The internet is already full of articles about how to become a digital nomad. Quit your job, jump into the unknown and live your life to the fullest. Sounds great, but what if you have kids and crave for escaping the 9 to 5? Good news, it is possible, and I will tell you how.
For the digital nomad newbies
If you don’t have any experience with work while traveling or don’t have a remote job, you first need to know some basics.
Being a digital nomad is not a profession, it is a way of living. A lifestyle with advantages (the ones you probably know by heart) but also many disadvantages.
You might fantasize by the beautiful pictures digital nomads put online, where they sit under a palm tree near a perfect blue ocean, working on their next online business success. The reality is entirely different! Sand is not a good combination with your laptop, because of the sun you won’t see a thing on your screen, and it is probably too hot to stay outside anyway. Besides, many digital nomads experience failure after failure before they earn enough money to stay in low budget hostels. All the while suffering from stress while their savings diminish every month.
If you are a 20 something single with no mortgage, kids or other responsibilities, taking such risks is not a big problem. When you keep failing and turn back home, you just start over. But with kids in the equation, you probably want to have a lot more assurance. Well, it all starts with decent preparation. And since you are reading this, you are on the right track!
Some soul searching
As I just described, the digital nomad lifestyle is not all glitter and glamor. So before you make any drastic decisions, ask yourself why you want to change your life. What is it exactly you are not happy about? Be honest with yourself and remember that the digital nomad lifestyle isn’t perfect either.
Here’s some food for thought:
Maybe you went to college, put a lot of time and money in a degree and worked hard to get your career off the ground. Now you have this semi-management position and the prospect of a promotion in the future. Throughout these years you gathered a lot of skills and experience! These knowledge and expertise are not redundant, but working remotely might require other skills. If you think this will feel like wasting these hard working years, then becoming a digital nomad is not the thing for you.
It’s probably obvious, but if you don’t like the idea of working online, then you should also reconsider. Although there are digital nomads who work offline, the majority is 100% online.
Also, if you think the digital nomad family lifestyle will give you a full-time holiday feeling, stop reading now and stay where you are.
What about your children’s education?
Your children’s education is a significant topic and your decisions can be life changing for them. When your kids are already in school, you will have to take them away from their daily life with school, hobbies, and friends. Some children adjust pretty quickly, but others face more difficulties.
The educational part has some enormous consequences for you and your partner as well. This is something you really really really have to think about a lot. Are you willing to do homeschooling? Or, more accurate, roadschooling.
Roadschooling requires tremendous effort, motivation, and energy from parents and it is not a decision you should take lightly. The future of your kids depends on it. I advise to read into this and base your decision on what you think is best (not what others tell you to do). You know your children best and can therefore assess how they will cope with such changes.
Our children are not yet of school age, but we are already discussing the roadschooling a lot. I’ve selected several interesting articles about the topic. These articles are a good start if you haven’t decided yet what to do.
More about roadschooling:
Think about work-life balance
The digital nomad life with kids seems like the best way to get the most quality time with your family. And yes, you will definitely see your children more than ever. But be aware of the work-life balance. In between roadschooling, eating, sleeping, doing household tasks (laundry and cooking still need to be done) and parenting, you also need to work. Maybe you are one of the lucky few where only one parent needs to work so the other parent can get the daily things done, but still, you need to work. Oh and wait, travel. That’s the reason you want to become a digital nomad right? Traveling in itself can be a real time-consuming activity. You need to prepare the traveling, decide where you want to go, how to go there, where to stay and think about activities to do in that destination. When roadschooling, you also need to consider what educational trip you like to do.
As you will notice, it is a very busy schedule. So think about this work-life balance before you take the leap and get disappointed about it in real life.
It is possible!
You might get the idea I want to discourage you in taking on a digital nomad lifestyle with your family. Absolutely not! I just want to scatter that palm tree image you might have and sketch a realistic picture, so you don’t jump in and go disillusioned back home.
