How Can a Digital Nomad Explore a New City or Country

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You just arrived in your new city – in the country that you chose when you decided to become a digital nomad. There is a mix of excitement and at the same time, a bit of nervousness. You know you have a lot to do. Interestingly, you’re also curious about what you can do now that you have finally arrived. You’re pulled in multiple different directions, but you can do only one thing at a time. It got me thinking about the many times as an ex-pat and a digital nomad, where I wanted to maximize my time in the new city I started living. On a few occasions, I froze and couldn’t choose what to do first. 

So how can a digital nomad explore a new city or country? Here’s a practical way to approach this.
• Get the basics in place first and then explore
• Explore for your routines and practical things
• Explore the city for adventure – beach, mountain, lake
• Explore the culture of the city
• Explore the social possibilities and events
• Expanding to neighboring cities
• Explore cross-border into other countries
• Keep track of the things you enjoy
• Explore to find adventure – making the most of your lifestyle

Get Basics in Place First and Then Explore

First things first. There are two essential things that you need to put in place before it makes sense to explore. The first is that you need to arrange your work. The second thing is that you need to have your home base – where you are living – in a reasonable order.

Getting your work organized is essential because this is what will enable you to make money and be able to continue living the lifestyle that you have just started. In organizing your work, I mean that you should have at least one work project and preferably several projects in progress. It depends on the type of freelance work that you do, of course. You need to know the next actions to take on those projects, have a clear view on when that project needs to be completed and if possible a good connection with your customer. Getting your work in order is vital to your sustainability so pay attention to it before you go looking around the city, as tempting as that might be.

Your home base, in other words, your home or accommodation, needs to be a place that you have all of your belongings. You can rely on this place to be peaceful enough to rest and unwind. You can depend on it as a place to get some work done too.

It’s a good idea to make sure you have a good rent or lease contract in place; you already have next month’s rent in the bank ready to pay, you know where you can get certain things like food, groceries, and medicines from the pharmacy. Of course, don’t forget about the keys and the security of your home.

It’s different in every country and even with every apartment building, but you should have good knowledge about how it works and who to call if you have a problem.

If you can get these two critical things in order quickly, then you are ready to start exploring your neighborhood and city.

Explore for Your Routines and Practical Things

The easiest way to start exploring your current surroundings is to explore where places are located for the routines of your life. Also, where you can get the basic things that you will need in your daily life. It’s a very practical step. You can explore for things such as where to buy groceries, where is the pharmacy, where is there a café that is open after 9 PM? Other places that you may want to find and know where they are in the exercise gym or the best running paths if you’re going to take a morning run. All of these places that you need to find will help you in your daily life.

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Explore your neighborhood for places to buy food and groceries. When I was in Kunming, China, the open air markets for fruits and vegetables were right next to the major bus station – Digital Nomad Explorer

When it comes to working, you may need to find a good co-working space if you decide to connect with local entrepreneurs. Alternatively, you can search the neighborhood and city for the perfect café to do your remote work. I wrote an in-depth article about finding the perfect café, and you can see that article on this website HERE. I recommend that you have a routine for the time that you are working on your projects. By knowing the places where you can work close by your home, you have an immediate alternative to continuing your project work outside of your home.

The cool thing about exploring your neighborhood and knowing what is within a 10 to a 15-minute radius from your home is that you will begin to make this new location feel more like home. It’s an easy way for you to know what is close by very quickly.

Explore the City for Adventure – Beach, Mountain, Lakes

Now comes the fun part. You can start to explore the city and surrounding areas for adventure. The number of options is many, depending on your specific interests. Usually, when I start in a new city, and I have the basics in place, I tend to focus on possible beaches, mountain areas, or lakes to visit. Exploring the city for adventure is where you can let your imagination go. Everything is possible.

