This article is part of the Digital Nomad Series. Don’t miss out the Part 1 if you haven’t read it yet.
One of the most common questions I get about being a digital nomad is how I manage to work while I travel. There are many challenges and it can be very tricky sometimes, especially for someone who is used to working from a studio. But it’s totally possible if you follow some simple rules.
Here is my experience, along with my tips and conclusions after working while traveling for a few years.
Challenges of working while traveling
There are a few challenges that I’ve experienced in my journey to being able to work from anywhere. Here are the most common ones:
- You don’t have a designated place to work from
Probably one of the most challenging aspects of being a digital nomad is that you don’t have a space designed to get work done. Instead you have to adapt your mindset and workflow to be able to work in a variety of settings.
- You don’t have a lot of equipment with you
As I mentioned in the first article of the series, traveling light is very important. The key here is to define a simple but flexible setup that allows you to work.
- You might struggle to get a decent internet connection
It’s highly recommended buying a SIM card when you arrive in each country. For 10-20€ (sometimes even less) you can have a decent internet connection for a month. You can keep using the internet from hotels and cafes, but having a SIM card allows you to be sure that you will have an internet connection no matter where you are.
- You are very tempted to skip working
This is one of the toughest challenges. Working while traveling requires a lot of discipline, but there are some strategies I use to get things done. I share them below.
My work setup
Over the past few years, I’ve been designing and tweaking my working setup to make it as simple and portable as possible. You can find most of the apps and tools I use in the Resources Page, but here is a summary of my working setup.
I use an iPad Pro 10.5” with a smart keyboard and an Apple Pencil. I use it as my sketchbook (with Procreate) and also to write my articles, Tips&Tools and emails.
I find myself using it more and more as my primary device because it’s super portable but also becoming more powerful with the latest iOS updates.
Since I switched to Illustrator, I simplified my working setup. I use my MacBook Pro to create the finals of my illustrations and animations, programming my websites, creating invoices and quotes and a few more tasks.
I also have a Logitech MX Master to work on the illustrations and when I work for long periods of time.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones
Bose QuietComfort 35 have become a must for my working setup. They have active noise cancellation, which allows me to focus on what I’m doing without hearing anything around me. This is super useful when working from cafes, airports, or anywhere else that is noisy.
Working and staying productive while traveling
When traveling it’s especially hard to concentrate and focus on work because there are many exciting places and plans waiting for us. When I was traveling in the SE Asia, it was especially tough to be in a bungalow staring at amazing beaches but with a lot of work to do. It was very difficult to resist the temptation and instead get my work done.
I follow my productivity system to ensure I stay productive and in control of my tasks. In addition, I find that finding the right time and the right environment to work helps me stay productive.
Finding the right time to work while traveling
What works best for me is to split the day in two. I work during the mornings and have the afternoon/evening free. In that way, I make sure I do my work first, and then I’m free to enjoy my trip.
Another strategy that helps me to work when I travel is to stay longer. As I split the day in two, I have literally half of the time to enjoy the place I’m visiting, so I double the time I stay.
For instance, if I think I want to spend 6 days in a city, I book 12 days. In this way I end up having the same amount of free time, and I’m still able to get my work done. It also helps me to not feel overwhelmed and constantly thinking about how much time I have left. Plus, staying longer gives me a deeper understanding of each place I’m staying.
The best places to work from while traveling
I work from cafes most of the time. They are my favorite places because they tend to have comfortable seats and tables plus a free internet connection and sockets. I also like the fact that you can order tea and you are surrounded by other people, which in my experience makes me more productive.
Other times, I have to work from airports, planes, trains and other places that are far less comfortable. In these cases, I plan ahead to complete certain tasks I prefer doing in those kind of environments. For example, I don’t like finishing illustrations from planes, but I like writing.
The noise from these places doesn’t bother me at all because I use my headphones with noise cancelation and I don’t hear anything around me. I usually listen to my working playlist or podcasts.
If you are traveling and are not sure about the best places to work, you can try Workfrom. This resource will help you find great options for working while you travel.
Self-employed and other legal obligations
One of the most common questions I get is how I keep my business in order when I travel. I strongly recommend you ask for legal advice before deciding what’s best for you.
I’m self-employed in Spain (I’m originally from there), and I keep all my legal obligations in Spain. In the past, I tried to became self-employed in the places I visited, but it was a nightmare since I had to open bank accounts and become self-employed for just a few months.
I have an accountant/bookkeeper in Spain that handles my tax returns and all the other legal requirements that might result from being self-employed.
While traveling, I can keep in touch with my accountant and my bank by email, so everything is under control.
During the last few years, I’ve been working from cafes, hotels, hostels, guest houses, planes, trains, buses, airports, bus stations and many other places that weren’t designed for work. I realized the environment doesn’t matter as much as I thought.
Being a digital nomad is not as comfortable as having a permanent studio. But when you have the right mindset and a flexible work setup, working from nearly anywhere is totally doable.
Also, stick to a productivity system is very important because when traveling it’s far more easy to get distracted and procrastinate.
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