If you are highly motivated to get the digital nomad thing working, I am 100% sure you will get there. You will experience some failures, but you will learn from these and get stronger. Not only you but your whole family. You will give your kids the opportunity to experience life to its fullest. To see the world, get to know people and cultures from across the globe and gain experiences from which they benefit the rest of their lives.
So, still interested? Keep on reading!
Step 1 Find or create a location independent job
It all starts with preparation. If you still have a 9 to 5 job, and this job is not remote, then you have to start investigating other options. Most will automatically think about becoming an entrepreneur or freelancer. Although many digital nomads are indeed location independent entrepreneurs, there are more possibilities to work remotely.
Difference between being a digital nomad and location independent
Some say there is a difference. I think it is just a label. The difference in definition is that some don’t earn enough to work and travel the whole year. So they go back to a place they call home and work for several weeks or months to complement their piggy bank. People who work location independent earn enough to travel full time. But then again, it is just a label. Some also think you are not a true digital nomad if you stay several weeks or months in one place. But as mentioned, it is just a label.
How about the safety of being an employee (receiving a steady monthly income and its benefits), but still have the freedom to work from anywhere? It is possible! My husband started working for a small Dutch company that works with freelancers from all over the world. Besides these freelancers, they wanted to add an employee to their ranks and decided my husband was the right choice. He can work from anywhere and has regular Skype meetings with his bosses and freelance colleagues.
To get a remote job there are two possibilities:
Ask your current employer to work remotely
Don’t just ask, think it through! A bit of preparation is vital. Write down why you want to work remotely. Think of benefits for your employer and put these nicely in a presentation. Possible benefits are that you are more motivated because of a better work-life balance. Staying in a different timezone than your colleagues can also be an advantage. When your colleagues are asleep, you finish your work after which your colleagues can continue.
Also, be honest about the consequences. If you cannot join any face-to-face meetings, just say so. Think about possible problems and come up with solutions.
Suggest a trial period, for example, 3 or 6 months, after which you and your employer can evaluate. And of course, during this period you will show your employer how good you are at doing your job remotely!
Find a remote job
Your employer not in the mood for remote workers? His loss! There are plenty of employers who do see the benefits of remote employees. They sometimes advertise their vacancies on regular job boards, but there are special websites for remote jobs as well:
Many start their digital nomad lifestyle by freelancing. It gives you the freedom to take only the jobs that fit best in your travel schedule, but the security to take on more jobs when the money is needed. This might seem perfect, but starting with freelancing can be daunting.
If you have the necessary funds, you can skip the start-up phase and start as an entrepreneur with a running business. For example, you can buy an existing website that already generates money at Flippa.
Move your brick and mortar business online
Are you already an entrepreneur and do you own a regular business? Maybe it’s possible to switch your company online. Even seemingly non-digital organizations can be transferred online. For example, you can give consults through Skype meetings, hire someone local to do the face to face tasks and work together with employees and colleagues via the cloud.
If you don’t know yet what your perfect remote position would be, you can also start working abroad. This will give you the feel of the digital nomad life. And when living on a budget in cheap countries, you can afford to work less on your job and spend more time on setting up your remote career. Jobs you can think about are teaching English or working as a dive instructor.
If you don’t mind taking some risks, you can also just jump. Quit your job and go. While on the road you can start as an entrepreneur or freelancer. My obvious advice: make sure you have enough savings to support your family for at least 1 or 2 years.
Step 2 Keep your expenses to a minimum
Downsizing your expenses seems obvious, but it’s for lots of families a difficult step. Let me help you with some basic advice:
Minimizing from home
If you are still in your hometown, with a house and regular everyday costs, start with tracking your expenses. Make the necessary cuts. No vacation trips, no needless shopping; only the necessities.
Clear away stuff you don’t need. Sell them or give them to charity. You will notice that living with less stuff is liberating. Don’t forget that minimizing your belongings is a process. Start with clearing away some things, the stuff you don’t use and of which you are sure you will never use again. Once you’ve gone through all your stuff, do it again. Things you first were reluctant to put away are easier to sell or give away in the second round.
