Just off the eastern coast of Vänern, Sweden’s largest inland lake, there’s a small island covered in dense forest, home to countless tiny inlets, rocky beaches, and secluded coves. The idyllic scenery suggests a real-life fairy tale, a place to both lose and find yourself. It also happens to be the place my husband grew up, and a place we travel to (at least in pre-COVID times) as often as possible. During the days, we would keep our toes firmly in the sand and our eyes on the endless horizon. In the evenings, we would travel back to my mother-in-law’s rambling farmhouse, where I would fling open the window to let the breeze in, and settle in at her kitchen table with my laptop. There, feeling a world away from “home,” I was instantly connected to my colleagues in the U.S., most still in their offices, completing their day’s work. The only difference: I completed mine in the hush of a Swedish summer night.
Before I embraced the work-from-anywhere (WFA) lifestyle, I hardly could have imagined it was possible to have my cake and eat it, too (or, in this case, have my vacation and get paid, too). But with the number of digital nomads increasing nearly 50 percent year over year, it’s clear that this way of life isn’t a trend or a flash-in-the-pan. These days, I consider myself a sort of “digital nomad lite.” I have a home in the Midwest, kids, a partner…even a pet lizard. I have roots. But I also have the flexibility to pick up and go wherever I choose, without skipping a beat at work. We stay a little closer to home now, post-2020, but I’ve still managed to work from Airbnbs, remote cabins, and lake houses…all while enjoying quality time with my family and exploring the big wide world around us.
And you can, too. Even if you’re not ready to dive head-first into the digital nomad life, you can still dip a toe into the work-from-anywhere pool. As the long days of summer loom, you can plan travel that doesn’t interfere with your work while ensuring work doesn’t interfere with your travel. To get you started, here are our best, tested tips for staying on top of your remote work while traveling.
While jetting off on a month-long tour of Europe sounds amazing (like, really amazing), it probably shouldn’t be your first foray into WFA. Ease into it with shorter trips that are closer to your home base. You’ll benefit from the sense of familiarity, and eliminate hassles like endless layovers, changing currency, or consulting Google Translate to ask for directions to the nearest internet café. Save your more exotic adventures for a time when you’ve become more seasoned at working while traveling and when pandemic restrictions have eased in far-flung locations.
No, I’m not talking about extra toothbrushes and swim trunks. I’m talking about all the gear you need to complete your work seamlessly while on the go. You don’t want to get to your dream cabin in the woods and realize you forgot your laptop charger. Make a list, check it twice, and don’t skip any of these essentials:
Laptop, tablet, and phone: Or any device you work on from home.
Chargers: Phone chargers, laptop chargers, tablet chargers — trust me on this, and pack an extra. Maybe two.
Accessories: Pack a wireless mouse and mousepad, and possibly a keyboard, if you prefer working on your tablet. An SD card is handy if you need to access and save large files, and an external battery could be a lifesaver if you can’t access an outlet.
Noise-canceling headphones: These will ensure you can focus when you need to.
A luggage lock: Keep your work equipment protected when you leave your room or rental, or use it for storage lockers, bus travel, etc.
Your biggest must-have when working while traveling? Wi-Fi. Reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi is the pixie dust that makes your work-from-anywhere dreams take flight. Before you book your cabin, cottage, suite, or condo, inquire about the internet situation. Do you have access to a private, protected network? Does it meet your speed/bandwidth needs? Are there nearby locations you can go to get online in the event of an outage? As a backup, add a mobile hotspot plan through your phone provider, so you can have that available in a pinch.
You’ve got to get your work done, but you also want to make sure your vacation feels like a vacation. Members of the WFA tribe typically have a better overall work/life balance, but it takes practice. Having it all means doing it all, and you might have to work out a few kinks to get it right. Here are some tips that will make the balancing act a bit easier:
Block your time: Schedule hours dedicated to leisure time, work time, family time, and adventure time, and stick to it. You don’t want to be checking work emails while hurtling down a waterslide with your kids. Give yourself time to make memories and explore while also allowing time to buckle down and complete tasks.
Manage notifications: Want to listen to that true-crime podcast while lounging by the pool? Shut off your work notifications, kick back, and enjoy. It’s okay to disconnect once in a while; just remember to reconnect when you need to be on the clock.
Communicate with colleagues: If traveling will impact your normal working hours, be sure clients and colleagues understand changes to your schedule before you go. Make sure they’re aware of times you might be unreachable, and times you won’t be able to respond. Consider travel times as well, such as when your phone might be in airplane mode or you’ll be behind the wheel and hands-free.
Meet Your Deadlines: This should go without saying, but you need to allow yourself plenty of time to complete your tasks. Work ahead as much as you can and build in more time than you need at home. That way, if you want to linger just a little longer to catch the sunset over the mountains, you can do so without stressing about looming deadlines.
As the trend toward the digital nomad and WFA lifestyle grows, coworking facilities are popping up all over the place. Shared office spaces provide a quiet, dedicated work environment, along with lots of outlets, high-speed internet, and usually, a communal coffee pot. But more than that, they offer a community of like-minded professionals who can offer support or just work quietly alongside you in the same space, encouraging productivity. Some coworking organizations even offer help finding places to stay, scheduling itineraries, and booking activities and tours.
As states across the U.S. and countries around the world struggle to boost lagging tourism in the wake of the coronavirus, many are looking for ways to make their destinations more appealing to the WFA set. With a little research, you might find discounted extended-stay accommodations and vacation packages designed with remote professionals in mind. Some locales are easing up on visa requirements and even helping with travel expenses to encourage more professionals to plan a “workcation.” Check out the tourism bureau in the destinations you’re considering before you travel to find opportunities to see the world and save money while making money.
The working-from-anywhere ideal may seem foreign and unrealistic, especially for professionals who are relatively new to remote work. When I started my own journey six years ago, I perceived the lifestyle as being exclusive to young, child-free, and carefree individuals. But trends are changing, and today’s digital nomads are older professionals (a majority over the age of 38) who get the whole family involved. Many, like me, opt for a hybrid approach, working from home a large portion of the year while sprinkling in a generous amount of travel. However you plan to approach it, your goals are attainable. You just have to take that first step and start down the path that might just change the way you work…and the way you live.
After the events of 2020 derailed two planned international trips, my sights are set a little closer to home this summer. But I continue to enjoy the freedom of working wherever I want while exploring my own little corner of the globe. Next summer, I hope I’ll be writing another blog like this from the beaches of Sicily. Until then, working and adventuring my way through the U.S. feels like a pretty terrific consolation prize. Want to join me and others who’ve embraced the work-from-anywhere lifestyle? You might just find your launchpad with First Page! Check out our current job openings and get to work…from wherever you like!