Financial Info For Digital Nomads

Money is a hot topic for digital nomads. Cost of living, business profitability, passive income streams… these are all regularly discussed among remote workers.

To help shed some light, I recorded a video earlier this year talking about how much Steph and I spend and how we budget for life on the road.

If you have any questions or want to chat about finances, please hit me up on Twitter!

My Biggest Advice for Digital Nomads

nomad friends

I’ve been on the road as a “full-time digital nomad” for about 4 years now. Before that, I spent 3 years traveling and experimenting with remote work part-time.

I’ve grown my businesses, seen dozens of countries, become incredibly self-aware, and met hundreds of amazing people.

Over the last 2 years, the digital nomad movement has exploded, largely due to the creation of NomadList. Most of the people I’ve been meeting on the road are just starting their remote work journeys. Many people now view me as an “old-timer” in the nomad scene.

I don’t feel like an expert in any way. To be honest, I feel like I’ve just found my perfect rhythm over the last year. That said, I’d like to offer my biggest piece of advice for digital nomads, both current and prospective.

Prioritize relationships.

In the nomad world, it’s so easy to become fixated on building/growing a business (not inherently bad)… or seeing new places (also not inherently bad). These are usually the most appealing factors of remote work, and they absolutely can add incredible value to your life.

But…

Pursuing these things at the expense of building relationships and community is an almost certain recipe for burnout…something I’ve encountered many times.

Entrepreneurship ≠ happiness
Money ≠ happiness
Travel ≠ happiness

These things are simply value-adds in the incredible lives we are privileged to live. A life prioritized around PEOPLE is what I’ve found to bring the most contentment, deep joy, and sustainability to my nomad journey.

Share meals with people. Have them over to your 6,000 THB apartment for a round of cheap beers from 7/11. Instead of going somewhere new or somewhere cheap, go where your friends are going. Make time in your life to invest in knowing others and being known by them.

Over the last 6 months, I’ve tried to refocus my life around spending more time with people that I’ve connected with on the road. I’m still figuring it out, and I’m still learning balance, but I encourage you to audit your life and priorities to make sure that relationships are paramount.

If this strikes a chord with you, or if you want to ask me more, you can reach out to me on Twitter. I’d love to chat.

My 2015 Digital Nomad Packing List

I’ve received numerous requests to make a post outlining the gear we travel with. This is constantly changing, and will need to be updated soon, but I wanted to make a list talking about the gear I travel with per my early 2015 packing list video on YouTube.

Please be aware that if you purchase anything using one of the links below, we’ll get a small kickback from the sale!


Everything gets packed in a Timbuk2 Showdown Backpack. This bag has served me well over the last year! It’s plenty big enough for everything I have, and I love the separate laptop compartment. A very comfortable and effective bag at a reasonable price.

Clothing

Basic T-Shirt
Nothing special here. A plain T that I found second-hand for $2. It’s 50% cotton and 50% polyester, which helps it dry quicker.

Patagonia Capilene 1 T-Shirt
I lucked out and found this second-hand as well. I mainly use it for running or working out. It smells quickly so it needs to be washed frequently.

Wool & Prince Better Button Down
A mainstay in my wardrobe. This shirt is magic. Seriously. It just doesn’t smell. I wash it maybe once a month (maybe…) and wear it almost every day. It’s held up wonderfully on the road and has a lot of life left! I dry clean it a couple times a year as well.

Prana Brion Pants
These are pretty decent pants for travel. They don’t have tons of extra pockets and have a slimmer cut than most travel/outdoor pants which makes them suitable for every day use. I have them in the Charcoal/Grey color. They do stretch out a bit between washings, but not terribly. They can’t be beat for the price, but I have my eye on some pants by Ministry of Supply which I may pick up soon.

Patagonia Rock Craft Shorts
I don’t know if Patagonia makes these any more. They’re not my favorites, but are excellent shorts all the same and very durable for life on the road. I tend to prefer clothes that have simpler styling and these just look a little bit too technical (albeit better than most). I would look at shorts by Prana instead.

Brooks Running Shorts
Found these second-hand. Cut out the liner to save some weight. Nothing special. I use these for running, working out, and swimming.

UNIQLO Airism Boxer Briefs
I’ve been loving these for travel! I have two pairs. They’re inexpensive, comfortable, and are easy to hand-wash and hang dry. Plus, there are UNIQLO stores in most major cities around the world so I can easily replace them when necessary.

