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    How you can become a digital nomad, Lifestyle News

    For many young Singaporeans who aspire to travel and see the world, being a digital nomad sounds like a dream life. In a recent MediaCorp documentary on Channel 8, it was reported that seven out of 10 Singaporean millennials are keen on pursuing a digital nomad lifestyle. 

    For reasons as diverse as wanderlust to self actualisation, this extended gap year is here to stay. Whether it’s firing up your laptop in a rice field cafe in Bali, working to a view of Norway’s breathtaking mountain vista or joining a co-working community in rural Chiang Mai, the world is your oyster. 

    Interestingly, Singapore is the 10th best country for creative digital nomads to work in (Istanbul tops the list). If you’re based here, perhaps taking on a remote or hybrid working job while travelling could be your first step to testing the waters.

    Top digital nomad jobs 

    If all you need is your laptop and a strong WiFi connection to work, there’s a good chance you can consider becoming a digital nomad. Cambridge dictionary defines a digital nomad as “someone who does not have a permanent office or home and works from different countries, towns, or buildings using the internet”.

    Thanks to technology, you’ll find opportunities spread across sectors including tech, business, creative, administrative and education. Bonus points if you have built a strong online presence to attract potential customers to you versus starting from scratch. 

    There are a few ways to become a digital nomad. You could either apply for a remote working role or become a freelancer. If you plan to start an online business and travel at the same time, you could be ready for the nomad life.  

    One key advantage of living in this part of the world is the accessibility to nomad hubs such as Bali and Chiang Mai, where coworking spaces for remote working tribes have mushroomed in the past decade. 

    Some jobs lend themselves fairly easily to the nomadic life, such as freelance writing, graphic design, digital marketing, social media management, programming and teaching languages. If you’re an expert in your field looking to grow an audience while sharing your knowledge, growing your own channel as a YouTube content creator is also one way to earn passive income on the go. 

    Top places for digital nomads in 2024

    For many employees, the pandemic transformed the traditional way of working at the office to location independent. 2023 was truly a golden year for aspiring digital nomads, with countries such as Thailand offering digital nomad visas. 

    According to the VisaGuide.World Digital Nomad Index , here are the top places for digital nomads in America and Europe:














    Rank Country Taxes Tax-free period Internet Speed Minimum income Living cost Health Score
    1st Spain 15per cent Six months 248.25 €2,140 / 

    S$3,100

    673.7 60.9
    2nd Argentina 0per cent Full visa length 111.23 €2,500 /

    S$3,622

    418.5 54.4
    3rd Romania 0per cent Full visa length 260.97 €3,300 /

    S$4,781

    539.7 45.7
    4th UAE 0per cent Full visa length 256.04 €5,000 /

    S$7,244

    917.0 39.6
    5th Croatia 0per cent Full visa length 109.27 €2,539.31 / S$3,678 686.8 48.8
    6th Portugal 20per cent Six months 205.11 €3,548 / 

    S$5,140

    618.0 54.7
    7th Uruguay 0per cent Full visa length 177.74 Not required 812.1 40.3
    8th Malta 0per cent Full visa length 188.55 €2,700 / 

    S$3,911

    781.4 40.2
    9th Norway 22per cent Six months 186.61 €2,977 / 

    S$4,313

    1,098.9 60.2
    10th Andorra 10per cent No tax free period 170.11 Not required 736.6 34.7

    While Asia is not in the list, Singaporeans who love travelling in the region will be pleased to know that Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand have introduced their visas.   

    If you’ve always wanted to experience living in Japan, 2024 could be your year. Come March, Japan is offering a digital nomad visa to 49 countries including Singapore. The annual income requirement is set at 10 million yens (S$90,000) and as with most digital nomad visas, applicants will need to show proof of international health insurance. It is valid for six months and non-renewable.  

    Getting ready for the nomad life

    Before you take the leap into the world of digital nomads, be sure to do your research to avoid making too many missteps. 

    Take it from Singaporeans who’ve been there and done that, such as Jane Tor.  After her divorce, she went on a backpacking trip which turned into a lifestyle change as a digital nomad. To date, she has lived and worked across Bali, Thailand, Italy, Albania, Croatia, the UK and Mexico. Her friend had recommended Workaway, a volunteer platform which allows people to barter their services for free room and board. 

