The Digital Nomad Dream: A Comprehensive Guide To Remote Living, Working & Investing

[The following is a guest post by Brian Davis, co-founder of SparkRental, which offers a group real estate investment club with minimums as low as $5,000.]

I grew up in Baltimore, but today my family and I spend most of the year in South America. We’ve lived in Abu Dhabi, Brasilia, and Lima, and have spent months at a time in Europe. 

When other Americans first learn that, they have a hundred questions — most of which center around money. 

In this definitive guide, we’ll address your burning questions about creating a successful career which you can work remotely, juggling travel with work commitments, investing from abroad, and living across borders. If you’re interested in the digital nomad lifestyle, we’ll provide you with all the necessary knowledge to lay the groundwork with strategic insights and actionable tips that will steer you toward a sustainable digital nomad lifestyle, filled with the freedom, adventure, and global exploration.

Key Takeaways

  • The digital nomad lifestyle combines remote work with the freedom to travel, offering cultural immersion and personal growth, but it requires thorough preparation and adaptability to overcome challenges like finding reliable Wi-Fi, managing finances, and time zone differences.

  • Creating a sustainable digital nomad life involves crafting a blueprint that includes reliable internet access, legal understanding of visas and taxes, establishing remote work or an online business, and practicing minimalist living for mobility and flexibility.

  • Financial sustainability is fundamental to the digital nomad life, which involves smart money management, multiple income streams, and adjusting spending habits to local living costs, coupled with continuous learning and balancing work with exploration.

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Living Overseas & Remote Work

My wife Katie is a school counselor and earns a typical school counselor’s salary (or less). But she works at international schools, and enjoys spectacular benefits, including free furnished housing, full premium health coverage for our whole family, and paid flights home to the U.S. every year. 

Katie’s job provides a stable income floor but also a low income ceiling. That frees me up to pursue a higher-risk career as an entrepreneur, with no income floor or benefits but also no income ceiling. 

You don’t have to do it the way we do. You could take a full-time remote position, or do freelance or consulting work, or take an in-person job in a new country (like my wife did). Or you could combine several of these. I still do a little freelance writing on the side, for example, both because I enjoy it and for the psychological benefits of an extra income floor. 

Living abroad, we take advantage of geo-arbitrage. Katie and I earn money in U.S. dollars, but we spend money in Peruvian soles, or the local currency wherever we happen to visit. The currency differential aside, some things just cost less in other countries. We don’t think twice about buying filet mignon at the local butcher, because $10 buys more than enough for our entire family’s dinner. 

In fact, we aim to live entirely on Katie’s modest salary, and save and invest all of my income. And because we live overseas, we live a luxury lifestyle for three people on less than $50,000 per year. 

You could also live on far less — perhaps even on your investment income alone. I know some expats who live on $2,000 per month, which means you might already be financially independent if you were to move somewhere your dollar stretched further. 

Given that glimpse into our lifestyle as a digital nomad, let’s talk about what it means to be a digital nomad, and whether it’s right for you.

Embarking On The Digital Nomad Journey

Digital nomad lifestyle

The call of the digital nomad life is irresistible to those who seek to merge their professional endeavors with a thirst for adventure. Fueled by technological innovations such as wifi, AI, smartphones, and the gig economy, this lifestyle is more accessible than ever. It’s a life where work remotely isn’t just a perk; it’s the norm. Yet, achieving this enviable work-life balance is not without its hurdles. Some of the challenges digital nomads may face include:

  • Overcoming potential loneliness

  • Maintaining good mental health

  • Mastering the art of organization

  • Finding reliable wifi connections

  • Managing finances and taxes while living in different countries

  • Balancing work and travel commitments

By being aware of these challenges and taking proactive steps to address them, you can create a fulfilling and successful lifestyle doing remote work as a digital nomad.

Let’s embark on this journey together, navigating the twists and turns of a life unbound by geography.

