Stephanie Smolders recommends saving as much as possible before starting a digital nomad lifestyle.
  • Stephanie Smolders is a marketing and business coach, writer, and digital nomad.
  • She and her partner have been traveling the world full time while working remotely since 2016.
  • If they were to start over, Smolders says they’d bulk up on savings and be more flexible with travel plans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It may sound idyllic to be a remote worker and log onto your computer from anywhere in the world.

It is, but after five years of working remotely as a digital nomad, there are definitely a few things I wish I’d known beforehand.

In 2016, I quit my teaching job and started traveling full-time and working remotely with my partner, Peter. Our fair share of mistakes have taught us a lot. If we were to start over again, this is what we would do differently.

1. You get what you pay for

Save yourself endless frustration and energy by not always going for the cheapest option. At first, we tried hard to save extra cash, whether on software and tools we needed for work, flights and accommodation, or even restaurant visits. We’d spend hours figuring out how to save an extra $20 a month on a software that was supposed to save us time.

In most cases, we’d discover that we needed the premium or paid plan after all, could have used that extra storage, or should have paid for a flexible flight ticket. The amount of time we spent trying to be frugal was not worth the couple hundred dollars we saved. Now, when we think we need something, we get it and save ourselves on time.

2. The lifestyle will cost more than you think

On the road, things rarely go as planned. A general rule of thumb we’ve learned is that your estimated lifestyle costs 25% more than you think and planning takes double the time. Overestimate your budget and your timing so you save yourself guilt-tripping later on. We now calculate 25% more in our budget because it’s hard to estimate your daily spending in a new country.

3. Take a break and enjoy

Doha 2017 Stephanie Smolders
Smolders in Doha, Qatar in 2017.

In the first three years, despite traveling to over 40 countries, we rarely explored or took a day off. We started a marketing company and wanted to provide the best service to our clients, so we hardly even took weekends off.

Looking back, we missed a lot of the beauty of traveling and connecting with a new country and culture. Despite the tropical locations, if you’re working as a digital nomad you’re not always on vacation, so never taking a real break will be unhealthy and unsustainable in the long run.

Now, we take at least a week-long break every three months. It keeps us motivated and productive. Even when you live in paradise, if you’re working full-time

Years of coaching collegiate field hockey prepared Chelsea Cipriani for her leadership of the fast-paced moving parts that make up Tempest, a multi-faceted destination organization agency that engages with more than 200 locations across the country. Destination orgs are tourism bureaus that aim to draw people to their region to visit, work and live. Tempest helps these orgs via its cloud-based CRM and marketing services.

“As an athlete, you have a goal, and you collectively decide on your goal with your team members. You have to compromise with each other and meet each other where you are,” said Cipriani, VP of platforms at Tempest. “I learned how to motivate and get people on the same page toward the common goal.”

Cipriani received a communications degree from Wake Forest University, where she played D1 field hockey and was a member of the 2004 team that won the NCAA National Championship. After graduating in 2008, Cipriani coached at several institutions, including St. Joseph’s University and the University of Delaware.

In 2018, Cipriani started at Center City-based Tempest as the client success director. Her role evolved into her current position when she saw areas where Tempest could improve, and used her skillset to implement those changes. As VP of platforms, Cipriani leads daily scrums to track the progress of the projects that Tempest’s CRM, integrated marketing services and web development teams are focused on.

Her role at Tempest has cultivated Cipriani’s tactical proficiencies, such as product roadmap oversight, ticket management, and overall project planning and prioritization. She said she’s also built a speciality in forming client relationships “by learning their business practices, understanding their needs, and advocating for them through our product enhancements and prioritization.”

Above all, Cipriani enjoys motivating the people around her, especially her coworkers.

“I do have a passion for helping to develop people and their skills, and helping them achieve their goals,” she said. “I think that adds to my abilities as an employee at Tempest.”

Below, Cipriani shares a bit about what it’s like to work at Tempest.


What’s one of your favorite memories at Tempest?

Pre-COVID, I got to play ping pong against Gritty at our office’s grand opening.

What’s one of Tempest’s accomplishments that you’re proud of?

