7 Packing Pointers for Digital Nomads

Digital nomads can do their online work from any number of places around the world, many of which offer great weather, attractive scenery, and some exciting adventures. But they need to travel light, so should pack sensibly to ensure they can both do their work efficiently and also enjoy the lifestyle with minimum complications.

The digital nomad life was becoming increasingly common before the pandemic began and will doubtless be popular again when traveling is more possible. In fact, even more people may then take it up if they have become used to working online from home during this time but fancy combining that with seeing some new places. Digital nomads can earn well, but they also tend to like looking after their pennies as this gives them further finances for traveling. For this reason, they often enjoy the same destinations (and lifestyle) as backpackers, as long as they have access to good internet connections. Hotspots include exotic islands like Bali, places with year-round good weather like Tenerife, and Eastern and Central European towns that combine culture and infrastructure with reasonable costs. There are also favored US locations, often away from expensive cities and giving plenty of bang for your buck.

In all cases, if you are a budding digital nomad you will need to travel, most likely by plane. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic will still be a reality in many parts of the world for a while yet, and so full-scale traveling will start again with caution. Even with vaccines becoming available, masks will still probably be a feature for many places and travelers will still need to be aware of extra health precautions and possible curfews. Always obey the rules wherever you end up and take care.

Traveling always means that baggage space is limited, and this requires making some decisions. Only a small range of clothes can be taken, and the weather at the destination will influence those choices. Digital nomads will be seeing a lot of their laptops, so they must ensure they will have a minimum of technical troubles. In addition, especially when visiting foreign countries, some thought will need to be given both to health matters and the potential reliability of the infrastructure there. Finally, some administrative issues need to be taken care of and the necessary documents packed.

But there is one important decision you need to make before all that, which is whether you want to keep your place back in the US. If you decide to give up your lease there you need to figure out what to do with your belongings, the ones you won’t be squeezing into your travel luggage. You can see whether it’s possible to store some of them at a relative’s or friend’s place, but it may be better to rent a storage unit. This will cost you only a few bucks per month — roughly $115 on average for a regular 10’10’ locker — and it will save you the inconvenience of burdening somebody else’s home with your possessions.

1. Get the Lowdown on Luggage

Holidaymakers regularly pack a couple of suitcases, but the digital nomad lifestyle usually involves more moving around. For this reason, a backpack is often a better idea, both for checked baggage and for carrying around. Using bags within your rucksack helps ensures things stay dry, and vacuum-sealed bags can even help reduce space. For your laptop and other precious things, you’ll need a bag that fulfills the airlines’ cabin baggage size requirements. Some nomads apparently get away with traveling only with carry-on baggage, and anyone who doesn’t feel so physically strong should consider two smaller bags instead of a big rucksack. In all cases, be sure to invest in comfortable and good quality luggage — you don’t want the shoulder straps breaking when you’re living in a hut by a remote tropical beach! 

2. Learn How to Dress with Less

Experienced nomads have their lists of travel clothes in their heads, and even know how many pairs of socks and underwear is optimal. Taking up more space, however, are the dresses and pants that are long-standing residents of the wardrobe back home. But now you’ll need to pack just a few things you like and which complement each other. If the weather is hot where you’re going — many nomad destinations are — you’ll probably want to pack a lot of light items. This may also mean you don’t need a winter coat, but be aware that many idyllic nomad locations have a very rainy season, so take a waterproof jacket and a quality pair of boots. All in all, you will need to pick your traveling clothes carefully, and of course, you can top up your selection with exotic garments at your destinations! 

3. Always Stay Fresh to Impress

Now you’ve selected your travel wardrobe you need to look after it. A nomadic life in hot climates, and maybe no air-conditioning where you live or work, means washing your few clothes could become a frequent activity — you’ll want to make friends wherever you land and be looked on favorably at coworking offices! Some accommodation will have washing facilities but you may end up using your bedroom sink. Always take a plug for this — surprisingly, many places don’t provide one — while a portable washing line which can be attached to walls using suckers is a useful item. Another gadget that can help is a special bag in which you wash your stuff, saving both mess with water and the skin on your hands. A quick-drying travel towel is always useful, and don’t forget to pack nail clippers too.

4. Your Laptop Really Is Your Best Friend!

Digital nomads spend a lot of time using a computer, either communicating with colleagues and clients online or perhaps authoring text or code offline. This can be done where they live, at a coworking space, or even in a café or on a train. You therefore need a good laptop. If yours is old, consider buying a new one before setting out — those with solid-state drives are better than the old spinning hard disks as they are less easily damaged, faster, and use less power. And as you may be using it in a variety of awkward places, consider getting a ‘home office lap desk,’ which gives it and the mouse a stable area and also lets the battery’s heat escape. Speaking of which, take a portable power bank to extend its usage, while USB flash drives and screen cleaners are of course also a must. 

5. Always Look After Your Health

Some foreign countries have special health requirements for tourists, and embassies will be able to inform you. Also, healthcare may not be as easily obtainable as it is back home, even with good health insurance, so it’s always smart to check out what other travelers to that destination say. In addition, every traveler should have a personal first aid kit. A tube of antiseptic cream plus some plasters and bandages are a must, and many people like carrying a pack of antiseptic wipes at all times. Having a few common medications such as antihistamines, headache pills, laxatives, and anti-diarrhea pills is a great idea for when you’d rather remain in bed than go to the local pharmacy. Take tablets for motion sickness if you’re prone and finally, effective insect repellent can mean all the difference in the world.

6. Get Yourself Tooled Up

You could find yourself sharing accommodation with a chef, a professional seamstress, and a computer wiz! But you’ll probably have to fix many things yourself, and digital nomads often end up learning more than they expected to. A sewing kit is useful, especially as your set of clothes will be limited and precious to you. And then you might like to have a screwdriver or two in case the laptop starts making odd sounds or you break your mobile’s case — a multi-tool pocketknife solves many such problems and has can and bottle openers as well. For electronics, as the supply in many countries can be less reliable than back home, a surge moderator is a great investment, protecting both your laptop and any other devices you plug in. Consider taking a small battery-powered lantern in case power cuts out. 

7. A Fistful of Dollars (and Visas and Much More Besides)

You will probably visit local markets or bazaars where you end up living, paying in the local currency. But for your US-based finances, you will need international bank cards, and you may be glad to hear that actual US dollars are still are widely accepted worldwide. Consider packing travelers’ checks — they’re not as popular as they were but can still be a useful backup. You’ll need a valid passport and maybe visas too — if you get the travel bug you may not be able to predict which ones! Get as much documentation done before you set off, and start early as it can take a while. For documents you find need to be made when you’re abroad, take some passport size photos with you. Make sure you pack any important documents relating to your health, perhaps translated into the language of where you are going. 

Packing for life as a digital nomad is an art, but it can be easily learned using common sense and some useful tips. Many seasoned travelers learn to love the few, well-chosen items that accompany them around the world, and digital workers away from home need be no different. New skills can be acquired and new styles of dress can be tried out — especially with additions from new-found local fashions. By making careful preparations, digital nomads can work efficiently at their laptops, producing work that will satisfy clients and employers. There will then be some free time and money to explore whichever paradise they have chosen! Then, after a while, they will want to move to new destinations, finding new friends and adventures while continuing their jobs. All the while they gain and use experience and also accumulate plenty of tales to tell when they get back home! 

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