Remote work during the pandemic has encouraged many to look at alternative ways of working — one movement that gained popularity was “work from anywhere,” or becoming a digital nomad.
But Daniella Pashuk became a digital nomad five years ago, well before the pandemic when she was just 19.
“I got into an online university and started traveling full time and working at the same time,” she told CNBC Make It.
“I got to be wherever I want to be and do whatever I want to do in different countries. And that kind of changed the trajectory of my life.”
Now 24, Pashuk has traveled to over 20 countries in five years. While that may sound like the ideal job for many, she begs to differ: “It’s not for everyone.”
Pashuk is working as a freelance writer — which means her income can vary from month to month.
“I make anywhere from $2,500 to $3,500 per month … certain months I travel as a house sitter so I don’t pay anything for accommodation,” she shared.
That also means taking extra care in planning her finances, albeit with the freedom that comes with traveling and working whenever she likes.
“You have to be okay with a little unpredictability … Every single month doesn’t look the same, because you’re often in different areas, with different currencies, and there are different expenses, so budgeting is a challenge,” she shared.
“I’ve definitely had times where I’ve spent completely different extremes from one month to the next, you know, from 600 euros to 3,000 euros depending on where I am.”
Keeping your finances in order is really important as a digital nomad, said Pashuk, because “you have to fund the lifestyle that you really want.”
She shares with CNBC Make It four tips that have helped her manage her money while working from anywhere.
The type of digital nomad you want to be will “make or break” your situation, shared Pashuk, who is from Canada.
The first type, according to her, are those who change locations frequently and are in a new place every one to two weeks.
“I did that for almost two years and I stopped doing that because I found it was just too stressful for me,” she explained.
“That can be expensive really fast because there’s a huge chance of things going wrong every single time you’re moving: flights, getting canceled trains and extra expenses.”
Instead, she is now what she calls a “slow digital nomad,” where she stays in a place for at least a month or for as long as her visa allows.
“That really helps with the budgeting because … for a couple months, you do kind of have a set budget because you’re in one location and you’re still spending kind of the same stuff,” said Pashuk.
On top of that, setting up an affordable “home base” has been really helpful and can help offer some stability.
“I’m currently based out of Montenegro and I still travel every single month — but I have a place to come back to,” she added.
“I know already that there’s at least that certain amount that I have to pay every single month, and then like a little bit of rent that I pay here but it doesn’t really make a huge dent.”
Having a steady and reliable cash flow was a huge challenge for Pashuk when she first started out as a digital nomad.
“I keep on getting locked out of my Canadian bank account because I’m constantly switching locations and they’re like, this is a bit suspicious,” she shared.
“I just got so sick of having to call my bank all the freaking time.”
Then there were also the “pretty large” foreign transaction fees which she incurred while trying to withdraw from local ATMs with Canadian cards.
“Sometimes I would lose upwards of $30 to $40 every time I took out cash, which if you have to do that multiple times, it is a whole lot of money that you’re losing.”
She switched to a multi-currency debit card two years ago, which allowed her to add money and withdraw cash in the currency she wanted.
“I get my freelancing income deposited into that instead of my Canadian bank account … I’ve traveled to over 20 countries with that card and haven’t really had any issues with it,” she said.
What’s “really important” in the process of changing locations as a digital nomad is doing adequate research, said Pashuk.
“Figure out what average things cost there and whether they fit in your budget — looking up for average prices of an apartment on Airbnb, food and other necessities,” she said.
“I always make a little table with these things before I go somewhere, with all the things that I need. You will never know what unknowns can possibly creep up on you and steal your money.”
For example, while it seems obvious, Pashuk said people might be surprised by how much public transport can cost in some countries.
“You don’t think about it because your local public transport is always cheap, but I went to London and I spent way more on transport than I ever expected,” she shared.
“It was going up to $20 a day.”
Another document she updates regularly is a list of tax requirements for different countries — to ensure that she doesn’t stay in a country long enough “to be considered a tax resident.”
“I just don’t want to deal with that, Canadian taxes are enough for me,” she said with a laugh.
“That’s really important because I have had times where I’ve almost gotten through that threshold.”