While the pandemic was happening, we really had the ability to help out the local businesses near the destination organizations we work with. Our clients utilized iDSS Cyclone, our cloud-based CRM, in conjunction with their Tempest websites to update the communities on the status of restaurants and businesses. They were also able to share their COVID protocols.

That was really nice because we were able to see our product in action during COVID. It was satisfying to be a part of, especially since restaurants and the tourism industry were so hard hit over the last year and a half.

What are you looking forward to at Tempest?

We are currently focusing on supporting our clients as tourism, travel, meetings are building back up

Luke Brokaw lives in a school bus, and he does it by choice. The 36-year-old left Michigan three years ago and set out West. Landing in San Diego, he worked as a delivery driver for Amazon. But he wanted even more freedom, so he started freelancing as a graphic and web designer — and roaming.

When I reach him, he’s outside Zion National Park, using his cellphone as a hot spot. “There’s so much red,” he says of the bluffs and canyons around him. “Everything is red.” Living on the road, he says, “does get stressful from time to time. But it’s still a lot better than working a nine-to-five somewhere.”

After buying his “skoolie” in 2018, he built it out, putting in a full kitchen and solar panels. It was painted like an American flag. He painted it black — a choice he later came to regret. “When I parked in residential areas, it looked creepy,” he says. So he repainted it teal and added a landscape of mountains, trees and a sunset. Now random strangers knock on the door, saying they recognize the bus from his YouTube channel. He goes by “The Digital Nomad Guy” on Instagram and sometimes wraps his long red beard in rubber bands.

Luke Brokaw takes a break from driving near La Verkin, Utah.
Provided by Luke Brokaw

Millions have embraced this lifestyle since the advent of COVID-19. As companies responded to the pandemic by making office jobs remote, they also untethered their employees from geographic limitations, at a time when housing costs are skyrocketing. According to a report from MBO Partners, a company that recruits independent professionals to do contract work for businesses, 7.3 million Americans described themselves as “digital nomads” in 2019; a year later, that number increased by half.

Digital nomads have become a common sight across the West, especially in small towns near national parks or ski resorts, where they rely on a hot spot or cafe Wi-Fi to get through the workday, then explore the outdoors once 5 o’clock hits. They’re part of a growing class of transient professionals who use the internet to work remotely and travel at the same time, eschewing traditional roots and responsibilities. But that kind of freedom does not come without a cost, or an impact on the places they visit.

Culturally, they occupy a space between “Zoom Town” movers (similarly remote professionals who’ve resettled in smaller or cheaper towns) and #vanlifers (wealthy hobbyists who might sink $100,000 into a decked-out Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and retire early.) A quick Instagram search reveals millions of images tagged #vanlife or #digitalnomad, showcasing customized vehicles replete with light wood cabinetry and string lights. The glamorous images can be unnerving in a time when many are living in their vehicles out of economic desperation, with ingenious modifications made out of necessity. Each group adapts in its own way.

Luke Brokaw looks out over the Hoover Dam near Kingman Wash, Arizona.
Provided by Luke Brokaw

Aside from the mode

Unlike regular remote workers, who tend to stay in one place or shuttle back and forth between their home and a vacation retreat or a relative’s house, digital nomads travel and explore while working. The authors’ research shows that the number of Americans describing themselves as digital nomads rose by 49% between 2019 and 2020, and that unlike in previous years, traditional job holders made up a majority of these workers in 2020. Despite the large and growing number of these employees, few organizations have formal policies and programs for them. But blasé approaches may not be sufficient. Having digital nomads on the payroll can leave firms open to a wide variety of regulatory and legal risks. But the approach shouldn’t be purely defensive or informed only by compliance concerns. The forces that both enable and encourage digital nomadism are here to stay.

In the months since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the dramatic and rapid shift to remote work has been perhaps the most potent trend impacting the way businesses operate. It’s been a particular boon to one growing group of workers: digital nomads. These are people who embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work anywhere in the internet-connected world.

Unlike regular remote workers, who tend to stay in one place or shuttle back and forth between their home and a vacation retreat or a relative’s house, digital nomads travel and explore while working. They may be found in an RV in the Southwest desert, an apartment in Santiago, Chile, or a cabin in Montana.

