Join our community
Join Now
Home » Travel Blog » Should I be a Digital Nomad or Work Abroad? Differences, Pros & Cons, Visa, Taxes and Insurance

Should I be a Digital Nomad or Work Abroad? Differences, Pros & Cons, Visa, Taxes and Insurance

Last updated: May 12, 2024
Reading Time: 6 minutes

So you want to travel the world and make money on the way. Awesome! In 2024, there are many ways to combine work and travel. From teaching online to working on a farm to making a living off trading. With so much information out on the web, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. In this article, you will find the most important differences between being a digital nomad and working abroad, the pros and cons of both ways to combine work and travel, and the basics about taxes, insurance and visa if you want to work as you travel.

To put it shortly, we can divide the many ways to combine work and travel into two categories:

  • Digital nomads / remote workers: working from your laptop, which enables you to work remotely from basically anywhere in the world. For example working as a freelancer in online marketing, being employed for a company that allows you to work fully remotely, affiliate marketing, trading, online teaching, working as a social media content creator for hotels, or selling online products like courses or ebooks. All you need is a stable internet connection, which an international sim card can take care of.
  • Abroad workers: traveling to a different country to work at the location. Popular options are working on a farm in Australia, doing voluntary work in Ghana, working in a bar in Greece, assisting a yoga retreat in Bali, teaching in elementary schools in South Africa, being a tour operator in Peru, or working at a hostel in Thailand. Yobbers is a great and well-known platform to discover abroad jobs all over the world.

The Pros and Cons of being a Digital Nomad vs Work Abroad

So, now that we have outlined the basic differences about digital nomads versus abroad workers, the question awaits: which option suits you best? Will you discover the world while working remotely from your laptop as a digital nomad, or gain work experience abroad in your favorite country? Both options come with pros and cons, so let’s have a look and help you figure out whether you want to be a digital nomad or abroad worker.

Making Money on the Road: Stability versus Fexibility

Digital nomads embrace a lifestyle that marries work with wanderlust. The appeal lies in the flexibility to choose work locations and set personalized schedules. This flexibility grants them the freedom to explore diverse cultures, cuisines, and lifestyles – as all they need to take with them is their laptop. However, this flexibility comes with challenges—navigating visa restrictions, potential isolation due to a lack of stable social connections, and the unpredictability of income. Keep reading, because we will dive into the taxes later in this article!

On the flip side, abroad workers opt for a more stable lifestyle. With fixed employment locations and structured work environments, they enjoy the benefits of stability. This stability allows for deeper integration into local communities and provides a sense of belonging. However, working travelers sacrifice some flexibility in choosing work locations, since they are tied to the country where they work for the time being. This can be a challenge as you won’t know in advance whether you will like the city, the company and your colleagues.

Meeting People as you Travel: Community & Networking

Digital nomads find solace in building a tight-knit global community. The ability to connect with professionals from diverse backgrounds fosters a rich network of global connections. Yet, transient relationships, potential isolation, and the challenges of coordinating across different time zones are cons that accompany this lifestyle. As they change locations pretty often, digital nomads meet many different people, but can struggle to turn these brief encounters into lasting friendships or connections.

Abroad workers, on the other hand, create local networks, forging stable, long-term social connections. Their workplace becomes a hub for relationships, and their local engagement provides a deeper understanding of the community. Especially if you choose to stay in a coliving space or a homestay, you have more time to really get to know the people you live with! However, this comes at the expense of limited global connections, professional isolation, and the challenge of maintaining work-life balance within a fixed location. Your social circle can also be quite limited if you don’t get along with your colleagues or housemates.

Exploring the Local Culture: Quality vs Quantity

Digital nomads revel in diverse experiences, constantly exposed to various cultures. Independent exploration and flexible travel plans allow them to tailor their journeys to personal interests. However, the fast-changing nature of their stays can result in surface-level experiences, missed opportunities for involvement in local communities, and the overwhelming abundance of choices – similarly to meeting people on their travels.

