About the author

Darren Cronian, the author of this guide, has spent nine years securing remote jobs and building a successful freelancing business. His goal is to help people find remote work. Read more >
Last Updated: 30 May 2023

While sitting at my desk overlooking Kuala Lumpur, it feels surreal how much life has changed since quitting my job to live as a Digital Nomad.

It does not feel like six years, since walking down the steps of the plane, into the heat and humidity of Thailand. My head was a mix of emotions, self-doubt on if the correct decision had being made.

There was also, excitement, nervous anticipation of travelling around the world alone, with no idea what the future looked like.

These are my thoughts on what I learnt from six years as a Digital Nomad.

What I Learnt From Six Years as a Digital Nomad

Life begins outside of the comfort zone

Neale Dalsh spoke wise words when he said life begins at the end of your comfort zone. While living in the comfort zone for so many years, nothing really changed, with no goals or aspirations. Thinking back, it was like living —workingport baggage carousel, just going around and around.

In some respect,s, without knowing, we are brainwashed into living how society expects. Working 9 to 5, buying a house, getting married, having kids, seing down and planning for reelsewheres our responsibility to create the life we truly want to lead.

Do you often find yourself staring out of the window wishing you were somewhere else? Or, standing at the station platform waiting for the delayed train to the office, while counting down to Friday and living for the weekend. If you answered yes, it is time to wake up because there is a big world out there.

Be honest with yourself, are you going through the motions, with no goals or aspirations? If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is we never know what is around the corner.

Rather than waiting, get out there and build the life you want to live.

Slow travel is the best

For the first six months, my travels took me to a new place every 5-7 days, and to be honest, it became exhausting very quickly. What was more frustrating was not being able to get to really experience the place.

With jetlag, time differences and fitting in freelance work, it was simply not enough time to really enjoy the destination.

For the following 5 years, my travels drastically slowed down. Living in a new city every 30 days. Rather than staying in city centre hotels, my choice of accommodation changed to apartments in residential areas.

It felt like I was living like a local. Slow is the best way to travel. Mixing up days where you can relax, or explore. Discovering places off the beaten path were more exciting than heading to the tourist hotspots.

Money gives you more options

While working in the office, I lived payday to payday. Money was spent and never saved. When my rent and bills were paid, whatever was left, was there to be spent on materialistic items were not needed.

Rather than saving for a holiday, I would take out a loan and pay it back over the following year, including interest.

In 24 years of working for the same employer, it was not until deciding to work remotely and travel, that I started saving.

Since quitting my job to work remotely and travel, my relationship with money has drastically improved. A percentage of my income is saved because should you find yourself in a situation with no remote work, you still have bills to pay.

The worst thing you can do is live payday to payday when being a digital nomad. You could find yourself in a situation where you do not have enough money to pay for your accommodation and no money to fly home.

Live the minimalist life as a digital nomad

To be completely honest, I stumbled upon living a minimalist life. The thought of my baggage getting lost by an airline, or stolen on a bus gave me so much anxiety it made sense to only travel with one piece of carry-on luggage.

All I travel with is my laptop, my camera, cables, contact lenses, medication and 7 days worth of clothes depending on the destination. Living a minimalist life has made me realise I do not need to live a life with materialistic items. It has made me more thankful for what I have.

Let us take a moment to step back and recap where I have come from.

I lived in the same apartment for 10 years, where I acquired lots of furniture, latest tech gear and gadgets, to living out of a 46L backpack that has to weigh less than 10kg for most airlines. There is something therapeutic about being a minimalist.

Have a positive outlook

When working in the office environment, I was grumpy, moody and had a negative mindset. Since leaving to work remotely and travel, my mental health has been totally positive and strive to keep it that way.

Of course, you cannot be positive all the time but, focusing on positivity is required for your mental health. This really benefits me in my role as a remote job coach because the positivity helps clients.

Focusing on being around positive people and listening to podcasters who focus on positivity certainly helps when times are tough.

Lifetime of no regrets

The primary focus for making the life-changing decision to quit my job and employer of 24 years, was the thought of being in my 70s and having a lifetime of regrets. I want to sit back and think about the adventures, stories created along the way.

It dawned on me, I needed to make changes when approaching my 40s and started to think about what I had achieved and envisioned my life to be. It is the visions that kept me focused when things got tough.

Coping with stressful situations

Working remotely and travelling is more stressful than working in the office. Some issues are flung at you that you would not have to deal with when living in one place.

There was the time my bank cancelled my card, which caused issues with getting access to my money, since it was a British bank, and I was in Malaysia at the time. Then, there is the time my Airbnb host cancelled accommodation for the next month, literally 24 hours before arriving.

To work, I need my laptop, and there have been numerous issues with the late 2016 MacBook Pro, including keyboard and hard drive issues.

There have been delayed and cancelled flights, broken down trains, hotel rooms which were horrific and smelt as if someone had died in the room.

The lesson from any issues that arise is to figure out what the solution is and get on with solving the problems as they arise. There is no point stressing and sitting on the issue hoping it will go away, it won’t, just deal with it and move on.

Dealing with a global pandemic

Thankfully, I have had incredibly supportive Airbnb hosts who have kept me safe. So, being locked down in apartments with everything you need on your doorstep has made the situation more bearable.

Early on, there was a lot of anxiety because the UK government was telling people to come home immediately. My gut instinct was telling me to stay in Malaysia because it would be safer.

It was the right decision when you compare, the UK has had 1.67m cases and 60,000 deaths so far. Malaysia has had 70,000 cases and 376 deaths, at least at the time of writing this article.

Never disagree with your gut instinct, it’ll not let you down.

This is what I learnt from six years as a digital nomad. What do the next six years have in store for me? No idea, but my focus is on building my coaching business and helping change more peoples lives like I changed mine.

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