Tips for working as a digital nomad
After starting my business Brandmerry in 2016, my husband and I knew we wanted the flexibility to travel like a digital nomad.
We spent about two years taking extended vacations until we sold our home in 2019 to travel full-time in a 36-foot RV. To say I know a thing or two about traveling and working is an understatement.
I’ve witnessed the pros and cons of working while traveling or fully embracing the digital nomad life (aka working and living in new places).
After 2020, more and more people are seeing the possibility of working from just about anywhere. Whether you’re going all-in on starting your own business which gives you the freedom to work from anywhere and create your own schedule or you’re able to work digitally for a company you’ve probably thought about working from a beach (let me just says it’s everything you imagined).
So, today I want to share with you my top tips for starting small and taking an extended vacation/ work trip, that’s equal parts work and play!
If you prefer to listen to the podcast episode where I chat more about this and share some examples and funny stories, be sure to tune in here.
Digital Nomad Prep List
Personally, when we travel we prefer Airbnb because it allows us to take extended trips and have everything we need. Recently, we spent two weeks in St. Croix and our rental had an awesome living room, kitchen (fully stocked), bedroom, patio and great location.
We are a family of three, and our son is five so we want a home base to play with toys and tune in to cartoons in the morning so we can not only keep a routine but also get some work done.
For this reason, we love renting apartments or full homes. Hotels could work as well depending on the needs of your family and work.
When looking for an Airbnb we look for a few key pieces:
- Reviews on internet speed (more on this in a minute)
- Everyday essentials. Think kitchen supplies, access to grocery stores, television, games, etc…
- Location to town (this also help with the internet sometimes as you can go to public space)
- Designated workspace. Now, this is based on your needs, but if you have to do calls or need a private space you want to take this into consideration if traveling with others. I personally always want a way to work outside so outdoor seating is a priority for me.
Remember, you’re planning an extended work/ vacation trip, you’re not just piecing out for three days and planning to eat out every single meal, you’re going to need time to ground yourself, work and might want to save some cash along the way.
If you’re wanting to book an Airbnb for your upcoming trip you can snag $55 off with my code here.
Ok, now time for the BIG ONE! Internet matters and you want to do your due diligence ahead of time. After traveling full time for over a year across the United States I can tell you there really isn’t anything worse than thinking you’ll be able to work and not being able to because you can’t connect.
A few apps, fours hotspots and Google Drive later I’ve figured out a rhythm, but those headaches and tears were something else.
Take the time before your trip to plan this out.
A great way to start is to think about your schedule.
Do you need to work every day? You’re going to want it at your rental or hotel.
Do you have an important meeting one day on your trip? Consider finding a coworking space.
Can you work from just about anywhere with no need for privacy? Hello, Starbucks (aka my second office).
There are a lot of options for finding internet, but doing so ahead of time will save you a lot of headaches.
Some of my favorite tips for this are:
- Check with the Airbnb listing or hotel. Don’t assume just because they have it that’s good. You can reach out personally to get the details and don’t be afraid to share your specific needs. Also, be sure to read any reviews on what others have said about the speed.
- Bring a wireless hot spot. Both my husband and I have extra hot spot data on our phone which helps for uploading and calls when we’re in a pinch. Obviously, you need to have data so check the coverage map before you head out. These hot spots allow us to work from some awesome locations like the beach.
- Find public spots with free wifi. Have you ever worked in a bar? Because I highly recommend it! As you get more and more into this life you’ll pretty much feel comfortable working from anywhere. Recently, my husband and son ate lunch which I took a client call in a courtyard in St. Croix – I loved it! As I mentioned before one of my most reliable suggestions is Starbucks or a local coffee shop – I’ve worked for 8 hours at a Starbucks in Florida before.
- Map out coworking spaces. While traveling full time in the RV I worked from a few coworking spaces when I had a full day of calls or a masterclass where I needed steady wifi. You do have to pay for these options, but if you plan correctly you could get a lot of work done in that 8-hour window and then have more time to explore.
If you do nothing else from this list DO. THIS. STEP!
PLAN TO TRAVEL SLOW
Speaking of planning correctly, it’s important to not try and do too much. When my family and I started our RV travels I assumed we could do everything. It became clear that bouncing back and forth vacation and work was not cutting it and I was much less productive and much more frustrated.
When planning your trip be sure to not try and do everything, every day. Take specific days to work if necessary and others to explore. If you’re able to extend the trip to take it even slower, do that.
We like to plan a week of vacation, i.e. no calls, no emails, etc and then a week of work and fun. During that week we do a lot because that’s the goal and then we’re a little more relaxed when I’m taking calls, answering emails and supporting my clients.
