Experience is a tricky thing. Before you have it, it seems it is needed in everything. Once you have it, you always need more. When it comes to being a digital nomad just starting, it would be beneficial to you to have some.
Digital nomads, even in their first month, will need to be sure to keep their income coming in, find accommodation, get all the necessary paperwork registered, and deal with people in a foreign culture. It can be demanding even for experienced travelers!
So, what starting experience do you need before embarking on a digital nomad adventure? You need:
* Travel experience, preferably to another country
* Social experience that gives exposure to different people and cultures
* Work experience in one area, but more importantly experience in getting things done
Why Some Experience is Helpful
The digital nomad lifestyle is exciting, but it can be tough. If you have even a little bit of experience in traveling, in dealing with people from a foreign country or working on the start of business, it will go a long way. As a digital nomad starting, you will automatically be in situations where you need to solve problems.
If you have some experience in dealing with foreign cultures, this helps because you will have some fresh ideas and how to be polite and how to ask for precisely what you want if they don’t understand you immediately.
Having some experience will remind you to think out-of-the-box for solutions and to try again if you don’t see the results you want right away.
For instance, how about taking a bus to a particular destination in the new country? You will immediately be faced with a different language, a different bus system, time schedules for the bus which may not be in English or any language that you speak, and you will have questions about which stop to get off at and how you will get back. If this is the first time you’re experiencing this, it can be quite daunting. You get better at it each time you experience it.
Perhaps the only time experience doesn’t help when it locks you into a particular way of doing things, or you think there is only one way of solving a problem. It doesn’t always work that way. Digital nomad life and traveling and working remotely in a new country is a dynamic experience, it’s continuously different, and often things don’t work the same way they do in another country or even in another city.
Being flexible and using your experience as a reference can help you to get the things that you want in new situations.
Experience is Needed, But You Can Also Build it
If you’re starting out and haven’t moved to another country yet, you have time to assess the experience you need and can try to put yourself into situations where you can get a little experience. A little experience is recommended and may even be required, but you can also build it wherever you are.
If you are already a digital nomad in a new country and already there, don’t worry about the experience you should’ve had before jumping in, start building the skills that you need that will help make your journey easier and smoother.
I put together what I think are some critical areas of experience which a digital nomad should have a little bit of, or build each day of their journey. Let’s get started.
If you have already started your digital nomad journey, ‘don’t worry about the experience you should have had, building what skills you need right away.
3 Key Areas of Experience
In the following three tables, I outline the three key areas of experience which can be considered important as a digital nomad when they are starting out and which can be very important during the first six months of their journey.
On the headers of the table, I have listed the time frame groupings: Immediately, One month, Three months, Six months and onwards. In order to indicate the priority, I have designated the terms High, Med, Low to indicate the priority of when these skills will be needed and the urgency.
These skills can be built each week slowly, and for some of them, it just takes practice. Other skills, or a bit more urgent, and it would be good to have some previous experience that you can take forward and use right away in your digital nomad journey.
In this table, you can see that the experience considered as a high priority immediately is in arranging trips and packing. However, those experiences needed within 30 days are about using the internet and connectivity. These are important not only for traveling but in your work as a digital nomad.
Travel Experiences and When They are Needed and Priority
|Immediately Need||Within First 30 Days||Within 3 Months||During 6 Months and Onwards|
|Use the Internet||Low||High||High||High|
Arrange Trips – By arranging trips I mean having the experience of booking flight, bus or railway tickets in your own another country and planning as part of the process. You need to figure out how to get to one place, when you’re going to go, and how to get back within a specific timeframe. For those of you who are experienced, you know that this is a piece of cake once you have done it a few times. For digital nomads, one can do this without too much stress.
However, if you’re starting out and have not had that many trips to arrange, it can be stressful! The good thing about living in this day and age is that the Internet makes things usually much more accessible and also you can read instructions or even how other people have created a booking.
Foreign Language – Exposure to a foreign language will help you realize that there are whole populations who do not speak your native language and that basically, you need to learn theirs if you hope to get things done in their country. The good thing about being alive today is that you can order a crash course on the Internet or download an app that will give you the basic vocabulary of almost any foreign language.
You won’t be able to speak at any level of fluency very quickly, but you can learn some of the polite words and have asked specific questions which already puts you ahead of the game. If you have any experience of visiting different countries, you are already well aware of this, and this experience can help you.
Packing – If you decide to take a one-week trip somewhere and plan to take three large suitcases, you will probably get to the destination fine, but your travel will be very burdensome and even inconvenient especially if you’re on a budget. Having some experience in packing lightly and knowing what to choose for today trip, a one-week trip, or a one month trip can make your life much easier. There are tips and techniques on how to pack, as well as how to choose the right backpack and suitcase for budget flights.
Use the Internet – These days, I think everyone has experience using the Internet. What I mean here is more about can you find information about a particular place and find available tickets or reserve bookings? Sometimes the websites from foreign countries do not load so fast and also are challenging to navigate. Even little experience in looking for out-of-the-box ways to find information will help you on your journey.