Defining The Digital Nomad Lifestyle

The digital nomad lifestyle is an artful hybrid of living and working, untethered from traditional office spaces, embodying the dream of ultimate freedom and flexibility. It’s about embracing different cultures, frequent travel, and leveraging online business opportunities that span the globe. It’s not simply about working online; it’s about enhancing your skill set through the rich tapestry of experiences that only the digital nomad lifestyle can offer.

While some may see instability, many digital nomads see a canvas for creativity and personal growth, though it demands planning, hard work, and dedication.

The Dream Of Location Independence

The essence of location independence is the freedom to choose any corner of the world as your workspace. It’s the allure of trading a static desk for dynamic settings—from coffee shops humming with energy to tranquil co working spaces that inspire productivity. As a digital nomad, you weave a network of global connections that transcend any single home country, all while savoring the freedom to explore new countries and ways of living.

This level of independence is not just about where you work, but how you work and live, blending professional pursuits with cultural immersion in a way that few other lifestyles can match.

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Crafting Your Digital Nomad Blueprint

Digital nomads planning travel

Before you can pack your laptop and hit the road, you need a digital nomad blueprint—a strategy that ensures reliable internet access, a grasp of digital nomad visas, and a clear plan for how to fund your digital nomad lifestyle, whether through remote job opportunities, building a business, investing, or a combination thereof.

This blueprint isn’t just about the practicalities of working remotely; it’s about laying the groundwork for a digital nomad lifestyle that flows seamlessly from one location to another, offering the stability and freedom that most nomads crave.

Building A Location Independent Business

To truly become a digital nomad, creating a suitable environment to sustain remote work is often the keystone. It starts with identifying skills that are in demand online, such as digital marketing or e-commerce, and translating them into a digital nomad job that you can perform from anywhere in the world. Establishing an online presence with a professional portfolio and utilizing SEO strategies can significantly amplify your visibility.

It’s also prudent to consult with legal experts, especially when navigating international tax implications and ensuring your business adheres to all legal requirements.

Streamlining Your Worldly Possessions

Minimalism isn’t just a buzzword among digital nomads; it’s a necessity. To truly embrace the nomadic lifestyle, you need to pare down your belongings to the essentials—leaving behind the superfluous in favor of mobility and freedom. This not only saves money but also elevates your adaptability as you move between different time zones and locations.

Whether it’s selling off your possessions or storing sentimental items, the act of streamlining is liberating, allowing you to travel lightly and focus on the experiences that truly enrich your life.

Navigating Remote Work Opportunities

Remote work in a coworking space

The horizon of digital nomad jobs is vast and varied, spanning industries from technology to education. Whether you see yourself teaching online or diving into the world of customer service from a remote location, there’s a job board out there teeming with opportunities waiting to be seized by remote workers.

The key is to know where to look and how to present yourself as the ideal candidate for working in the business online.

Leveraging Job Boards For Remote Positions

Job boards are the treasure maps for digital nomads seeking remote work. Here are some platforms that offer remote job opportunities:

  • FlexJobs: offers scam-free listings

  • LinkedIn: a bustling hub of remote job opportunities that cater to a diverse range of skills and industries

  • Remote.co: another bustling hub of remote job opportunities

The trick is using search filters effectively, setting up alerts, and tailoring your resume to highlight your remote work competencies and experiences. And don’t forget to follow up after interviews—this simple step can keep you top of mind for potential employers.

Making Connections In The Digital Nomad Community

Networking is a cornerstone of the digital nomad life. By forging connections with other professionals, attending workshops in coworking spaces, and joining online forums, digital nomads can share knowledge and opportunities that are vital for career growth.

Don’t be shy to dive into virtual networking events or leverage platforms like LinkedIn to engage with your peers—these are the ties that not only enrich your professional life but also foster a sense of community that can be so crucial when you’re far from home.

