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How to travel while working remotely

The next wave of nomading has arrived. Troves of knowledge workers who were thrust into remote work during the pandemic are all having the same revelation – when you work remotely, you can work from wherever you’d like. Even if that’s a different country. This mass movement is happening at a faster acceleration than ever before. 

Why work remotely and travel? 

It’s worth taking a moment to address the fundamental ‘why’. This article will assume the audience has a passion (or at least desire) for travel. If you don’t enjoy traveling, you will not enjoy remote work travel. For the rest of us, work has traditionally been the #1 blocker to travel. Either you had time to travel but no income, or you had a steady job that doesn't allow much time for travel during the year. Not anymore! For the first time in human history, the two are not mutually exclusive. 
Apart from being fun, there are many reasons to try remote work travel: 
  • Widen your perspective of the world
  • Have new life experiences you’ll treasure forever 
  • Meet interesting people 
  • Encounter new opportunities and ideas 
  • Eat fantastic food 
  • Learn new skills.
Still, many think of travel as only a function of vacation or holiday. Some think of travel as something you do for work. There are hundreds of thousands of nomads who travel while working. And they’re doing so quite successfully. Here’s how to work remote and travel.  

How to work remote and travel: Start with planning

Travel logistics 

You don’t want to be thinking of travel logistics when you’re having a full work week. That’s how it becomes more stressful than enjoyable. So make a plan for the trip, whether it’s a week or a few months. 
Speaking of length, try to plan longer trips. Switching Airbnbs or taking even a short flight is undeniably disruptive in the middle of the work week. Try to make your travel days on non-work days – either a weekend or vacation day. 
Finally, alert your team in advance when you’ll be traveling and offline. This not only helps them but makes your travel day less stressful. 

Your remote work and travel destination 

You’ll be going to a place that you’ll (hopefully) enjoy, so we’ll take that as a given and address the things you should consider to label a place ‘workable’. 
Time zones What time zones does your company operate in? If you are required to work 9-5 PST, Europe will be unpleasant and Asia will be miserable (unless you are a wildly flexible sleeper). A large benefit of working with an asynchronous company is that this limitation is lifted. If you're still looking for a remote job, here's a list of open roles you can apply for!
Wifi speeds  You need to make sure you have a strong internet connection to work with. Airbnb just added the ability for hosts to add the mbps speed to listings, but you can always ask for a screenshot as well. You should also research if your location has fast cellular data speeds as a backup. 
Other amenities  Each of us has things we require to keep us happy. Maybe you like working from co-working spaces so you don’t get too lonely. Perhaps you are a fitness nut who wants to exercise each day. Some are obsessed with cooking and need a full kitchen. Pause and think critically about what you need in life, and make sure your destination has it. 

Working remotely while traveling to your destination 

Unless you are moving around frequently, you shouldn’t be spending an abundance of time working while on the road. Still, it does tend to happen more than we think. Here are some ways to make this time more valuable:
  1. Treat it as “offline” time - flights change, things happen. Tell your company you’ll be offline while traveling so you don’t have to worry about it. Don’t rely on airplane wifi! 
  2. Use the time creatively - most people find that creative work is the best to do while traveling. It often requires little wifi and communication, and can be done sitting in a plane or train seat. 
  3. Pay for airport lounges - If you have a relatively lengthy layover, get an airport lounge or a nice meal in a sit-down restaurant. Layovers are easier not to resent when they’re productive and comfortable. 
  4. Download ahead of time - music, documents, audiobooks… download anything you’ll need to work ahead of time in case you don’t have a connection. 

