While a handful of companies have been offering remote work options for years, the COVID-19 pandemic made this a reality for many people last year. Whether they suddenly found themselves working their normal 9-5 job from home or found themselves unemployed and replacing their income with freelance gigs, there are millions of people around the world who have gotten a small taste of what it is like to be remote workers and never want to go back to the office again. And the great thing is that many of us don’t have to!
I am actually one of those people who suddenly found themselves unemployed thanks to the pandemic and finding myself having to suddenly pivot in a new direction. Although I started off my digital nomad journey in Mexico in 2020, I have now worked remotely from Brazil, America, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Spain, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and India, and below are some of the travel tips and work tricks that I have learned traveling and working remotely as a freelance writer for the past 18 months.
As you read, keep in mind that these are written from a freelancer perspective and they may be slightly different from someone who works remotely full-time for a large company.
Team Building for Remote Workers
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Tips and Tricks for Working Remotely While Traveling
1. Understand your limitations.
In my opinion, this should be the golden rule for working while traveling. When you first start to travel and work remotely at the same time, it may be very tempting to follow the same type of schedule that you would when you were on a normal vacation. However, keep in mind that you are normally on vacation for just a few weeks at a time. Traveling can be exhausting when you do it for extended periods of time and become even more so when you are trying to work at the same time. And while it may be hard to believe, it is pretty easy to burn out from too much traveling!
After a lot of trial and error, I have found that you generally need twice as much time to explore a destination when you are working while traveling than you would if you were a tourist. This should give you enough time to visit all of the attractions that you want without ending up so tired that you can’t enjoy anything. It also saves you from having to spend your evenings sitting at your laptop rather than going out to that oh-so-cute restaurant that you saw!
I have also found that it is good to identify a destination in advance where you plan on spending a few days doing nothing but working and focusing on the more mundane sides of life. This could be everything from long-delayed Zoom calls with your family and friends at home, spending long hours lounging around getting caught up on your favorite Netflix shows, doing your laundry, or simply getting caught up on sleep. It is a good idea to book a nice, quiet hotel for these days where you can relax, refresh, and get all cleaned up for the next part of your journey. These few days that you “sacrifice” are really, really important to leave time for in your travel schedule as they will improve the quality of pretty much everything: your work, your mental and physical health, and your overall experience.
2. Develop a work routine.
When you first start working while traveling, it is easy to forget about developing a routine and you will likely find yourself getting distracted by all the great things that you can do. Having a work routine is one of the best ways to ensure that you can keep on top of your professional duties while still enjoying the location that you are in. Luckily, there are many different ways to do this depending on your own work schedule. If it is your first time traveling while working remotely, it is probably a good idea to reach out to other remote workers in a destination (Facebook groups are amazing for this!) to see what they have found works best for them.
Some people choose to settle down using an Airbnb as a home base for a month and work their normal business hours (factoring in the different time zone differences of course!). They can then travel on the weekends to different cities. At the end of the month, they can then move to a new city or destination in a different part of the country and then begin exploring from there. This strategy has many perks as you can save money on accommodation by booking month-long stays and it gives you the chance to really get to know a city.
Other people, like me, will work long hours for a few days or a few weeks and then travel a bit more freely, to balance it out. While this is a bit more tiring than staying in one place for a month, it does allow you to see more of a country in a shorter period of time and gives you a bit more flexibility in your travel schedule to meet up with friends, make last-minute changes, etc.
Like in all things in life, there is no right or wrong way to do this and you need to find what works best for you. The most important thing is that you maintain a good work-life balance and not try to push yourself too much. As mentioned in rule #1, you really need to give yourself more time in a destination than you would normally need so that you don’t end up rushing through the activities and attractions while being stressed about how much work you still need to do that day.
3. Find a “good” place to work.
If you are an extrovert, working remotely can be challenging. It is even more so when you are an extrovert that is working from a hotel room or Airbnb. If you hate the thought of being closed in a room by yourself all day, prepare to spend a lot of time and money in cafes or coworking spaces.