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Sustaining Your Nomadic Lifestyle Financially

Digital nomad lifestyle

While the digital nomad lifestyle is often glamorized, financial sustainability is a bedrock that cannot be overlooked. Whether it’s through a mix of remote jobs or leveraging the potential of an online business, ensuring a steady flow of income is paramount.

From budgeting to banking to investing, digital nomads must be savvy in managing their finances to maintain the freedom and flexibility they cherish.

Creating Multiple Streams Of Income Online

To thrive as a digital nomad, diversifying your income streams is essential. Passive income from digital products, affiliate marketing, or e-commerce can bolster your financial foundation, allowing you more freedom to explore and work remotely.

By tapping into the digital marketplace, you can create a safety net that supports your nomadic life, even when you’re between gigs or exploring new opportunities.

Smart Money Management In Different Locations

Adapting your financial strategies to your changing environments is a skill in itself. Living like a local can save money, and utilizing budgeting apps can keep your expenses in check. It’s about making your money stretch further, whether you’re in one of the world’s most expensive cities or a quaint town where life moves at a slower pace.

Smart money management isn’t just about spending less; it’s about spending wisely and ensuring that each penny contributes to the richness of your digital nomad lifestyle.

Investing From Abroad

When looking at your overall financial picture, investing is a critical piece, whether you plan to embark on the digital nomad lifestyle or not. Here’s how I personally invest, both as an expat and as a real estate enthusiast. 

Real Estate Debt Instead Of Bonds

The prevailing opinion is that bonds offer low-risk, low-return investments necessary in your portfolio. 

While I grant that government and investment-grade corporate bonds come with a low risk of default, that’s only one type of risk. What about the risk of interest rates rising and devaluing your existing bonds? Or the risk of high inflation leaving you with a negative real return? 

Just as bonds come with different risks of default, so do real estate debt investments. Likewise, you can invest in shorter- or longer-term notes tied to properties or real estate businesses. Some are backed by pools of secured, low-LTV loans, which remain low-risk investments. 

But real estate debts tend to pay higher interest rates than bonds. Beyond the obvious higher returns, that also reduces inflation risk. It further reduces inflation risk that real property values tend to rise at or even faster than inflation. 

In short, I get the same steady income that bonds offer, but with higher interest and lower inflation risk. They also provide a similar lack of correlation to stock markets — another perk of bonds. 

Automated Stock Investments

You can, of course, buy stocks and ETFs from anywhere in the world. The digital nomad lifestyle doesn’t make it any harder. 

But just as I invest passively in real estate, I also invest passively in stocks. I largely invest through a free AI-powered robo-advisor, which pulls money from my checking account every week to invest. 

They not only spread the money across my desired portfolio of index funds, but they also rebalance my investments automatically, and practice tax loss harvesting to minimize my tax bill. 

That leaves me free to hike Machu Picchu with my wife and daughter. Or dive in the Maldives, or stroll the streets of Amsterdam, or taste wines in Mendoza. 

Dollar cost averaging is the practice of investing the same amount on a regular interval in the same investments. In doing so, your returns reflect the market at large, which might not sound so sexy, until you realize that the average retail investor badly underperforms the market. As an individual investor, you’re better off just mirroring the market at large. 

Which happens to have the added benefit of being easy and passive. 

Joint Real Estate Syndications

Typical real estate syndications require $50-100k as a minimum investment. That makes it difficult to diversify if you aren’t wealthy. 

I’m not wealthy (yet), but I still love real estate syndications. I love that you get all the benefits of real estate — cash flow, appreciation, tax advantages — without the headaches of becoming a landlord. 

But I don’t want to invest $100K in a single investment. So instead, I take advantage of both low-minimum investments like Goodegg’s crowdfunding offerings ($10K minimum) and also co-investing with other investors to reach higher minimums. 

In our SparkRental Co-Investing Club, we vet group real estate investments from different sponsors each month (including Goodegg). Each member can opt in with $5K, and together we end up investing hundreds of thousands in different deals each month. 