Once you have identified the possible beaches to go to, you can check out the beach areas for water sports or other types of beach activities. Some people like to go to the beach to be next to the water and do some wave jumping. Others want to combine going to the beach with some personal activities. For instance, if you are a runner and like to run several times per week, there is nothing more enjoyable than running on the beach in the morning. If you run barefoot on the shore, you will notice that different muscles are being worked during the run. 

Growing up on the beach in San Diego, when I was young, I enjoyed running and all types of beach activities. Alternatively, some people will be inclined to do some of their work on the beach. Although there are some significant difficulties, it is possible. If you want to learn more about working while on the beach, check out my article on this website HERE.

You can also check out the mountain areas. Besides seeing fantastic panoramic views, you might have a chance to find out what type of mountain sports are possible. Bicycle tours, hiking, and camping possibilities are all possible in mountain areas. If you visit the towns in the mountain areas, not only will you learn more about the culture of the country, but you have a chance to taste the local cuisine and meet local people.

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Explore lake and mountain areas of the country you are living in – Digital Nomad Explorer

Most big cities have lake regions that you can travel to even with public transport. Sometimes the lake areas are connected to mountain areas, and so you can combine these two. Exploring the lake areas can be a lot of fun because you might have the possibility to do water sports or to take boating excursions on the lake.

Adventure to these areas might be the first place you want to explore because most often, these places are accessible by public transport. If you plan to go to the beach, the mountain areas or the lake regions, try and find out how long it will take to get you there by public transport. In this way, it is much easier to try and schedule an afternoon to explore these places and know that you will be home at a reasonable time.

Explore the Cultural of the City 

Almost every city has a cultural history. If you are interested in learning about the culture of a place, there are many ways to do this. Getting to know the culture of the city and country you are living in is one of the most exciting things you can experience as a person. You’ll grow and expand your knowledge and understanding.

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Exploring the culture of the city you are living in is one of the exciting things to do – Digital Nomad Explorer

People have lived in the city or region you’re now living for years and develop their own way of doing things. It is for you to experience and explore. The easiest way to start is with the tourist areas. Now, I usually don’t enjoy tourist areas. If you are an experienced digital nomad, you might even be allergic to them. However, one of the good things about tourist areas is that it is a really quick way to learn about the culture. You can experience places that show and let you understand what is unique about the country.

If I’m in a place where I have never been before and I don’t know anything about it, sometimes I choose a quick afternoon tour at a tourist spot. By doing this can very quickly understand if I want to explore similar areas or I want to try something different. Use it as a tool in your exploration.

Other areas that you can check out which may be of cultural interest are the museums and specific city landmarks. In exploring these places, you can understand what the city is famous for what people are famous, and even why people are inclined to stay living here. I don’t always go to museums, but if there is a natural history museum and I have an afternoon free, this is generally on my exploration list.

Explore the Social Possibilities & Events

Social events that are sponsored by cities are exciting things to explore. It can be in the form of a concert, a festival, or just a get together of like-minded people celebrating something unique about the city you are living in. If you’re interested in this, check the city websites or the local newspapers for social events coming up. It might be that in some countries that do not use the Internet so much, you will have to do the legwork and go and ask people.

When you go to these events, for instance, a local festival, take notice of the organizers and connect with them if you can. By connecting with the event organizers, you can learn if other events are coming up and even sign up for an email list or know the publication in which they always announce these events.

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Exploring the cultural lake center in Kunming, China, I saw beautiful temple buildings and open air concerts – Digital Nomad Explorer

Going to social events is also an excellent way to get to know people. Everyone usually is in a good mood and more open to social networking and discussion. If you are one who likes these types of events, this is a great way to explore your new city.

Expanding to Neighboring Cities

What you have checked out all the places in the current city you’re living in; you can now go and expand to see what is cool in a neighboring city. Follow a similar exploration path described above, but there is a difference. The difference is that you ask about the nearby city from the people you have met.