It sounds crazy but I have also found that pubs and bars are also great places to work during the day. They are often quieter than coffee shops which makes them great for video calls, have decent wifi speeds, and have plenty of comfortable places to sit. As the icing on the cake, you can always order a beer when you are done with work without having to go somewhere new!
Depending on what you are looking for, a good destination to work from could be one of the many digital nomad hotspots scattered all over the world in cities like Mexico City, Chiang Mai, or Medellin where you can meet plenty of other like-minded people with the same “unique” schedules, a secluded beach in Thailand or Bali, or a bustling city like Barcelona, Berlin, or Lisbon. If you really aren’t sure where you want to go, you can also join a program like Remote Year which pairs you up with a group of other digital nomads who you can move around the world with each month. They tend to be much more expensive than just heading out on your own but they give you the chance to meet other people and handle all of the logistics of finding accommodation for you, getting local SIM cards, etc
Expert tip: While the idea of working remotely in Rome or Paris may sound heavenly, you may want to avoid some of the more expensive European cities for your workdays, as the high cost of living vs low return on investment in terms of “fun” time can be soul-shattering. No one wants to pay $80 a night for a hotel just so they can sit in a cafe across the street and work. It is much better to base yourself in a cheaper place for a few days where you can stay in a high-quality hotel for a fraction of the price of a larger city and head over to the more expensive cities when you have the time to fully immerse yourself in everything that they have to offer.
4. Think outside of the box.
Every day, I see people asking in Facebook groups how they can begin traveling full-time. While the answers can be very based on someone’s home country, their professional skills, etc, the general response is to find a remote job or carve out your own remote work opportunities.
This is actually easier than you may think. Plenty of companies are now offering remote sales and customer service jobs (although they may have restrictions on whether or not you can work outside of the United States and crazy requirements for the type of internet connection you need) and websites and apps like Upwork and Fiverr have plenty of freelance work opportunities. You can also turn to social media channels such as Facebook groups or LinkedIn to see what options there are. Heck, there are even Slack channels where you can find job opportunities for specific professions.
You really just need to remember to think out of the box when it comes to what you can do. If you have a job that is impossible to do remotely, try to think of whether or not there are any ways that you can use your transferable skills to land a remote gig (and don’t think for a second that you don’t have any transferable skills. We all have something valuable that we can carry onto our next role). Many digital nomads actually got their start working as English teachers before segueing into different tasks and roles.
You may also need to think a bit more broadly as to where you can travel and the type of travel that you can do. While you may be earning a six-figure salary and are used to staying in high-end hotels now, this will most likely need to change a bit when you start your new life on the road. When you begin to consider lesser-known destinations that have a lower cost of living than the US, Canada, Western Europe, or Australia, you will most likely find that you can stretch your budget much further. This, in turn, impacts the amount of money that you need to earn to live comfortably which then could open up a lot more options in regards to what types of jobs that you can do.
5. Be flexible
Sometimes when we travel on a week-long vacation, we want everything to be absolutely perfect. From the place where we lay our heads to the
6. Take advantage of this amazing opportunity.
Most of our parents would never have been able to live the types of lives that we do as digital nomads. Drastically reduced flight prices, faster and faster wifi speeds, and flexible visa policies have made it easier than ever to live life on your own terms. Make sure that you take advantage of this and appreciate how lucky you are. While there are times when traveling while working remotely can be exhausting, stressful, and lonely, it is also one of the most liberating and developmental things you can do.
This means that there is no better time to take that day trip to a volcano or explore that secluded beach. If you are staying somewhere for a few weeks, what about taking a language or cooking course to help develop some new skills? Or how about heading out for a night on the town with that group of digital nomads? While it is important to schedule downtime, make sure that you still go explore what is around you. Seeing new things, meeting new people, or learning new skills will help remind you of why you are doing this in the first place even when times get “tough.”
