This article is from Nomad Capitalist contributor Pete Sisco.
Next month will be the nine-year anniversary of when I started being a digital nomad. In that time, my wife and I have met hundreds of people all over the world. One of the most common questions we hear is, “How do you do it?”
Obviously, there is no short answer. The truth is it takes careful consideration and planning to make the shift from being a resident and financial captive of one State (usually the one we were born in) to having the freedom to live where we choose and to earn and keep our money where we choose.
So the advice we offer to our global friends is to sample the nomad lifestyle by taking an intentional vacation. And by ‘intentional’ I mean visiting one of the locations you are considering with the specific intention of investigating elements of the expat lifestyle there. Think of it as a reconnaissance mission.
From the outset this rules out a Carnival Cruise where passengers visit a port of call between the hours of 8am and 6pm, or a package vacation where tourists remain on the property of a mega resort unless escorted on a dune buggy or Segway tour of the beachfront shopping district.
Forget visiting as a tourist. Visit as a future resident.
Go where the expats are
Large countries like Mexico have dozens of great cities to visit. However, there are higher concentrations of visible expats in a handful of these places.
In an example with which I have some familiarity, Belize has about a half dozen towns where you’ll find American, Canadian and British expats. However, the town with the highest concentration is San Pedro. If you were interested in investigating Belize through the eyes of expats, San Pedro would give you the most bang for your investigative buck.
Socialize where expats socialize
For the most part you’ll find expats to be outgoing, helpful people. Expats know they live “outside the box” and usually they are eager to tell you all the reasons they think it’s the right way to go. They’re not just helpful, sometimes they’re downright evangelical about being expats.
A walk down a main street or along a busy stretch of beach will always reveal small businesses (especially bars) that are owned or operated by expats. For the price of a round of drinks you can acquire more first-hand information and detailed advice than you could get from a dozen books or websites.
Visit a bank
Drop into a bank or two and ask to speak to the manager. Banking offshore is a key tenet of being a nomad.
Tell him you are considering moving there and ask what is involved in opening an account and perhaps establishing a business. You’ll probably find that you can open an account on the spot. This is getting harder for Americans, but still possible in most places.
If you’re an American, don’t expect any real financial privacy as the US government has co-opted most countries into spying for them. But, at the very least, some money in a foreign account won’t be the low-hanging fruit the local bureaucrats back home will grab when they need some extra boondoggle money. They rely on the homebound tax slaves first.
Look for real estate rentals
If you decide to return to your chosen paradise, you’ll want to find a place to rent for your first year or so. Renting is the safe way to take the full measure of a location before you commit to owning property.
Many people are shocked to discover that they can live in paradise for a fraction of what they pay to maintain a less desirable life in the rat race.
Make some face-to-face contacts so later when you’re dealing with them over the Internet they will remember you. This can go a long way in making future arrangements go smoothly.
Rent a car or motorbike
In the case of San Pedro, Belize I could add ‘rent a golf cart,’ since that is the principle means of transportation on the island. The key is to get away from the tourist locations. Find the grocery stores and bars where the locals go and buy something from them.