Icebreaker Socks
Just one pair of socks. I don’t wear socks very often but I like to have them for extremely cold weather or long runs.

Wool Buff
It’s easy to see why this is a staple for many travelers. Can be used as a hat, neck scarf, balaclava, eye mask, head band… you name it! Very useful.

Patagonia Capilene 2 Thermal Leggings
These are pretty light and pack down small. I carry them with me to layer underneath my Brions in cold weather. We were in Prague in November and Beijing in February and the combination of these leggings and my Brions kept me comfortable through the coldest days and nights.

UNIQLO Packable Down Jacket
This certainly isn’t the best down jacket you can buy, but it’s probably the best value. Very light, packs down small, and keeps me warm in all but the coldest of weather.

Patagonia Houdini Wind/Rain Jacket
Very simple, very lightweight wind/rain jacket. It won’t keep you dry in a downpour, but works pretty well for most showers. I also like to wear it when I run on chilly mornings. This would be a great layer to carry in the tropics (sans heavier jacket) for chilly nights and tropical rains. When we go somewhere extremely cold, I layer this on top of my down jacket and it traps more of the heat. Packs down to the size of my fist so I can store it anywhere.

Bedrock Syncline Sandals
I LOVE these sandals. I’ve been wearing them for over a year now and I’ve been very impressed. I use them for everyday wear as well as running and hiking. They’re extremely comfortable and I love the lack of padding or support. My feet have become much stronger since I started wearing the Bedrocks. They also have a rock solid warranty. The straps started wearing thin on mine recently and they replaced them free-of-charge!

New Balance Minimus Trail Running Shoes
These were an impulse buy at an REI garage sale. I found them for $10. If I had to pay full price, I wouldn’t have purchased them, but I figured I’d pick them up for $10. I’m going to replace them with shoes that can be a bit dressier. I tend to run and hike in my sandals, so I don’t have much need for a trail running shoe.

Tech

MacBook Pro 13″ Retina Edition
I spilled a glass of wine on my MacBook Air (oops) and had to replace my laptop in Prague. They didn’t have any Airs in stock so I went for the Retina Pro. I can’t decide which I like better. The Pro is a bit zippier and the screen is INCREDIBLE, but I do miss the extra battery life and weight savings of the air. Regardless, it’s a solid computer and should serve me well for the next few years. For the future, I’m not entirely devoted to Apple. Everything I do on a daily basis is either in the cloud or in software that can run on PC. I’m really intrigued by many of the ultralight laptops coming from Dell, Lenovo, and NEC. Going to keep my eye out and might think about moving to PC in a few years.

iPhone 6 Plus
This has been a great phone. Expensive, but wonderful to use. Like any traveler, I have this thing loaded with maps, dictionaries, phrasebooks, movies, and more. It’s also replaced my Kindle for reading. Mine is 64GB and unlocked. More expensive up front, but it means that I can buy and use SIM cards anywhere in the world. Like my computer, I’m not entirely devoted to Apple for phones. Lots of great phones from many companies these days. Any smartphone will do.

Canon G7x
This is an amazing camera! We’ve been using it to record all of our video blogs for YouTube and have been extremely impressed with the quality. It’s bigger than most point-and-shoot cameras but I still find it pocketable. Goes with us everywhere. The depth-of-field is amazing for such a small camera and it is really good in low light. A great compromise for us instead of carrying a bulky DSLR or even a mirrorless camera. The pop-up screen has been great for vlogging too!

GoPro Hero4 Silver
We found a great deal on this GoPro second-hand and decided to buy it and experiment with it on the road. We’ve loved having it for swimming and diving and vlogging our runs and road trips. We’ve picked up an array of mounts and accessories and store everything in an Eagle Creek Packing Sac.

Seagate 2TB External Hard Drive
Just a basic portable EHD. I grabbed this on Cyber Monday last year and use it for all my backups and to store old vlog footage.

1964 Triple Driver Custom IEMs
As a musician, I’ve been using in-ear monitors in place of headphones for years now. These are some of my favorites thus far. They are custom molded and have three individual drivers per ear. This helps them to produce a very responsive and accurate sound for listening. They are extremely comfortable for long periods of use, thanks to the perfect fit, and block out noise pretty well. Obviously, most non-musicians won’t spring for a pair of custom in-ear monitors, but I’d recommend that everyone check out IEMs for use as everyday headphones.

