Prepping for the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Originally from: https://www.reddit.com/r/digitalnomad/comments/85kzi7/extensive_list_and_ideas_of_what_to_do_and/ - Credit to (Screwtheaverage)
We’re a professional married couple in our 30’s and in 2016, we sold 95% of our belongings (r/minimalism) and set off to become/purse independence (location, financial, employment, etc.) (r/digitalnomad, r/leanfire, r/financialindependence). Our goal was to travel abroad continually (mainly Europe, r/longtermtravel) for one year out of one 36L backpack each (and about 15lbs/7kgs), Osprey Manta AG 36s (r/onebag, r/HerOneBag). In that one year we were fortunate to visit three continents, 23 countries, 60 cities, and do 18 house sits. Since our year abroad, we've returned to the US but continue to travel heavily, do house sits, and explore the world (we're currently in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico finishing a house sit).
With that being said, there was a lot of preparation, beyond the backpack and gear, which needed to be done before embarking on our new and pursuant lifestyle. We hope this list may be of help to other aspiring digital nomads and long-term travelers who are contemplating long-term/overseas travel.
However, keep in mind that this list is made up of the things we did/considered, and depending on your situation/travel style/sense of adventure, some or all of it, may not apply/be relevant to you.
In addition, at the very bottom of the post we’ve linked to our blog’s Resources page and Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists page just in case someone needs more information/context on what we’ve used/actively carry on our adventures. We’ve itemized and detailed what each of us carries, so couples and/or female travelers might find it especially useful.
Recommendations of things to do/consider before embarking on extended (perhaps overseas travel)
Before leaving abroad or departing on long-term travel, go through all of your belongings and decide what to keep, sell, or donate. Remember, in the end it’s mostly just stuff.
Consider subleasing, selling, Airbnb’ing, or giving up your apartment/house. Alternatively, find a long-term house sitter to care for your home (for perspective, we’re approaching our 20th house sit).
Forward your mail to your new permanent address (trusted person/loved one/commercial mailer/etc.). Also, update all accounts with this new address.
Don't cancel your US car insurance, because when you come back you'll more than likely be charged more since you'll be considered, 'high risk' for having a lapse in coverage for an extended period of time. Instead, switch your policy to a 'non-owner’ (car) policy. Also, while on the phone with them, ask them if they’ll cover you overseas, and if so, for how long.
Sell/garage your car. If you’re selling it make sure you use a bill of sale. In our case, we were fortunate; we sold our car in less than an hour after posting it on Craigslist.
Open a Schwab High Yield Checking Account. Schwab offers near ‘bankers rate’ on currency withdraws and ATM fees are reimbursed globally.
Make sure you have at least two credit cards (Visa and MC ideally, but depending on the countries you plan on visiting, Visa and Amex, or MC and Amex may be ok).
Automate the paying of your credit cards/bills. We keep a spreadsheet with all of our credit cards and their specifics (r/churning), as well as which financial account is set up to auto-pay the balances in full each month.
Turn on fraud alerts/emails/texts on all of your financial accounts (maybe even download the issuer’s app).
Call to set travel alerts on your credit/debit cards (some issuers no longer require this, and some allow you to do it online or via their app). This will usually reduce the number of times the issuer freezes your credit card for ‘abnormal’ foreign activity, when it’s in fact legitimate.
Switch everything to paperless/e-statements. The less paper mail you get, the easier things are to manage logistically.
Make sure the expiration dates on your credit cards/debit cards aren't going to lapse while you're out of country.
Depending on the countries you'll visit and your traveling style, a prioritychip and PIN card like a Choice Rewards from First Tech Federal Credit Union can be very helpful. It may only come in handy occasionally (again, depending on your travel style), but when it does it’s a ‘life saver’.
Setup a way or a person that can deposit physical checks sent to your permanent address (e.g. deposit stamp).
Explore/decide on vaccines and check whether or not your insurance will cover them, or if you’ll have to pay out of pocket. When calling a clinic ask them for the CPT code (Current Procedural Terminology) for each vaccine, both routine and travel. If you are unfamiliar, CPT codes are the medical diagnostic and billing codes that your medical care provider and insurance company use to bill all procedures and visits. Once you have the CPT codes, you can call your insurance company to see what (if anything) is covered under you plan.
Get routine medical exams done before leaving. We did our wellness exam, eye exam, dental exam, and made sure our routine vaccinations were up to date.
Gather all medical records and prescriptions and keep them with your trusted person. Make sure your doctor knows you’ll be traveling and that you may need them to renew your prescriptions.
Make sure you know your prescription details, so you can tell a doctor or pharmacist, if needed, while abroad. It’s not uncommon for countries not to accept/recognize a foreign prescription, so you’ll need to see a local doctor or, possibly purchase the medication over the counter, depending on the countries regulations.
Don’t forget about extra glasses and contacts. You can carry extras, buy over the counter in some countries, or you can have someone back home forward new glasses or contacts to you while you’re traveling.
Consider options for medical coverage while abroad. You can choose to buy medical travel insurance, or depending on your US health policy (read the fine print and call them to confirm), you may be covered for catastrophic events, even in out of coverage areas and internationally.
Consider setting up or ensuring that your medical directives, financial beneficiaries, power of attorney, and will are in order.
Make sure your passport is up-to-date and you have plenty of empty pages. Some countries will refuse entry if you have less than six months until your passport expires or lack space for a new stamp.
We ordered, for no additional cost (as of the time we ordered ours), a passport with extra pages (52 vs the standard 20), by checking the box for “Large Book” on the application form. Also, before 2016, travelers could request additional pages be added to an existing passport, but now you need to order an entirely new passport if you fill up the pages on your current one.
Double check visa and ‘onward travel’ requirements. These can vary greatly from country to country, and don’t assume they’re the same from the last time you visited.
Consider securing your visa ahead of time before arriving into a country, you have one less thing to worry about.
Keep digital and physical copies of your passport, visas, driver’s license, birth certificate, health insurance card, serial numbers, and important phone numbers (etc.) at your permanent address/trusted person. If anything goes wrong, you lose something, or are mugged, your loved one can have this information to you in a matter of minutes.
Consider making a color copy of your passport and carrying it with you.
Consider signing up for Global Entry/Nexus/SENTRI. Also, don’t forget that some premium credit cards will reimburse Global Entry Fees. Furthermore, keep in mind that Global Entry’s usefulness is limited, since it only applies to a few countries, and when entering the US.
Don’t overlook credit card benefits! For example, Boingo that the Amex Starwood Preferred Card offers. With WiFi being so prevalent, premium WiFi may be less and less necessary, but over the last 18 months we’ve used it about a dozen times, at places where the free WiFi was unbearably slow. We simply disconnected from the free network and instead connected to the premium SSID and provided our login information, and magically our bandwidth/latency improved! Again, the need for a service like this will vary greatly on your individual needs, however if you get it free, why not sign-up (before you start traveling) and have it ready just in case?
If you have hotel/airline/car rental/etc. status with one provider/chain/carrier, now may be the time to match that status to other reward programs, OR signup for a status challenge since, presumably you’re going to be staying in a lot of hotel rooms/renting cars/flying/etc.
If you don’t carry a premium credit card that offers rental car insurance coverage like the Citi Prestige or Chase Reserve, consider Amex’s Premium Car Rental Protection instead. It’ll save you a bunch of money since you’ll pay per rental period, not per day of rental car insurance!
Depending on your travel style, consider brushing up on what vehicle/road trip equipment is compulsory throughout various European countries.
If you decide to get an International Driving Permit, you can get one from your local AAA office for about $20.
Consider/choose your gear: power strip, battery pack, travel adapter, your bag/backpack, travel cubes (or DIY your own), travel towel, locks, first aid supplies (stomach, muscle pain, antibacterial ointment, band-aids, etc.) sun screen, ear plugs, sleeping mask, melatonin, supplements/vitamins, laptop, phone, backup drive, USB flash drive, mouse, camera, neck pillow, etc. (We go over this in much more detail in our Ultimate Gear and Packing Lists, linked at the bottom). However, remember you don’t need (for the most part) consumable supplies to last months and years on end, you can simply pack a limited supply and buy more at your current destination.