I get to spread my money among many different real estate investments, rather than gnawing my fingernails worrying about how one property with $100K invested is doing. I also get to invest passively, no matter where I am in the world. 

You could also spread money among many investments with a fund of funds. But most only allow accredited investors, and you end up paying double sponsor fees. 

Fractional Rental Investing

I cut my teeth in real estate as a rental investor. While I certainly learned a lot about real estate investing, I also learned just how much I hated being a landlord. 

I hated hassling with contractors, with permits, with city inspectors, with Section 8, with renters, with property managers, with tracking expenses and income. Nothing makes you as cynical as hearing “Check’s in the mail!” repeatedly from delinquent tenants who never actually send rent. Or discovering that the reason city inspectors kept failing your property is that you didn’t bribe them. 

When I first moved overseas to Abu Dhabi, I discovered just how much I had been subsidizing my rental properties with my own labor. Suddenly I wasn’t there to oversee repairs or coordinate tenant screening with the property manager. And the property returns plummeted as a result. 

So much for rental properties delivering “passive income.” 

I ended up selling every property. But as I started reviewing crowdfunding platforms for SparkRental and other real estate blogs, I began experimenting with fractional ownership in rentals. I’ve used platforms like Arrived and Ark7 as a way to regain exposure to single-family rentals and vacation rentals — without taking on any headaches personally. 

Don’t expect the same kinds of returns as you can earn with syndications, but at $100 a share, you can spread small amounts of money across many markets and properties for broad diversification. 

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Overcoming The Challenges Of Digital Nomadism

Enjoying the digital nomad lifestyle

Embracing the digital nomad lifestyle is not without its challenges. Some of these challenges include:

  • Time zone juggling

  • Dealing with visa requirements

  • Adapting to different cultures and customs

  • Finding reliable internet connections

  • Managing finances and taxes while living in different countries

However, with adaptability and the right contingency plans, these hurdles can be transformed into stepping stones that lead to a more resilient and rewarding digital nomad lifestyle.

Adapting To Time Zone Twists

The sun never sets on the digital nomad’s office, and neither do the challenges of time zone differences. But with effective routines and time management tools, you can ensure that your work and rest cycles are harmonious, no matter where you are in the world – doesn’t that sound like a dream.

Communicating your availability and establishing ‘overlap hours’ can minimize the impact of time zone fluctuations on your productivity and well-being.

Navigating Visa Processes And Legalities

The passport to digital nomadism often includes a variety of visas and legal considerations. It’s critical to understand and adhere to the visa requirements and tax laws of each country you visit to maintain your status as a legal worker.

Temporary residency permits can offer a buffer of stability for digital nomads looking to stay longer and immerse themselves in new cultures.

Cultivating Personal Growth And Professional Development

The digital nomad lifestyle is more than a way of working; it’s a catalyst for continuous personal and professional growth. It’s about setting personal development goals and utilizing every new experience as an opportunity to expand your horizons and skill set.

Gaining Knowledge On The Go

As a digital nomad, the world is your classroom, and the lessons are limitless. Online courses and resources are readily available, allowing you to add new skills to your repertoire anywhere, anytime.

Whether it’s mastering a new language or honing your coding abilities, the pursuit of knowledge is a journey that never ends.

Balancing Work And Exploration

Finding equilibrium between work and wanderlust is the heart of the nomadic experience. Implementing time management strategies enables you to enjoy the freedom of exploration without sacrificing your professional commitments.

By planning ahead, you can carve out time for both deadlines and daydreams, ensuring that your travels are as enriching as they are productive.

Preparing For The Unexpected

The nomadic path is unpredictable, and preparation is key to navigating the unknown. Investing in comprehensive travel health insurance is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself against unforeseen medical emergencies.

Health And Safety Abroad

Your health is your wealth, especially when you’re far from your home country. Maintaining a routine of exercise, balanced diet, and mental well-being practices can keep you in top condition for the rigors of travel.

