Top Tips for Working While You Travel
What we've learned while working from the road for Quiip, and enjoying everything the world has to offer.
We have become accustomed to long working weeks with little down time, crowded commutes and short holidays once a year but it doesn’t have to be this way. With falling airline prices, increased prevalence of high speed WiFi and the portability of a modern office (a laptop and phone), more people are taking their work on the road. For an employer, allowing people to work in interesting environments and ensuring they live full rich lives outside of work almost always leads to an increase in happiness and productivity. For an employee the benefits are obvious, who wouldn’t want to work from a beach in Portugal or a cafe in France? Here are a few things we picked up while working from the road for Quiip, enjoying everything the world has to offer.
First order of business – if you only have two weeks of vacation time, forget work and enjoy your holiday. Your mental health will thank you! (If this is you and you need someone to look after your community for a couple of weeks, Quiip can help!) Otherwise, working on the road requires you to re-think the way you normally travel. Adopt the motto of Caye Caulker in Belize and “Go Slow”. Attempting to see everything a city has to offer in 2 days and maintaining your workload is exhausting.
I spent an entire month just in London because there were so many thing I wanted to do. Most days I would work for 4-6 hours in the morning, then catch the tube to one area to see what was around. It quelled my FOMO but not my productivity! – Lauren
Part of changing the way you travel is accepting that there are some countries where remote work is just not possible. Most of Cuba, for example, is still on a dial-up speed connection. Some countries block, restrict or monitor access to Google and social networking sites. Research before you go to ensure you don’t suddenly find yourself without email access.
Make peace with working from hostel bunks, sleeping at odd hours and explaining what you do for a living a million times. It’s all part of the adventure!
Finding fast, reliable WiFi can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. Airbnb and most hotel/hostel comparison sites allow you to filter results by WiFi accessibility. Read reviews from past guests for warnings of slow speeds, data caps, hidden fees and black spots. Cafes and libraries are good bets for free WiFi, with the added bonus of delicious coffee or heritage architecture. Still reliable, but lower on the sightseeing list, are airports or international chains like McDonalds and Starbucks. Apps like WifiMapper can also help you track down hotspots.
Many trains, planes and buses claim to offer WiFi but it’s often a roll of the dice as to whether it actually works and how well. Stick to the safe side and avoid urgent deadlines while you’re in transit. This time can be great for chipping away at tasks though.
I spent a great deal of transit time on busses, trains and planes all over Europe. By utilising this ‘down’ time to work, instead of watching movies and TV shows, I had more time when I arrived in my destination to focus on exploring. Don’t forget to look up occasionally though to take in the scenery! – Dan
If you’re planning to be in one country for a while, it pays to purchase a local data SIM that allows tethering to your phone or dongle. These can be purchased very cheaply in some parts of the world, but are surprisingly expensive in others (I’m looking at you, Canada). If all else fails, check your local carriers roaming rates before you leave. If you need to make or receive phone calls, consider purchasing a Skype number.
If you must be online during Australian business hours, the timezone difference can be a pain point. Use a Time Zone Converter to check if your meeting will be in the middle of the night, and set alarms if you need to be online at a crucial time. Keeping your laptop clock set to AEST can also help. Similarly, a Gmail app like Boomerang will allow you to schedule emails so you don’t wake a client up with a new message alert.
A browser-based VPN is vital if you need to access geo-blocked websites that don’t work outside Australia. Although half the fun of international travel is using Netflix in other countries!
Be aware that if you share content scheduling duties on Facebook, the timezone may automatically update when you connect to local WiFi. Double check that your post won’t go out at an odd hour.
You’re not in Kansas, or rather Melbourne, anymore. Before you leave home, get a decent travel insurance policy that covers any equipment you need to do your job. This is one item not to skimp on! The last thing you want is to have your laptop lifted and discover your insurance won’t cover a replacement. Back up any important files to a secure cloud-based storage system, like Dropbox. Deter sticky-fingers by locking your valuables in your room with a combination padlock, and secure your bag to racks in transit with a carabiner. Be sensible and avoid flashing expensive items around in dodgy areas. A good quality hard case is a must, and keep your laptop in carry on so it won’t be damaged by careless baggage handlers.
If you have two-factor authentication turned on, keep a list of spare passwords handy. There is nothing worse than having an authentication text sent to a phone with no signal. Try to avoid using new logins for the first time on foreign connections, as the platform security may lock you out.
Poor posture is nobodies friend. You may inevitably end up working from a hostel bunk or train seat at some stage, but where possible opt for a cafe table to avoid straining your neck, eyes and shoulders. If your luggage size permits, a foldable laptop tray isn’t a bad idea.
You’re traveling for a reason! Get out there and soak in all your locale has to offer. Use that to inspire your work.
Have you taken a working holiday? What are your top tips? Share them in the comments below.
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