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Living Local

Living Local as a Digital Nomad
“Wherever you go in life, unpack your bags and plant your trees.”

Once you land, here are a few tips for settling in as quickly as possible.

Pre-Arrival Checklist

  1. If you’re staying in an apartment, contact your host a week before your arrival to arrange your check-in and get their phone number. You want a way to get hold of them in case something goes wrong on the day of your arrival, and hosts aren’t always quick to answer email. On the day of your flight, send a message to let them know you still plan to arrive on-time, or if you’ve been delayed.
  2. If you’re staying in a hostel or hotel, you’ll still want to confirm check-in time and directions, as well as a phone number.
  3. Make your ground transportation arrangements.
  4. If you have children, decide what they’re going to do during the day, whether you’ve got a school, daycare program, or babysitter lined up, or whether they’re going to stay with you.

On Arrival

  1. On the first day or night of arrival, find the nearest grocery store and stock up. If you get this out of the way as soon as you land, having food in the fridge will make your place feel like home, and give you the option of eating in from Day 1.
  2. On Day 2, find your nearest mall or cellular store and get yourself a local SIM. You should also make sure your apartment wifi connection is set up, and that if one of you is going to work away from the apartment, you’ve chosen a nearby coworking or coffee place with good wifi. The sooner you’re connected, the sooner you’ll be able to establish your routine.
  3. On Day 3, depending on your kids’ ages, it could be a good idea to explore the local parks and playgrounds so you always have a go-to activity when you’re going stir crazy and need to get out of the house.
  4. Though it’s important to give yourself leeway in adjusting to a new destination, you’ll likely find that by the end of the first week you’re craving a routine that allows you to get on with life. If you have children, making sure that they’re safely ensconced in their school/daycare/babysit by the second week will help you get to this routine quickly.
  5. Depending on your work situation, you may have to save exploration of your new destination for the weekend. A few weekend activities that can help you feel at home: learning the transportation system as you visit a thrift store to update your wardrobe, take in some of the more popular tourist destinations, or just ride around the city to get a sense of the different neighborhoods. If you’ve planned to book longer term accommodations after your arrival, this city tour should happen as quickly as possible.
  6. One of the best ways to feel at home in a new place is to connect with other people. Find likeminded nomads on your Facebook or Slack forums, and ask if you can take them to lunch or coffee. You’ll get invaluable advice about your new home, and hopefully make a few new friends.
  7. If you want to meet local people but aren’t sure how and don’t speak the language, one of the easiest ways is to frequent a local restaurant or coffee shop. Proprietors the world over appreciate their regular customers, and in our experience have had some of the most helpful advice we’ve received about our new destination. Some Airbnb hosts are also incredibly friendly and helpful in this way. As people who interact with a variety of customers, restaurant owners are also more likely to speak English.

Things to Learn

  1. In every country, it helps to quickly learn the greetings, goodbyes, thank you, and no thank yous in the local language. You can always go above and beyond, but you will absolutely need these phrases.
  2. Depending on your destination, it may also help to research a few faux pas to avoid. For example, in Thailand it’s not polite to touch a child’s head, to wear shoes inside the house, or to dress immodestly on a visit to a Buddhist temple.
  3. Tipping is another requisite area of knowledge, and easy to find information about online.
  4. Where is the nearest doctor or hospital, how much will it cost, and how quickly will you be seen?

Force Yourself

We speak from experience when we say that the only way to feel at home in a new place is to force yourself to get out and interact with it. Hiding inside your apartment for a week may be tempting especially if you’ve already been traveling a lot, but it won’t help you feel better.

Chances are, something about your new destination will overwhelm you. In parts of Thailand, it may be the traffic. In parts of Europe, it may be an unfriendly local demeanor. Only by repeatedly exposing yourself to your new environment will you eventually feel at home and start to appreciate your new local life.

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