Escape the Cubicle and Become a Digital Nomad

If you’ve been a regular reader for awhile now or you took a minute or two to check out some of the photos on my About Me page, you know that I love to travel. Becoming a digital nomad has allowed me to see spectacular sights and experience unforgettable moments all over the world.

I’m just a regular guy who got fed-up with the whole 9-to-5 thing. I was sick of feeling like a rat in a cage and one day I told myself, “Enough’s enough!” Right then and there, I vowed to figure out a way to live a comfortable, happy life without setting foot inside an office again.

I’m not gonna lie—it didn’t all happen in an instant, but it’s gotten to the point that my affiliate marketing and product creation businesses are just about automated. I don’t have to work 24/7 and I can work anywhere I choose to work. I like to think of myself as a digital nomad, someone who uses technology and the internet to work remotely, whether it’s from the local Barnes and Noble or Starbucks or a country that’s thousands of miles from home.

Working from “Home”

Times are changing. Many large corporations are striving to save office space (i.e., money) and as a result, working from home is allowed and often encouraged. With unemployment rates sky-high, a lot of people have become freelancers in their field of expertise, tackling projects as independent contractors as opposed to being tied down to one specific company.

Even so, who’s to say where “home” is? I managed to run my businesses and earn a respectable income while traveling through Europe for most of 2010.

5 Things You Need to Become a Digital Nomad

It wouldn’t have been possible without:

  • A quality laptop. I bought a new laptop before hopping that flight to Europe and the trip wouldn’t have happened without it. I’m not saying that you have to purchase a new computer before you head out of town, but if you’re going to be away for a long period of time and you plan on running your business successfully, you need a dependable computer.

  • An internet connection. Free Wi-Fi is pretty common in the United States, which is why I like to work at coffee shops and restaurants. On a couple occasions I ran into minor problems getting online in Europe, but it was nothing devastating. Do a bit of research before hitting the highway or getting on a plane—will your hotel have Wi-Fi?

  • An income. My online businesses have provided me with a steady income for awhile now, but had something gone drastically wrong and the cash flow dried up, I would have had to cut my trip short. If you want to become a digital nomad, you need a business that allows you to make money from anywhere in the world—you need to be “location independent.”
  • “The cloud.” If my laptop had crashed on me while I was traveling, I would have lost everything. Oh, wait, no I wouldn’t have– I save all of my documents and photos to an online storage service! A few weeks ago I urged you all to “Go to the cloud” and I’m reiterating that point right now. It’s especially important if you’re collaborating on projects with people back home, wherever that is!

  • A positive outlook. Call me cheesy, but having a good attitude about being a digital nomad is just as important as your laptop and your internet connection. Being a business owner isn’t always a piece of cake, and dealing with problems while you’re out of your element can make small problems seem huge. I had to return to New Jersey after I’d been gone a few weeks, but I managed to get back overseas and finish what I started. My positive outlook helped me through it all!
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29 thoughts on “Escape the Cubicle and Become a Digital Nomad”

  1. We’ve been planning a couple of a bit of long term travel for about 12 months time and while I’ve almost completely made the transition to working from home – the one thing that I think I will find hard is the transition from my 2 large monitors down to one laptop.

    In Europe did you use free internet from place like McDonalds and Starbucks or did you organise your own internet?

    • Thomas,

      In some of the major city areas there were wireless ntt’ places like Starbucks. But it was not nearly as common. I stayed in hostels (nice and cheap) about 70% of my time and they almost always had some sort of connection. Though sometimes you would be limited to a specific amount of time a day. It just takes a little creative thinking. Doing a lot of work offline and then just getting on to upload/check mail/respond and maybe connect. In emerganices most places that DO NOT have some sort of wireless access have internet cafes, where you can at least get on and get something done. I found no place that had “nothing” but some areas were a bit’ of a pain.

      The transition could be good for you. I did all my work on a giant laptop or my desktop before I left. Now that I am back I STILL use my little tiny travel size laptop for most things. It is just so much more convenient, and for most things more than powerful enough.

