Should I Opt for a Career as a Digital Nomad?

Digital nomad

Living and working as a digital nomad is growing in popularity as internet capabilities expand globally. If you have incurable wanderlust you are in for a treat with such a career move. Working as a digital nomad or virtual expat gives you the opportunity to quench your travel thirst in dynamic and exciting ways.

Now before I dive too deep into this topic let me clarify what I mean by a digital nomad. For definitive purposes, a digital nomad is an individual who utilizes technology as their primary means of maintaining a location independent lifestyle. This could be through employment, entrepreneurship, residual income, or retirement.

For the purpose of clarity, I use the term digital nomad and virtual expat interchangeably throughout this post. However, keep in mind that a digital nomad does not necessarily have to live outside of their passport country. Though, living abroad is generally accepted as a major part of this lifestyle.

Digital Nomad Pathways

In general there are two main pathways to becoming a digital nomad. The first option involves being a virtual employee or entrepreneur while living outside of your passport country. In such a scenario, an expat can work for an organization within or outside of their host country.

For instance, you may move from America to the UK and work as a virtual graphic designer while working for a UK based company. Conversely, you may work as a virtual graphic designer in the U.S. for a U.S. based company and decide to move to Thailand while continuing your employment.

The second option for digital nomads is to work remotely for an international company as a expatriate employee while living in your passport country. Remote or virtual work still gives a person the chance to travel domestically or internationally at their leisure. Though I know that some may not deem this as a “true” expat or digital nomad experience.

However, such an individual may be considered an expat based on their employment classification. This has become more common in light of recent travel bans. This is primarily due to the need for countries that depend on expat labor to find innovative ways to attract and retain such employees. Also, this situation still qualifies one as a digital nomad based on the definition.

There are many pros and cons to both of these options. Deciding to embark on a digital nomad journey is simply a matter of which option is most beneficial for your particular needs.

Pros of Being a digital nomad

Cost of Living

One of the most common reasons that people choose to work as a virtual expat is to enjoy a better standard of living. The average income of a worker or retiree from a developed country can typically go a long way in an underdeveloped or developing country.

This is why many remote employees and entrepreneurs choose to live in foreign countries with a lower cost of living. They can enjoy a higher standard of living while being able save, pay off bills, or otherwise accumulate cash reserves.

Location Independence

Another benefit of being a digital nomad is the ability to be location independent. You can travel to and/or live almost anywhere as a digital nomad. So this option is perfect for someone interested in exploring multiple locations without being tied to a specific geographical region.

More Opportunities

Being a virtual expat opens the door to more employment opportunities. The virtual work space in general has literally changed our definition of when, why, and how we work. So digital nomads are often able to find or create unique and innovative career paths.

Freedom

Being a digital nomad is all about freedom. In many instances you have the opportunity to choose when, where, and how long you stay in a given destination. Depending on your work situation, you may also be able to choose your own schedule. This could mean spending early mornings relaxing at the beach. Or it could mean taking long drives up the coast in the middle of the workweek.

Unique Experiences

Being an expat in general often comes with its share of unique and exciting experiences. Expats tend to spend a good portion of their time exploring and learning about new places and meeting new people.

Working as a virtual expat has the propensity to expand your ability to explore and learn to a much higher degree. Since you are not bound to a traditional office setting you can have the freedom to move around more frequently. This ultimately means more time for adventures and exploration.

Cons of Being a digital nomad

Infrastructure Issues

The digital nomad space can also present its share of challenges. In particular for those who rely on steady and fast internet capabilities to perform their duties, infrastructure issues can present major problems.

This is especially the case for expats who live in areas that consistently have issues with the electricity and/or internet grid. Unfortunately, such issues are very common in underdeveloped and developing regions of the world. These issues can make the digital nomad life extremely difficult or outright impossible in some cases.

Loneliness and Isolation

Being an expat already comes with its own share of issues related to loneliness and isolation. Engaging on a digital nomad adventure can easily amplify such issues. When you work remotely you typically work in a bubble even if you communicate with your colleagues on a regular basis.

If you spend the majority of your day online while living in a foreign country it is easy to feel isolated. Undoubtedly this contributes to loneliness. When loneliness lingers one can easily begin to experience mental health issues. So this is definitely something to consider especially if you tend to be the loner type.

Visa Complications

Another issue for digital nomads is securing visas for long term stays. Digital nomads who work for organizations outside of their expat country usually have issues securing work or other long term visas. This is because they don’t actually work for an organization within the country.

Therefore, they either have to make visa runs, apply for a business visa, or secure a long-term visa through other means. In most instances, such situations can prove cumbersome and daunting over the long haul. This can easily fatigue even the most adventurous person.