To reduce the chances of losing something or being pick pocketed, sew Velcro into your pockets, consider a money belt, or buy something of the shelf like Clothing Arts with hidden pockets.
For travel liquid containers, we use yogurt pouches for ultra-portability. Although, remember to make sure they’re under 3.4 ounces! Furthermore, we rarely carry more than one or two ounces of liquids and gels, since we can purchase more when we arrive at our destination.
Consider carrying a fake/throwaway wallet (if you choose to do this, keep some of your expired/replaced credit cards, and a token amount of cash).
Consider setting up drop shipping supply caches/packages (prescription meds (may not be legal in all countries)/contacts/extra glasses/hard to find gear and supplies) with your trusted contact/permanent address so they can mail them to you. At one point we were in Bucharest, Romania and couldn’t find size 14/15 US shoes (we found one pair for $250USD!), so we limped along (nearly literally) until we got back to the United Kingdom.
Again, if you’re into churning and award travel use Award Wallet to track your points/accounts.
Depending on your travel style, you may want to consider either buying lounge access via Priority Pass or get a premium credit card, like the Citi Prestige/Chase Reserve, that includes an unlimited number of visits in a year for you and your spouse (or travel companion). Some airports abroad can be different from US airports and offer very few seating options, making lounges a welcome retreat and great place to work. For perspective, we've used lounges 37 times in the last 18 months, so we've definitely recouped the Citi Prestige annual fee.
Use an app like Duolingo to brush up or learn a new language.
Have a reliable and global VPN provider like PIA (for example).
Use a password vault like Keepass or Lastpass. Also, be aware of logging into accounts in public areas. You may have roaming eyes, or cameras around!
Get your travel apps in order (Google Translate, VPN, Signal, Trip It, Google Maps, Currency Conversion, etc.) and download translation languages and maps on Wi-Fi ahead of time to save on data usage.
Encrypt everything! Internal laptop drives, USB Flash Drives, backup drives, etc. This website/guide from the Electronic Frontier Foundation can really help simplify security (which, since you’re going to be on the road and using countless untrusted networks/etc. it’s arguably even more important than when simply being at ‘home’).
Make sure you have a secure way to transfer sensitive information (for tax stuff or the like, that you may not be able to get electronically) from your trusted person/permanent address. If we were to assume you’re not going to be using a commercial mailer, Signal may be a good choice. With Signal you can chat, call, video chat, send pictures, documents, etc., truly securely.
Forward your cell phone number to Google Voice (or similar) and depending on your cell provider, contact them to set your phone line to 'reduced rate suspension’ (AT&T calls it this). In the case of AT&T, they’ll suspend your phone line for six months at a time (for a maximum of a year) and lower the cost of the suspended line to $10 per month. Plus, since you have a Google Voice phone number (or similar), people in the US can still call you on that US phone number (you’ll answer via Google Hangouts/etc.).
Sign up for Google's Project Fi or use a data Wiki to understand what the local cellular network and SIM situation is like in your new location/country. SIM cards can be easy to purchase abroad, or challenging, depending on the country/person behind the counter/time of day (e.g. 2 am landing). Alternately, use Google Hangouts (or similar) to call back to the US for free (or internationally very cheaply) when on WiFi and forgo having to buy a local SIM/use Project Fi at all.
Leave a remote computer on at your permanent address that you can remote into, in case of theft/loss of you laptop/forgot something/backup plan/etc. This also comes in handy as a quick way to login to a website that only allows access from within the US and detects your VPN.
Create/update your WOOFing/Helpx/Airbnb/Couchsurfing/House Sitting profile before you depart.
Well, there you have it, sorry for the length! We’ve found that having these things in order has dramatically reduced our need to scramble and/or solve issues while pursuing type of lifestyle. Obviously, nothing is 100%, but doing and/or considering these things has served us well over the last 18-months. The idea is try and be proactive instead of reactive.
We’re sure we’ve forgotten some things, but we hope the community finds the information helpful!