Freelance Abroad from Santa Marta, Colombia

Colombia has become the Digital Nomad Mecca of Latin America. So it was obvious we had to go spend some time there. But, as I’m always skeptical of very popular places (okay, I wanted to stay at the beach), we didn’t go to the actual epicenter. That’s in Medellin for those who haven’t kept their fingers on the Digital Nomad pulse. Instead, we chose to spend two months in Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast.

So what did we think? Here’s the short version:

In comparison to Granada in Nicaragua I’d say the city is worse but the surroundings are better. Don’t get me wrong, the city itself is alright. Still, it’s places like Palomino Beach, Tayrona and Minca, which tip the scales. So why not go stay at one of those awesome places? Convenience. Santa Marta and the nearby Rodadero have fast internet, as well as plenty of supermarkets, cafes, and restaurants. Services are stable, with power outages being few (for a developing country). All that is less true in those awesome places. And since Santa Marta is only at most a few hours away from them, it’s a great place to set up shop.

So there you go. If you were planning to skim the article, that’s about the gist of it. Thank you for tuning in. For those that wanted a more elaborate answer, follow me.
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Why It Is So Important To Be Part Of A Community

We don’t understand ourselves that well. The more time the behavioral sciences spend studying us, the more judgement errors they find. For example, Daniel Gilbert spends a whole book on how bad we are at figuring out what makes us happy.

At the heart of the digital nomad life resides a similar misconception. We have an inborn need to belong and be part of a community. And yet many people seek out this life to be free and unattached. They don’t seem to realize that when a need goes unfulfilled it ends up dominating your mental landscape. (Try locking yourself in a room without seeing anybody for a week if you don’t believe me). And when a need goes unfulfilled it ends up leeching the color and enjoyment out of everything else.

Yes, I did cover this at length in why most digital nomads fail. Don’t worry. I’m not going to get into that side of it again. Instead, today I’d like to discuss the other side of the coin. If we have an evolved need to belong what advantage does our community give us? To paraphrase Mont Python, what has the community ever done for us? And why if it is so meaningful, do so many of us fail to recognize it for being as important as it is?
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How To Easily Crush Your Bad Habits On The Road

There is so much going on when you’re living on the road that it can be hard to stay productive. That can be stressful. At the same time, it’s not all bad news. In one regard, the road gives you a huge advantage. It allows you to easily crush your bad habits.

How so? Because many habits are at least in part linked to things and places. For example, seeing the balcony might cue you to smoke. Similarly, when you pass that doughnut place where you know everybody, the call to go in can be irresistible. When you’re on the road, all those external signals fall away. This makes it easier to shed those nasty unconscious subroutines that you’d rather get rid of.
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What You Need To Know To Avoid Digital Nomad Scams

Hey, I get it. You want to get in on the digital nomad life. Who doesn’t? Travel the world, see some beautiful places, wake up to the sound of waves and make money all the while. It’s living the dream (and yes, that’s still true even if you disregard the myths or the disconnect). But that can soon turn into a nightmare if you can’t avoid digital nomad scams.

I even get why that happens. People get so excited they lead with their heart instead of their head and end up leaping before they’ve looked. That’s dangerous. There are sharks in these waters.

I talked to Pieter Levels from Nomad List about this. “Getting a digital skill is ruthlessly hard,” he told me, while “building a business takes years.” In our instant gratification society, many don’t want to wait that long. “So they try to find a shortcut.” And that’s where the scammers come in.

In effect, it’s another version of the get rich quick scheme, but this time with swaying palm trees in the background.
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How to Easily Save Money For Your Vagabond Existence

I can’t count how often I’ve heard people say they can’t become digital nomads because they don’t have the money. They seem to think they need a wad of cash before they can hit the open road. The truth is, you don’t actually need that much. I switched over to being a full-time digital nomad with only a few thousand in the bank.

Of course, I’ll immediately admit that it would have been nice to have had a bit more. It’s a useful buffer in case things go wrong and sure makes things less stressful.

The thing is, for most people the money isn’t a goal. It’s an excuse. They say, ‘how can I ever live that way when I don’t have any money saved up?’ And then don’t take any steps to actually save up.

Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous to let yourself be held back from a dream because of money – especially when you need so little! As you’ll be making money on the road, six months or a year of dedicated saving will give you enough seed money for this lifestyle.
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How to Find a Great Apartment When You’re on the Road

Now I know how an ant under a magnifying loop feels. I look at the others. Their faces bathed in sweat that reflects harsh light of the mid-day Caribbean sun. None of us had expected it to be this hot. “I need a break,” Somebody – maybe it was me – mutters. Nobody disagrees. Finding a place to stay can be hard work sometimes.

Yeah, sure, you can do a lot of it from the comfort of your couch – but often you should still hit the pavement, ask around and shake hands. The reason is pretty straightforward. When a place is easier to find, that means more people are going to find it. And as economics 101 taught us when demand goes up so do prices.

So we’re out here on the Colombian coast looking for a place where to stay. It’s not fun, exactly, but it sure beats working from a crappy hotel room and it’s vital to be productive as a digital nomad. And since we’re looking for a place to rent for several months, it’s well worth it. Even five bucks less per day adds up. What’s more, by taking to the pavement we’re getting a good feeling for the town and where we want to stay.

In fact, we’ve gotten quite experienced at this whole deal over the years we’ve been out here. And, since many people seem to struggle in this regard, I thought that while we take a break from the hammering sun, I’d run some tips by you. (Note, this article was written after apartment hunting in Santa Marta, Colombia and so is extra applicable to that area).
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6 Myths about Digital Nomads You Need To Let Go

It’s quite incredible what some people believe about the digital nomad life. Whenever I scan the many questions of the wanabes I’m left dumbfounded. Do you think digital nomads live in paradise? Are we modern-day gods to you?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but it isn’t anything like that.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy what I do. I’ve met tons of awesome people, visited lots of countries (I’ve long since lost counts) and done some awesome things. For example, a few weeks ago in Nicaragua, we climbed a volcano and swam in a crater lake, near Granada. Last night we were in a hostel located beautiful old mansion in Costa Rica called Tripon 2. There the owner plied us with free rum as we discussed how we could work together.
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Why Most Digital Nomads Fail (And How To Avoid It)

Do you know why most digital nomads fail? Most people pick something like, ‘they can’t get their careers off the ground’, ‘they chose the wrong enterprise’, or ‘they can’t hack it as freelancers‘. Others will say it’s because they run out of money, they didn’t budget well, or they got scammed. And yes, these can all be the straws that break the aspiring nomad’s back. The thing is, often these are only symptoms of a much bigger underlying problem.

What am I on about? I’m talking about what I like to call the digital nomad disconnect.

Most travelers eventually feel the need to go home because they’re not socially integrated. The digital nomad’s existence of drifting from place to place might sound appealing, but it has some serious problems. In time, these lead many to pull the plug. So this is very much another thing you need to know about the digital nomad life.

There are two main reasons why this lack of belongingness affects us so. I’ll cover each in turn.
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Freelance Abroad from Granada, Nicaragua

As you might have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. The last one I wrote was all the way back in November, when we in Corioco in Bolivia. Why haven’t I written one since then? It’s quite simple, really. There just weren’t any places that I felt were worth talking about! Every place we visited lacked something essential for the digital nomad life. Some weren’t inspiring. Others were too basic. And so on.

The first place where all the pieces were in place was here in Granada, Nicaragua. If you’re thinking about settling down anywhere in Nicaragua to work for a while, then go here. On the boards, people will try to get you to go to San Juan del Sur. I wouldn’t listen to them.
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The Digital Nomad Life — A Tale of Inconvenience, Hot Love, and Great Joy.

Our second fantastic guest poster is Etienne Koch. In his post, he paints us an explicit picture of his journey as a digital nomad so far. He’ll die happy once he’s saved the world from global warming, toured Europe with his guitar, and held a handstand for ten seconds. He likes to wear non-matching high-socks, oh, and is single.

Smoking hot Latina women fan me with palm fronds as perspiration drips off their bare breasts in slow motion. I glance up from my laptop at the crashing waves for a moment’s inspiration. Sensing the opportunity, one of the ladies cheekily slips a hand under my floral shirt. I politely remove it—“un momento por favor”—I’m only halfway through my work day. In five minutes I’ll be done and then I’m free to do—whatever.

A loud crash tears my dreams apart. Jeff, the drunk Canadian guy that was sleeping on the top bunk has smacked head-first onto the hard hostel floor. Contorted and face-down, he looks very—dead. (Oh my god!) I jump out of bed and try to shake him alive. He answers with a gentle snore. How the hell did he sleep through that?

Canadians!
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