Being a digital nomad is glamorous until your tech fails.
When I unexpectedly moved to Costa Rica in 2021, I thought that as long as I had wifi and a SIM card then nothing could go wrong for me as a digital nomad. But as three months became six months, I got some intense lessons on navigating my digital needs while living in the jungle.
While many digital nomads may not be living in the cut, a lot of us are attracted to beaches, islands, and tropical locations that are off the beaten path and thousands of miles from an Apple genius bar.
Here are some important considerations and tips for folks traveling and living abroad especially if you’ll be working online and are internet dependent.
Backup Codes are your friend.
I was locked out of my personal Instagram account for 3 months because I couldn’t verify my identity using 2-step authentication via text message. If you’re using a local SIM card or don’t have phone service, good luck getting into any of your accounts.
Do yourself a favor and make sure to download and save those backup codes for Gmail, Instagram, and whatever else you use regularly just in case you can’t access your mobile number.
Also make sure to have an “authenticator’“ app (Google’s is most popular) on your phone. It’s not as foolproof as the backup codes but it’s useful to have.
Get a VPN.
Besides being able to watch your TV shows, VPN’s are excellent for security. As a digital nomad, I couldn’t be picky or choosy about wifi — I was often using public wifi at cafes or restaurants. Using a VPN in a public setting makes your computer, and phone less hackable. In a world where identity theft is a real threat, using a VPN in any public setting especially on public wifi is a smart move. NordVPN is my all-around favorite for service and cost compared to other brands I’ve tried.
Google Fi is a game changer.
This is the one thing I swear by. When you travel internationally, it really is a huge relief to know you can check in with your people on the ground or at home, order a ride share or use a GPS. It will ping off of whatever the local carrier towers are nearby and have the best service. And I’m the States, it runs off of the T-Mobile network. In comparison, T-Mobile and Verizon have international plans for $120/month or $10/day respectively.
Google Fi is an excellent cost savings and relieves stress because I know that when I land I don’t need to worry about finding wifi or getting a local SIM card for my phone.
Get your banking sorted before you go.
International ATM fees are the WORST! How many times have you gotten home from an international trip and wanted to cry looking at how the banks beat you over the head with ATM fees?
Well, Charles Schwab High Yield Investor checking accounts are the truth because you get reimbursed for those ATM fees. It also comes with a brokerage account if you’re looking to get involved in investing. There’s no monthly minimum or monthly fees on top of unlimited ATM fee reimbursement. Also excellent customer service. It’s a win!
Don’t forget about two-step authentication for online banking — so make sure you are set up to pay your bills! I also had challenges using apps like Venmo, Capital One, and Bank of America while abroad.
Be prepared for tech breaks.
When my new iPhone completely died on my way to Costa Rica, I was feverishly chatting via laptop to Apple Support to find a solution. They directed me to a few locations in the capital, San Jose, where I was flying into. Thankfully able to find a certified retailer to help me but I had to navigate a sprawling city in the rain with only a paper map. 10/10 don’t recommend.
Please note: the international certified retailers are not connected to the US stores or AppleCare. They don’t talk to each other or share information at all.
I ended up having to buy a cheap Android phone to hold me down until my new iPhone arrived 3 weeks later. Trying to navigate an Android phone when I’m used to Apple products was stressful!
Three days after I got my new iPhone, my MacBook broke. Living in Puerto Viejo meant I was a 5 hour drive from the capital where the official Apple retailers are. It was no guarantee I could even get it fixed, I would have to mail it, and the price quotes were double or triple what it would cost in the States, so I ended up buying a Dell at a local computer shop.
You’re not going to find Apple stores in most parts of the world. So if you’re Apple only, you need to have a back-up plan and do some research on how you can get your Apple products serviced in case something goes wrong.
There are often certified Apple retailers in major international cities that are able to fix Apple products or at least advise you on your probably limited options.
Consider a digital camera.
Most of us use our phones to take photos, even the professionals do. If photos are important to you or critical to you earning a living, bring a separate digital camera.
I love mirrorless digital cameras for their compact size and high quality photos. Here is a list of the top mirrorless digital cameras for 2023.
I hope these tips will help you so you can live your best digital nomad life with ease.
Got any other tips? Please share them with us on twitter.