Emergency Readiness

Whether it’s political unrest or natural disasters, being ready for any scenario is essential. Keeping abreast of local news, having an emergency kit, and knowing where to find healthcare facilities can make all the difference when the unexpected strikes.

Spending Time Abroad Is Easier Than You Think

With all that being said, it’s actually easier to spend time abroad than you might think. Sure, it’s fun to live overseas full-time. But you don’t have to uproot your entire life to start experimenting with the expat lifestyle.

Try visiting a country for a month or two at a time to see how you like the day-to-day life there. You can do that with a tourist visa, so you don’t have to worry about longer-term residency requirements. Speaking of which, the visa process isn’t as daunting as you think. Many countries today offer digital nomad visas specifically for people who earn money remotely. And if you really need help, plenty of companies offer to arrange your visa for you. 

The hardest part is simply figuring out how you’ll earn an income. The rest falls into place easily enough, from banking to foreign languages to meeting other expats. You don’t need a local bank account if you earn money in the U.S. and use a travel credit card. You don’t need to learn the local language to get by, and you can meet other expats through platforms like Internations, Instagram, Meetup, and Facebook Groups. 

And you certainly don’t have to worry about investing from abroad. I even know active investors who buy turnkey rental properties while spending most of their time overseas. 

Who knows? You could have all the money you need for financial freedom already, in a country where a few thousand dollars a month buys everything you need. 

Digital Nomad Summary

Mastering the digital nomad lifestyle is a hybrid of discipline mixed with the art of letting go. It’s about embracing the tools of technology to build a life that is as mobile as it is stable, as adventurous as it is productive.

From the practicalities of financial planning to the joys of personal growth, the journey is as rewarding as the destination. My hope is that this guide will inspire you to take that first step into the vast, vibrant world of digital nomadism, where work and life coalesce into an endless adventure.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does a digital nomad do?

A digital nomad is someone who travels and works remotely, using only a laptop to earn a living. They take advantage of the new opportunities of digital work.

How do I start living as a digital nomad?

To start living as a digital nomad, first, identify your skills and strengthen them, build a portfolio, simplify your lifestyle, and research companies to apply for remote jobs. Evaluate if being a digital nomad is the right lifestyle for you and break down your finances accordingly. Start networking and optimizing your digital workflow to smoothly transition into this lifestyle.

How much money do you need to be a digital nomad?

You can become a digital nomad with an average monthly spending of between $1000 and $2000, depending on your destination and lifestyle. Start planning your adventure!

How much money do digital nomads make?

Digital nomads can earn between $50,000 and $80,000 per year, with some individuals making upwards of $100,000 to $250,000 annually. The income varies based on expertise, the type of remote work or business they specialize in, investments, and other streams of passive income.

Check Out Our Track Record Of Success

Curious whether we can actually do what we say we're going to do? Compare projected versus actual returns in all the deals we've exited to date.

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Next Investing Steps

Whether you’re thinking of embarking on a digital nomad lifestyle, we salute you! It can be an unforgettable adventure and one that changes the trajectory of your life, getting you all that much closer to a meaningful and intentional life by design.

As you’re evaluating your financial picture as a digital nomad, if you’re considering investing passively in real estate, we’re here to help! As a first step, we invite you to join the Goodegg Investor Club, so we can keep you in the loop on opportunities to invest alongside us.

You can also check out our open deals page to learn more about our current or upcoming opportunities.

Learn More

If you’re not yet ready to invest but are curious about how all of this works, we invite you to dip your toe in the water with us through our free 7-day email course – Passive Real Estate Investing 101

You can also get a copy of our book – Investing For Good – or check out our Life & Money Show Podcast.

To learn more about us and our experience, be sure to download a copy of our track record, which shows the projected and actual returns we’ve achieved across all the deals we’ve exited to date.

Connect With Us

If there’s ever anything we can do to help you on your journey, feel free to email us at [email protected] or call / text us at (888) 830-1450

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