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Digital nomadism unexpected costs: 20 expert experiences



Digital nomad life can be very tempting, but it also goes with a whole lot of troubles that are had to imagine before having tried it for yourself.

From visa issues, to unexpected equipment costs, through necessary travel insurance, there are many costs that might not be foreseen, but should be plan before leaving all behind to go living on the road.

After years of living the digital nomad life all other the world, the community of experts came back with very interesting experiences that my be a good lesson for any aspiring digital nomad or current one.

In my personal experience, after more than 6 years on the road, the most difficult unplanned cost to overcome have been related to family emergencies - you never know when they happen, and even a travel insurance‌ only covers so few cases.

Let us know in comments your personal experience - and which of these testimonials helped you the most in planning your own big jump!

What are the unexpected but necessary costs associated with the digital nomad's life (except standard cost of life)? As a digital nomad, have you faced any unplanned expense while working remotely? What would you advise an aspiring digital nomad to be able to face such issues?
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation 

Corinne rootsey: unexpected expenses can include medical/healthcare

As a digital nomad, unexpected expenses can include medical/healthcare costs. While i was traveling from germany to austria in 2015, i accidentally left my prescription medication in my luggage, which was unfortunately lost by the airline. So i had to buy a new lot of my medication again. Luckily, i was able to get my prescription faxed through to my accommodation and i didn't need to see a doctor. Taking out health insurance as a digital nomad would be a very good idea, or at least have a sizable emergency fund while traveling.

Tax is also something that can be easily overlooked but it's an expense that needs to be paid to your home country or to the country where you're based in. Working as a private contractor, make sure you put aside about 20-40% of your income to go towards paying your taxes so there are no nasty surprises come tax time.

Corinne is the blogger behind the personal finance blog, my jearney. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading and playing tennis while her chocolate labrador chases the tennis balls.
Corinne is the blogger behind the personal finance blog, my jearney. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading and playing tennis while her chocolate labrador chases the tennis balls.
  My jearney
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation 

Connor griffiths: expect the unexpected

I've been operating my business lifty life, a vacation rental management company in british columbia, digitally since 2014. In addition i travel extensively with leavetown vacations as the revenue coordinator. While living in spain last january i was stuck with a large unavoidable expense. My smart phone ended up completely dying while visiting berlin! I don't speak any german but was stuck having to purchase a new phone while in berlin, which was difficult because everything is closed on sundays! My phone was especially crucial because it was the only way for me to access my boarding pass back to spain. Luckily i was able to purchase a phone and make my flight just in time.

Digital nomads‌ have a tendency to be free spirits, like me, however if you're planning on travelling the world while working it requires a high level of organization and planning. Working remotely‌ is a privilege that shouldn't be taken lightly. Make sure to plan out every aspect of your trip and communicate constantly with your manager.

Connor graduated from kwantlen university in 2017 with a bba in entrepreneurial leadership. Shortly after he joined leavetown vacations as the revenue coordinator. Leavetown and the sister company jetstreamtech provide api and human solutions for resorts to be distributed on vacation rental websites such as airbnb, homeaway, vrbo, and flipkey.
Connor graduated from kwantlen university in 2017 with a bba in entrepreneurial leadership. Shortly after he joined leavetown vacations as the revenue coordinator. Leavetown and the sister company jetstreamtech provide api and human solutions for resorts to be distributed on vacation rental websites such as airbnb, homeaway, vrbo, and flipkey.
  Lifty life vacation rental management

Sunny ashley: you may want to account for travel insurance

Depending on where you're planning on traveling, one expense you may want to account for is travel insurance. My wife and i travelled to nepal and turkey for a few weeks and decided to buy travel insurance‌ on the off chance we needed emergency services like a helicopter evacuation during a trek. All-in-all, it cost us about $180 usd for coverage but it was well worth the peace of mind. During our time in nepal i actually came down with elevation sickness a couple of times, but fortunately i was able to recover and didn't need to be evacuated. However, it was worth the investment to know we were covered in case of the worst case scenario.

