If you think working while travelling the world as a digital nomad is a great lifestyle, well, you're right - but it isn't all fun and games. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before setting out on your journey, Chief among them of course, is maintaining a productive work schedule while navigating the various stops on your trip. But don't worry, here are digital nomad tips and tricks that will make for a seamless transition into your new location-agnostic lifestyle.
Having traveled through a number of cities while working remotely, I've picked up some tips that are sure to help.
1. Ergonomics and Workspace
Some people are perfectly productive working from a laptop while lying in bed. But for me, I want a proper upright table and chair to properly focus on the task at hand. Even then, there are many places that are just not suitable to me for working, so I normally aim to join a coworking space in whichever city I find myself in.
Here are some factors to consider when thinking about your on-the-road workspace;
What hardware do you need to be productive? I always travel with a wireless mouse and mini-keyboard. Heck, I'd probably travel with a second monitor if I could! That might be a step too far but I fit the keyboard, mouse, headset, power adapter, travel adapter, Ethernet cable, WiFi backup and various other cables in one laptop case, packed in tightly with a chunky 15" laptop. (It's commissioned from work - still holding out hope for a much tidier MacBook Pro - some day, Ronan, some day).
I find the keyboard and mouse help me to spread out a little and keep me from hunching over a laptop 8 hours a day. I like a solid table and chair to work from, but as mentioned, everyone's different here.
Goes without saying, it's difficult to work effectively without a solid internet connection. I have a GlocalMe U2 and an ethernet cable as backup but haven't had to use either yet.
Everyone will differ in their tolerance here. A general chatter and background music are fine, but I have been in many cafes where it is simply too much to focus. This is especially important when you have to frequently take calls.
2. WiFi Backup and Travel Adapter
These two items represent your two core needs - power and WiFi. No matter what else is going on, without having a reliable supply of both of these you simply won't be able to work effectively.
Having spent 3+ hours delayed at airports a few times in the past few months, the importance of having e-books and music close to hand became clear. This builds of my point about WiFi/data and power. Without all of these you may quickly run out of battery, or new content to digest.
This is a travel planning app that will take all the flight/accommodation/excursion confirmation emails you get and automatically build them into a full itinerary! This has been a revelation, especially when planning an extended trip of 10+ stops. You can manually add details as you wish and there are desktop, mobile and WatchOS versions to keep you on track.
Also helpful is the ability to add people as travellers or viewers of itinerary to keep everyone in the loop as to your plans.
5. Travel Credit Card
This is a no-brainer. You're are going to be spending a lot - may as well get as much bang for your buck. I've been using the Chase Sapphire Reserve which is probably the best known card for travel and comes with some great benefits:
- $300 Travel Credit
- 50,000 points joining bonus
- 3x points on travel and dining spend
- 1.5x points when you spend on travel through the Chase system
- Priority Pass lounge access
6. Priority Pass
This deserves a paragraph of it's own. If you're planning on extensive travel, that means lots of airport time. Make that time as pleasurable and productive as possible by spending it in the airport lounge. This is included with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but you can buy it separately. Note; there are lounges outside of the Priority Pass system, so plan accordingly for your likely destinations.
7. Packing Cubes and Hanging Toiletries Bag
I picked these up after reading on various other blogs how useful they were - but I was sceptical. Well after being on the road for two months I'm now convinced. The packing cubes make it real easy to find and unpack just a little for short stopovers, and make it possible to pack by category - making it way easier to find something without pulling your luggage apart. Think of it as modular packing - it works!
The hanging toiletries bag makes all your toiletries instantly accessible and essentially becomes a temporary shelf in bathrooms - that in my experience lack space to put things but have an abundance of hooks - go figure. Either way this solves it.
8. Document Copies / Digital Backup
These are important to have in case the worst happens. But speaking from experience of misplacing my passport in Portugal, and despite having an EU driver's license, authorities are only going to accept the real thing.
Still, it's a good fallback if you get into dire straits.
9. Staying Healthy
When you're moving around constantly and exploring exciting new places, it's very easy to neglect good nutrition and a proper exercise regime - and for a while that's fine. But if you're planning to be on the road for an extended length of time then you owe it to yourself to prioritize your health.
A lot of the time the best things to do in a new city require physical exertion anyway - hiking, surfing or just pounding the pavement all day. But it can also be a good idea to get a gym membership if you can find a suitable options - in many of the best remote working locations gyms are pretty affordable.
Eating out constantly is such an easy and tempting routine to fall into. However most hostels and AirBnBs have kitchen facilities you can use so it's a good idea to hit up the local supermarket for ingredients. In fact the toughest part is finding good recipes that don't require a lot of effort - otherwise you will quickly find yourself at the neighborhood restaurant again. The added benefit of this tactic is that your wallet will thank you.
Finally, and most importantly, don't neglect your mental health. For all the great times you'll have, there will be plenty of times where things just don't work out as planned. It's easy to start to feel isolated when traveling solo, and if you do find yourself in a deserted hotel for a period, reach out to friends and family back home to keep things in perspective.