As I’m writing this post, I’m in a small hut in the jungles of Bohol, a small island in the Philippines. The past week has been part of an experiment for me, trying to see how far I can take this digital nomad thing.
Here’s the truth so far: web working on the road is harder than it looks. Even with all the research and planning, some things are bound to be different from what you’re expecting.
In a previous post, I mentioned how internet access should be one of the things you look into when researching travel destinations. This is especially important for us web workers, since it’s hard to anticipate what client queries or work emergencies you’ll need to attend to.
One option is to travel in areas that are known to have reliable internet connections. But doing this limits your number of possible destinations. Since I prefer to stay in remote provincial areas, it was logical for me to buy a 3G USB modem. This. device comes in handy for traveling web workers, and even if there’s no 3G access in some areas, you can still manage to use a GPRS connection (even if it’s rather slow).
Although you don’t need to plan every hour of your trip, it’s important to have a vague idea of what you’ll be doing each day. This will allow you to schedule some time for work. Just make sure you don’t spend most of your time on your laptop. If you spend 90% of your trip getting some work done, then it’s almost as if you stayed in your home office. Doing this would be missing the point. The key is to know which important work tasks you absolutely have to do within the same time frame as your trip. You can even try outsourcing some of your most basic tasks while you’re away.
Remember that traveling always involves waiting. You could be in the pier for three hours, waiting for the late ferry. You could be in the airport waiting to board your plane. Since waiting time is expected, know how to be productive when this happens. I spent most of my waiting time making notes on the articles I had to write, and jotting down the work tasks I have to do when I return. You can also use this time to recharge your gadgets.
I also strongly recommend doing even a bit of your work in advance – this is something I didn’t do very well for this trip (I got sick the week before I left). But if I were able to do that, I would’ve had the benefit of worrying less about work while I’m traveling.
The general rule of traveling with gadgets is that you shouldn’t take more than what you need. Right now I have my small MSI Wind notebook, my cellphone, and the modem I mentioned earlier. This allows me to pack for a 2-week trip in a single backpack. In the future, I might opt to bring an extension cord or outlet multiplier with me, as some rooms have only one or two power outlets.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t take less than what you need either. While a netbook with a 10-inch monitor suits me well, graphic designers will no doubt have a much harder time with it. If it’s relevant to your work, and it’s hard for you to get things done without it, extra gadgets or a bigger laptop should be on your packing list.
Know how others have done it
The most comforting thing, for me at least, was that many people have worked on the road before. Here at WWD, Anne Zelenka interviewed Lea Woodward about her location-independent lifestyle. Imran Ali wrote about the traveling web working family of Tumblewagon. Tim Ferriss also discussed a similar concept in his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek”.
As internet connectivity becomes more prevalent, and as smaller devices become more affordable, it’s also no surprise that the number of traveling web workers is growing. It’s certain that you’ll find an experienced digital nomad who can give you all the advice and information you need. Hopefully, in a couple of years, I can be as wise and experienced as they are now.
Have you ever tried working on the road? What tips can you share based on your experience?