Over the past three years, Emergent Research and MBO Partners have collaborated on an extensive digital nomad study. We found that the number of Americans describing themselves as digital nomads rose from 7.3 million in 2019 to 10.9 million in 2020 — an increase of 49%. And the composition of this cohort shifted. In previous years, the ranks of digital nomads were dominated by independent workers: freelancers, independent contractors, and the self-employed. But the 2020 nomad surge was driven by people with traditional jobs. Untethered from their offices, many employees decided to take to the road. In fact, the number of digital nomads with traditional jobs rose from 3.2 million in 2019 to 6.3 million in 2020 — a 96% increase. Traditional job holders now make up a majority of those pursuing this nontraditional work lifestyle.

Our research also found that digital nomads are, on average, well educated, highly skilled, and digitally savvy. Because they rely on digital tools and the internet in their work, it’s not surprising that most of them are in high-demand, tech-oriented occupations; the top jobs include computer programming and IT, web design, creative fields, engineering, and digital and traditional marketing. Digital nomads report remarkably high levels of job satisfaction (90%) and income satisfaction (76%) and have more-advanced job and technical skills and more commitment to continued training than other workers do.

Despite the large and growing number of these employees, few organizations have formal

For the past year, Jeromy Sonne has been on the road with his wife, Kelsey, and their 2-year-old son, Emmett, living and working in short-term home rentals from Airbnb.

Sonne, 31, founder of marketing startup Decibel, was working remotely from rural South Dakota when the pandemic hit. After a few months of lockdown, the Sonnes found that being cooped up at home in a small town wasn’t working, so they put their belongings in storage and started traveling. They began in Utah, in Provo and then Salt Lake City, and then headed to Vermont, Texas, Hawaii and Montana. Most recently, they extended their travel abroad to Panama and Costa Rica, where they’re currently living.

The Sonne family arrived in Costa Rica on June 15 and plan to stay for six weeks.Monica Quesada Cordero / for NBC News

They have stayed in locations for four to six weeks on average, which allows them to get to know the places and take advantage of monthly discounts. Usually, they book two bedrooms, which makes traveling with a toddler on a sensitive sleep schedule more manageable, even if it’s more expensive. But so far they have kept expenses at pre-pandemic levels, which includes average monthly lodging of under $2,500.

“I think there’s a misconception among some people that you have to have this huge amount of money to be able to pull this off,” Sonne said.

Kelsey recently left her job to handle all of the travel arrangements and manage the family’s finances full time, which has been key to the longevity of their travel. On top of budgeting, she keeps their expenses down by pinpointing affordable destinations, finding deals and making use of points and other travel hacks, which make it possible for them to live primarily off one salary.

The Sonnes want parents to know they don’t have to be left out of nomadic living, especially given the relative convenience of furnished accommodations.

Jeromy Sonne, Kelsey Sonne, and their son Emmett walk on the beach in Tamarindo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.Monica Quesada Cordero / for NBC News

“All of this is possible because of the Airbnbs and Vrbos of the world,” Jeromy said. “I don’t think we could really pull it off without those services, because we’re not in a situation where we could ‘hostel it.'”

How long they will continue living out of a few suitcases ultimately comes down to their son. They are eyeing an end-date of late 2022 or early 2023, when he’ll start preschool. In the meantime, they will be on the move, trying to see as much as they can in a few years and with a toddler in tow.

Work-life flexibility

Before the pandemic, the term “virtual nomad” applied to a privileged few who had found a way to finance perpetual travel — and seemed to do so effortlessly. But when Covid-19 forced employers to go remote, it opened up the possibility of a nomadic lifestyle to entirely new groups of people.

Now, despite employers

Southeast Asia (SEA) has been hit hardest in the tourism sector as many countries rely on the tourism dollar to boost their economies, with Singapore and Australia heading for a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries. I have agreed to work on it.

Last week, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Singapore prior to the 47th G7 Summit in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister of Singapore has hinted at the possibility of a travel bubble with Australia, but discussions to further this will only be finalized after a majority of the country’s population has been vaccinated.

“We talked about how a two-way trip between Singapore and Australia can ultimately be resumed in a safe and coordinated way when both sides are ready,” said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Said Joint press conference with his Australian correspondent. Both countries have relatively few cases of COVID-19, slightly over 62,000 and 30,000, respectively, and aim to utilize sophisticated digital systems to ensure the safety of travelers and communities.

