For better or worse, the worlds of work and recreation collide sometimes. Maybe you have to take an important meeting while you’re on vacation, or you need to finesse a conference presentation as the hotel pool beckons, or perhaps you’re traveling the globe for a year and pursuing consulting gigs along the way.
Happily, with the right gear and guidance, you can blend work and travel effectively. To do so, consider these tips from so-called “digital nomads” – professionals who successfully earn a living while globetrotting.
Sure, you can call in to that meeting from the beach, but will you be heard?
Too often, communication breaks down when a team holds a meeting in a conference room with far-flung members dialing in. Attendees around the table often can’t be heard above a whisper by those on the phone, while remote participants struggle to anticipate a pause in the conversation when they can jump in.
There’s a simple way to encourage smoother conversations, says Greg Caplan, CEO of Remote Year, a work and travel company that coordinates travel, accommodations, and workspaces for digital nomads.
“To ensure that each team member is able to participate in the digital discussion effectively, I recommend instituting the ‘All or Nothing’ rule, which says that if everyone can’t be together in a room for a meeting, everybody has to individually call in to the video chat privately,” says Caplan. “This puts everyone on the same playing field and doesn’t put the remote workers at a disadvantage because they aren’t able to physically be in the room.”
Get the right gear
Of course, strong Wi-Fi is a must when you’re working from afar. But don’t miss out on other tools to help you work productively on the road.
“Because I spend a good portion of my year away from the office, it’s imperative that I have the right equipment to ‘construct’ my own workstation,” says Michael Parrish DuDell, an entrepreneur and frequent keynote speaker who travels extensively.
For Parrish DuDell, that means always packing a 13-inch MacBook Pro, Roost laptop stand, Belkin battery charger, Apple Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, Jabra Elite earbuds, Muji recycled notebooks and Staedtler Fineliner pens.
“This can all fit in a small book bag and allows me to get work done wherever I land,” he says.
Beyond the hardware, make sure you’re prepared with travel-friendly productivity apps and programs, advises Katherine Conaway, coauthor of “The Digital Nomad Survival Guide.” Conaway relies on Google Calendar and Drive; Zoom; Dropbox; Evernote; Flow; and Slack.
Make the most of airports
If you spend even a little time in airports each year, it’s worth splurging on a credit card that offers access to the lounge for at least one major airline, says Parrish DuDell.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a popular choice. Parrish DuDell favors the American Express Platinum Card. “Besides providing a bunch of non-travel perks, it gets me into any domestic Delta lounge and a bunch of other partner lounges around the world,” he says.
Join a co-working community
If you travel frequently, consider getting a membership at a co-working space, advises Kate Smith, creator of The Remote Nomad, a blog about traveling and working remotely. Co-working spaces offer the opportunity to connect with like-minded people, access skillshare workshops, and attend various community events, says Smith. “It’s the easiest way to make ‘instant friends’ abroad,” she says.
You might even get to network with potential clients and pick up a new gig, she notes.
Smith recommends places like La Maquinita in Buenos Aires and Outpost in Bali. Other options include WeWork, with 335 locations in 83 cities across 24 countries.
Start in the right spot
If you’re planning a longer stint away, digital nomad ‘hubs’ like Valencia, Spain; Lisbon, Portugal; Medellin, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Chiang Mai, Thailand; and Bali, Indonesia are great places to begin. These destinations typically are safe spots with good WiFi, a wide variety of places to work from, a low cost of living, and a strong digital nomad community, says Smith.
Southeast Asia, with its strong cafe working culture, is a great option, adds Jenny Lachs, creator of Digital Nomad Girls, a digital platform connecting women around the world. “Most will not bat an eye to see people working in a cafe all day,” Lachs says. “It’s really something completely normal.”
Slow down a little
If you have the opportunity, savor your journey, experts say. “Much like slow food, I’ve long been a proponent of slow travel, spending six months to a few years in each new destination with different jobs,” says Tiffany Owens, creator of Modern-Day Nomads, an online community and resource for North American nomads.
“Instead of racing around the globe to fill passports and Instagram feeds in a sensory overload, slower travel provides an opportunity to more fully immerse oneself in and explore each new place.”
In other words, it shouldn’t feel like work.