Working remotely and traveling at the same time is an incredible experience. You get to see different parts of the world, meet new people and get immersed in a different culture for a period of time. It does, however, bring some additional concerns to your normal workday. In this post, I’ll be sharing my learnings from working as a digital nomad. Here are my top 6 tips for digital nomads working remotely.
1. Over-communicate with your colleagues
As you’re not going to be seeing your colleagues every day, it’s important that you stay in the loop. This goes both ways. From your colleagues perspective, you’re now halfway around the globe somewhere and for all they know, you’re sipping pinácoladas at the beach instead of working. You’re going to meet some judgment for working remotely like this, therefore it’s important to make sure they know what you’re up to.
I like to start my day by jumping on slack (or whatever means you use for communication) to say good morning and give a summary of what my plans are for the day. I try to do this as close as possible to the time they arrive at work, so it becomes a natural part of their morning. During the day, I make sure to write about my findings. If I’m struggling with something, I’ll ask if someone knows. Found an interesting article? Share it. You get the point.
By the time I wrap up, I make sure to give a short status on what I got done that day and let the team know what’s on my agenda for tomorrow. The cool thing about this is that it encourages your colleagues to do the same. If there’s a lack of communication the other way, be sure to request it. I like to ask publicly so that everyone knows about it and in addition message one or two specifically as that drastically improves the changes of your colleagues sharing.
2. Have a dedicated workplace
When traveling, you’re going to realize a couple things: 1) Internet is not always good enough to get work done. 2) Working from the same location as you spend the day can lead to cabin fever. Due to this, I highly recommend finding a co-working space in your area. These are offices with good quality internet connections where you can rent a spot for a period of time.
Having a place like this helps you stick to your routines. As you now are completely dependant on your self-discipline, this can be useful. Another perk of being in a collaborative environment like this is that you get to meet other, like-minded people and you might also make some new friends.
3. Mind the timezones
There’s a lot of really interesting locations, but interesting also usually means different than what you’re used to, which in terms means you might be in a completely different time-zone than your co-workers. I find it most challenging when you’re in a timezone behind the rest of the team. There’s a soft limit around 5-6 hours behind where it becomes very difficult to have enough time with the team. This can, of course, be counteracted by getting up really early, but that again will significantly impact your experience when traveling.
Having a balance between this is what I’ve found to make the most sense. When I’m in a timezone behind my team, I make sure to get up a bit earlier but I don’t over-do it as I want to enjoy the journey as well.
4. Choose your tasks wisely
Distance makes collaboration harder, so we should make sure we don’t get blocked by not reaching people. While it’s impossible to avoid blockers due to not having to sync with people, it’s often a good idea to not let this block everything you do.
I always make sure that I have tasks, or even better; entire projects which require little to no interaction with the rest of the team. This allows me to always have something to do if I am unable to contact the people I need to proceed on other tasks. Things like creating prototypes, refactoring, creating libraries, or any other task which can be planned ahead and then executed is perfect for this kind of backlog.
5. Don’t ignore your social life
During my travels, I’ve both been going alone and with friends. I can’t recommend the latter enough, at least when you’re starting out as a digital nomad. There’s so much to be learned from other people who have been doing this for years, so pay attention. If you don’t know anyone with previous experience, it’s a good idea to go to a city which has a lot of other nomads. This way, you can piggyback on them.
Unless you’re extremely introvert, you’re most likely going to want to have some people to talk to. While you could always be chatting up people you meet on the street or your local cashier, there are some easy ways to meet new people which does not require as much guts to start a conversation. I’ve found that meetups are a great way to meet new people who are interested in the same as you are. Make sure to check out what’s going on in your city and head out. Most places also have dedicated websites with lists of events, Google events in <insert city here> and you should find some.
Another great way to meet new people is to use dating apps or sites like Tinder, Happn, etc. If you’re single this is also a great way to meet your next romance in addition to making new friends. If you just want to meet new people or are in a relationship while traveling, make it clear that you’re just looking to meet new people (and probably let your partner know). There’s a lot of other people who are using it for exactly the same.
Last, but not least; don’t forget that you’re going home at some point, therefore make sure you keep in touch with family and friends. While I prefer to do so sporadically, I know people who schedule a recurring time, often once a week to catch up.
6. Enjoy the journey
The most important thing to remember: Enjoy the journey. If you were just going to be working, there’s no reason why you couldn’t do so from the office like everyone else. Make sure to take the time to explore your area, make new friends, get to know the culture and learn the language.
There are some different approaches to having more time outside of their job. Some people are able to adjust down how much they need to work, as they don’t need the extra money and their employer is okay with it. Got some extra vacation? How about you take a day or two off every week and spend that time doing something else? It surprised me is how little you get to experience when you work full time, compared to when you’re just on vacation.
For me, what worked really well was to start the day early then take some time off during the middle of the day to go to the gym, beach, for a hike, etc. Doing these things with daylight gave me a lot more energy to finish the things I was working on earlier in the day.
If you’re a freelancer, consultant or working in-house; I can highly recommend living as a digital nomad, if only for a short time. With internet access being everywhere, more and more companies are opening up to the possibility of their employers doing this.
What are your takeaways from working as a digital nomad? Please share your experiences in the comments below. Have a safe journey!