If you want a fun-filled way to keep you motivated to explore, pick up one of our scratch-off adventure books. They will provide you and your loved ones with a great new challenge each day to help you grow and develop as you live life to the fullest!
7. Don’t let your toxic relationships hold you back.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should say sayonara to your friends and family that have always supported you but it does mean that you should let go of the dead weight in your life. This could be partners that have held you back or friends that drag you down. When people like this are in your life, it is greatly limiting and you will likely find yourself dedicating too much of your time and energy trying to maintain relationships that do nothing to benefit you.
Getting people like this out of your life when you are at home can be tricky but traveling long term is a great way to begin to distance yourself from them. It is also the perfect time to cleanse and rebuild yourself and it is imperative that you don’t let the opportunity pass you by because there is someone in your life who won’t support you. There are billions of people in this world and it is important to surround yourself with the people who bring out the best in you.
8. Get ready to build a social network.
If you are first starting out and haven’t yet lived outside of your own country, one of the first things that you need to do is start building a social network wherever you are. This social network can serve as a lifeline when you need a little pick me up and even people who you have only known for a few days can be comforting if you start feeling a bit lonely. A social network could be people that you meet in your hostel or coworking space, people that you connect with through an ex-pat or digital nomad group, or even the barista at your local coffee shop. They don’t need to be people that you would confide your life story in; they simply need to be someone that you can talk to when you need some human interaction.
The earlier you get started trying to build some type of network when you move to a new city, the better off you will be in the long run so make sure to say hello to whoever you can. This can also help improve your own personal safety as people will recognize you and know where you “belong.” Just try not to tell any complete strangers that you are traveling alone or exactly where you are staying.
9. Cover all your bases.
When you are fed up with life, it is sometimes wonderful to fantasize about starting a new life on the road and this is entirely possible! However, it is important to cover all of your bases before you start your journey. This doesn’t mean that you need to have your whole life organized or have everything booked for the next few months.
However, it does mean that you need to have a few good credit cards and debit cards on hand that you can use all over the world and that don’t charge you high fees. Many American companies even offer credit cards specifically for travel that help you rack up frequent flyer miles or rewards points. Make sure to have them before you go as it can be much more difficult to do it later on.
It is also extremely important to purchase travel health insurance as most American plans will not cover you outside of the United States. Many of the plans are surprisingly inexpensive and can cover you in case you get unexpectedly sick or injured during your trip. If you plan on being on the road for a while, it is well worth switching to an insurance program for digital nomads. These are usually much, much cheaper than a comparable plan that you would get in the United States. Some plans will cover you when you are in your home country and some won’t so make sure to check on this if you plan on making any trips back to the U.S. If you opt for a plan that doesn’t include the US, make sure that you have adequate short-term insurance that will cover you when you are at home.
Finally, make sure that you have an American phone plan that offers affordable international roaming. While it is usually better to get a local SIM card when you arrive in a country rather than relying on your roaming, this isn’t always easy (it can take days to get a local SIM which isn’t very helpful when you are sitting at the airport with no way to call an Uber). Having your own SIM card that works internationally can help bridge the gap from when you arrive in a country until you can get set up with a local SIM. Just make sure that you don’t forget to unlock your phone before you leave home!
Ready to Roam?
We hope that this list has given you some great things to think about when you are planning to start off on your next adventure. If you need some additional inspiration, don’t leave without checking the other travel articles in our blog! We have advice on the best destinations for solo travel, how to travel solo as a female, the best places for couples to travel, and more!
Frequently Asked Questions
There are plenty of jobs that you can do when you are on the road. Check out some of the best tips and tricks for working remotely while traveling to learn more!
If you’re working remotely while traveling or planning to, be sure to develop (and stick to) a work and travel schedule that is effective for you. It’s a must!
If you are working remotely while traveling, why not see if Let’s Roam offers a scavenger hunt nearby? These activities are a great way to learn more about a city while making new memories!