Abroad workers typically have more time to really get to know the local culture during longer stays. Active engagement in community events and traditions leads to a deeper understanding of local culture. However, the downside is that if you work in one location for 6 months, chances are you won’t have much time to explore other locations outside the city you work in.

How do you combine working and traveling?

Visa, Insurance & Taxes: the Practical Differences between Digital Nomads and Abroad Workers

So, that was the fun part. Unfortunately, making the choice to be a digital nomad or abroad worker comes down to more than just how much time you want to spend in a city and whether you value flexibility over stability. Something not everyone knows, as it is not always discussed in travel blogs, is that both options come with different challenges in regards to taxes, visa and insurance. And as much as we all hope that one day this will be different 😉 nowadays, these practical matters are an inevitable part of combining work and travel.

In this chapter, we will very briefly discuss the most important practical differences between being a digital nomad or an abroad worker when it comes to taxes, insurance and visa – but keep an eye on our website, because we plan to dedicate three separate blogs to each topic in the coming weeks!

Insurance: Work and Travel in a Safe Way

For digital nomads, international health insurance is a crucial companion, covering health needs across different countries. Emergency medical coverage ensures access to medical care during travels, and additional travel insurance may cover lost belongings and trip cancellations. Make sure to take care of your own travel insurance before you hop on that plane! VisitorsCoverage is a great option for travelers of all budgets. They allow you to put together your own insurance, so you only pay for what you need.

Abroad workers may have insurance provided by their employer, including local insurance as part of the employment agreement. Travel insurance remains essential for personal coverage during travels. Don’t forget to check with your employer whether this is the case!

Visa: Work and Travel in Accordance with the Law

Digital nomads often rely on tourist visas – but be careful with this, because legislations differ in each country. While some countries allow you to stay up to three months, others require you to renew your visa every month. Prices also vary largely. Some countries offer specialized digital nomad visas, necessitating thorough research and compliance. Check out our travel guide for specific visa requirements per country!

Abroad workers require work visas for legal employment abroad. However, they often have it a little easier than digital nomads when it comes to visa, as employers often facilitate the work visa process, ensuring compliance with local employment and visa regulations.

How and Where to Pay Taxes on your Working Travel

Digital nomads face a slightly complicated tax landscape due to their constant movement between locations. Reporting global income to tax authorities and seeking professional advice for compliance in multiple jurisdictions become crucial. Many digital nomads simply report their income in their home country, where they are technically registered. However, especially if you are staying long-term in a country on a digital nomad visa, it is important that you check the tax legislations – to avoid paying too much or too little (and end up paying too much through fines anyways).

Working travelers have a more stable tax situation, typically responsible for taxes in the host country. Employer support often streamlines tax-related matters.

Will you Work and Travel as a Digital Nomad or Abroad Worker?

Phew, that was a lot of information to take in. We hope this guide has helped you understand the differences between being a digital nomad or abroad worker – and made it slightly easier for you to make a decision. Please keep in mind that this article only scratches the surface, especially when it comes to more complicated matters like taxes and visa.

So… which will it be? In the end, it is up to you! We have seen how both options come with their pros and cons and it’s up to you which matters are most important to you. Do you value the flexibility to see many countries in a short term, and the freedom to choose your own route? Or do you prefer the stability and the less complicated tax/visa processes that come with working abroad? Please let us know in the comments if there’s anything you’ve missed in this article that you would like to know more about – we might include it in our next article on this topic!


The information on this page may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, we may earn a small commission, at no cost to you. This helps us sustain our travel blog. Thank you!
Share it on
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    No comments
    Connecting careers online and people offline.
    © 2024 Working travelers, All Rights Reserved

    Privacy - Cookies - Sitemap - Built by Bridge Marketing


    Join our community
    Enter your email here and stay informed about Working Travelers