Dating and Romance

Loneliness and isolation can also bring trouble in the romance department. Not being around other people on a regular basis obviously diminishes your chances of meeting someone special. Couple this with language and cultural barriers and you have a recipe for dating disasters.

Though all is not lost for virtual expats, it can be challenging for them to find suitable mates. Dating can be even more challenging for digital nomads who move around frequently. It is very difficult to maintain long distance relationships over the long haul.

Being Misunderstood

When someone chooses not to live a traditional lifestyle, they are often misunderstood by society. While being non-traditional is more fashionable than ever before it is still taboo to break away from some societal norms. Living as digital nomad is one of them.

Your family and friends will probably often question your desire to roam the world. Many of them won’t understand why you don’t want to settle down. So you may often feel like the black-sheep of the family if you choose this lifestyle.

The Best Pathway

As always, my advise for choosing any option is what’s best for your situation. The digital nomad life is the only way to live for some. For others, not so much. You need to do some deep digging to determine if the above-mentioned and other pros outweigh the cons for you.

What are the Best Countries for Expats?

Best expat countries

The other day I came across a video about the best places to live, work, or retire abroad. While this isn’t the first time that I have seen these types of lists or compilations, this video really caught my attention. I immediately started to think “is there a such thing?”.

I know that best locations exist for individual expats or retirees. However, is there truly such a thing as a best expat country for the average person? I started watching the video to determine what criteria was used to rank the countries that were on this list. Within the first few seconds the narrator indicated that the list was derived from data collected from an expat survey that’s conducted annually. I only watched enough of the video thereafter to see the top 3 ranked countries.

Afterwards I thought how misleading and misinformed these types of lists can be for the average person who is considering moving abroad. There are so many factors involved in choosing the right or “best” expat location for each individual. What appeals to one person may be the complete opposite for the next person.

Though I don’t feel that any harm was meant by the title or information presented in the video, I do think that prospective expats should focus more on what matters to them. Expats may be able to find their ideal country by exploring such lists. However, these oftentimes very short lists are in no way representative of the global population.

This is why I typically steer away from presenting the “best” type of anything posts. I even steer clear of these types of conversations during my coaching sessions. Instead, I help my clients focus on what’s important to them as an expat. I first have them complete a comprehensive expat profile survey so that I can gain a better understanding of their overall personality. Then, I have a 60 minute meeting with them so that we can discuss their survey results in more depth. Finally, I customize a list of expat countries that I feel are suitable to their needs and desires.

It is important to keep in mind that we are all individuals with different personalities that can and do shape what best meets our needs. Therefore, it is necessary to approach your expat journey with these objectives in mind. You should effectively “know thyself”. Take some inventory of your own likes and dislikes, and needs and desires. Then, focus on the countries that readily offer the things that are conductive to your wants and desires.

Need more help planning your expat journey? Contact us so that we can get you on the right track.

Expat Life in an African Country

Expat Life in Africa

African heritage tourism and repatriation have been hot topics among many individuals throughout the African diaspora over the last decade or so. In addition to these influences, there are so many reasons to travel to the vast continent. It literally offers every form of terrain that is present on the planet. Exotic wildlife, scenic views, and beautiful beaches are but a few reasons why living on the continent is so enticing.

I was fortunate enough to live and work in Africa about 6-years ago as I have shared in other posts. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me and my family that I will forever cherish. Every time I share my journey with others I am often bombarded with a host of questions about life on the continent. If fact, the other day one of my clients asked me a number of questions about expat life on the continent. This is a topic that comes up frequently in my coaching sessions.

So I have compiled a list of tips and suggestions for those who are interested in working and living in an African country. Keep in mind that these suggestions are for individuals who plan to seek employment opportunities before they go to the continent.

In general, I don’t recommend that anyone relocates to an African country before they secure employment, volunteer, business or similar opportunities unless they are financially independent. African nations, like many other developing parts of the world, don’t tend to have the same level of economic stability as more developed countries. Securing gainful employment is quite challenging in local markets for many African citizens and local pay tends to be significantly lower than that of westernized countries.

However, a number of multi-national companies, non-governmental organizations, and national agencies have had a presence in Africa for many years. A growing number of foreign colleges and universities are also establishing campuses in African countries. As such, there are a number of expatriate opportunities in many African nations for qualified individuals. Such opportunities tend to come with equitable salaries, and paid accommodations, utilities, transportation, and many other perks to expat workers.