Sunny ashley, founder and ceo of autoshopinvoice. Autoshopinvoice provides shop management software for independent auto repair shops and garages.
Sunny ashley, founder and ceo of autoshopinvoice. Autoshopinvoice provides shop management software for independent auto repair shops and garages.
  Autoshopinvoice
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation 

Nadia: sometimes it can mean that you are dreading water financially

Before starting bjorn blue, i lived as a digital nomad for 5 years. Being a digital nomad is a great lifestyle but it often means that you are not getting ahead financially due to the added costs associated with this lifestyle. Firstly, as you are self employed, you need a place to work. In theory, you can work from your apartment or hotel room but in reality this is difficult as the areas are often not equipped for working. The pictures you see of people sitting on the beach with their laptop simply are not in any way reality. This means you have the added expense of working from a coffee shop or in a co-working space which costs at least 20 usd a day. Secondly, most Digital nomads‌ pursue this lifestyle for the love of travel. Travel is expensive. While an average person might travel 1-2 times a year on a holiday, the average digital nomad is constantly moving around. From my experience, Digital nomads‌ travel at least once a month. This results in large travel bills including travel insurance‌ which would not be otherwise necessary. Don't get me wrong, being a digital nomad is a fabulous lifestyle but sometimes it can mean that you are dreading water financially. If you wish to try this lifestyle, be willing to do it for the lifestyle choice, not the money.

Nadia developed bjorn blue, blue light glasses in direct response to troubles she faced as a digital nomad. Spending large amounts of time on the computer she suffered constant headaches and lack of sleep from blue light.
Nadia developed bjorn blue, blue light glasses in direct response to troubles she faced as a digital nomad. Spending large amounts of time on the computer she suffered constant headaches and lack of sleep from blue light.
  Bjorn blue
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation 

Hilary bird: make sure you have an unlimited data plan

It's easy to assume you'll get a good wifi connection at a coffee shop, library, or co-working space, but sometimes you just can't get one. As a digital nomad, i've found myself unable to get work done because i was relying on a wifi connection out of my control. That's why buying a mobile wifi (mifi) device and a sim card (which has a monthly fee) became an unexpected expense for me.

That being said, it's totally worth the price. I get peace of mind knowing i never have to worry about being able to get my work done because of a bad internet connection. What's more, since i'm constantly changing locations, it's just one less thing to worry about. Using your phone as a mobile hotspot‌ is another option for reliable wifi, if you don't want to buy a device and pay a new monthly fee. Make sure you have an unlimited data plan, or have a clear estimate on how much data you'll be using each month, so you don't end up with a huge phone bill.

Hilary bird is a remote marketing manager for the video production company, render pilots. She travels around the country in her van while taking in scenic views and building out the render pilots brand.
Hilary bird is a remote marketing manager for the video production company, render pilots. She travels around the country in her van while taking in scenic views and building out the render pilots brand.
  Render pilots

Ariel lim: set goals for yourself in terms of revenues

I can think of two unexpected but necessary costs associated with the digital nomad life. The first one is related to health (insurance, medical costs, gym). Because you don’t have someone to pay for these things, you have to yourself. It’s important because if you are sick and can’t work, then you don’t get paid.

The other one is the tools of the trade. I’m a marketer so i have tools that i use daily for my work. One of them is semrush. Another is my writing app (ulysses). I thought i could go on using free versions of these but these tools are worth paying for because of the value they give. It speeds up whatever task you’re doing and increases your productivity.

My advice to overcome these Unexpected costs is to set goals for yourself in terms of revenues. That way, you can afford these necessary costs. Then, if you somehow reach below that revenue threshold, a plan on how to add cash quickly.

For example, that could be applying in upwork for 1-2 week projects to get some cash inflow, or maybe sell some stuff, or tap into your current or past clients to upset them on another service.