Connectivity – Knowing the ins and outs of Wi-Fi and mobile data will help you in the most unexpected places. Getting connected to Wi-Fi in a café or Starbucks in a Western country usually is pretty straightforward. But what happens when you need to connect and the Wi-Fi doesn’t work? Or you are on a bus tour, and you need to do something urgently for your project like send a file over 1 MB, how do you get hooked up on mobile data and send that file? Understanding the basics of Wi-Fi and mobile data and learning how to connect your laptop or iPad in challenging (low Wi-Fi coverage or no mobile coverage) circumstances will be a lifesaver for you.
Adaptability – One thing is for certain whenever you travel it usually doesn’t go exactly as you planned it in detail. You need to be flexible and adapt to circumstances as they happen. And perhaps, the most important thing is not to get completely stressed or bent out of shape when these things happen. Did your hotel reservation gets canceled suddenly? No problem, book another one via the Internet. The bus didn’t show up, and it’s getting late? No problem, order a taxi this time. Adaptability has a lot to do with attitude. Most people have a lot of this experience, and they have to remember it even when they’re traveling as a digital nomad.
Social skills are skills that you need to connect with other people. Whether they or someone you know or we have recently been introduced to or someone who you have never met before, interacting and connecting with people is essential when your digital nomad in a new country. Here are some vital social skills that can make your life much easier and also that you can practice and build experience daily.
Social Experiences and When They are Needed and Priority
|Immediately Need||Within First 30 Days||Within 3 Months||During 6 Months and Onwards|
|Ability to Ask Questions||High||Med||Low||Low|
|Friendly, Make Friends and Gain Trust||Low||High||High||High|
|Ability to Solve disputes & Problems||Med||Med||Med||Med|
In this table, experience considered high priority is the ability to ask questions (for information, etc) immediately upon arrival; and within the first 30 days onwards it is high priority for being friendly and friendliness. The majority of the experience is ranked medium priority.
Ability to Ask Questions – The ability to ask questions and to know what to ask to get information politely from people is a skill that improves with practice. There are lots of different ways to ask questions, from being very direct when you need to know how to get from one place to another, to the indirect way where you ask for person’s opinion and then try to summarize and find the focus of information you are trying to get. Most people already know how to ask questions politely, but mix in foreign culture aspects of politeness and a foreign language, then suddenly it is a new ballgame. The good thing about this is that you can practice and improve your courage to ask questions in different circumstances and situations.
Friendly, Can Make Friends and Gain Trust – Being friendly comes naturally to most people who want to make friends and meet new people. For some people who were a little shy, this can be a high barrier to meeting new people.
The good thing going for you is that most people and most cultures respond to friendly discussions, and once you find similar interest to the other person, it is easy to continue a conversation and make friends. Gaining trust is also an essential aspect of friendships. Even more so when you are traveling to different locations, when you meet local people and become their friends, there are some cultures that value trust even more.
For instance, I live in Finland where, when you say you are going to do something, it is taken more seriously than in some other Western cultures, and people do expect that you will do what you say. It is a matter of trust. I’ve learned over many years of having good friends in Finland that it is best to be 100% sure that you’re going to do something before you say you will.
The Ability to Solve Disputes and Problems in a Foreign Culture – The ability to resolve conflicts is a bit more advanced social skill, but it is an important skill to have to solve issues tactfully when they appear.
As an example, once I was traveling in France and had an extended six-week stay. I found one small hotel chain which had a very reasonable price as well as being very central to where I wanted to be on the outskirts of Paris. I had agreed with the hotel that for the first three weeks I would have a set rate and that if I liked it, I could extend that to the following three weeks at the same price. When it came to renewing for the second three weeks, the same manager told me it was impossible. I was quite confused because we had spoken almost every morning at breakfast and he knew of my plans as well as my satisfaction with his hotel.
Calming myself down very quickly, I remembered that in French culture when they are dealing they like a little bit of resistance so that in the end, people are more satisfied with the deal. So I politely but firmly pushed back and stated what we had agreed and that he was a little bit impossible. After a tense minute or so, we found the way back to the agreement, and I continue to stay for the next three weeks at the same rate.
The skill sets of being able to solve disputes in foreign cultures will give you a level of confidence, which will help you during your whole journey as a digital nomad.
Sensitivity – Being in a foreign culture requires that you are sensitive to situations and circumstances, especially in social gatherings. It isn’t to say that you cannot be yourself when you’re traveling, but by practicing just a little bit of sensitivity, it can go a long way in getting used to your new destination. By sensitivity, I mean that you can understand when some people are doing things a certain way or that you will be able to request something which usually not asked all the time.
When you are a digital nomad making your living by the Internet, your lifestyle demands that in order to continue it, you need to be successful at being an entrepreneur and making money through the Internet. This website has covered many aspects of the skills required for entrepreneurship, and there are hundreds of books written about how to be successful on the Internet with your own business.
However, here is a short list of skills that in my experience is needed when you are starting out as a digital nomad, and that will prove to be necessary during the first six months of your journey.
