The ability to maintain a career while travelling the world can seem glamorous.
But there are challenges that come with being a digital nomad – poor internet connections, delayed transport, technical difficulties and time zone differences can interfere with meeting deadlines and make for a stressful experience.
When these challenges arise, travel and exploring often have to take a back seat as delivering work projects take priority.
While digital nomads have the flexibility to work from any location in the world, there is a misconception that they’re always on holiday. Yet, this lifestyle requires discipline and sometimes more time spent inside working than outside feeling like a free, adventurous traveller.
So, how do they balance working remotely with enjoying the destination they’re visiting?
These digital nomads, who have had substantial experience with the lifestyle, share their tips.
Sarah: Prevent Wi-Fi frustrations at all costs
After feeling frustrated with being tied to an office job doing the same hours in the same location, Sarah Harrison started her business Hot Content in 2012 and now takes her work with her wherever she goes.
Harrison balances working and enjoying new locations she travels to by choosing to work from places that make her feel most inspired and productive.
“I essentially juggle the work and the destination by setting myself up in an environment where I feel motivated and effective while also experiencing the location. I take my Mac with me everywhere I go so it’s a daily, sustainable blend of work and play,” she said.
“When it’s time for a mental break, or I’ve nailed a piece of work, it’s Mac closed and mind open while wandering and exploring. If I’ve hit a wall and feel completely drained, I give myself a day off.”
For peak nomadic happiness, Harrison recommends preventing Wi-Fi frustrations at all costs by researching and planning ahead, so you can get work done and avoid wasting time hunting for reliable internet.
“Before setting up at a cafe, do a quick check: do they actually have good, uninterrupted Wi-Fi? Do they have a bathroom? Is it table service? Are there other laptop lovers around? Do you get a good vibe? Will this place help you smash out some amazing work? If the answer is yes to all of the above, get amongst it,” she said.
Christa: Stay in one location for longer
Christa Romano works as a marketing strategist and has a remote 9-5 job, meaning she is location independent.
She has been working remotely and travelling since January 2016, and is in the process of launching a new business called InstagrammerWeekend, a travelling, two-day marketing and content creation bootcamp for aspiring Instagrammers.
Romano finds basing herself in one location for at least two full weeks allows her to fulfil her Monday to Friday work responsibilities while having plenty of time to enjoy the new city she is staying in, such as experiencing nightlife, attending meet-ups or taking a weekend getaway from wherever she is based.
“Staying longer in a place also saves you money and time. Airbnbs often offer a discount for longer stays, you have time to go to the grocery store and cook, and you can hang up your clothes without having to pack and re-pack so often,” she said.
Romano also travels to a new destination over a weekend, arriving on a Friday night or Saturday morning, so she has plenty of time to scout decent work locations with reliable Wi-Fi, affordable food, comfortable seating and opening times that suit her working hours.
Shitika: Prioritise remote work goals
After spending seven years at desk jobs, Shitika Anand decided that working in a traditional office setting no longer suited her. She left a comfortable job in media and has spent the past two years working remotely for a travel start-up.
While she is based in her hometown of New Delhi in India, Anand has spent most of the past two years living and working remotely from a range of countries including Portugal, England, Australia, Singapore and Thailand.
Before embarking on a remote working journey, Anand recommends defining what you want to achieve from the lifestyle, aside from paying your bills and getting your job done. Is it personal growth, disconnecting from work for two hours per day, or getting work done in a new setting?
“For me, it has been a mix of finding a like-minded community and getting work done. So, when it comes to the daily hustle, I know exactly how much work I need to get done before I can sit by the pool and share a beer with my hostel mates. I always write down my to-do list before going to bed the night before, so I’m mentally prepared for the level of workload the next day demands,” she said.
“I also try to schedule meetings for evenings, so I get solid time in the day to explore. I left my 9-6 job to challenge my routine and working lifestyle, so why would I want to live that same work life in my remote career?”
Emma: Allocate blocks of time for work
Emma Lovell runs content creation business Lovelly Communications and has been working remotely for almost 10 years.
She has learned a thing or two about running a business and travelling the world including some careful planning and communicating with clients that the nature of her work is location independent.
But when it comes to striking that perfect balance between maintaining a work schedule and being able to enjoy the destination she has travelled to, Lovell recommends allocating blocks of time to work and being disciplined about it.
“Give yourself a block of at least three to four hours each day to get through a substantial amount of work. That will allow you to have the morning free or the afternoon/evening free to go out and explore the new destination you’re in,” she said.
Lovell said having solid blocks of “work time” allows you to settle into work mode, rather than trying to fit in an hour here or there in between sightseeing or commuting.
If travelling with a partner or friend, be clear with them that you will be unavailable for these blocks of work hours but can spend time with them afterwards.
Lovell’s other tip is to make sure you get into the habit of backing up all your work to a cloud-based system to allow for any technical issues while travelling, or having your laptop or phone stolen or lost.
Alissa: Find a local co-working space
Alissa Gehrig made her first steps into the digital nomad world in 2016 following five years of a 9-5 office routine.
She started an online coaching business for companies wanting to advance their digital services, which has allowed her to combine work and travel.
To balance remote working, Gehrig has embraced the “slow travel” approach, where she stays in one place for two or three months, depending on visa requirements, before moving on to the next location.
This allows her to settle into a consistent work routine and take day trips or weekends away to neighbouring cities or countries.
Gehrig books accommodation for the first two weeks of her stay in a new location which gives her time to find a more long-term rental, with the prerequisite that there is a co-working space nearby.
“When arriving in a new destination one of the first things I do is to sign up at a co-working space. The fees are cheaper if you commit for a longer period. Those spaces offer great Wi-Fi, comfy chairs, coffee and food, as well as other nomads to chat with in your breaks,” she said.
“Many co-working spaces offer regular masterminds or talks on interesting topics. I like to attend those activities to meet new people, to contribute to the community or to learn new things.”
TELL US: How you do balance working remotely with travelling? Share your tips in the comments section below.