Working Remotely

3 Traits of a Successful Digital Nomad

I’m passionate about teaching people how to become digital nomads. A digital nomad is a professional who leads a location-independent lifestyle that allows them to travel and work anywhere in the world.

My transition into becoming a digital nomad took a year. I spent countless nights and weekends researching. I read blogs, articles, and books. I listened to podcasts. I browsed forums. It took a lot of time. The process was painful.


Fortunately, I’ve figured it out. I’m now traveling the world with Remote Year while making a sustainable income. Not only did I figure out how to make it work with my skill set, I became obsessed with learning how other digital nomads made it.

I’ve traveled to more than 30 countries and have interviewed dozens of successful digital nomads. Here are the top 3 traits that I’ve seen appear most frequently in successful digital nomads.

1. Self awareness

Successful digital nomads are self aware. They know what motivates them and know how to balance work with play. Many digital nomads fail because their lives become an extended vacation. They just couldn’t stay productive and burned out.

Every person is motivated by different things. Some are motivated by competition. Some are motivated by altruism. Some are motivated by money. Personally, I’m motivated by peer pressure. When I sit near other people who are diligently working, I work. When I announce to a room full of people that I’m going to deliver a project a month from now, I deliver.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Many digital nomads fail because their lives become an extended vacation.” quote=”Many digital nomads fail because their lives become an extended vacation.”]

Self-awareness also helps you form routines and build structure. Playing futbol (soccer) while traveling is really important to me. It’s been an important part of my life ever since I could remember. It’s even more important to me as a digital nomad. It helps my body adjust to the new environment. It takes me to where the locals hang out. And it instantly helps me connect to the local culture.

I still remember going to Rio De Janiero. I didn’t speak a single word of Portuguese, nor did I know the culture nor customs. But when I stepped on to the futbol field, I had an instant connection with the fellow players. Our passes to each other became our conversation. It was an instant connection. Knowing that this is important to me helps me prioritize my time.

As digital nomads, our environment is constantly in flux. Being self-aware helps you find your rock.

2. Resourcefulness

When you travel as a digital nomad, you are limited by your resources. You pack your whole life into a backpack. This includes all your tools and life comforts. When you don’t have something that you need, you improvise.

My digital nomad friend Lauren is one of the most resourceful people I know. She didn’t bring a coffee filter; so she used a paper towel.


She didn’t bring a plastic container; so she sliced a plastic bottle in two and used the ends as lid and container. She is a resourceful digital nomad.

When I become a digital nomad, I packed my entire life into 3 bags. I picked carefully what to keep and what to toss. Items that had multiple purposes made the list. Soccer jerseys doubled as souvenirs and functional attire. My portable speaker became my morning alarm and my insta-party. My soccer cleats also became my hiking boots. Volume is limited, you have to pick your carefully.

When you are a digital nomad, you become an army of one. You are armed with a laptop that gives you a world of information at your fingertips. You can literally learn anything and everything.

Don’t know how to find freelance jobs? Take an online course on Udemy and learn the skills. Don’t know anyone in a new city? Find a language exchange on Facebook and make new friends.

You need to be resourceful if you live a minimal lifestyle.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When you are a digital nomad, you become an army of one.” quote=”When you are a digital nomad, you become an army of one.”]

3. Optimism

Successful digital nomads are optimistic. They’ll say yes to the unknown, which ultimately leads to serendipity.

One of my favorite memories was stargazing in the Atacama desert. During my last night there, the sky was blanketed by clouds. My travel buddy and I had faith that we could race past the clouds find a clear sky. We were optimistic.

After 2 hours of driving in the middle of the night, we were greeted with some of the most beautiful stars we’ve had ever seen.


When you’re traveling to a new country, you’ll get exposed to new cultures and new norms. They might conflict with your existing mental models. This will lead to unexpected consequences, and things will happen that you had no way of anticipating. Accept that. But still lead with curiosity and optimism.

I almost got arrested in Cordoba, Argentina. It started with a casual discovery of an abandoned train yard. I rallied a group of friends, and we decided to explore and take pictures. We saw rustic bathrooms, abandoned dining carts, planets taking over metal. It was cool.

As we were walking out, we saw security personal chasing us. We didn’t run or attempt to flee. We hoped for the best. We tried explaining to them that we were photographers and didn’t know we were trespassing. Luckily, we escaped with just a slap on the wrist. Curiosity led us to trouble but also adventure. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When you’re traveling to a new country, you’ll be exposed to new cultures and new norms. Accept that.” quote=”When you’re traveling to a new country, you’ll be exposed to new cultures and new norms. Accept that.”]

Traveling to other countries (especially developing ones) will give you a lot of lemons. Optimistic digital nomads figure out how to make lemonade. What would like to learn about being a digital nomad? Let me know down in the comments!

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