You can ask and find out what the locals think is the best thing to see in the near neighboring city. Ask them if there are any famous beach areas or mountain areas. Ask them what most people do when visiting those areas. You can ask them about what tourist sites there are, what cultural events or festivals and importantly, you can ask them how to get there. Planning transportation is important because if you know how much time it will take to get there, you can easily schedule it in your calendar and decide when you want to explore the place.

Explore Cross-Border Into Other Countries

Exploring neighboring countries is an exciting part of the digital nomad life. Imagine, for a fraction of the cost, you can now stay a weekend in an exotic location. A few years ago, I was often traveling to Singapore for some of my work trips. I had the opportunity to be able to stay for the weekends, and of course, the first few times I stayed in Singapore to explore the city and surrounding areas. However, because Malaysia was so close, on a few the weekends I decided to spend it in Kuala Lumpur. I had options to go to many beaches in the coastal areas of Malaysia, and they were highly recommended to me. But due to time and transportation, I decided it would be best to explore the capital city — incredible experiences.

You can do the same in any neighboring country as a digital nomad. It is entirely up to you how you start the exploration process. For me, I usually like to start with the capital city and then choose beach or mountain areas to explore. If there’s a possibility to visit cultural sites or to participate in a festival, then I usually combine that with the trip. There are multiple possibilities, and there is no one right answer. You need to find the answer for yourself, one that fits your interests and energy level.

Keep Track of the Things You Enjoy

The great thing about exploring and expiration, especially when living as a digital nomad, is that you get to call most if not all of the shots. The decision is yours.

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Keep track of the things you enjoy when exploring a new city or country. It will help you make decisions on where to go next – Digital Nomad Explorer

You like beach life and want to experience 50 beaches and six months? Then list out those beaches and visit two a week for the next months. Want to try something completely new about the culture you are living in? List them out and schedule them. One friend I know in Beijing, China, is crazy interested in museums. During one summer she had a list of over 40 museums in and around Beijing that she wanted to see. She went and saw every single one of them.

I would recommend you keep some notes or journals, especially on the things that you like to do. By doing this, it makes it easier to make decisions in case you are uncertain about what to do: nothing fancy, just a few quick notes in a journal.

By keeping track of the things that you enjoy and also the things that perhaps you don’t enjoy as much, it will help you a lot in growing as a person. If you want to read more about growing as a person when your digital nomad, you can find it HERE on this website.

Explore to Find Adventure – Making the Most of Your Lifestyle

Here’s one tip that is always helped me when exploring new places. Explore to find adventure.

You will have to define by yourself what adventure means to you in your life, and it will be different for every person. But by doing so, you can experience all the things that you want to do in the context of living your life as a digital nomad.

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I’m an adventurer. Here I am exploring Jiuzhaigou, China, one of the most beautiful lake and mountain regions I’ve ever seen – Digital Nomad Explorer

When I was younger, adventure for me was sports (bicycle or long hiking). These days I define adventure still as being active but very focused on my interest. For instance, for me, I enjoy something active, like hiking or walking around archaeological sites. Alternatively, I enjoyed beach areas but with some rocky pathways or finding a spot to overlook the coast.

The main point is, make decisions that enable you to explore places to find adventure. In my view, this will help you to make the most of your lifestyle. There is so much to see in every city and country.

Final Thoughts

In the big picture, it’s a skill to be able to explore a city or neighboring country systematically. It’s interesting to me that some people have traveled to many countries, but they know very little about these countries even if they were in some of them for several years.

I encourage you to be good at exploration and making the best of your lifestyle if you are or soon will be a digital nomad. 

It’s to your advantage to learn how to do this well and develop your sense of what you like and what you don’t. Start now, right where you are!

Michael Haralson

I'm the owner of Digital Nomad Explorer. I've traveled to over 50 countries and been an expat in Scotland, Finland, and China. I was a digital nomad while having my own robotics company and traveled throughout Europe and China working remotely. Currently, I'm location independent with a home base in Kirkkonummi, Finland.

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