BE HONEST AND OPEN WITH YOUR SCHEDULE
It’s super important to keep your clients, team and community in the loop when traveling. Don’t assume they understand that you’re on vacation or will be away from your email.
I always let my clients know about any traveling and vacation at least two weeks in advance so we can get everything complete. Then, I let them know when I’ll be back and at what capacity. This helps because most of my clients love the flexibility to get in contact with me when I’m back, but I’ve found they tend to not bombard me with questions because they know what’s up.
It’s also important that everyone understands when you’ll be out of touch and when you’ll be working so set this boundary and schedule ahead of time and thank me later.
CLEAN BEFORE YOU GO
Don’t laugh at me for this one because it makes all the difference.
If you’re not a full-time digital nomad, meaning you live and work from anywhere and don’t necessarily have a home base this won’t apply to you. However, if you’re taking an extended trip and coming back to your home base you’re going to be tired.
My husband and I always say going back is exhausting. It always feels like a longer travel day, you typically get in late and you need a few days to reset.
One of the things we do before we head out is clean so when we come home we can easily unpack and then chill for a few days before life picks back up again.
Planning some time to do this while packing will make it so nice to come home to a clean house and get some rest before you’re back in it!
While On The Road or Beach
WORK IN THE AM
One of my favorite things to do as a digital nomad is work in the morning on my business and then leave the afternoon and evening to explore. This works great for my family dynamic as well since my son is usually the most occupied with his imagination during this time of the day.
Typically, my son and I will get up, get breakfast and workout (it’s important to keep your habits will you travel as much as possible). Then I’ll plan to work for about 3-4 hours depending on the plans for the day and when we get up.
I’ll respond to emails, check in with clients, write blogs, schedule content, respond to comments in groups, check-in with my team, etc…
Then, I’ll let everyone know I’ll be back tomorrow AM to answer any follow-up questions and away we go.
This simple change to my schedule has allowed me to spend full days at the beach, go on hikes, boat rides and more while still getting work done on the same day.
BULK YOUR DAYS
What this means is that I’ll write all my blogs on one day, record all my videos on another, handle all my calls on another and so on. Bulking like projects together allows me to focus and get more done.
This is especially useful when you have meetings and calls. Scheduling a call on a Tuesday and a Thursday and a Friday will eat into your time to explore.
I much prefer spending an entire day on calls and meetings and then not having to worry about them on another day so I can have some fun. If you’re able to plan your schedule accordingly it’s highly recommended.
I use Acuity for my business and that allows me to set my availability for my clients so I don’t have to worry about anyone booking on a different day.
GO WITH THE FLOW
I’m not going to even sugar coat it this was my husband’s suggestion!
And he’s so right. Look things are going to happen that are out of your control. Your internet might go out in the rainforest. You might have something urgent come up and have to write an email on the beach. You might spend your drive time to a hike chatting with your team.
One of the reasons I love being a digital nomad is how much it’s forced me to take the pressure off of perfection. Sometimes you just can’t control it and that’s one of the reasons I love to be open and honest with others while I’m traveling.
Sometimes that includes your family and expectations they might have around you not working.
Keep in mind that one of the benefits of this lifestyle, even if just a few times a year is that you’re truly experiencing the joy of working from anywhere. It might suck to have to answer that email at the airport, but at least you have the ability to do so!
BONUS TIP #1: GOOGLE DRIVE
I wanted to share with you two of my bonus tips for making the digital nomad life even easier.
Embrace Google Drive for all your freaking needs. I already use Google Drive to house all my content, videos, client information and more. This makes it easy for me to access anywhere I have internet access.
In addition, I can work offline to create something and it will later automatically save to my folder. This came in handy when we spent weeks living in Olympic National Park with no internet. Although I wasn’t working directly with clients at that time, I was working and I was able to write blog posts, video content and redo my free masterclass all while in the rainforest.
When we drove into town it automatically updated and I was good to go.
BONUS TIP #2: SEPARATE YOUR LAUNDRY
Sorry about another cleaning one, but make fun of me all you want! When we’re packing to return home we separate our clean clothes from our dirty. Now, if the Airbnb we’re staying at has a washer and dryer I will do laundry before we leave and just pack everything clean so it goes straight into drawers when we get home.
However, a washer and dryer aren’t always available so we separate our laundry before we leave. Then when we get home, no matter the freaking time of day we dump all the dirty clothes in the wash and get that party started.
My husband and I, while he was reluctant at first, has come 100% onboard, like to unpack, do laundry and restock on groceries within 24 hours of returning back to our home base.
This allows us to reset, recharge and get ready for our next adventure.
I hope this was helpful for planning your digital nomad life. Be sure to head over to Instagram and send me a DM. You can follow all of our travels on my Instagram @michelleknightco.
And don’t forget to tune into The Beautiful Climb podcast and subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes.