Imagine being able to work from anywhere in the world. That’s what I wanted to do when I started Panpathic Communications 12 years ago. When I was a journalist, I developed a travel bug, especially full-time at PASSION for PLANET, and wanted to keep traveling and experiencing the world.
If you want to work anywhere, here’s what you need to know to set yourself up.
1) Be realistic
Does your business or profession really allow remote work? Need professional gear that you can’t take with you? Need a very specific workspace that can be tricky to replicate? Can you provide good service if you are not in the office? If so, does this still apply if I am in another country and cannot enter the office if necessary and cannot attend customer or co-worker meetings in person? Can you motivate yourself and meet deadlines even when the sun is shining and the beach/climbing/snow beckons?
Be realistic. Travel should be an enjoyable experience, so make sure you and your job are a good fit. If not, don’t despair. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it at all, but you may need to think carefully about how much time you can and can’t spend as a ‘nomad’.
Technology is key. Without the right skills, working and traveling at the same time is almost impossible. Exactly what you need varies from person to person. I need a good laptop that is light and slim. Be prepared to pay the extra for a higher-end laptop that’s a little thinner and lighter to carry. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. One of the downsides of working while traveling is the ‘things’ you have to carry with you.
I also have a mifi device so I don’t have to use a hotspot on my phone when there is no wifi. This means that you can make calls while connected and preserve your phone’s battery life.
And speaking of the phone, we know that a reliable smartphone is a must. I make sure my laptop is synced to my laptop so I can move between the two if needed and I know everything is up to date on both devices.
The final piece of essential technology is an expansion block with at least 4 plug sockets and long leads. Hotels don’t have enough plug points and they’re usually in awkward places. And if you want to sit on the balcony, you need a long cable. And with the expansion block, you only need to carry one universal plug adapter.
3) data access
If you’re working on your own, storing all your work locally on your laptop might be sufficient, but it’s not very secure. What if my laptop is lost or stolen?
One way to solve this is to use a cloud-based system for the job. This is essential if you have colleagues you need to collaborate on, or if you need to share your work so that others can access it. Google Docs, Dropbox, and SharePoint are the three most commonly used cloud solutions. I started with Dropbox (very simple to use and set up), but I now use SharePoint as I find that missing data and conflicting copies between team members are ongoing issues. Ultimately, the choice is yours and will depend on what you feel comfortable with and the cost.
I download the files I want to work on and they are also saved locally on my laptop. This means you can continue to work even when you are not connected to the Internet. When you reconnect, your changes will be uploaded and your changes will be available to everyone. When you no longer need a file locally, click ‘Free up space’ and it will be removed from your laptop and stored securely in the cloud.
Cloud-based computing has been a game changer for the ‘digital nomad’. This makes ‘work anywhere’ a real option. Not only does it make sharing work quick and easy, it’s also an added safety net in case your laptop is lost/delayed/theft/dyed. All you have to do is find another device and connect it to the internet.
4) carry-on luggage
When I travel, I always carry all my skills in my bag. I don’t trust it withholding or leaving it out of my sight. But by the time you have your laptop and cables, mifi, phone, recording kit (I do PASSION for PLANET for radio interview) and other necessities like wallet, passport, book, bottle of water and more, the bag can be quite large and heavy. Use a lightweight yet very sturdy hand luggage sized backpack. It can be carried on your back for better weight distribution and has the essential coffee for tickets, passports, payments, and moving from one place to another.
Think carefully about the destination you choose. Not all locations are suitable for mobile work. Consider the time difference. Need to stay awake and work with your co-workers at the same time? Also, think about the available infrastructure. How about having access to Wi-Fi or at least mobile data and keeping everything charged? Europe is pretty easy. Although many networks have stopped offering free roaming within the EU after Brexit, this may add to the cost. North America generally has good infrastructure as long as it can cope with jet lag. However, there are many places where becoming a digital nomad is a bit trickier. For example, I didn’t have a chance to work when I went on a trip to Antarctica a few years ago. There was no wifi, no phone signal. Yes, you can charge your laptop on the boat. But who wants to work when surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth?
6) Packaging Template
Packing and moving can be quite stressful. To help alleviate this problem, here is a list of several packaging templates. I have a list of all the skills I need. Another list of clothes etc for hot places and another list of cool places. There is also a list of things to do before departure and a list that you would like to put in your carry-on bag depending on your short or long haul flight, bus or drive. It may sound like a lot of lists, but writing it once and creating a template will make your life a lot easier.
I also update the list when I get home, delete items I’m not using at all, and add notes about things I’d like to have or could have been a better alternative. You will soon find that there are convenient resources to continue providing.
Whether you want to depart for a few days at a time, take a longer trip, or be able to work and travel at the same time, it can be very rewarding. Many advantages outweigh the disadvantages, so take the opportunity and enjoy the world more.
About the author:
Chantal Cooke is an award-winning journalist, founder of Panpathic Communications and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET, the UK’s first ethical radio station.One birthday this year. Chantal was appointed London Leader of Sustainability in 2009 and she is the Director of the World Food Travel Association and she speaks at international conferences on sustainable travel and food.