Panasonic Earbuds
These were just a couple dollars. I like having a cheap, crappy pair of headphones to throw in my bag for use when running or on the go.

Apple Magic Mouse
Not the cheapest mouse in the world, but I like the form factor and the simplicity it offers. I don’t like using a trackpad all day, and the mouse helps me keep a more open posture.

Apple AA Charger and Rechargeable Batteries
I’m starting to feel like an Apple fanboy here, but this is the smallest AA battery charger that I’ve found yet. Steph and I use the batteries for our Apple mic and electric toothbrushes.

Kikkerland Universal Plug Adapter
I was first turned on to this adapter by Tynan several years ago. It’s been in my pack since we started traveling and I have no complaints. After using this adapter, I can’t understand why people buy such bulky (and heavy!) bricks of plug adapters. This is all you need, and I haven’t yet found a plug that it won’t adapt to.

SMD Thin HDMI Cable
The thinnest HDMI cable I’ve ever seen. We use this more than we originally expected! It’s been great to have so we can hook our laptops up to TVs in rooms that we rent or when we visit friends. It packs down so small and weighs almost nothing. We have a 3 foot version, which I’m unable to find on Amazon at the moment.

Jawbone ERA Bluetooth Headset
I only carry this because I have to take a lot of client calls on the road, and this headset provides the best noise-cancelling mic for the size and weight. Probably won’t be a necessity for most travelers.

 

Toiletries

I don’t carry much in the way of toiletries. I don’t use soap or shampoo on my body and I only use toothpaste every so often. This list might be overly minimal for many travelers, but I wanted to share so you have an idea of the few products I do use.

OralB Cross Action Electric Toothbrush
It’s hard to find this toothbrush these days, but it’s a great brush for travel. The heads are very small and only need to be replaced every few months and the toothbrush itself is powered off of one AA battery. I think electric toothbrushes are better overall. They’re a worthwhile investment for long-term travel.

Earthpaste Toothpaste
No one should be using toothpastes filled with ingredients like sulfates and Propylene Glycol. These chemicals are extremely abrasive to your enamel and hazardous to your health. When I do use toothpaste, I like to use Earthpaste. It has a very simple ingredients list and includes bentonite clay, which helps to remineralize the enamel on your teeth as well as suck out toxins and bacteria from the mouth. When I don’t use toothpaste, I simple brush with water and sometimes swish with coconut oil.

Tongue Scraper
Most bacteria in the mouth resides on the tongue, so it’s important to keep it just as clean as your teeth. I like this tongue scraper because it’s metal instead of plastic.

GoToob of Dr. Bronner’s Soap
I don’t use this soap on my body, but I do use it to wash my hands as well as do laundry in the sink or shower. Almost every long-term traveler I meet is using Dr. Bronner’s and it’s easy to see why.

Gillette Mach3 Sensitive Razor
A very basic razor, but very comfortable for shaving. The blades can also be found all over the world.

Shaving Oil
I haven’t used shaving cream for years. Shaving oil is much better for the environment, much more packable, and healthier for your skin! Give it a try! One bottle will last several months.

Salt Stick Deodorant
I don’t use this very frequently, but it’s nice to have around for the occasional bad B.O. day. Much better than using a chemical deodorant or anti-perspirant, and it works just as well to fight odor.

 

Miscellaneous

Eyemask and Earplugs
Super simple, but I consider these essentials. You never know when you’ll be staying in a room with thin walls or no curtains… or taking an overnight flight or train.

Sea To Summit Packable Daypack
This isn’t entirely necessary, but we find it useful for groceries, beach days, etc.  Nice to have another bag around and it weighs almost nothing.

Sea To Summit Travel Clothesline
Again, something that isn’t entirely necessary, but it is REALLY nice to have when there’s nothing else available to dry clothes on. Super tiny. I put it in my toiletry bag.

Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle
I’ve recently lost my Vapur bottle, but these are the best travel water bottles I’ve found! They pack down so small and weigh nothing. No more carrying around bulky or heavy bottles!


If you have any questions about my packing list, or just want to say ‘hi’, reach out to me on Twitter!