The Digital Nomad:
10 Weeks On The Road And What I Learned

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Digital Nomad remote work workstation

When people think of working remotely, they believe it gives access to endless possibilities: working from the poolside or beach to having the freedom necessary to achieve life goals. From pajamas all day to thoughts of saving on childcare as your toddlers play in dulcet tones on the other side of the room. A study by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com revealed that 79% of employees would like to work remotely. Whatever your reason to work from home, I’ve tried working while traveling across the USA and and here’s what I’ve learned:

Our client-facing remote team is Awesome!

I meet dozens of new people each month. We hire irrespective of location. I meet people all over the world who say, “Yes, I am able to support the Eastern Time Zone.” They are happy and confident about their ability to do so. When we choose to work together, indeed – they do support 6 hours and more each day. They collaborate daily, building web and cloud based apps that sit atop large enterprise systems. They are part of tight knit agile teams working in two week sprints. They are coding, communicating and supporting client requests. I hop onto #Slack at anytime of the day and see lively conversations regarding tools, projects, best practices, games – everything. These are team members around the world – productive and supportive.

I live and support operations in the Eastern Time Zone. When in the Central Time Zone, it was very easy for me to support the East coast. But as I traveled westward, it was more and more difficult. By the time I was on the Pacific coast it was very challenging for me. From the moment I woke up at 6 am to about 4 pm, local time, I was working. It would take me two hours and several cups of coffee to get to full speed on most mornings. Kudos to my colleagues who do this on a daily basis.

Save travel to different home-base locations for the weekend

It’s best to keep your long travel days for the weekend. We traveled to five different areas of the United States this winter. We kept the long travel days for Saturday, so that if something went wrong we would have Sunday to get to where we needed to go. That way, we could start fresh on Monday.

Nothing is worse than being on the road on a workday, planning to be reachable and suffering some sort of connection outage. You are constantly wondering, “Is everything ok?” This makes you and everyone around you pensive. Sometimes there is no way to dodge a bad connection. When this happens, you can use your phone data and hotspot or take advantage of local wifi. Communication with your team is key; manage the disruption and enact an alternative communication plan if necessary.

Set expectations with your boss

Once we knew we were going away for almost three months, I told my boss, “I’ll be traveling but you shouldn’t notice.”

I did let my team know when I had black out days – days when I knew I couldn’t be reached.

I achieved my goal. Midway through my travels, my boss mentioned the North East and the snow storm I was supposedly experiencing. I happily said I was in California where it was 70 degrees and sunny.

Set expectations with guests, travel companions or hosts

We stayed with relatives and friends across the country. We let each know that we were working Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM Eastern. As we traveled westward, it was nice to have the afternoons and evenings to relax with friends. Since most of our relatives worked, it was easy to work during the day and come together and relax in the afternoons.

It’s important to set expectations upfront. Imagine how bummed your hosts would be if they planned lots of extra activities that you could not do because of work.

Plan to do sightseeing? Schedule PTO!

When planning this trip, we had grand visions of visiting lots of local attractions. A week in Phoenix? Sure I want to go to 3 museums and the zoo. A month in Northern California? That should be enough time to go to Oregon for the weekend, right?

Throw in last minute requests from the client and a bout or two with the flu, and there goes any extra energy. If you want to have focused time to see more “touristy” things, you should focus on it and plan to “be away” and not just working remotely.

Not in New York anymore: Mt. Shasta, California
Not in New York anymore: Mt. Shasta, California

In Conclusion

Would I work and travel across the country again? Definitely! With these tips in mind, traveling and working full-time can be done. But next time, I’ll probably do a 14 week trip and actually take a few vacation days in order to be a true tourist.

Have you traveled while working remotely? I’d love to hear about it!


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