Pharmacist going travel developer to explore the world and to live a fearless life.
Current Location: Medellin, Colombia
Some preliminary planning will save a lot of pain and trouble in the long run. These are some of the things I’ve come up with before hitting the road.
Depending on how you want to leave your life behind, there are a few things to get in order. The macro categories you should think about are found in this checklist. This section does not include the small items like clothing or toiletries that you would need to pack for your nomadic journey. That would be in the travel gear section.
Here’s a quick checklist of what’s here:
Home (Either sell, rent out, or putting up AirBNB)
Car (Either sell or give to family)
Bills (Close out all accounts and pay off remaining balances)
Travel documents (Photocopies, scanning documents, passports, TSA Precheck/Global Entry, Priority Pass, etc.)
Take Care of Your Finances (Arrange a system of credit cards, debit cards, and emergency funds)
Physical Address and Mail (Mailing address or mail forwarding service)
Getting Travel Insurance (Insure trips that are important)
Getting International Healthcare Insurance (Signing up one with good international coverage)
Backing up your digital data (Cloud network, external hard drive)
Computer and Phone Linking
Phone Sim Card
Useful Phone Apps
Read Sean’s How to Quit After You Leave
Your Home and Car
The biggest possession would most likely be your home. Do you want to sell your home, rent it out, or put it up on Airbnb? Perhaps you’re like me who has been renting their whole life, in which case you don’t have to worry too much about it. Next, your vehicle will need to be taken care of. I plan to sell it or leave it for my parents.
Another beauty of not owning a home is not having to worry about utility bills. That will all be closed up when I move out. As for car insurance, that can also be closed.
Your Travel Documents
For travel documents, make sure your passport is up to date. I think most countries require you to have at least 6 months on your passport to enter their country.
Instead of carrying around the main document, make photocopies of them and present them upon request so you won’t lose your core documents if you keep it somewhere safe. It’s also important to make scans of your important travel documents and put them somewhere on a cloud should both your photocopies and main documents get stolen.
Another thing to consider is the Priority Pass card, a card that lets you enter lounges in over 900 airports globally. These places can have cocktails, water, sofas, and showers too. I just recently obtained this card from signing up with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It was something that I had to sign up separately (free to sign up as a Chase Reserve Perk) through Chase’s online website and they sent me another physical card.
You would take this card to present at whatever lounge you want to enter at that airport. For right now, cardholders can bring in as many guests with them into the lounge at the discretion of the management of course. The Priority Pass card was also issued to my authorized user as well so keep that in mind if you added someone to your account too. I was able to visit some VIP lounges so far and they are really great!
I have possess a card for the Global Entry Program which makes it easier to getting through customs more quickly upon arriving back into the states. The different between Global Entry Program (GEP) and TSA Precheck is that the TSA Precheck is meant for domestic travel within the states while GEP is for international travel. For your information, GEP requires the possession of a valid passport.
Both statuses are carried for a period of five years but the fee for GEP is $100 with a membership card issued and TSA is $85 with a Known Traveler Number (KTN) issued. The Chase Reserve also covered the $100 fee. Now are you starting to see the perks of the card?
Both are thorough in the application process including employment history, travel history, fingerprints, and so on. However, the benefits of not having to take your shoes off, getting patted down, or going through body scans totally makes your travels much more comfortable.
I picked up this information from Travel Authority. Kudos to everyone that has the Chase Sapphire Reserve! Travel credit, lounge access and application fee coverage are the top perks from this card!
Take Care of Your Finances
My Main Bank: Wells Fargo
My Travel Bank: Charles Schwab
My Main Credit Card (Restaurants and Travel): Chase Sapphire Reserve
My Main Credit Card (Everything Else): Chase Freedom Unlimited
Development of a financial acuity is crucial into making the lifestyle of digital nomadism work. With the intertwining of travel hacking and geoarbitrage, systems should be implemented to manage spendings and earnings.
If you’re spending money, you should be earning points or cash back on it. For travel points, I would recommend signing up for a travel rewards card with Chase Sapphire Reserve being the highest rated one at the time of this writing. Any spendings related to travel or restaurants should be used on this card since you get three times the point bonus for each dollar. For other spendings, I would recommend signing up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited. This would help you recoup some of the spendings much like using a coupon or getting a rebate. The Chase Freedom gives a 1.5% on all spendings.
In order to manage your money, you should have a bank that is your main and one as a travel one. The main bank is used to keep your money safe and usually based in your home country. You should not have to carry the debit card around for this main bank which leads to me to a travel bank.
A travel bank will also hold some of your money and you will be using it mainly for traveling. It should have no transaction fees for withdrawals and kept with only a limited amount of money. I like to keep $500 at a time in mine. If I get low, I’ll replenish it with my main bank. You are keeping track of your spendings, right?
The reasoning behind this is that you risk less exposure to your nest egg should your card get compromised. The main bank I have is Wells Fargo Bank and my travel bank is Charles Schwab Investor Checking Account.
When traveling, make sure you also have cash on hand for that country. Some countries don’t operate primarily by ATM, like in the states, or will have an exuberant rate on withdrawal fees.