      Good luck with your trip! I am sure you will love it.

      • Well that is good news because it saves money on actually buying internet.

        And that is what I am thinking. Traveling will be quite liberating for me and I think make me a lot more focused.

  2. Hi Steve

    Your positive outlook plus your business success is not only encouraging to me but also a breath of fresh air. I am doing the really serious hourswith my fledgling business now; so that I can eventually not have to.

    So many kind bloggers/marketers along the way are helping me to fulfil that dream. Whether it is practical help, a comment on my blog or a chat on skype; it all helps. Good to get your practical tips for those who want to travel too. Thanks Steve for sharing your own experiences and how you found it on your travels in 2010.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Thanks Patricia,

      You may like my positivity, but I also love your positivity and sunny disposition. SO back at ya! 🙂 I really do believe your business shall be a smashing success. You do work hard at it and you have a whole bunch of people rooting for you and willing you to success!

      Have a great weekend!

  3. Hi Steve,

    #5 is where it starts.

    The only thing blocking home based success is some negative idea we hold on to. Sure, we must move into action. But with a crappy, defeatist attitudes you move into defeatist acts, fail and blame it on others.

    Adopt a positive mental attitude and all the other physical tools fall into place for you. You find knowledge, money, prospering ideas, whatever! It all starts with PMA.

    Thanks for sharing with us and enjoy your weekend Steve.


    • I agree. Maintaining positivity is of primary importance. It is the engine that drives everything else. The moment you stop having positivity and faith in yourself, bad things start to happen, leading ultimately to failure.

      to Paraphrase Tony Montana “In this country, first you get the positive mental attitude, then you gonna make the money. Then when you get … Then when you get the power, then you get the women.

  4. Hi Steve, as you know, I am no fan of the 9-5 cubicle lifestyle. It works for some people, but not for me.

    I would like to be a digital nomad one day but I’m not quite there. I have a laptop and I’m working on the cloud solution now. I haven’t quite reached the steady cash flow I’m looking for, but I’m working on that. I definitely don’t want to be locked into fee-for-service where I have to be in a particular place, or spending a lot of time shipping products again.

    • Jennifer,
      You make a good point. In some online jobs you are tied to place as much as with a real job. For me personally, I would “almost” rather have the security of a “real” job. (though that security is vanishing)

      With your love of travel, I am sure you will be rocking it when you are fully mobile in your work environment.

  5. Hi Steve!

    Good points. As Ryan already mentioned about the positive outlook and it’s importance, it is true also for those (like me), who are working towards the same situation where you are now.

    Knowing that it will definitely happen someday (escaping the cubicle) keeps me positive and working towards my goals – every day 🙂

  6. Hi Steve:

    To me if feels like you are the focal point of my blog network. All motivations comes from you and many ideas follow are inspired by you.

    I have worked from home for last eighteen years, and fifteen years were very stable and good income, but not as a marketer.
    Now for few years I focused on Internet, I have not made a regular income, but with breaks. As I could not hook up to one thing that I can do for ever. I am hoping to physical products, info products, ebooks, and lots more. If I am satisfied with some thing and start a steady income , then I will feel I have made it, working from Internet.

    I am hoping it is time for me to find what I can do and I like it enough to do it all the time. Reading your blog, I should be able to do so, as you always write about so many choices.

    Enjoy your week end

    Fran A

  7. Your story is an awesome one Steve. You practice what you preach and you live ‘in the clouds’ every day. Such freedom to go anywhere but still make a buck has to be incredibly liberating and exhilarating. Happy for you man, and appreciate all the advice you give to ‘future’ digital nomads. 😉


  8. Hi Steve,

    That’s a great motivational story from you. People will be looking at you full of envy with what you have achieved. Success definitely don’t come easy.

    You have given us a blueprint of what you have done to reach your internet lifestyle and there is so much information we can take from your blog.

    Thanks a lot for always giving.


