How to Deal With Financial Emergencies When Working Overseas as a Digital Nomad

Working and travelling your way around the world as a digital nomad is not a bad way to live. Indeed, drifting wherever the wind might take you whilst all the while earning a crust from Web-based profiteering affords plentiful opportunities for adventure in far flung - and not so far flung - places.

Of course, there is a flip side to all this remote and often somewhat isolated adventure. For sure, being far away from home for extended periods of time does have its drawbacks. For instance, it can be hard seeing pictures on Facebook of lifelong friends and loved ones at home getting together for special occasions which you know you would love to be part of. Also, you start to miss the most innocuous things when you’ve been on the road for a long time (it was always toasted farmhouse h3ead, TV without adverts, and greenery for me).

But there is one scenario which can quickly make you feel far more isolated and remote than you would ever want to in a foreign land – the financial emergency.

In general terms, financial emergency often translates as ’something bad has happened; I need to get home now’. This could refer to something like a mugging or a theft happening to you while on the road or it may come about from a loved one becoming gravely ill at home. Regardless of what the cause might be, the reaction within you is likely to be pretty standard: ’I must get hold of some cash and catch the first available flight home’. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy thing to do, especially if you have had all your cash stolen and/or are a very long way – and therefore a very expensive flight - away from your country of residence.  

So what is the best way to deal with this situation? Well, whilst it is true that our highly connected modern world now affords more ways to tackle financial emergencies than ever before (PayPal has become a preferred choice for many), there are arguably three routes which a desperate digital nomad might pursue in order to get hold of a significant amount of cash in double-quick time.

Make use of a credit card

Regardless of whether you are working, backpacking, or merely holidaying you should always take at least one credit card away with you. Credit cards make great financial safety nets as they enable you to make large purchases (maximum limits will vary: check beforehand) and/or take cash out of ATMs (not available everywhere) in many parts of the world. Suffice to say, even the most competitive credit cards will charge you transaction/ATM/handling fees of some kind, but that is something you probably won’t care about too much at the time.

Get money wired

If your credit cards get lost or stolen, or you don’t have any to use in the first place, then your next best shot is to get someone you know with a few bob to wire some money to you. The great thing about this option is that it’s quick, easy and readily available; all a sender needs to do is get in touch with a specialist international money transfer company (such as Western Union or MoneyGram), give them a few key financial details (bank account number/credit card details) and then stipulate where the money is to be sent (sender fees will apply). Everywhere from banks and post offices to travel agents and supermarkets can receive money wires so you can be pretty sure you’ll find somewhere in your vicinity that will accommodate the transfer.

Sell your stuff

If you don’t know anyone who will be willing/able to wire you some cash, or you’re stranded in a remote area where banks, supermarkets and the like appear only in mirages, then you may have to resort to that most time honoured way of getting money – selling your stuff. This can actually be a pretty good option as you will invariably have a number of digital nomad tech essentials with you that are likely to raise a pretty good price. In essence, there are two routes you can go down with this strategy:

  • You can try and sell your stuff to locals at a market, pawn shop, door-to-door, or;
  • You can try and sell your stuff to fellow travellers.

There are a number of things you would do well to keep in mind. Firstly, if you’re in a country in the developing world, there is a good chance the locals will not have as much money to spend as fellow travellers so you could be forced to sell at a potentially significant loss. Secondly, selling all of your tech items together as a bundle (for the quickest possible return) will make you look a little desperate; savvy buyers will realise this and no doubt alter their offers accordingly. If time is on your side and Western travellers are in the locale then find some Northern Europeans and h3its to pitch your stuff to first – they are used to paying handsomely for consumer electronics in their own countries so they may be willing to pay more than anyone else (especially if your smartphone, tablet or netbook is a leading h3and model). Always be prepared to haggle.


Credit cards are – in many parts of the developed world anyway – the most convenient way to get hold of money and/or pay for essential goods or services, so make sure you have at least one card to your name, preferably an unused one with competitive interest rates and some complimentary insurance. If you don’t fancy getting a credit card (or are refused because of bad credit history) then do yourself a favour and have an informal chat with a suitably solvent family member or close friend about money wiring before you embark on your digital nomad venture. Familiarising yourself with the concept of it beforehand could prove invaluable if the worst case scenario does happen and you find yourself facing a financial emergency thousands of miles from home. Failing this, make sure you keep your tech items looking shiny and new – you never know when you may need to offload them...



 Image courtesy of, empty wallet




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