Ariel is a freelance marketing consultant who helps b2b service companies thrive in the digital age. He’s helped dozens of businesses grow their revenues through digital marketing.
Ariel is a freelance marketing consultant who helps b2b service companies thrive in the digital age. He’s helped dozens of businesses grow their revenues through digital marketing.
  Ariel-lim.com
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation 

Valerio puggioni: unplanned expenses are common when being a digital nomad

As someone who has never lived in a single country for more than a few years at a time, i've found visa trips to be a crazy expense at times.

I'm based in thailand, where getting a visa can prove near-impossible if you don't find a job or register as a student. But even then, the costs add up. Visa trips to laos and cambodia, hours spent waiting at the visa renewal office every few months (can be up to every month if you only hold a tourist visa).

This isn't unique to thailand either. I was commuting for several years between taiwan and shanghai. The multiple-entry visa for china costs hundreds of dollars.

I'm a saas copywriter and entrepreneur with a research background in propaganda studies. In the past, i was marketing director at a research editing firm in taipei, as well as creative director at one of the fastest growing ecomm agencies in australia.
I'm a saas copywriter and entrepreneur with a research background in propaganda studies. In the past, i was marketing director at a research editing firm in taipei, as well as creative director at one of the fastest growing ecomm agencies in australia.
  Copygun.com

Joao mendes: always have a plan b for border entry failures

Nomadism is synonymous with freedom, freedom to travel, and live wherever you want. Although i frequently tell this to people i meet, i know this is not entirely true. It is not true because the world is not yet ready for this, and borders are still hard barriers to overcome. And to cross those barriers it costs money, which sometimes you cannot anticipate.

Last year we were entering thailand with our 3 months visa perfectly stamped beforehand on an embassy when we were denied entry. They alleged we had not enough cash on hand so they forced us to spend a night in detention and buy right away a flight back to our origin, singapore in that case.

Same day flights are expensive, so we had to use our credit cards to save the situation. Our advice is to always have a plan b for border entry failures. More than one credit card (mastercard and visa), cash on hand (500 us is a good reference), and don't force it too much as the border officials have the ultimate saying no matter if it is right or wrong.

We are joao and sara, a portuguese couple traveling since 2010 and with no intentions of stopping. So far, we’ve lived in seven countries. We see no end to this road and one doesn’t need a famous quote to realise that humans learn throughout their lives and travel has the marvellous effect of speeding up this process. The travels continue and so does our evolution, and we want to share our experience to inspire you.
We are joao and sara, a portuguese couple traveling since 2010 and with no intentions of stopping. So far, we’ve lived in seven countries. We see no end to this road and one doesn’t need a famous quote to realise that humans learn throughout their lives and travel has the marvellous effect of speeding up this process. The travels continue and so does our evolution, and we want to share our experience to inspire you.
  Working nomads

Karl armstrong: set aside an emergency fund to be prepared

There are some countries with fair shares of petty theft cases. These cases are rampant most particularly between some locals and foreigners telecommuting. There will be stolen laptops or bags in the hotel room, lobby, on the road, etc. This can leave Digital nomads‌ with immediate and unexpected funding for new equipment. Worse, you are not only losing your essentials but also valuable work data, too.

Set aside an emergency fund for you to be prepared for such occurrences. It could be a small portion of your salary put aside every month. Doing so will allow you to have enough budget for when something unforeseen issues come up. Additionally, set strong passwords, enable gps tracking, encrypt your disks, and do regular backups.

My name is karl armstrong, and i previously ran an agency before establishing epicwin app. Epicwin app is a small media company that aims to help businesses with in-depth research and well-curated software and application reviews.
My name is karl armstrong, and i previously ran an agency before establishing epicwin app. Epicwin app is a small media company that aims to help businesses with in-depth research and well-curated software and application reviews.
  Epicwin app

Jennifer: you need to know how to say yes and sometimes no

Working remotely‌ and traveling around the world as a digital nomad is becoming a trend nowadays. You have all the flexibility in the world, you make your own schedule, and you get to travel. What can be better than that? But this doesn't mean that they don't face any struggle. In fact, it's not easy to leave your homely comforts behind and live a nomadic life. First of all, every digital nomad needs to have endless self-motivation skills. Due to the fact that there is no physical pressure of boss and you have to take care of your own pace of work it is a bit tricky. You need to understand when to work as a team, and when not; you need to know how to say yes, and sometimes more importantly no. Apart from that, you need to keep a check on your expenses very carefully. You have to look for cheap eateries and food outlets, need to have free access to wifi almost all the time and cheap mobile plans across whichever country you're staying at.

