How to Become a Nomad Author
Wanderlust. The travel bug. Itchy feet.
All these terms show how ingrained the love of travel is in humanity. It’s evident that many of us want to explore unfamiliar places and experience different cultures that we would have never encountered a few centuries ago. The idea is steeped in romanticism at all stages of life, from student gap years to mid-career sabbaticals to retirement round-the-world trips. However, for many people, travelling in the cracks of life isn’t enough. They want an ongoing nomad lifestyle. Remote jobs have made the dream more possible than ever for many office workers. As authors, however, we have an even greater degree of flexibility, which can help us make it happen.
There are a range of methods to suit every personality, budget and family situation. Authors who run thriving online businesses, for example, might live glamourous lifestyles abroad, staying in luxury hotels or state-of-the-art RVs. If they’ve done really well, they might even charter a yacht and dock in every port. Others, meanwhile, backpack and stay in budget accommodation. Either way, you can still live happily as a nomad author, chasing sunny weather, immersing yourself in cultures and collecting memories. Due to a variance in national income levels, you could even live this sort of lifestyle while saving more money than you would if you stayed at home.
In theory, it sounds easy; hop between countries, live like an explorer, and weave work around adventure. We imagine ourselves writing chapters in coffee shops and formatting ebooks sitting in hotel lobbies. If you have a family and need to partition your work and home lives, you might have even thought about hiring a desk at a co-working space or setting up camp in some of the world’s most iconic libraries while your family sightsees. But is the nomad life that simple in practice? In today’s blog post we’ll cover a range of issues you should consider before you dive headlong into travelling, earning and experiencing the full range of life as a nomad author.
Tim Ferris’ book The 4-Hour Work Week popularised working online in 2007. In the book, he discussed how investors once expressed an interest in a company he founded and how, to sell it, he needed to make himself redundant. That meant digitising his records, removing a need for his hand in every stage of the production line, outsourcing fulfilment, and automating any task that chained him to his desk. The investors eventually passed on their offer but, having prepared his company for sale, Ferris found that he no longer needed a physical office or set work hours. He could travel and live a carefree life without many time-consuming responsibilities.
If you plan to become a nomad author, you’ll need to make a similar transition before you begin. After all, when travelling between time zones, flexibility is paramount. So, are you savvy enough to run an online business? If not, that means you’ll need to upskill. Do you make a chunk of your book sales offline? If that’s the case, try developing a more online-focused business model. While you’re at it, get rid of any physical inventory you hold, outsource fulfilment work you manage to a specialist service or license the necessary rights to a partner who can handle it on your behalf. Optimising your business so you can operate it online is vital as a nomad author.
Even organised digital nomads must expect a degree of unpredictability in their work life. It’s inevitable when you’re constantly on the go, crossing boarders, transporting luggage and passing through legal jurisdictions. When living that sort of lifestyle, things go wrong. However, it’s important not to be passive and accept chaos. Instead, make your business stable enough to survive any storm. Diversifying your income streams is a good way to do it. Try, for example, publishing multiple formats across lots of retailers, sell courses and offer freelance services. The more you diversify, the less likely you’ll be to have to stop somewhere and bartend on your journey.
Another issue worth considering is maintaining access to services that keep your business afloat. What happens, for instance, if you detour to an unexpected location with no local currency and need to pay for necessities on your card? Setting up a foreign currency account beforehand is essential as you’ll likely need to do it in your home country unless you use a purely online bank. How about if you enter a nation that censors websites? You’ll need to VPN to ensure you don’t lose access to social media and publishing accounts. The key to stability is creating extra options. That way, you can use available ones whenever your preferred options disappear.
If you’re planning to travel for months or years, you probably won’t want to abandon a house in your homeland. Left unguarded, any property you own could get burgled or fall into a state of disrepair. In a similar vein, nor are you likely to want to carry a lot of stuff with you. After all, keeping too much can distract you to the point where it stops you being present in the moment as you sightsee. Extra clutter — both in your mind and space — inhibits your ability to think and move freely. It’s for those reasons that you should not only reduce your physical business footprint but also any personal ties you have to a home base and possessions. In short, embrace minimalism.
Consider how much easier moving becomes when you have one backpack or a small travel suitcase over mountains of bags, equipment and keepsakes. Travelling light is vital for your comfort and sanity. That said, you shouldn’t completely absolve worldly ties. After all, as humans, we need certain necessities. Food, shelter, sleep, clothing and a sense of safety are all vital for our physical and mental health. So, splash out on good accommodation if you can afford it. Similarly, keep in touch with friends and family. Carry a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, not just to maintain your author income but also a sense of community in your life.
While you shouldn’t take any information in this article as legal or financial advice, you should heed its general warning to look into whatever legal necessities you will need as a nomad author depending on the countries you plan to visit. Just some of the documents you should research include:
- A visa
- Banking paperwork
- International tax forms
Digital nomads are a relatively recent phenomenon — barely a blip on the timeline of legal history. As a result, many countries aren’t set up for workers who travel and legislators are still playing catchup as a result. What this means is that digital nomads often need to use common sense, workarounds and grey areas when travelling.
When choosing visas, for example, you can get tourist and work visas. While work visas officially allow holders to work domestically, some digital nomads find it easier to obtain tourist visas and tell authorities they’re travelling for pleasure, claiming they can do so because their work doesn’t take opportunities from locals. However, this is risky. Similarly, you can choose between travel, health, and even nomad insurance. One legality you must be careful with, however, is tax. Research how countries’ tax laws work in relation to your nationality, business structure, and place of incorporation because, when it comes to tax, governments enforce mistakes.
Plan for Emergencies
Nomadism attracts a lot of online creators because of the sense of adventure. The unpredictability is a draw. The idea of living life to the fullest, no matter where the world’s currents take you. A downside of going with the flow, though, is that sometimes life’s currents move you in a jarring direction, faster than your budget can bear. It happens all the time. War breaks out in travel hotspots, a natural disaster forces travellers to jettison a few hundred miles for safety, a pandemic cause governments to give expats a deadline before they get locked down, a family deathbed situation compels them to fly back home. Emergencies cause a race against time.
To protect yourself from disaster, it’s wise to establish a “get home” budget. How much you need to budget depends on the situation but many experienced digital nomads consider $3,000 to $5,000 enough of a safety net. Setting it aside for emergencies will not only provide you with an extra layer of safety but peace of mind. Moreover, spread it across a few formats, like a debit card, PayPal account and cash, and you cover yourself in the event of a bank shutdown, an electrical blackout and physical theft. Yes, we like to imagine the world is good, but you’ll be grateful you were prepared if you need to escape a bad situation at breakneck speed.
Society views the happiest digital nomads as lucky. But, as the adage goes, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Yes, travel opens you up to more serendipity and opportunities for unplanned fun, but remember to mitigate the potential downsides living in the moment. Build a flexible author lifestyle on a foundation of preparedness. Heed these lessons and you too can happily travel the world writing books.
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