We have officially been digital nomads for six months and so far it’s going really well. Better than I would have guessed, given that prior to the pandemic, we had no plans to become digital nomads. There have been a few hiccups related to the fact that there’s a pesky global pandemic going on but we’re working through them.
We’re currently in our sixth short term rental in a town called Freeland, Washington on Whidbey Island. We’ve stayed in Port Angeles, Plain, Sultan, Port Orchard, Indianola, and now Freeland.
I read a Mark Twain quote today that actually made me think about how we landed in this situation.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”
Ain’t that the truth? If we hadn’t been shoved in the direction of being nomadic, I would have planned this thing to death for years. Since the planet gave us a nudge in the right direction (or shoved us off the cliff) we were forced to get started and I’m so glad we did.
The planner in me says that it’s way too soon to write a post about “How to Become a Digital Nomad” because I’ve only been one for six months. But – the secret of getting ahead is getting started. So here’s is a list of steps we took and things we’ve learned in our short tenure as digital nomads, in hopes that it helps someone else feel like they could manage this transition if they want to.
Recommended Steps and Lessons Learned
- Find storage for your valuables but if it’s not valuable, don’t bother keeping it. This thing is pretty open ended for us so we kept a lot of our stuff but put almost everything in storage. Already, I’m finding myself re-purchasing things that are in the storage unit because it’s hours away and the thing is packed to the gills so I am not going to be digging through to find whatever the object is. So now, when we do unpack and move back into a permanent residence, I’m sure I’ll end up getting rid of the original version that was in the storage unit because I will have a newer one with me. So lots of wasted space and those items could be going to good use if we donated them to goodwill or something. Plus we could have a smaller cheaper storage unit.
- Renew paperwork and documents. Make sure you’ve renewed everything that can be renewed. Is your insurance up to date? Is your driver’s license due for renewal soon? Do you have all the banking stuff done that you need to have done? We’ve run into two complications in this category. First, neither of us has a Washington driver’s license. Technically you’re supposed to get that taken care of within 30 days of moving to WA. We didn’t, and now we can’t because we don’t have a permanent residential address, and most BMVs aren’t even open. We also got an SUV and registering it was a huge pain because we didn’t have a permanent address. Thankfully, our first Port Angeles rental owner had us sign a short term lease so we were able to use that.
- Figure out what your permanent address is going to be. Most people out there will just use an address of their parents or a family member. We don’t have any family members in Washington and there are major tax implications to our permanent residence being in Indiana where our family is. For example, since my permanent residence is in King County, WA, I get to roll more PTO than my colleagues. Since we live in WA, we don’t have any state income tax. Indiana does. Make sure to think through all the implications of changing your address and pick the state that is the most advantageous.
- Set up a mail service. We are using Traveling Mailbox. This isn’t a quick one day thing because you have to get a paper notarized, giving them authorization to handle your mail, so don’t put this off until the last minute.
- If you’re traveling with pets, book well in advance. Our original goal was to spend a month at each Airbnb. We figured that was enough time to get to know the area we were staying in, and many Airbnbs offer a discounted rate if you book a whole month. Unfortunately, we’ve struggled to find places in Washington that are available for longer stretches that accept dogs.
- Is your car big enough to carry all your stuff? If not, you have two options: Get rid of more crap, or get a bigger car.
- Bring a cooler. We bought a large cooler to haul groceries from place to place. We’re trying to social distance as much as we can. We shop at Costco, then take our groceries with us from place to place for safety and cost. Since the pandemic is still pretty much raging in the United States, we cook pretty much every meal.
- Don’t assume your Airbnb has all the “normal” stuff. Read the listing. We accidentally booked several Airbnbs in the heat of July and August with no AC and while we’ve obviously survived, we didn’t get much sleep when it cracked over 100F in Washington.
- Make sure your Airbnb can accommodate two working people if you have two working people. At our first spot, I had to work from a recliner chair in the living room because there wasn’t a place for two of us to sit and work without having to talk over each other on phone calls. We’ve now invested in a little folding portable desk but we look at how many rooms have doors and hard surfaces where we could each work from.
- Take care of doctor appointments and prescription refills. Even if it’s a little early, go ahead and schedule the appointments if you can because it’s challenging to find doctors in random cities, and I know I won’t be going back to see them, so have to keep track of what doctor I saw where to get records forwarded to the next one.
- Buy a little portable printer. We’ve already needed this thing three times for our traveling mailbox and other business stuff.
I hope this is helpful! I’d love to hear more about any lessons you’ve learned along the way in the comments below.