AVOID rate exchange booths at all cost and ATM machines in popular tourist attractions. Furthermore, invest yourself in a money belt, secret pockets, and dummy wallet. Invest in all three if you’re so inclined!
I’ll go into more of this in my travel gear section.
Expert Vagabond does a good job giving you an introduction of what we covered here too.
Lastly, put in a system in place for loved ones to transfer money should the emergency situation arises. Preparing with routing numbers, PayPal accounts, and other miscellaneous options to help aid in getting to money to you quickly. Giving them bank deposit slips would also be a good idea.
Physical Address and Mail
Most nomads have a home base address where they get all their snail mail and packages. I use my permanent address in Virginia to get all my important documents sent to and I have the rest converted to electronic format. For those who don’t have a family member or friend to send mail to, there are always services like Earth Class Mail, Scan Mailboxes, or Post Scan Mail.
I haven’t personally used these services but they have a wide array of options like scanning, forwarding, depositing checks, and shredding. Personally, I’m going to see if my family can help take care of this for me. If it gets to be a burden for them, I will convert.
It’s also worth noting that if you order packages to be delivered, the best way is probably Amazon Prime Shipping if you don’t have a home base address to send it to. Having it delivered the next day to an American state you’re passing through is mighty convenient. I also have not used this service as I personally use my home base address.
Getting Travel Insurance
The general advice is that travel insurance is accidental insurance and should not be your main health insurance. For a good primer, you can check out The Travel Insurance Review PDF written by Damian, it’s free with your email!
From what I gathered from Anna Wickham, it is probably a good decision to get both international healthcare insurance and travel insurance. Healthcare in the United States is basically a clusterscrew and centered around your location of employment, whereas other countries implement it into the country citizenship and taxes.
She noticed that to get coverage in the US was twice as much as with her international insurance! That means that American healthcare is privatized and just plain expensive with a capital E. How messed up is that?
She recommends NOT forfeiting your home country insurance because that’s your primary, but if that is not feasible, going with an international coverage covered in the next section. She highly recommends World Nomad for travel insurance.
Nomadic Matt is another prominent blogger who supports World Nomad insurance. He recommends getting one with a high coverage limit and emergency evacuation and care. For the most part, reading the fine print carefully will help you determine what best fits your needs.
Getting International Healthcare Insurance
For health insurance, you’ll probably have to trade in your work coverage for a global travel company while wandering the world. Being on the road, you can never be sure of what might happen. The only choice you have is if you engage in extreme sports or not.
I personally have not enrolled in anything but will likely do that in the near future.
Backing up your digital data
When I start traveling, I plan to carry an external hard drive against the popular advice of saving everything to the cloud. I think the only reason I’ll be doing that is to keep entertainment like movies and music for the most part. If I lose or get the external stolen, I won’t be wallowing too much in a pit of despair.
As far as important documents and other files, I’ll have them stored on my Google Drive and Dropbox Account.
I discovered that Google Drive offers 100GB for $2 a month and other various plans, which are a steal! I’m already using it to organize all of my files for Location Rebel, websites, and other important documents. Dropbox is more expensive so I won’t be signing up for a subscription anytime soon. I’ll just simply use if for short-term file storage and transferring.
Computer and Phone Linking
This is one of the toughest sections as it can go in so many directions. I’d like to keep it simple and straightforward. There will be many options to fulfill a certain need when you travel, I’ll keep it to 2 or 3 options that gets the job done instead of laboriously exhausting every known option in that need.
So the obvious pieces of technology you’ll need is a laptop and a mobile phone. Though you could probably get by with perhaps a phone and tablet, two tools are better than one. The laptop will be your workhorse where you’ll do most of your online work and file management, the phone will be an extension of your computer when you’re on the go. It’s a lot easier to bust out your phone for a map than your whole laptop, don’t you agree?
The missing piece that most people miss is properly linking both the laptop and the phone together. I am not sure what platforms you’re on but I am working with a Dell Windows laptop and a Samsung Galaxy 4 phone. By linking, I mean that you can get them to sync with each other to make them communicate with each other automatically without having to expend too much effort. I picked this up when I was working at my job and stumbling upon apps and programs that make my job much easier on the go. I was on-call often for my job.
I’ll discuss about how to link them and to properly get both travel ready here. In terms of specific apps for both, I feel it would be too exhaustive for this section so will inevitably make a whole new section for it. Eventually, I’ll have to do a screencapture session to hopefully show you how I’ve set everything up.
First off, make sure both the computer and phones are updated and connected to WiFi, it will make things a whole lot easier. The software/apps you’ll need are a google account (calendar, keep, and email), Trello, Pushbullet, Mightytext, and Dropbox.
Google is an amazing account that offers you tons of free tools and they are ubiquitous on every internet-ready device. First off, start using your Google Calendar, it’s an invaluable tool to help keep you on track over the long term (up to as many years as you can manage reasonably). I use color coding to keep the events straight: blue for tasks/challenges, green for travel, yellow for appointments or events, and purple for expiration/anniversaries/birthdays.