  9. Awesome story Steve,

    I’ve got plans to get traveling when i finish school at the end of this year so I’ve been working fairly frantically trying to get all of my freelance skills up to scratch for when i do make the move.

    Just wondering though, what do you do when your laptop dies and the money you need to buy a new one is all UN-accessibly online?

  10. Wow Steve,

    I’m curious how many months did you spend travelling while doing your business? Seems like a pretty hard thing to do. Can’t quite imagine it but then again when you are sick and tired of the sucky job you used to have, you will find any opportunity and make it work even if there’s only dial up internet in some crappy forsaken place in some part of the globe.

    Alright, I know I can’t relate to this but still I will highly recommend anyone popping right up here to read this post.

    • All total it was about 7 months. One month into the trip my aunt died and I flew home for about a month before heading out again. SO about 6 months continuous and 7 months (or so) total. Yeah, I think having a rigid schedule of posting every day really helped, because it would have been way to easy to cope out and just NOT post at all for a few days. Having a strict sked. made me really work to make it happen, “no matter what”.

      Like you said though, far better the inconvenience of looking around for an hour trying to find a internet connection than working at a job I hated. It is easy to get through “annoying” tings when you keep in mind how much LESS annoying they are than what, “could be”

  11. This definitely sounds good Steve!

    Traveling and making money at the same time by working only a few hours a day gives you a feeling of freedom. I think everybody that has a job and goes to work from a certain hour is constrained and feels trapped in cage, and you definitely have a dream “job” Steve.

    Now, when becoming a “digital nomad” like you said, I think you should definitely have a laptop that has a long battery life. Also, a power adapter that can support the electric regulation from all countries.

    Having a cloud backup service that synchronize automatically (like Ubuntu One – which is for Ubuntu) is definitely a great way to protect your data and can help your recover after a hard-drive failure or worse, if your computer gets stolen (which, I may add, can happen if you travel a lot).

    • Alex,

      Long lived battery is a Must. Absolutely. Size and long battery life were the two main things I looked for when I got my “travel” laptop. Which is really the main one I use even though I am back now.

      I also agree on cloud backups. Actually I think everyone should have 2 backups. EIther 1 physical 1 cloud or two different cloud services. That way if double catastrophe strikes, you are still protected.

  12. Hey Steve!

    I’m still trying to work on getting that steady passive income, but I’m working on it! My ultimate goal is to be in a position where I can go anywhere and do anything within the next 12 months.

    Thanks for this inspiring post!

  13. Steve,

    I love hearing about people who have escaped from the rat race. While I cannot become a nomad due to having small children, I am aspiring to be a digital resident.

    I love what you’re doing here. Your down to earth approach to IM is good to see and let’s those of us who want to become free, see that it’s possible.

    • Hi Steve how old are your kids? My wife and I are in Thailand for a year or two while our daughter (currently 3) is still young and not “set” in school. Then it’s back to the US for us and a more stable school situation for her. I hear that’s good for kids…

  14. In 2011, I’m hoping to increase the money I earn from working online, but also aim to create a small business that would allow me to work from home primarily. It’s funny how there is a thriving community of entrepreneurs and bloggers who don’t want the 9-5 job, but still a huge amount of people who seek out that comfort of working in an office. My previous job was as a hotel manager, and I think what I liked most about it was a lack of an office. My work didn’t feel like work because I was talking with guests so much (even casually).

    I certainly envy how you were able to travel so much last year. I’m not sure if you posted this up before, but how much did your travels end up costing you in the end?

  15. I agree with Morgan that is is an inspiring post. Building passive income is the way to go. Working from home has its own drawbacks, but I would rather do that than be stuck in a cubicle 9 to 5 any day.

  16. As a slight variation of your income point I would add a business model that allows you to work from anywhere in the world. I’m fortunate to have a web development business that doesn’t require me to be in a set location, and I’m expanding into affiliate marketing and niche sites to ensure I’m properly diversified (thank you MBA for that big word 🙂

  17. How do you manage to collect the money from your coustomers in each city? Do you use PayPal?

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