Digital Nomad's Hierarchy of Needs

It's been an epic journey starting out as a digital nomad just four years ago with the goal of making $600 a month so I could continue traveling and living overseas to being where I am today. You may think that making over six figures a year from an online business is the key to happiness, but you may be shocked when I tell you I was the happiest and most fulfilled when making just $3,000 a month and the least happy when I was making closer to 10X that amount.

In this post, I'm going to share the digital nomad's hierarchy of needs that's based off of Maslow's theories of human motivation. It explains how we stay motivated to level up, and what we need to have in place before we try to jump to the next income level. Regardless of how much money you're making right now, if you're happy, you need to realize two things, the first being you should continue to enjoy exactly where you are right now, and second, the day you stop being happy, you need to level up. If you're unhappy with your income level right now, this post will explain how you can gain the momentum and motivation to get to where you want to be.

Hierarchy of Needs

I've always been a huge fan of psychology and why we do the things we do in life. Money, happiness, fulfillment and motivation all seem like things that are both extremely simple yet super complicated at the same time. Why is it that a backpacker living in $2 a night dorm rooms or a surf bum living out of their van can be happier and more fulfilled than an internet entrepreneur making $150 an hour? 

Why is it that sometimes we're just unmotivated to work or build a business even though we know the result of it could be thousands of dollars extra in our pockets every month that could allow us to continue traveling or see a whole new side of the world? It comes down to where we are currently at in our needs being met. The big secret is, regardless of where you are on the hierarchy of needs, as long as you are happy and fulfilled, stay there. But the instant you are unhappy and feeling like something is lacking, you have to level up. 

Here is my full talk from the 2017 Nomad Summit that breaks down the stages in detail and guides you though when you should coast and just be happy and when you should do whatever it takes to level up. 

The Income Breakdown

These figures are the amounts of money I was earning at each stage and what it took to get to the next level. Depending on where you live these numbers may be higher or lower, but if you watched the video above, you'll know that these amounts are from living in cheap places like Thailand and Southeast Asia. If you're living in the U.S. or somewhere more expensive, your income levels will need to be adjusted to fulfill the same needs.

I know a lot of people hate the fact that it seems that life is often all about money. And it's not. But if you start thinking about money as a storage unit of time, you'll realize that having money allows you to do the things that are more important. For me that was taking care of my mother, for you it might be dedicating your time to save animals, raise your children, or donate to charity. Whatever your true calling is, realize that you have to take care of yourself before you can truly impact the world and others. 

Here's a link to download the slides in PDF along with the bonus slide with how to reach each category of income. 

Digital Nomad's Hierarchy of Needs

My Final Thoughts

For a very long time, I ignored my own personal needs and was largely unfulfilled in life in search for external sources to validate my existence and happiness. In my post, Who is the Real Johnny I shared my journey from childhood through becoming the man who I am today. Even though there are a lot of stages that I would never go back to, and some that I am embarrassed to admit I was apart of  in the past, at that time, it was exactly what I needed, or at least what I thought I needed. Regardless of where you are in your journey, realize that as long as you are happy, not hurting others, and working towards becoming a better person, enjoy it.

None of us are perfect, and no amount of money will ever be enough, yet, at the same time, we are already good enough and have enough. 

Enjoy each stage in your life. Document it like I did and share it with the world to help inspire others or just do it for yourself. Personally I'm glad I wrote 12 Weeks in Thailand, the book about living and training Muay Thai and Scuba Diving on the cheap as it not only helps others who are in that part of their journeys, but it's also fun to read it again myself and reminisce about what it was like living off of $600 a month but having zero responsibilities. 

The same with my latest book, Life Changes Quick which documented the journey from going from $1,000 in the bank to my first $30,000 which I called the Thai Millionaire Challenge. Even though it's easy to look back and even laugh at that being my life goal now that I have 15X that amount in the bank, and I'm sure others in my current position thought the same, at that time that mountain was all that I could think of conquering. That book will forever capture the mindset and journey for what it takes for people to take that first big step. 

johnny fd

I truly hope everyone got a lot out of my talk from the 2017 Nomad Summit. If you want to watch the rest of the talks, all of which are free thanks to our sponsors Iglu and Empire Flippers, you can see them all there in this mega post. 

I hope to meet some of you out in Chiang Mai for next year's conference and sincerely wish everyone the best regardless of where you are in your journey. Feel free to leave a comment below with any questions or just to say hi. 

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

Like this Post? Share it!

Like This Post? Share It!

Business 465270989888273938

Post a Comment

  1. Hey Johnny,

    Even though you've retired now, you're still gonna continue making podcasts right? Thank you for the inspiration and best of luck for the future!


    1. Hey Dani, don't worry, I love making the podcasts and would do them for free as a hobby even if we didn't have sponsors and get paid for it. =)

  2. I love the concept of the Digital Nomad's Hierarchy of Needs. It is a very good framework for thinking about leveling up throughout the digital entrepreneur journey. I hope to attend your summit next year and checkout the exciting community you've built up.

    1. Hey really glad you enjoyed the talk! See you at next year's Nomad Summit!

  3. Hey Johnny,

    I thought I'd take some time to say thank you!
    I've been listening to your podcasts for ages now, I've learned a lot about myself and even did a course that you recommended (the eBay dropship course). eBay is going well I just became a power seller and it is growing slowly, but it's growing :)

    I also do a bit of freelancing as well which all helped me become location independent and move from Australia to Colombia to learn spanish and live cheaper for a while until I pay off some debt and I make my next step.
    I start a little blog too about my journey (don't mind the name lol).

    I had been planning to do this for over 2 years and listening to your podcasts helped me achieve that quicker and gave me the confidence knowing that you and your friends are already doing it. I still have a long way to go to reach the income I want per month so I too can help people do it, but I'll get there!

    Thanks again Johnny.


    1. Hey Jamie, that's amazing that you've taken that huge step. Congrats on your success so far, keep it up and you'll level up for sure! Let me know how it goes!


Please take a second to log in before you comment. I've turned off the anonymous commenting option. I'm open and respectful with you, please be the same back. Stay positive, trolls and spam comments will be automatically deleted.


Home item

Blog Archive

Are you an Insider yet?

Search this Blog

Keep in touch


Any product or service I recommend on this blog I personally use and would recommend to both friends and family. All links on this site are affiliate links so please use them in the resources page or anywhere on the blog if you want to give me credit for referring you.

If you want to learn more about how to start your own blog and make money as an affiliate by earnestly recommending products, check out my course Income Boss.

Featured Post: Read Me!

2020 Travel Plans and 2019 Recap: 11 Countries Traveled!

Want to start an online business?

Want to start an online business?
A post written for friends and family - Step by Step instructions on How to start your own online store.