So if you are thinking about joining the African expat workforce, here are a few things you should consider:

Visas and Passports

In order to legally stay in most African countries for an extended period of time you need a work, volunteer, business, or marriage visa. Tourist visas are generally only valid for 1-3 months at a time. Even extended one-year or longer tourist visas generally require visitors to leave and re-enter the country within 1-3 month intervals. This process can be very expensive and burdensome.

If you secure employment, volunteer, business or similar opportunities prior to arriving in your country of choice, you can generally start or finalize your visa before you arrive. Most organizations connected to employment and volunteer opportunities will handle this process for you. If you are starting a business, you may not be able to begin this process until you arrive in the country.

It is also very important to keep in mind that most visa issuing embassies require at least 3-6 months of validity on your passport from your date of arrival.

A good rule of thumb is to ensure that you have at least 1-year of validity as it may take a few months to process your visa. Also, you may not have time to get to your embassy of citizenship in the foreign nation to renew your visa right away – assuming that there is one in the country.

Transportation

Transportation in and around most African nations is quite straightforward. Many African countries have bustling transportation systems that include commuter and motorcycle taxis, public and private buses and vans, rental vehicles, and the like. You can likewise purchase or lease a vehicle if you choose to drive while living in an African nation. It is a good idea to check driver license rules and regulations before you leave to ensure that this is a viable option.

Another consideration when driving in some African nations is which side of the road is used. The country that you choose may drive on the opposite side of the road than your country of origin. So it may take some time getting acclimated to the driving conditions and shipping your vehicle may not be a viable option.

Safety and Security

In general, most African countries share the same safety and security features as any other country in the world. Some regions have high-end, luxury, gated communities with 24-hour security on post. While other communities are riddled with crime, drugs, sex-workers, and the like. Still, there are other communities that have a mix of both of these dynamics. Typically expats are placed in more secure areas of the country, which means that they encounter few safety issues that adversity effect their stay.

Many people think about constant civil war, fighting, and unrest when they consider the safety and security of African nations. Yes, these things are going on in certain parts of Africa. However, few expats are impacted by them because they don’t tend to live in regions of countries where such activities regularly take place. There are many expats living full, safe, and protected lives in some of the countries where civil unrest, fighting, war, poverty, etc. is a constant facet of life. Even more, many multi-national corporations still have thriving businesses in some of these same areas.

Shopping

Locally grown and manufactured products and goods are plentiful and easily accessible in most African nations. Such items are usually less expensive than imported products from foreign countries that are often available in most African countries. You will be able to find all your basic needs in the average African country.

Expat life in Africa

Keep in mind that the quality and style of locally grown and produced goods may vary. Locally grow foods are usually fresh, organic, and of the highest quality. On the other hand, you probably won’t be able to find your favorite clothing brands or certain tech items in local markets.

Expat life in an African Country

But don’t fret – a number of African countries have malls and foreign-owned retail outlets packed with western apparel, electronics, and other goods. These items are usually more expensive due to import taxes and tariffs. So be prepared to spend more for them in Africa than you would in the country they originated from.

728 x 90

Healthcare

Healthcare is an area of major concern when living in an African country. In general, African countries don’t have the same level of technological capabilities to deliver the same quality of care often available in westernized countries. Also, there is a significant brain drain in most African nations as many of these countries lose top-tier talent to westernized nations that pay better salaries. This means that the physician to population ratio can be dangerously low in some regions.

On the other hand, most African nations are ripe with spiritual and herbal healers, sangomas, and the like. In my experience, I have found these practices to be more effective for the treatment of a number of disease states. However if you don’t subscribe to such medicinal practices, you need to seriously consider your healthcare needs before moving to an African country.

If you have a chronic disease that requires you to take prescription drugs, you should determine if the drugs are available in the African nation you are considering moving to. If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, you may want to prepare for delivery in your country of origin. If you have other major medical concerns, you need to do your research to determine which healthcare options are best for your situation.

Climate and Weather

While Africa is the hottest continent on earth, it has diverse climates and weather patterns. Many people believe that it is extraordinarily hot on the entire continent throughout the year. This is generally not the case for any particular region, though some regions stay warmer than others year-round.

West, central, and parts of east and southern Africa tend to have a tropical climate, which includes balmy summers contrasted by very wet rainy seasons. Northeast Africa has a dry, hot desert climate that experiences little rainfall. Many parts of the continent have cooler winters and it even snows in certain regions such as southern Africa. So also consider the climate and weather dynamics when planning to live and work in an African country.

Summary

There are many things to think about when preparing to live as an expat in an African nation. The culture, language, cuisine, and other elements may be quite different than what you have experienced in your country of origin. So plan and prepare for your journey wisely!

Need assistance planning your expat life in Africa? Contact us so that we can help you prepare for your journey.

Save Money 728x90