If your kids are a bit older, they might have some problems with minimizing. Try to involve them in the process. Let them think about what they really need, how they can help others with giving away some of their toys to charity or what they can do with the money they earn when selling it. Obviously, not buying new toys, but for example, sending postcards to their friends from wherever they will be when on the road.
Live on a budget when traveling
When on the road, you can live with a small budget as well. Keep in mind that there are a lot of digital nomads out there who can only afford to stay in low budget countries in southeast Asia. Living in New York will demand a lot more monthly income than residing in Manilla!
Also, the slower you travel, the less expensive it is. For example, staying for one or two months in one place will probably result in a long-stay discount for renting an apartment or AirBnB. When we travel with our caravan (called a trailer in the US), we sometimes stay for several weeks on one campsite. This results in many discounts! Staying one night would cost us around € 18 per night, but staying a month only € 13 or less per night.
With kids and work and everything you do during the day (a.k.a. the daily routine) you will probably want to slow travel anyway.
However, if you have the preference to travel through more expensive countries or at a faster pace, you might need to consider that you cannot travel full time. Lots of digital nomads return ‘home’ for a few months to work extra and save money.
Step 3 Decide what to do with your home situation
Having a place called ‘home’ is for many digital nomad newbies their lifejacket. When their whole digital nomad adventure is one big failure, they can always return home. This can be a huge advantageous, but the downside is that maintaining your house can also cost you a lot of money.
I know digital nomad families who have been traveling for 8 or more years and still own a house in the US. They rent it to other people and even earn some money. But when you cannot find decent, reliable tenants, your house can be a burden.
What to do then? This is very personal, and it depends on your (financial) situation.
Step 4 Imagine how you like to travel
Enough with all the drama and difficulties of becoming a digital nomad family! It’s time for the fun part: start imagining how and where you like to travel. There are so many options of traveling full time with your family. Before you leave, you have to think about these and decide what matches best with your family needs.
Would you like to travel in an RV or trailer or a boat? Would you like to go by bus, train or plane and stay in apartments, AirBnB rentals or hotels?
All these options have their pros and cons, and it depends on your family situation what fits best.
For example, we decided to travel with a caravan through Europe because of the following reasons:
Wherever we are in Europe, it is somehow nearby our home country (the Netherlands). So in the case of an emergency or a complete failure, we can quickly go back home. Although we don’t own a house anymore, we still have a lot of family members there where we can temporarily crash.
We have two very little kids (1 and 3) and we want them to have a familiar place where they eat, play and sleep. When traveling to apartments or AirBnB rentals, we would change their whole scenery every once in a while. We think this will not benefit our kids. Although their ‘home’ is in a different spot, their bed stays the same.
Before we had kids, my husband and I traveled to some exotic places all over the world. But we always said to each other: there is so much to discover in Europe, why not travel there more? So that’s what we’re doing now.
Step 5 Make a plan or just leave
It all depends on your preference. We just left. After we sold our house and quitted our jobs, we just left with only a vague plan: go where the sun is shining. We had to drive more than 1500 miles before we reached a sunny destination. Although I did plan a route to travel and looked up several campsites where we could stay, we only stuck to this proposal for exactly one day. It may sound like a waste of time, but before we left, I was very nervous. Well, hello, who would not be?! So to feel more secure I started planning things and designed some backup plans. We didn’t need them but having them made me more relax.
Step 6 Deal with skepticism
You will notice that not everyone around you will support your idea of full time traveling with children. Some may even say inappropriate things. Don’t let yourself get down by pessimists! They are probably jealous or hold a grudge.
Yes, jumping into a digital nomad lifestyle won’t be easy, but there is so much more possible than most people think. Also, you are not the first to do this. Lots of families live happily on the road. The lifestyle is not meant for everyone, but that’s OK. As long as you and your family think it thoroughly, take the jump for the right reasons and be prepared, everything will be fine!
Digital nomad with kids: lots of information!
On this website, I’ve gathered lots of helpful information on how to become a digital nomad with kids. Want to know more? You can go to my ‘Start here‘ page, click on one of the related posts below or explore the categories with practical info, info about getting a digital nomad income, and roadschooling.
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