Nomad Life

Van Life Essentials: How to Become a Digital Nomad

These days, life on the road is no longer exclusive to retirees. Since the pandemic, there’s been an explosion of remote jobs that are manageable from anywhere. And while it’s not an easy lifestyle, learning how to become a digital nomad is more accessible than ever. With first-hand accounts on van life blogs, van life Youtube, and other social media, you get a glimpse into the van life essentials of a digital nomad’s lifestyle. 

For me, looking for van life jobs started and ended by emailing my supervisor. I am one of the lucky ones whose employer allows for the switch to fully remote work. I can’t say it’s my dream job, but right now it qualifies as one of the most important van life essentials. Sam wasn’t so lucky. For him, finding fully remote van life jobs proved difficult. Finally, after months of persistent searches on remote job boards, Sam found an awesome company and started learning how to become a digital nomad. 

So whether you’re lucky like me, persistent like Sam, or looking to start your own stream of income deciding to move into a van is a big decision. You have to first learn how to become a digital nomad and commit to living a life with less. This guide is meant to assuage your fears of work and van life balance. Follow these steps to determine the perfect balance for you. 

Create a Budget and Plan for Expenses

Step one in learning how to become a digital nomad is to review what you’ll likely spend monthly. In this new van life aesthetic, you cannot plan for every expense. In fact, it’s likely that you’ll run into unexpected costs. However, you should attempt to calculate some predictable monthly costs for insight into how much cash you will need to live comfortably. Predictable costs during van life include things like gas, food, internet, insurance, gym memberships, streaming services, helpful road trip apps, and any longer-term stays. You can also budget for any of the major trips that you plan to take while living in a van. For example, we have several weddings that don’t perfectly align with our van trips. This means we have to plan for flights, gifts, stays, etc. 

Assess Your Skills and Determine Your Income Streams

When assessing your skills, you may need to think a bit outside of the box. Think beyond your degree or certifications. Think about functional skills that you are adept at applying. Also, consider starting in a position that is entry-level. Hopefully, becoming a digital nomad will decrease your cost of living, thus leaving wiggle room to accept a lower salary while you develop and learn new skills. 

Next, determine your income streams. You’ll want to consider what your monthly costs are on the road which takes careful planning. Think about where you plan to travel, what you’re traveling in, how long you plan to travel, and with who. Right now, having 2 full-time incomes is necessary for our consciences. Until we get our travel legs, we want to feel financially secure and open to all experiences this adventure offers us. Some van lifers may choose to save before leaving their jobs for the open road. While others may prefer to van life jobs like freelancing, part-time work, or even seasonal work. Ideally, we want to eventually create some sort of passive income to support life on the road. What that looks like is still undecided. 

Set Up a Mobile Office

When learning how to become a digital nomad, you’ll have to develop some flexibility with work location and setup. To give yourself a true “work from anywhere” attitude it’s best to create a van life interior that can accommodate a comfortable working space. This way, you can work wherever on the road. We have a pull-out table and benches in our current conversion that became Sam’s spot. We really had to get creative to figure out what would work for me. Unfortunately, working at the same table wasn’t an option since I’m on 5-10 video calls a day. So, I bought a TV tray table and put it into the passenger seat area. Voila, I had a desk and chair. Now, Sam and I at least have a dividing curtain between his office at the table, and mine in the chassis. So far, so good. 

When researching van life interiors, it’s important to really consider the mobile office space as a van life essential. I recommend nailing down your van life interior office setup and testing it out before hitting the road. That’s right, spend a day working from the van, sitting in your driveway, and updating your mobile office as necessary. 

Find Reliable Internet Access

Reliable internet access for whatever van life job you choose is absolutely a van life essential. The most popular options for mobile internet include phone hotspots, mobile hotspot devices like Verizon Jetpack, and the newest innovation, Starlink. Initially, we planned to get the Verizon Jetpack to support our van life jobs. However, after considering the average speed of hot spot devices, my multiple video calls a day, and the fear of running out of data with 2 full-time jobs, we decided to go for Verizon 5G home internet. This setup basically works like a mobile hotspot in that it needs to be connected to 5G to operate. It is different from a hotspot in that it is much larger, offers faster internet speeds for multiple devices at once, and offers larger data plans. So far, this van life internet option has been incredibly reliable and we highly recommend it! 

Quick notes about Verizon home Internet:

  • It costs a bit more, but to us, it was worth it. We are paying $50/month with their current promotion.
  • You’ll have to provide a home address to set up the device initially but the address does not matter and the internet works from anywhere.

Embrace Minimalism and Downsizing

Easier said than done in our consumer-based society. I’m not going to pretend that I’m a strict minimalist that knows all the ins and outs of creating a life with less. However, this van life aesthetic has encouraged me to research and understand the minimalist lifestyle benefits and principles. Check out this step-by-step guide to downsizing and identifying all of your van life essentials. 

I hope this van life essentials guide on how to become a digital nomad is helpful for the next steps to making your van life journey possible. You can learn how to budget practically for this minimalistic lifestyle and when it comes to van life jobs, be persistent. When looking for van life jobs, prioritize what’s important to you, feeling financially secure on the road or maybe having more freedom. Depending on your van life job choice, it’s important to have access to reliable mobile internet. Finally, digital nomads naturally fall into a minimalistic lifestyle that encourages a life with less consumption and more experiences.

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