It is every freelancer's dream to jet off, laptop in hand and travel indefinitely. The issue is we spend most of our careers too afraid to take the leap. We worry that our clients will leave us, that the money will run out or that we are turning our backs on the business we built from the ground. In April this year, I decided I had had enough of my own excuses and booked a one-way flight to Europe and I haven't looked back.
It all sounds very dreamy, but the fact is sometimes it is far from it. My back is constantly sore from lugging around a laptop, my photos always feature me on my phone or tapping away at the keyboard and the quest for solid WIFI has become one of the most frustrating experiences of my life.
The positives of being a digital nomad are obvious, but I have learnt very quickly that the negatives can sometimes feel overwhelming. So, I want to lay down some of the key realisations and learnings that I have had over the last 3 months of travel, so hopefully, when you take the plunge, you can have more of the positive and less of the throw-your-laptop-at-a-wall moments.
Location, location, location
Or should I say - WIFI, WIFI, WIFI. We are extremely lucky with our WIFI speeds in Australia, and boy did I take it for granted. If you are a planner, and you're pre booking hotels or AirBnbs, ASK. Have them guarantee a fast connection. If you are staying for a while, make sure you check the internet speed before you check in. Time is money, and if you're sitting in your room at 1 pm after waking up at 4 am, still waiting for a file to upload, you will crack. A quick way to check before you head over is to google 'fastest internet providers in *insert destination* and have your accommodation confirm which they use.
Get with the times
Organising overseas meetings is tough, especially if you are changing time zones every few weeks. Download an app (I used Time Buddy) to help you keep a good grasp on the time at home. If you use Gmail, you can add another Timezone in Calendar, which can also be very helpful.
Give yourself a weekend
I quickly became very mindful of when Australia went to sleep or left the office on a Friday. Friday morning to Sunday morning is now my 'weekend'. Don't get me wrong, I'm still working, but it's not about fielding emails, it's about catching up, which feels heavenly. Also, travelling is best done on these quiet days. When booking to move to my next destination, it would usually be on a Thursday after 11 am. Flights are cheap and it is safe for me to be offline for a couple of hours.
Be prepared to wake up at 4 am
Unfortunately, a working holiday will not include sleep ins. You need to be up when your clients are emailing, which is around 11 am Sydney time. I set my alarm for 4 am every day. I check my emails, reply to some and go back to sleep until 6 am. I am then up until 12 am most nights waiting for Sydney to come back online to approve work. Honestly, there isn't much time for sleep, and you need to be okay with that.
Be okay with sacrifice
There have been countless days on this trip where I haven't had time to leave the house. I've sat in my AirBnb apartment, watching the London summer float by and have had to close the blinds to reduce the glare on my laptop screen. It can be heartbreaking, but it's all part of the game. To break your day up, find a local cafe with fast WIFI and head down for a coffee and sometime around the locals. You'll still be working, but will at least feel a little satisfied.
Take a good bag for your laptop
I cannot stress this enough! A laptop is heavy and when combined with external chargers, mobile phones and everything else - that weight can do some serious damage to your back. Brands like Rapha do great business backpacks, and you're going to need the best.
Pack a power board
You may think this is a silly idea, but it was an absolute lifesaver. With two laptops, a camera, three mobile phones (don't ask), and an external charger to charge - if I didn't have a power board by life would have been a sea of dying electronic devices. A power board also means you will only have to invest in one universal adapter.
The very last thing I did before leaving AUS was to change the answering machine on my mobile to instruct people to email me instead. Once I got to Europe, I removed my sim and bought a 3 sim, as they let you use your data in all of Europe for no extra charge. What they DON'T do, is let you hotspot overseas. So, ensure if you do leave the UK, you are staying somewhere with fast internet. Whatever means of contact you decide to go with, whether it is sharing your international number, or adding your clients on WhatsApp, make sure you let them all know individually, how to contact you and when.
That is it on the travel tips front from me. If you are a digital nomad and have some tips of your own, feel free to comment below. I would love to hear them!