Long-term slow travel may seem difficult to attain, but it can actually be as simple as making one lifestyle change. Where will you go first?

About the author: Kayla Schilthuis-Ihrig is the remote work and travel blogger behind Writing From Nowhere. She started living the digital nomad lifestyle in 2017 and wants to help everyone successfully run away from their desks and see the world.

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Setting yourself up for long-term slow travel travel may seem unachievable at first, but there’s actually a perfect overlap between it and another popular travel style: Digital nomadism.

The phrase ‘digital nomad’ may conjure thoughts of ‘travel influencers’ and jet-setters, but that’s just a fraction of peoples’ experiences.

Many digital nomads mosey overland at their own pace with backpacks on and laptops in tow. Like all slow travellers, they soak up as much of their destination as they can, but they’re also able to sustain themselves indefinitely.

Could digital nomadism be the ultimate form of slow travel?

A laptop computer sitting on a wooden bench in front of a forest backdrop.

What is digital nomadism?

Digital nomads are just as diverse a group as any other travel sub-category. While they all make money online, you’ll find a mixture of income origins. Many digital nomads seek out a decidedly remote job, or negotiate their current job to be off-site. Others will turn to freelancing, or take it a step further and start their own online business.

Some will even use their digital skills as their own form of travel crypto-currency, bartering website updates or photography in exchange for food and board.

There’s a lot of creativity and room to make the digital nomad experience your own. The factors that will end up influencing your travels are plentiful: destination, income bracket and travel style, to name a few.

If the idea of drifting endlessly while still having income appeals to you, then there are a few steps you need to take to make it happen.

How to pursue long-term slow travel as a digital nomad

If you’re nodding along and think this type of long-term slow travel could be for you, then here’s where you need to begin.

Decide how you want to earn a living

Just like planning any type of travel, what you think will work best isn’t always what does work best. Freelancing may feel like the absolute ideal fit, but within a few weeks of travelling, you might realise that you feel just as controlled by work as you did doing a 9-5.

Think about the daily demands of any line of work. Will your job require you to be logged in during certain hours? Or will you have to be on-call all the time? Flexible jobs naturally offer the greatest benefits to the digital nomad lifestyle.

The beginning of my digital nomad journey was funded by being a freelance writer working Monday to Friday for an online magazine. I’m so grateful for what that job offered me at the time, but it was honestly not a good fit at all. It quickly became the norm that I worked all day and didn’t even leave my hostel until after dark.

I said no to countless invites and experiences from other travellers, and quickly grew to resent my job as much as I resented my desk job that drove me away from the corporate world in the first place.

Yet, that job was still an important stone on the path to a 100% transition into remote work. Find your stepping stone job and use it to sharpen your skills, all the while being investigative about what type of online work you really thrive at.

Think about how often you want to move 

The three most popular types of longer term slow travel are trekking, backpacking and city-hopping. They’ll each result in a different level of movement, and knowing how often you’ll move will inform the type of work that you secure and what you’ll pack.

Trekking happens largely in the outdoors and revolves around trails and camping. Travellers tend to move every day or every few days. A few world-renowned treks are the Inca Trail in Peru, the Appalachian Trail in the United States, the Camino de Santiago in Europe and the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal.

Digital nomads can’t exclusively trek. Relying on wifi and electricity restricts one’s ability to go off-grid indefinitely, so digital nomads who pursue this type of long-term travel will need work that doesn’t demand being online every day.

Backpackers, on the other hand, stay on the grid and don’t sleep in tents. Instead, they stay in hostels, hotels or guesthouses. They generally move by land and cross large parts of a country by bus or train.

Most backpackers stay for days or weeks in a single location, but don’t rent apartments or stay in one location longer than a month.

A woman wrapped in a purple blanket sits on a lush green hillside in Panama.
Boquete, Panama. Photo credit: Writing From Nowhere.

And lastly, there’s city-hopping; which can be either the fastest or the slowest type of travel. Travel influencers tend to look like they’re hopping from one city to the next every few days, and for some people that’s true. However, pursuing long-term slow travel as a city hopper can be much more akin to an expat’s lifestyle: Rent an apartment for a month, then mosey to the next city in the country and do it again.

This type of travel offers the most stability for digital nomads. They know where their wifi connection will come from, and are really ‘living’ in cities for a moment in their lives instead of just visiting. Being disconnected from the hostel traffic and travel rush can also lead to loneliness, though. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to long-term travel.

Whichever type of slow travel you pursue, practice travel mindfulness so that you can adjust as your mental health, job and body require it.

Decide where you want to go for your long-term slow travel

With your income established and a loose schedule in hand, it’s time to book a ticket! Where will you go?

Answering this question could be as simple as going to the destination that excites you most at this moment. Or, for the real planners out there (I’m a planner, too) it’s time for a pro-con list.

Every part of the world has its pros and cons when it comes to working online while travelling. Here are a few factors to consider:

  • What kind of reputation does the region have for wifi? Poor wifi isn’t the end-all for a digital nomad destination. There are ways around this, such as portable wifi devices, but that is something that will need to be thoroughly researched and purchased, so you need to know in advance.
  • Are there other travellers or foreigners around? This won’t be important to everyone, but if meeting people along the way matters to you, then you should weigh up this factor. 
  • What is the infrastructure like? Some parts of the world have ‘dark hours’ every day where electricity is scheduled to turn off to preserve resources. For digital nomads with regularly-occurring virtual meetings, this is very important to be aware of.
  • Are there networking opportunities? This is a special nod to travellers who are self-employed and support themselves providing digital services. A co-working space in a popular digital nomad hub could offer a host of opportunities to find new clients.

This list will need to be customised to each traveler, and will naturally expand with time as you evolve. There’s no ‘perfect’ digital nomad destination, just as there’s no perfect travel destination.

When you’re making your first destination choice, do your research and know that there will always be details you hadn’t pinned down in advance. That’s all a part of the digital nomadism journey!

Long-term slow travel: Final thoughts 

Do you feel inspired to pack up your laptop and close the door behind you? At the heart of all of this advice is the necessity to discover how you want to spend your days, stay mindful of your needs as they are in the current moment, and enjoy the journey.

The digital nomad lifestyle comes with challenges, like any other type of travel, but the ability to work from anywhere and pursue long-term slow travel indefinitely is such a gift of the modern world.

I hope you’ll open it. It will change your life.

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