The term "digital nomad" is a bit irritating, but nonetheless that is the concept we have gathered here today to discuss. If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that’s amenable to you working remotely, then your options for traveling while you work are basically limited only by internet connectivity, money, and imagination. We can help.
It’s one thing to work abroad where you have a home base and can get into a routine, but it’s a very different game to work while constantly on the move, with no place to hang your hat nor WiFi network to call your own. Here are the best practical tips and tricks for those of you aiming to truly travel while you work -- not just be someplace else.
Debatable: It’s Fine to Recline Your Seat on a Plane
Don’t put your faith in coffee shops
People talk about working remotely like coffee shops are the best and only option, but they’re precarious resources to plan around, especially if you’re on deadline or have a big Skype meeting. Often, they’re everything you don’t want your workspace to be -- crowded, loud, expensive, lacking outlets, and -- most crucially -- outfitted with unreliable WiFi. If you find one that’s reliably, consistently quiet and has good Wifi and doesn’t mind you setting up shop for six hours (and you, in turn, do not mind paying for six hours’ worth of coffee and muffins) then that’s great. Those places exist. But y’know what place is much, much more likely to give you all those amenities, for free? The nearest public library. Go find that. Work there. Live there. Save the cafes for when you’re not on deadline.
Airports and train stations are also always good standbys when you’re hunting for free WiFi, as are -- really -- bars (so long as you can work while you drink). And one last tip -- WeWorks and the like will often give you a one-day trial pass for free. Which, for someone on the move like you, might be all you need.
Make your own WiFi
If you can invest $100-$300, you will probably never regret buying a mobile hotspot -- a portable lil' WiFi-generating device. This is what will allow you the true freedom of being able to simply set up your laptop anywhere that you go (at least, anywhere you’d still get regular cell service). They’re small, not heavy, and they make the world your office.
MORE: How to negotiate for more vacation days
Pick up a portable charging pack
While we’re on the subject of gear, the other thing you’ll need to be truly liberated as a mobile worker is a portable external charger, preferably one that can accommodate all your devices. You can get cell phone-only chargers not much bigger than a tube of lipstick for just a few bucks, but a quality battery pack for phones, laptops, tablets, etc. will probably run you around $75. They come in solar-powered varieties these days, too, which you might want to consider depending on, y’know, how much sun you’re planning to get while you’re abroad.
Make sure your cell phone plan will serve you in most places
This is not sponsored content, I promise, but some providers have much better international coverage than others, so it's crucial to check your coverage before you go, and switch providers if your current plan won't accommodate your remote-work needs. I used Verizon for a decade right up until I left to backpack, whereupon I switched to T-Mobile -- which offers unlimited data and texting in more than 200 countries, while Verizon charges $10 per day for a similar setup. That’s more than I spent on food most days. The only place T-Mobile came through for me with less than a respectable 2G was rural Cambodia, and even then I was able to check Google Maps with some time and patience. And a portable charger.
MORE: How to pack your backpacking backpack
Your debit card, too
Another switch I made prior to backpacking, which involved moving around constantly, was making sure I had a debit card that let me withdraw from any ATM in the local currency without incurring any fees. The Charles Schwab debit card is great for this (again, not sponsored content, I promise!). Make the switch before you go international; you won’t regret it. When you’re always jumping from country to country, currency to currency, conversions and fees are the last things you want to be dealing with. This way, the moment that paycheck drops you can get your coin and be on your way.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Next Flight Out for more travel coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.