I'm jennifer, editor at etia.com, where we aware the travel community with the latest information on etias and other travel-related education.
I'm jennifer, editor at etia.com, where we aware the travel community with the latest information on etias and other travel-related education.
  Etia

Dave hoch: the biggest unexpected cost has been family emergencies

I've been a digital nomad for about 5 years and the biggest unexpected cost for me has been family emergencies. My father passed away 2 years ago unexpectedly and i had to return to the us immediately. A last-minute flight can be very expensive and it affected my work schedule as well. I also had to make arrangements for hotels and pet sitting. We never know when life is going to happen and i highly recommend that Digital nomads‌ have an emergency fund saved up for something like this. I also recommend setting aside airline miles or reward miles that can be used to fly as needed with minimal planning. With a little planning and preparation, Digital nomads‌ can reduce the financial burden of an emergency by knowing emergencies will happen and that setting aside a fund will reduce the overall impact.

Ambassador of the new green economy and adventure enthusiast with over 20+ years of experience in leading global cross-functional teams in implementing complex projects using a variety of technologies and methods.
Ambassador of the new green economy and adventure enthusiast with over 20+ years of experience in leading global cross-functional teams in implementing complex projects using a variety of technologies and methods.
  Bigcupofcoffee.com

Deb pati: a lot of us are not acquainted with the visa norms

As someone who has been a digital nomad for the last 3 years, i have known many fellow nomads. One of the unplanned expenses that Digital nomads‌ face are related to visa issues. A lot of us are not acquainted with the visa norms, and often end up paying hefty overstay fines or buying a flight ticket last minute so as not to get into legal troubles. In many parts of the world, especially in south east asia, the norms can change and nomads often need help of agents to get things done. It's necessary for stay legally in the country, but you can expect to come across unexpected expenses.

Digital nomad and founder of the visa project, an independent initiative to have updated information about visa requirements and application process.
Digital nomad and founder of the visa project, an independent initiative to have updated information about visa requirements and application process.
  Thevisaproject.com

Marco sison: visa runs can cost over $5000 in cash and lost time

Most Digital nomads‌ don't bother with long-term stay or residency visas. In most se asian countries (the homebase for many digital nomads), a strong passport (us, eu, canada, etc.) allows you a thirty-day visa exemption. After thirty days, your time is up, and you need to leave the country for a visa run. Visa runs are short trips to another country to reset your thirty-day visa exemption. As an example, after your initial thirty days in thailand, you would need to fly to cambodia, then return to thailand for another thirty-day visa exempt stamp.

Even if you do not stay overnight in your visa run country, flights alone will cost $1000, not including any expenses (accommodation, meals, and ground transportation) if you decide to go exploring.

The $1000 does not even take into consideration the opportunity cost of your time. Successful Digital nomads‌ should be charging $25 - $45 per hour. A fast visa run will be 10 hours of unproductivity. At $35 per hour x 10 hours x 12 times a year, you are talking $4200 of lost billable time.

I started nomadic fire to provide simple, low-cost strategies to save for retirement overseas. Nomadic fire is a lifestyle combining digital nomad slow travel and the investing principles of the financial independence retire early (fire) movement. I help people live abroad and retire for 70% less cost than the us.
I started nomadic fire to provide simple, low-cost strategies to save for retirement overseas. Nomadic fire is a lifestyle combining digital nomad slow travel and the investing principles of the financial independence retire early (fire) movement. I help people live abroad and retire for 70% less cost than the us.
  Financial independence-retire early (fire)

Simon ensor: you expose your things to more than you would in a normal job

One of the largest Unexpected costs for Digital nomads‌ aligns closely to one of the reasons that many people choose this lifestyle: experiences, freedom and opportunity. The lifestyle affords individuals to travel and with this comes the freedom to grasp opportunities, which often come in the form of experiences. Unfortunately, these have associated costs. It could be a horseback ride to a natural spring, a skydive, a 2-day trip somewhere. Whilst many of these can be planned in advance, the nature of the lifestyle means that these can often come as a surprise.