Google Keep will serve as your to-do list and miscellaneous task for day-to-day management. The great thing is that it syncs instantaneously too! I use it to map my 3 big tasks for the day and other small minor ones. I also have items on there to keep track of big ticket items, random thoughts for blog post, and anything else that can’t be captured with Google Calendar.
Trello is a really useful tool to manage all the projects I have going on. I have a card for each project like my writing business, travel blog, or web development efforts. You can add links and comments under each card as well as give them colors as well. When I click on a card, it’s like a small portal that links me to key points that I access normally. I can also make small notes on that card for tasks that I might have to do (although I usually just keep that on Google Keep).
Pushbullet is a tool that will sync with your phone to give you notifications as it gets them. That way you don’t have to pay attention to both devices when you’re waiting for a text or email. Mightytext is the app that I’ve installed on both my phone and gmail accounts to text people back quickly from my computer! My typing skills are much more stellar on the computer than a phone and grabbing links off a browser is infinitely easier.
Dropbox is also a great way to automatically upload pictures/videos from your phone. You can set this to do it over WiFi only.
Quick tip: you can also send quick directions to your phone from Google Maps using the “Send To Your Phone” option so that you can just hop out the door and go!
Phone Sim Card
Phones will be one of the main tools that you will use on your travel, probably even more exclusively than your laptop. That’s why it’s important to have a good company on deck. Let’s take at the options.
Phone Companies and Project Fi
In an article from thebudgetmindedtraveler.com, the comparison between popular U.S. carriers and Project Fi are discussed. Thanks for writing such an awesome article.
In a nutshell, there are better carriers depending on your needs.
- AT&T or Verizon for strong signals in the continental U.S.
- T-Mobile for travelers who desires unlimited data and spend most of their time outside the U.S.
- Project Fi for travelers who desire higher speeds and spend most of their time outside the U.S.
Sticking with WiFi and Local Prepaid Sim Cards
I am currently using a Samsung Galaxy S4 on the AT&T network. The phone is ancient but I have an Anker extended battery on it which makes it almost impervious to battery death. The AT&T network is great while I’m in the country but I can see how it’s not that great for a travelpreneur on a global path.
I will certainly consider T-Mobile or Project Fi in the future. For now, I’ll just stick to WiFi and use local prepaid sim cards. Here’s a useful video if you want to learn more about prepaid sims.
The only problem with new sim cards is that you won’t be able to use your U.S. number and will be given a new number. A possible way to get around this is perhaps establishing a google number. Also, consider international sim cards if you’re interested.
When available, you can also just stick to WiFi for your communications. Using Skype, What’s App, Messenger, Viber, or Duo are still great ways to stay in touch. The only problem is getting that WiFi password!
***Update January 2016, with the release of the Signal Messaging App, it’s more secure than ever. This doesn’t do well to sync with your computer but it’s definitely better in terms of privacy.
Useful Phone Apps
Phones are great as mobile computers and open up the world of the internet in your hands.
Some of the more useful apps I like to use on my phone include:
Google Translate: tremendously useful for needing a quick translation while you’re on the go. Make sure to download the language pack for offline!
Google Maps Offline: if you starred some of your favorite attractions on google maps, having access to them offline is tremendously useful. Even if you can’t get turn by turn GPS directions, it will still help you navigate the streets in case you have to walk there. It will help put where all the attractions in perspective of one another and help you gain a mental map of the area.
Signal/Messenger/What’s App/ Viber: these are mainly going to be your communication apps. The great thing is that they won’t eat up your data plan since they operate mostly over WiFi. Messenger is better if you just want to not give out your phone number. Don’t forget that if you have a sim card that your phone number might be different. If all else fails, go to email!
XE Currency: mighty useful to know if you’re getting a good exchange rate in a country. The app features live rates and stored for your offline use. They even feature historic rates so you can follow if maybe the Brexit is having an impact on the British Pound.
Lastpass: great to keep all your passwords accessible when you’re on the go. You simply don’t have your laptop with you all the time.
Google Keep: I did a post back then about using apps to make your life more efficient. This app syncs withyour computer so you don’t have to write stuff down on paper anymore. Copy and paste away!
Podcast Addict: When you’re on the go, it’s good to have something to listen to besides music. Gives you a chance to learn something new. This is the android version. If you want something on iOS, Overcast is a good choice apparently.
Airline apps: recommend skyscanner, hipmunk.
Accommodation Apps: think Hostelworld, Hotel Tonight, Hotwire, or Kayak.
Online Banking Apps: don’t forget those banking apps in case you have to transfer money. Use Mint if you just want to check your balance. If you want to do more, download your bank’s app.
Social Media Apps: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Do I need to say more?
Various Other Apps to Consider: Travel Buddy, Backpackr, Party with a Local, Skyscanner, Flightboard.
Closing Other Loops
For everything else, make sure to jot down any other life situations you might need to balance. For me, I’d like to make sure my vision is corrected before I head out because I would have to have to return home just to get contacts or get my glasses updated.
Before you leave your job, make sure to read Sean Ogle’s article on What to Do After Quitting Your Job. He provides some good insights about how you should ease the overwhelming feeling of going free agent.