Singapore first unveiled the possibility of a travel bubble with Australia in March. This increased the likelihood of traveling between the two allies without the need for a period of self-quarantine. The following month, Australia signed a travel bubble agreement similar to New Zealand. This has led to a surge in cross-border tourism between the two neighboring countries, providing the coveted relief for their economies.

But this freedom was short-lived as sNew Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was reportedly attacked by a Melbourne cluster and ordered to close the bubble in late May. AFP.. Such concerns will move Australia and Singapore cautiously, said Lee of Singapore. “Once both sides are ready in a safe and coordinated way. To be ready to do this, we need to prepare the infrastructure and processes.”

How does the Singapore and Australia travel bubble work?

Starting this week, Australian citizens who have been vaccinated twice with the COVID-19 vaccine and have an Australian Medicare number will have access to the digital certificate of the vaccine.

And from July, all national vaccination programs below will vaccinate individuals (within 24 hours and within 10 days) to the Australian Immunology Register (AIR) maintained by Service Australia on behalf of the Ministry of Health. ) I will report.

Vaccination providers can upload status information directly to AIR’s online portal and link and verify it via their personal Medicare number. The travel bubble with New Zealand allows users to view vaccination confirmations on their smartphones, making travel easier and easier. No need to carry additional ID – “Another key component” for the Australian and Singapore travel bubbles to function effectively and with minimal risk of infection, according to Australian Prime Minister Morrison.

“The sophistication of the system in both Singapore and Australia will ensure that both countries have a system that works incredibly well,” Morrison said. OK.. “Once we have that ability, as prime minister [Lee] Then there is the second consideration. Consider

Jubril Agoro remembers first hearing the word “coronavirus” last March in Bali, Indonesia. “I was just panicking,” he says. After 11 years on the road, the co-founder of financial education business Live Richer Academy and founder of travel video company Passport Heavy rushed to get on a flight back to the US.

Agoro, 34, is one of a growing number of digital nomads — people who work remotely online and are “location independent”. According to a report by MBO Partners, which supports independent professionals and their clients, their numbers have increased by 49 per cent in the US during the pandemic, rising from 7.3m in 2019 to 10.9m in 2020. The “biggest shift is that traditional job holders have been unleashed from their offices and many, instead of staying in one place, are taking to the road,” the report adds.

A nomadic life is very appealing — and some countries, such as Barbados and Bermuda, are trying to attract more remote workers. But the wider tax implications of working away from your home country are complex. Anyone planning to work abroad long-term needs to get specialist tax advice.

Life as a digital nomad

Agoro, a Nigerian American who started his first business as a teenager selling items on eBay, says he first hit the road because “if you’re living an $8,000-a-month lifestyle in Chicago or New York it will cost you about $2,000 a month [in Bali]”.

After returning to the US, he headed to California. He has since travelled internationally again and acknowledges it is “a very sensitive topic”. There has been a split on social media, with some arguing non-essential travel is irresponsible. “I’m trying to live my best life as responsibly as possible,” Agoro says, adding that he wears a mask and takes weekly Covid-19 tests.

Thomas Parkinson, a British Amazon seller and founder of Amazon support company Fast Track FBA, says that after quitting an electronic engineering degree he worked in bar management for five years before starting his first online business. After going through a relationship break-up, a friend suggested he try running his company from abroad. “I only booked a four-week getaway . . . and I still remember to this day I got on the phone to my sister and said ‘I’m not coming home, at all, ever, period’. That was about three years ago,” he says.

Parkinson, 35, is currently in Mexico and after five months in Cancún plans to move to Mexico City.

Malaysian software developer Farez Rahman, 49, is married to British data consultant Jo Lodge, 46. The couple relocated to Malaysia from the UK in 2017. The aim was to run their web development agency Redkey Digital remotely, while retaining their UK client base. “When I worked in London, I had quite a good

Will sophisticated digital systems help move up the travel bubble timetable between Australia and Singapore?

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison (R) and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (L-on screen) hold their hands out for a virtual handshake a summit between the two countries in 2020. (Photo by MICK TSIKAS / POOL / AFP)

With Southeast Asia (SEA) among the hardest hit in the tourism sector as many countries rely on tourism dollars to boost their economies, Singapore and Australia have agreed to work towards a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two nations.