The second expense *could *be planned for, but rarely is. Things break more than usual. You're constantly travelling with your laptop, unplugging and plugging things back in. You expose your things to more than you probably would in a normal 9-5 job. In turn, things break. Laptops and tablets are likely to be your main source of income so we always advise planning for a fix, loss or replacement at least twice as quickly as in normal life (if not faster!). Always have a back up as well. It might be a larger initial investment but can save you a lot of heartache.

Simon is the founder & managing director of catchworks, a digital marketing agency that is changing the agency/client model by tapping into outcome driven, highly skilled (and often nomadic) freelancers.
Simon is the founder & managing director of catchworks, a digital marketing agency that is changing the agency/client model by tapping into outcome driven, highly skilled (and often nomadic) freelancers.
  Catchworks

Kristine thorndyke: we didn't expect to buy kitchen appliances at each appartment

My boyfriend and i were Digital nomads‌ in south america for a year. We were trying to stay within a budget, so we would book budget airbnbs (probably under $500/month rentals) throughout colombia and peru. A cost we didn’t expect was having to buy kitchen appliances at each apartment we’d move into. Airbnb is not as robust in colombia and peru and there is not the same expectation for hosts to create an experience around staying in their place. Unless we planned on traveling between cities with a set of knives, pots and pans, spatulas, etc. then we were pretty much on the hook to buy all of these items again and again when we moved.

Also, paying per month for the gym was more expensive than if we were staying in one city for longer than 6 months and could pay for a 6-month membership at once.

Kristine thorndyke a teacher and the founder of test prep nerds a resource for students looking for effective and affordable options for preparing for their next big test.
Kristine thorndyke a teacher and the founder of test prep nerds a resource for students looking for effective and affordable options for preparing for their next big test.
  Test prep nerds

I think a lot of new Digital nomads‌ really underestimate the legal expenses they will encounter. Some countries require a lot of complicated paperwork if you want to stay for longer than a couple months. This includes paperwork for apartment leases, temporary residency, visas, local bank accounts, or any number of things. You might need to pay for a lawyer and a translator to deal with it all. The costs add up quickly.

Dealing with legal documents and ids can also be really expensive while abroad. For example, my driver's license expired and there was no way for me to renew it while abroad. I would have had to pay for an expensive flight and visit home just to get a new license. When i got married while abroad, i had to spend a small fortune to get my birth certificate sent from home. I really advise any Digital nomads‌ to plan their trips back home well so they can renew any ids or get documents they need while there.

I'm diane vukovic, owner of the website mom goes camping.
I'm diane vukovic, owner of the website mom goes camping.
  Mom goes camping

Aleksandar hrubenja: invest in quality equipment

One of my biggest costs while i was Working remotely‌ revolved around technology and the internet. As my workload increased, i needed more tech equipment, additional memory storage and stronger internet. All of these costs didn’t seem like too much money individually, but when i added up all of the spendings, it turned out that i took a big part of my salary each month on additional gadgets.

My advice for people who are just starting to work remotely is to invest in quality equipment. It’s better to spend more money initially then to buy additional pieces each month. Also, make sure that everything you purchase is easy to transport in case you decide to work from places other than your home.