    The human design practitioner, who has worked in a variety of jobs from babysitting to lawn mowing to being a tour guide, is currently running workshops.  

    For Singaporean couple Marilyn and JS who document their digital nomad journey on their Instagram account ShrugMyShoulder, it was the natural next step after securing their bid for BTO flat in 2020.  

    The couple, who met while they were working in New York City, started their digital nomad journey in September 2021 to pursue their love of travelling and save on rent while waiting for their flat to be completed in 2025. 

    Checklist before you go nomad 

    Apart from an application fee which varies from each destination, there are also a couple of factors you should consider if you want to embark on a digital nomad journey. 

    1. International health insurance and travel insurance

    A key criteria for digital nomad visa application is international health insurance , which ensures your medical needs are covered abroad. 

    When you’re living abroad for a period, international health insurance works similarly to Singapore’s Integrated Shield plan , providing you with comprehensive health care.

    If you’re simply planning to test drive the nomad life by taking a slightly longer break that’s under three months, you still need to get travel insurance to stay protected against uncertainties. 

    2. Paying taxes

    When applying for your visa, check your destination’s tax regulations. 

    The easiest way is to apply for a digital nomad visa with no tax liability, which a few countries offer if you’re working for a foreign company. Note that a digital nomad visa does not allow you to apply for local employment. 

    If you’re planning to stay at a location for more than 183 days, you’ll become a tax resident. However if you plan to travel to a few countries, it could be a wise move to find out more from the embassy or an immigration and tax lawyer. 

    3. Emergency savings 

    You don’t need a large sum of emergency funds to get started — the recommended amount is generally between six months to a year’s living expenses. 

    This ensures you have some time buffer for the digital nomad experience regardless of your income during this period. Although the application requirements for a digital nomad visa includes a minimum income requirement, for freelancers or self employed workers, your earnings could vary from month to month. 

    In any case, having an emergency stash enables you to handle unforeseen expenses and less likely to make poor decisions.  

    4. Accommodation

    Getting a place to stay largely depends on your budget and comfort level, although you may want to avoid backpacker hostels if you’re planning to stay for an extended period. 

    It’s probably ideal to make a visit and book in person, as accommodation listings can differ greatly in reality compared to their photos. 

    Another option is to couchsurf or look for house sitting gigs on websites such as Workaway and MindMyHouse where you’ll be able to stay in a location rent-free in exchange for performing duties such as pet sitting and general maintenance. 

    5. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    While not strictly necessary if you have installed a firewall for your digital devices, having a VPN access protects you when you’re travelling by masking your location.  

    Apart from China which restricts the use of VPN, you can use VPN to keep your data secure while browsing restricted websites and content such as portals and streaming websites. Surfshark and ExpressVPN are two of the more popular options among digital nomads.

    6. Banking and finances

    Whether you’re using a multi-currency digital bank such as Revolut or Wise, or planning to open a local bank account at your destination, the keyword to bear in mind is “no international transaction fees”. 

    The last thing you want is to worry about such fees adding up whenever you’re withdrawing money from the ATMs or transferring money to another account. It also helps to get a rewards card that lets you earn points and miles with overseas spending so you end up flying for free.  

    Conclusion

    Ultimately, living and working abroad lets you get a breath of life and working experience that you otherwise won’t be able to get if you stayed in Singapore. And that definitely makes it an experience of a lifetime filled with stories to boot. 

    If you’re below 30, you can try applying for a working holiday visa to either Australia or New Zealand’s Work Exchange Programme Visa. The requirements are somewhat less stringent as compared to the working holiday visa. 

    Whether you’re dreaming of working on a farm or teaching English abroad, there are always two sides to a coin. After a while, life as a digital nomad can be lonely if you’re constantly on the road to new locales. If you are determined to try it out, keep an open mind and remind yourself why you wanted to do it in the first place.  

    ALSO READ: Top digital nomad hacks for Singaporeans

    This article was first published in ValueChampion.

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