We’ve been backpacking around the world for over 6 months now and while we sold our cars and rented our house out, savings do not last forever. Thankfully we anticipated this and brought along with us a rather small 11′ MacBook Air so that we could do a bit of freelancing on the road.
The laptop is small and light enough to fit in our backpacks as well as being reasonably powerful – enough to code and develop websites at any rate (which is what I used to do). The only thing it struggles with is storage space – but a couple of 64gb USB sticks also helps in that regard.
What we’ve noticed so far while travelling through the USA, Mexico, South America, New Zealand, Australia and Asia is that the Internet is pretty shocking in almost every country and continent (especially South America) and being able to work is really about hitting it lucky.
Below are my top 5 annoyances when trying to be a Digital Nomad.
1. Internet usage caps
There’s going to be a couple of these about the internet, but one of my worst “peeves” is internet usage caps – specifically 100mb or less usage per day. I’ve seen as little as 50mb usage in New Zealand (and NZ is one of the worst culprits for this).
Smart phones these days pretty much require 100mb of internet to power up (or so it seems)!
If you procrastinate before working on something and load Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at the same time you’re almost guaranteed to be over your daily usage before you’ve even received your first cup of coffee.
People of the world, I understand why you do it but please remove all bandwidth limitations and replace them with time limits instead. At least then we can get some work done.
2. The Holy Trinity – Coffee, Wifi & Power
Have you ever wandered into a coffee shop wanting to do some work or admin for your travels (after being assured by the waiter that wifi is available) only to sit down after ordering and finding that the wifi may work but the internet sure doesn’t! It’s a trap! And it seems to get me every time…at least you get to enjoy a good cup of coffee (maybe).
But it’s not just wifi you’re looking for, when you want to sit down and do some serious development you need power for that laptop. This narrows down the available options dramatically and makes searching for that holy trinity even harder..
Typically fast food chains would be the best options for the holy trinity, but even these sometimes fail. We’ve been to many a McDonalds in Australia and New Zealand and found no power sockets whatsoever!
3. Expensive Internet
In places where you need to pay for internet access (looking at you New Zealand) what really grinds my gears is extortionate amounts being charged for data. I understand it for 4g, cost of satellites, super convenient, really fast etc but for shoddy wifi it’s completely unacceptable to charge $20 for 2gb of internet that you need to use within 24 hours!
4. Missing the email exchange due to time difference
Here’s one that isn’t internet related (much)! When you’re working abroad you need to liaise with your employers in another country – when we were in Australia and New Zealand (even Fiji) we were between 10 and 13 hours ahead. This means either a late night or early morning email exchange/Skype call is required if you want to get things done quickly. Unfortunately if for any reason you miss this opportunity, it pretty much seems like a 48 hour delay and this can be incredible frustrating if you’re wanting feedback or changes to complete a project (and get paid!)
5. Not realising it’s a weekend
Bit of a strange one but when you’re travelling you quite often lose track of the days. Sometimes when you organise work and revisions it’s quite likely you’ll be working on things on the wrongs days or hitting the wrong deadlines. Multiple times I’ve sat waiting for a reply on a Monday only to realise after an hour that it’s still Sunday back home!
Thankfully there’s a few easy fixes for most of these problems (especially the Internet based ones!)
Get a SIM card everywhere you go.
It’s unbelievable how inexpensive these are and how good the coverage is. Recently I bought a 4g SIM card in Myanmar and had brilliant 4g signal on top of a pagoda watching the sunrise over Bagan at 7am.
Check out these websites BEFORE ordering that first coffee
Here you can sign up for free and see places where other digital nomads have worked. You can even see the internet speed and contribute your own favourite working locations. They even have a handy app.
Is a paid membership service but provides all of its research on working locations for free. Definitely worth checking out!
Check the time where your employer is before emailing!
This is simple – just Google “time in uk” or “time in usa” to get all times. This is especially useful if you’re in somewhere like Myanmar which is another 30 minutes of difference (just to confuse you more)!