For as long as he can remember, aleksandar has been passionate about languages and writing. He started moderngentlemen.net to share his insights on fitness, health, and self-improvement, as well as lighter ones like geekdom and pets, he prides himself on being able to tackle any topic you throw at him.
For as long as he can remember, aleksandar has been passionate about languages and writing. He started moderngentlemen.net to share his insights on fitness, health, and self-improvement, as well as lighter ones like geekdom and pets, he prides himself on being able to tackle any topic you throw at him.
  Moderngentlemen

Praveen malik: my laptop repair costed me a lot of money

I have faced some unpleasant moments and unplanned expense while traveling. Once, when i was working at a remote place, i faced some issues with my laptop - it just went blank.

Somehow, i was lucky to find a local repairman but my laptop repair costed me a lot of money. I might have bought a low end laptop in that price.

In the process, i was not able to work for about eight days as i didn't have any backup.

My advice to an aspiring digital nomad is to always keep a backup for laptop and internet. Also, keep your data on cloud to avoid any delays.

I am a blogger and trainer having 23 years of rich experience with expertise in project management (pm). I write an informative pm blog. My blog helps pmp aspirants to pass the certification exam. My blog is one of the top global blogs in pm certification space.
I am a blogger and trainer having 23 years of rich experience with expertise in project management (pm). I write an informative pm blog. My blog helps pmp aspirants to pass the certification exam. My blog is one of the top global blogs in pm certification space.
  Pm blog

Yash sharma: digital nomad life is not for everyone

As a digital nomad, i should have 24*7 wifi access while traveling. These days having wifi in a hotel is normal but there can be some places where there are no decent hotels. Especially in small hilly locations, good hotels are hard to find. So, i have to look for the best option which i can arrange in those remote areas for internet access. My portable hotspot works sometimes but mostly prefer a broadband connection (if i am staying for more than a few days at one place).

One of my life experiences of unplanned expenses is somewhat strange. I had a pet dog. She was very adorable and i was happy to have her but it was very difficult to take care of her while travelling. Travelling in public transport is not allowed with pets. This used to escalate my expenses because i have to take cabs to travel with her. And also she did not feel comfortable while changing places frequently. Finally, i realized that i should leave her for the happiness of both. It was a heartbroken movement but there were no other options left. I gave her to a friend of mine.

My advice for aspiring digital monads is that digital nomad life is not for everyone. There will be always be some highs and lows as compared to normal life. But that is the fun part of it. This is an adventure of this life. Enjoy every part of it while working hard.

I am a professional blogger. I have been successfully running a few affiliate websites. Mostly i work while travelling around.
I am a professional blogger. I have been successfully running a few affiliate websites. Mostly i work while travelling around.
  Learnerzhub05

Sean nguyen: atm fees are the bane of my existence

I spent years traveling before i had to set down roots to give my company some stability, and there are things no one told me before about the hidden costs of being a digital nomad! For example, things like health insurance and medical assistance. No one thinks about that before they move to a new place or plan their trip, but you have to be very informed about the local healthcare. God knows how much i spent on routine or run of the mill doctors’ visits over the years - it’s not always free or covered by whatever insurance you got. The other thing that came up a lot was atm fees. Yes, they get you good, and remember that there are a lot of places where you can’t function without cash, so you’ll be paying to get access to your own money over and over again. You die a little inside every time, but you also can’t risk running around with all your cash strapped to your back, so you have to take it out little by little.

Director of internet advisor bio: sean runs internet advisor because he believes everyone should be aware of every service provider option in their area. He is an avid gamer and takes internet speed a little too seriously.
Director of internet advisor bio: sean runs internet advisor because he believes everyone should be aware of every service provider option in their area. He is an avid gamer and takes internet speed a little too seriously.
  Internet advisor
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation
Free digital nomad travel insurance quotation 
What Can I DO ?
About the author - What Can I DO ?
Former international ERP and Web project manager, he is a digital nomad and world traveler for more than 6 years: one year long world tour, 650+ flights, 1000+ hotel nights, all self organized. Working remote is a way of life, and he wants to share with you his best tips to work from home, telecommute and work remote as digital nomads or home office workers.
 

Secure your business while working remote
Secure your business while working remote
 




Secure your business while working remote
Secure your business while working remote
 

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