Work Experiences and When They are Needed and Priority
|Immediately Need||Within First 30 Days||Within 3 Months||During 6 Months and Onwards|
|Complete Project Work||Low||Med||High||High|
|Determination and Optimism||High||High||High||High|
In this table, the experience considered as a high priority immediately and continues onwards is Sales and Determination & Optimism. However, Productivity experience is needed within 30 days and is steadily high priority onwards.
Productivity – One of the critical skill areas that you need to have as an entrepreneur is productivity skills. This grouping includes skills such as time management, time blocking, calendar management, and project management, which focuses on the output of your work. This area alone sometimes takes years to build expertise and good momentum, but I can also say that if you find a way to work with the basics, it can help almost any work situation. When you are a digital nomad, you need to get things done. Then you get paid. It’s as simple as this, so build those skills.
Entrepreneur – As an entrepreneur, you need to build your company. Whether that company is focused on freelance projects, or web design or drop shipping, or teaching English as a foreign language, the main point is that you need to establish that company and get it to grow. The skills required for being an entrepreneur are many but a lot of people that I know who do this focus on projects. Find one project, work that project to completion, get paid, and then find the next one.
If you can do this well, then it is a matter of scaling which in the big picture means how many projects can you do during the week by yourself or, do you need to find help to scale. If you had started your company before you started on your journey as a digital nomad, you would have a bit of an advantage. However, don’t let that hold you back if you are starting out take it one step at a time and find your first project.
Sales – To get projects, you need the skills of a salesperson. You have to so the value that you have to a potential customer. There are many platforms where one can look for projects, and you need to apply for them and still yourself and your value. You can always improve your selling ability, and there are tons of resources, both free and paid, which can help you get better at selling.
Complete Project Work – In the big picture, once you have a project, you need to reach that deadline and complete your project work to get paid. A lot of this has to do with productivity skills. Getting yourself organized with the schedule to do the job and produce the quality needed to get it accepted by the customer sometimes takes a lot of discipline. You get better with practice. The important thing to remember here is that the skills that you have to be able to complete your project work will be the crucial thing that will enable you to get paid.
Determination and Optimism – Having worked for big companies and small, when it comes to working, to skills always help me as well as other entrepreneurs. By determination, I mean that you are determined to do what you set out to do. Despite any setbacks, you have the self-confidence and the skill to focus on your goal, whatever that might be in your work, and find a way to make it happen. Especially when there is a setback, or you have a day when your schedule goes wrong, you need to termination to jump back in the next day and to get back on track.
The other thing that I think can help a digital nomad in the work area is optimism. I consider this to be a skill. There will be days that you will have in your work where things either look impossible, or you are in a situation where you cannot find a project. To pick yourself up and continue, you need to be optimistic that your decisions and the skill that you have acquired are the right ones for you at this time and that you were positive that the projects would come. The skills of determination and optimism is very much a matter of practice. Practice this weekly and you will see that your work will progress much better with them.
What If You Don’t Have Any Experience or Skills?
Especially young people who are starting out and very keen and impatient to see the world might be in a situation where they have decided to jump in and be a digital nomad with minimal experience or skill. Although this might get you there, you will need to build some of the skills we talked about in this article right away if you intend to stay. So what happens if you have little experience and few skills?
Start Right Where You Are
My view of this is that you can start right now where you are. If you are still at home and planning on how to be a digital nomad, you can start to build some of the experience already right now. There are a few things I would like to mention about starting where you are right now:
You will never be 100% ready – If you are planning to become a digital nomad, traveling the world with your laptop and being independent, it is wisely encouraged to do some proper planning. Identifying the types of experience and skills you need and even acquiring some experience before you go is great. However, keep in mind that once your plan is made and you have done some preparations, you will never be 100% ready for your adventure and journey. Prepare well and then go.
Plan, research, build on your strengths – As you prepare your plan, use the guides and wealth of information that can help you, from this website for instance or some of the books and planners that are available. Research your interests and make your wish lists of places to see and things to experience. As you do this, build on your strengths, those things that you do well and also those experience skills that are needed to continue your lifestyle progressing smoothly.
Whenever you arrive, you will take your previous experience with you – Once you arrive at your first destination as a digital nomad, you take all your previous experiences and start to build on top of them with new experiences. It will happen immediately, even as soon as you get off the plane and head to your new accommodation.
There are a lot of things you will need to do and any experience that you can draw from that you have gathered at home will be useful depending on the situation and circumstances. Use them well.
It is best if you take some previous experience with you and we’ve covered in detail topics such as traveling skills, social experience, and work experience. The more you have of these experiences, the easier it will be in certain circumstances when you start your journey towards being a digital nomad.
For those of you who have already started the journey, don’t stop building the skills! You can get better at each of these and develop the necessary skill sets to make your life not only more comfortable but also more exciting.
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, this is often a lifetime journey of skill building. Keep at it, build that experience whether you have not started your digital nomad journey or you are well into it. Keep it going.