Traveling as a digital nomad is a great way to see the world and experience different cultures — unless you spend all your time staring at a laptop screen! Packing up and heading to exotic places doesn’t magically create work-life balance nor automatically nurture your creativity. You’ll need to create a balance of time, money, and motivation that allow for both work and enriching artistic experiences while you travel.
Most digital nomads want to experience the local culture of a place — eat new foods, see unfamiliar sights, be inspired by nature, get in touch with the history, soak up the influences of the art, and interpret this inspiration by making things with their own hands. These are the aspects of travel that stave off burnout and help us stay inspired and creative.
So, yes, you’ll have to keep the money flowing while you travel — and this can be enhanced by smart planning and preparation — but you can also keep the creativity flowing. Consider these tips for seeing beyond the coffee counter and finding ways to come home inspired by a well-rounded creative experience.
1. Plan strategically
Believe it or not, the best way to make room for creativity while traveling is to do the majority of the left-brain strategizing and logistical planning up front. To free up your time and brain space for the fun stuff, nail down logistics before you go with these tips.
Make a smart itinerary. Devising the most logical route and schedule possible before you book your tickets and housing can save you time, energy, and money when getting from place to place and finding accommodations in each destination.
Know the laws. If you’re staying somewhere for an extended time, learn how residency and tax laws impact travel, and carefully choose your (semi-) permanent domicile accordingly. Use an online calculator to figure your taxes so you’ll know what to expect, and make adjustments wherever needed.
Take advantage of automation. On the road, you’d probably prefer not to waste time figuring out where to bank, how to pay bills, or find the post office. Sign up for automated bill-pay wherever possible, and integrate apps and web services to track, document and pay for your expenses. Storing important information in the cloud is a great way to keep it safe and accessible from anywhere.
2. Cultivate a creative mindset
Once you’ve engineered your travel infrastructure, next do a little preparation that will help you make the most of your artistic inclinations while trotting the globe. Keep your work/life balance healthy by taking advantage of creative experiences and opportunities to connect in each place you visit.
Pack some simple art supplies. Carry a small kit of watercolors or a glue stick so that you can paint scenes around you or unwind in the evenings by making collages with materials you pick up during the day. Looking back on a trip where you created your own mementos can be extremely satisfying.
Tour galleries, museums, and studios. Visiting the spaces where people make, teach, and display art not only provides insight and inspiration, but can also allow you to meet and relate to the artists and production professionals.
Connect through classes and tours. Airbnb and similar organizations now offer numerous “learn with a local” experiences that allow you to safely and vividly experience art and culture in every city you travel to. Before ever leaving home, you can book classes in embroidery, cooking, pottery, or whatever’s offered that you find interesting.
3. Set a schedule
Balancing time is a necessity for every digital nomad’s life — but especially for creatives, whose artistic pursuits are often time-intensive. While your calendar will need to accommodate your work schedule, also be sure to set aside blocks of time that allow for planned artistic experiences (and try to leave room for spontaneity, too). Depending on your expected length of stay in each place, you can build in different time frames for different creative experiences.
Plan your work hours. Try to determine before your trip which hours of each day and days of each week you want to work. Each day, set an alarm for quitting time so you don’t lose out on other opportunities to enjoy your surroundings.
Sign up for classes. If you’ll be in a city for several weeks, you can populate your off-time with regular classes — say, dance classes every Monday and Wednesday, and guitar classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is a great way to get to know locals.
Find an intensive. Taking weeklongstudio sessions with a local artist can offer you an immersive and focused creative experience in a particular art form, plus a glimpse into a working artist’s world.
Enroll in a college course. If you’re staying put for long enough, you can audit a semester-long course at a college in your adopted city. Learn animation in Oslo or yoga in Jaipur, if you like, to build your skills as you travel the world.
4. Budget for creativity
Being frugal is often a must when you’re traveling — especially if you hope to have something left over to spend on learning local artistic traditions. When creating your travel budget before you go, do some research and ask yourself how much money you’ll need to cover basic expenses while still leaving enough left over to take advantage of creative options. With some savvy planning and these tips, you can save money and get the experiences you want.
Create passive revenue streams. Consider putting your stuff in storage and renting out your home or apartment while you’re traveling to help defray the costs. Rent can be a reliable income stream that allows you to spend fewer hours on your computer and more in the studio.
Explore smaller cities. Often fresh, fascinating art experiences are accessible in the underground or folk art scenes of less fabled cities. Pair these with cheaper costs of living, and you’ve got a win-win situation. For example, domestically, you’ll get more bang for your rental buck in Seattle than NYC, while enjoying the Northwestern city’s vibrant cultural scene. On the international front, your money will go much farther when experiencing Istanbul’s artistic offerings than those in Paris.
Explore off-peak options. Consider planning visits to more expensive cities during low-tourist seasons to maximize how far your money will go.
Combine business with pleasure. Find opportunities to connect with locals while promoting your work by attending art fairs, trade shows, or conferences. If you’re selling your crafts, artwork, or other creations, you can deduct the cost of supplies, registration fees, etc. You might even find a like-minded local artist to team up with in the studio or market!
As a digital nomad, you need access to reliable Wi-Fi, and this likely means sitting in different coffee shops part of the time to earn your keep. But there’s more to life on the road! It’s a big world out there, and opportunities to get inspired and creative can be found around every corner. Identifying ways to save time, money, and effort can leave you more resources to take advantage of this inspiration and creativity in your new surroundings.
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