Getting settled in your new location 

One of the benefits of moving on the weekend is that you have time to get settled in properly. Immediately making a new place your (temporary) home is not just good for comfortable living, but for productivity. 
Start by unpacking and getting your suitcase out of sight. Put your clothes and belongings into drawers and cupboards. Next, unpack your workstation. Set it up somewhere that feels like a workspace (i.e. not just laying on your bed if possible). Make a full station that looks like a place you’d want to actually work. 
Do any shopping you need for the upcoming week. Get coffee and breakfast. Lunch stuff if you plan on working there all day. If not, explore nearby places so that you have somewhere to immediately go and start working. Wandering around a city is fun, but less so when you have work to do. 
You should also get digitally settled. Change the time zones and working hours on your Google Calendar if you haven’t already. Set your status on Slack for your timezone. 
Once the workweek starts, try to settle into something of a routine as quickly as possible. This might match something close to home if you are in a similar time zone. If not, you will have to completely invent a routine. You don’t have to stick with what you start with, but it does help to get settled to have a routine to strive for. Finding a way to stay motivated will greatly help.
A routine might look something like this: 7am - Wake up, get ready and eat breakfast 8am - Start work 12pm - Lunch 4pm - Stop work and go exercise 6pm - Cook and eat dinner 8pm - Whatever you enjoy doing to relax.
Establish whatever routine optimizes your own productivity and happiness. Maybe it looks similar to what works for you at home. Maybe you need to switch it up or want to experiment. Again, you don’t have to set a routine and live with it. Play around! 

Ensure you have internet and wifi  

When working from a foreign country that has (potentially) questionable internet connectivity, have some backup plans. 
Plan A - Accommodation Wifi  This is what you’ll plan on working off of most of the time. For many, it will be their accommodation wifi. Make sure you are staying or working from somewhere that has a solid internet connection. 
Plan B - Cellular data  In many countries, cell phone data speeds are actually faster than many wifi speeds. Regardless, it’s good to have a sim card to use as a hotspot off of your phone in case your main wifi network drops out. 
Plan C - 3rd party locations  Depending on how you work, this might be your plan A. But the idea is to have several establishments you know you could go rely on to work from. It could be a co-working space or a cafe. 

What to do when your wifi drops out

Anyone who works remotely is used to this. It’s not a big deal, it happens. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to let your team know when you’re traveling or might run into connection issues. When it does happen, just try to reconnect as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t reconnect, join from your phone data with audio only if you need to. 

Worried about the internet where you are going? 

Some locations simply do not have fast enough internet to be able to handle video calls or heavy downloads. This is not something you want to find out after arriving. To avoid the issue, here is a simple remote work travel hack: find someone on Instagram who is currently working from the location you want to travel to. DM them and ask if they can do a speed test for you. People are almost always happy to help out fellow travelers. It’s a great way to make a new friend before you go somewhere new! 

Connecting with others while traveling 

Isolation is often cited as the most common complaint and challenge for remote workers. This is compounded when you add traveling to the mix. Thankfully, work is a great excuse to meet people, whether you are traveling in a group or solo. A little effort and intentionality go a long way. 

Work from social spaces 

Perhaps the easiest way to meet new people is to work from co-working spaces. People in these spaces are likely to be experiencing the same problem of isolation. There are tons of chances and excuses to strike up conversations in co-working spaces. They’re rarely awkward because you can always talk about travel and projects you are working on. If you are shy it might be a little odd to strike up a random conversation, but after the first few seconds it starts to feel natural. You might even meet a future co-founder or business partner! 

Find Events

Similarly, you can seek our relevant events in the areas you are traveling to. Look for startup events, social events or things related to your interests (cooking, sports clubs, etc.). Again, people going to these events are almost certain to also be seeking out social connections. This tactic pairs well with the first one, as co-working spaces often hold events you can attend. 

Join online groups and communities 

It’s a good rule of thumb to seek out any online nomad or expat communities in areas you travel to. In addition to being a great information source, it’s a fantastic way to meet people who will often post about events and activities in the groups. 

Stay in a co-living space 

Co-living is still a new concept, but there is an increasing number of establishments that offer co-living. They are frequently paired with co-working spaces. This option is particularly great if you are traveling solo. It’s incredibly easy to get to know people you are sharing the space with. You can dine together, go out on last-minute activities and become good friends. Think of it like a college dorm, except you get to go back to your own room at night. 

Are you planning to work remotely and travel? 

We’d love to know where you are going, how you are planning to remote work and travel and what challenges you are nervous about - email sam@safetywing.com or tweet us @safetywing!

About the author

Sam Claassen

Head of Growth
SafetyWing
Sam Claassen is the Head of Growth at SafetyWing and a serial advocate for remote work. A longtime nomad himself, he has been to 65 countries while doing growth and remote work consulting for startups and accelerators. Through his work at SafetyWing, he is working with a team to create BuildingRemotely.com – a podcast, online resource and soon to be book on building a thriving remote company.