Last week, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed Australian PM Scott Morrison in Singapore ahead of the 47th G7 Summit in the UK. The Singaporean premier hinted at the possibility of a travel bubble with Australia, although talks to further this will only be solidified once a majority of each nation’s populations are vaccinated. 

“We discussed how two-way travel between Singapore and Australia can eventually resume, in a safe and calibrated manner, when both sides are ready,” PM Lee Hsien Loong told a joint news conference along with his Australian counterpart. Both countries have relatively low COVID-19 case counts at just over 62,000 and 30,000 respectively, and will look to make use of sophisticated digital systems to ensure the safety of travelers and the community is prioritized.

Singapore had first revealed the possibility of a travel bubble with Australia back in March, which raised the possibility of travel between the two allies without the need for a self-isolation period. The next month, Australia on a similar travel bubble agreement with New Zealand, which led to a spike in cross-border tourism between the two neighbors, bringing much-needed relief to each nation’s economic sectors. 

However, this freedom was short-lived as spooked by a cluster in Melbourne, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden ordered the bubble to be closed in late May, reported AFP. Such concerns will see Australia and Singapore move cautiously, according to Singapore’s Lee, who said the travel bubble will only take place in a “safe and calibrated manner, when both sides are ready. We need to prepare the infrastructure and processes to get ready to do this.”

How will a Singapore – Australia travel bubble work?

Starting this week, Australian citizens who have received two jabs of a COVID-19 vaccine and are in possession of an Australian Medicare number will be able to access a vaccine digital certificate.

And from July, all national vaccination programs down under will report (within 24 hours and no later than 10 days) the vaccination of individuals to the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) that is maintained by Services Australia, on behalf of the Department of Health.

Vaccination providers can upload status information directly onto AIR’s online portal, linked and verified via the individual’s Medicare number. In the travel bubble with New Zealand, users were able to display their vaccination verification on their smartphones, allowing for ease of travel and no need to carry additional forms of identification – “another important building block” according to Australian PM Morrison to making an Australia-Singapore travel bubble

Seven countries began using the European Union’s digital certificate on Tuesday, allowing for fully vaccinated people to travel.

The Digital Green Certificate began operating ahead of schedule this week in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland. The digital record stores whether a person has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, has recovered from the virus or has tested negative for the virus within 72 hours.

Cartoons on the Coronavirus

The countries made the certificates available to residents and are also accepting them for visitors.

The free certificate is in either digital or paper format that contains a QR code with a digital signature to protect against forgery and falsification, the European Commission said.

Each issuing body, a hospital, testing center or health authority, has its own digital signature, stored in a secure database in each country and the commission is developing a “gateway” where all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU.

According to the commission, June is a scheduled “warm-up phase,” allowing member countries to launch the certificate on a voluntary basis provided the countries are ready to issue and verify certificates.

The commission expects the system to be operational in all 27 member countries by July 1, and it will revise travel recommendations within the European Union later this month.

The Danish government has presented its digital coronavirus passport enabling people to travel abroad or, in Denmark, go to the hairdresser, a tattoo parlor, dine inside a restaurant or wherever else it is needed

“The corona passport we present today can be used from July 1 when you can travel within the EU,” said Finance Minister Nicolai Vammen.

Some 20% of Denmark’s population of 6 million have been fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures, he said.

During a press conference outside the Copenhagen airport, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke held up his phone to show the app, which only features a QR code and a green bar if the person has been vaccinated twice or recently tested negative for COVID-19.

“What we get now is an app that makes it easier and simpler to use,” Heunicke said. “There is no doubt that we will have to use it over the summer, but it is of course something that needs to be phased out.”

People will either have the code scanned or will flash it before entering an airport, a harbor, a train station, a hairdresser or an eatery.

In certain cases, a physical document can be sent in the mail to serve the same purpose as the app.

“It is a solution that is very easy to use,” said Wammen, adding that if it flashes red, it will not say why.

Wammen could not say whether all EU countries will be ready to go live by the end of June, allowing residents to reunite with friends and relatives living across 30 European countries.

“But Denmark is ready,” he said.