“Routine,” wrote the English poet W.H. Auden, “in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”
With respect to Auden, he preceded the internet. The world has changed somewhat.
He couldn’t, for example, have foreseen the current explosion in mobile entrepreneurs and digital nomads.
In a world where time zones are as transient as employers, a new breed of worker is emerging, for whom flexibility – and not routine – is a key indicator of thriving enterprise.
What unites these experienced air travelers is the opportunity and desire for a global experience. They travel light. They’re tech-savvy. They shun salaries.
But how do they keep themselves properly organized while running their personal and business lives all from a laptop?
“It’s tough,” says Travis Bennett, founder of nomadstack.com, a resource hub for digital nomads. “My advice is to use apps that sync across your devices, like Evernote, so you’re able to take notes as soon as they come to you, no matter where you are.
“There’s so many things you need to think about when you’re constantly changing locations, the last thing you want is to have things slipping your mind, like a scheduled call with a client, or a job that needs to get done.”
Brendan Binger runs a remote web design firm and his wife Samantha is currently launching a drinkware company. At the same time, they’re busy exploring the Pacific North West. The couple are big on cloud computing.
“With frequent travel comes the risk of loss, damage, or theft of digital devices. Keeping all of our software and data 100% cloud-based ensures that should the worst happen, we simply purchase a new laptop or device, log in, and we are back up and running.”
So the cloud is king. Most people know of the everyday benefits of Google Docs, Slack and Dropbox, but here we share some other tech tips from digital nomads that will keep your life in sync on the move.
“Many people fantasize about traveling the world and working on their book, starting a business, or doing freelance work… but there’s no good way to figure out how financially feasible it is,” says Nat Eliason. “Well, there wasn’t. Until I built one.” Nat describes himself as ‘a writer who procrastinates with coding and entrepreneurship’. You can pick up your own copy of his Runway Calculator here.
When digital nomads find somewhere they like, they stick around for a bit. Often this means buying local SIM cards, but it’s a hassle to keep updating contacts with your numbers. Google Fi, on the other hand, gives you service anywhere in the world. “The plane lands, airplane mode goes off, and… service. It’s that easy. Flat fee is $20/month plus $10 for each GB of data used. I rarely go above 2GB here, so I’m paying $30-$40 a month for service anywhere in the world,” says Charles Chu, founder of thought collective The Open Circle.
When people dream of living a more nomadic life, they often get hung up on the details such as, ‘What about my mail?’ With Earth Class Mail, you get your home mail re-routed to an office which opens it and securely scans it for you, then send you an email to review. This way, you can check mail and postal at once, and travel freely without missing a letter.
The nomads we spoke to emphasized the importance of keeping personal and business banking separate to spare yourself accounting headaches. Serial entrepreneur Nishchal Dua, who’s currently building travel and work community The Remote Life, recommends always having two personal bank accounts (or ATM cards) that are linked to online banking. “Carry one card on you and leave the other at your hotel or lodging. Before you set off, remember to inform your banks that you’re going to be doing some travelling so that the transactions don’t seem suspicious.”
Chrys Tan, founder of Women Digital Nomads, says: “Before going on a trip, I always scan my passport, travel visa, flight confirmation and other important documents and store them in my Dropbox folder. That way, even if I lose my passport or any important document, I can simply use any computer to access my Dropbox folder and retrieve a copy of them.”
This clever tool lets you use the internet securely, and as if you were in a different country. So you might be swerving censorship in China or tying to use Spotify on iOS in India. If you’ve ever been hacked you’ll understand the importance of security when bouncing between public WiFi in different locations.
Lindsay Orr, who’s spent the last year moving across the globe as part of a program called www.remoteyear.com, recommends this app. “It’s crowdsourced and includes cafes that allow you to work from anywhere in the world. It rates locations by WiFi strength, cost of food and drink, amount of chairs, amount of outlets, etc.”
This gives you a slick visualization of the disk space usage on your computer so that you can delete the biggest, unused files first. For freelancers who process upwards of 15GB per project, this is a lifesaver.
For Kari DePhillips, who runs a digital PR agency and is one half of digital nomad blog workrationing.com, it’s good to at least appear to be in the right time zone: “When I’m traveling, I use MixMax to schedule out my emails so it doesn’t look like I’m working in the middle of the night. Even though clients know you’re in a different time zone, it sends a weird message when your emails are time stamped at 3am,” she says.
“You need to keep time bearings when moving around.” says Sean Desilva, who runs a midwestern cleaning business from Thailand. “World Time Buddy shows me four clocks and generally keeps me mentally in the right time zone. Digital nomading is great fun and if you can be the boss from home, then why not another country? Just get the internet situation and timing right and you’re golden.”
For James Hunt, originally from London but in Chiang Mai at the time of writing, keeping organized is a matter of filing information by location. James runs liveworkfit.com, a series of one month ‘co-workation’ retreats for location-independent entrepreneurs, online business owners and digital nomads from all over the world: “Trello is one of my favourite tools for planning – I have a basic board structure covering things I need to research – Hotels, AirBNB, co-working spaces, gyms, things to do, visas. I then make a copy of this board for each location I go to so I can jump in and out of research and add things as I find them.”
The more successful they get, the more distractions digital nomads have. There’s invoices to chase, expenses to track, sub-contractors to keep an eye on and tax bills to pay. It makes good sense to keep this all in one place.
Pick up tips, tricks and good vibes from fellow travelers.
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