Want to Work From the Road? It Ain’t Easy
A year and a half ago I moved from New York to London. I was freelancing at the time and wanted to take advantage of my “location independence” by traveling the world. After six months in London, I moved to New Zealand, and last month I took off on a two-month backpacking trip around Australia.
While the locations have changed, the situation has not: While I travel, I work. And you’d be surprised how much of my day is consumed with trying to find a decent Internet connection, schedule a Skype call or download documents. Travel and work is not all “lifestyle design.”
Get a smartphone
I used to scoff in the face of smartphones. Snorted at people walking down the street with their eyed glued to a screen.
But in real life? Don’t leave the country without one. Having unlimited access to my work email has proven to be the most useful thing since Twitter. It allows me to be stress-free while traveling as I can quickly answer questions, snuff out fires and network from the road without having to freak out about finding WiFi.
Research free WiFi
Speaking of WiFi, if you need the Internet to work, you need to understand most countries are not like the States. Starbucks WiFi is not free. McDonald’s WiFi is slower than molasses. My best advice on this one is to find a public library (I’m writing this from the State Library of New South Wales), as they usually have plenty of work space, free Internet and power plugs.
You could also get an Internet dongle to ensure you have a connection and/or the Free Wifi Finder, which — wait for it — finds free WiFi in the form of cafes, bars and galleries in your area. And a simple Google of, for example, “free WiFi Sydney” doesn’t hurt either.
Figure out payment methods
I keep a U.S. account for all clients still in the States, and PayPal works wonders, too. I do, however, wish I had found a bank before leaving home that doesn’t charge such horrible fees for taking out international money.
Bank of America has some decent partnerships, though I’d rather light myself on fire than go back to them. I’ve also heard HSBC is a good place to go if you’re a big traveler. I’m kicking myself for not doing the research as right now I spend at least $40 each month just on fees.
Get on MeetUp
The best part about traveling is the people you meet. But just because you’re meting other travelers doesn’t mean you can’t network, too. Even when I’m in a city for just a few weeks, I find an Americans in Melbourne/Auckland/London Meetup group I can join just to a) meet some people and b) network my face off.
Also ask friends or co-workers at home if they know anyone in the city of your choice, and if you’re a social media kinda guy or gal, put the call out there. I spent my first few weeks in Melbourne in coffee shops because I happened to know people who know people there. It’s been surprisingly good in terms of work and pleasure.
Working abroad right now or considering it? I have to say, even with these obstacles, I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s relatively easy to get a working holiday visa to most countries and, especially in places like Australia and NZ, the economy is hugely better than in the States.
Just food for thought, yo.
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