trips, or deals. It’s so easy to click on the wrong link! If you store sensitive company data on your laptop, ransomware or spyware could put a swift end to your digital nomad idyll.

Also, digital nomads tend to stand out in a local crowd, which makes them prime targets for hacking or man-in-the-middle attacks when they use public or unsecured WiFi.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your communications and keeps your company or client data out of malicious hands. Never access any network without a VPN. Use a VPN on both your phone – including your cheap local phone, if you purchased one – and your laptop.

Prep and Go, Go, Go!

Don’t just pack a bag and jump in. It’s essential to research your destination and the local conditions you’ll encounter. But don’t get so caught up in preparing for every eventuality that you never get around to buying a ticket!