5 Mistakes When Working Abroad
Becoming a digital nomad and working as you travel is an incredible experience and something that is certainly worth the time and effort to do and eventually master. But it would be remiss and dishonest to try and ignore the potential pitfalls and downsides that come with this type of living. If you are going to make being a digital nomad a reality, and enjoyable one at that, it behooves you to ultimately know what you are getting into.
Look, there is nothing in life that is perfect. Everything has good points and bad points about them, even your dreams. Once you achieve you dreams, you will realize that it is not everything you thought it was made out to be. And often people get depressed because of this. If you have ever gotten anything you ever wanted… a new car, the date you wanted, a trip to an exotic location… whatever it may be… I'm sure it didn't turn out exactly as you thought it would. But that is okay.
If you approach life from a mature perspective you will come to expect this reality from your dreams, and instead of fearing it, or getting depressed once it happens, you will plan for it and mitigate the less desirable aspects… all for the better.
So, let's take a few minutes and explore the downside of being a digital nomad and help you become a little more aware of what isn't likely to be so perfect. And from there, we can plan for how to address it or simply make do.
Some of these trials are very simple logistical challenges. How do you manage a business while traveling? How do you balance work and play? How do you deal with a family?
Here are some of the top mistakes you need to avoid:
1. Not Planning Your Trips
It is absolutely essential that you research the destination you're going to before you head off. It may seem more romantic to just get on a plane and go. But you will surely experience more headaches this way. You can do it… and if you are flexible and resourceful, you may just skate by with a few bumps and bruises.
By planning your trips, even just a little, you can make sure you've identified some places with free Wi-Fi and a power outlet to work from before it is too late! Not all places have great or even good Wi-Fi. If you are accustomed to the internet speeds in the US or even in other well developed countries and have done little traveling before, you will be shocked to see how slow internet speeds are in other less developed countries. You won't be getting gigabyte speeds or 50mbs even. You may be getting 10mbs or even dialup speeds… yeah… like the AOL days!
So, plan your work and your workplace accordingly. Take a hotspot if you need to and use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your Wi-Fi access. Do NOT access networks without a VPN and do not put your passwords into shared computers at hostiles. You are asking for identify theft. And there may be nothing worse than having your identity F'ed with while you are traveling internationally.
2. Working with Time Zone Differences
Dealing with the time zone differences is pretty annoying. It is a pain when you are traveling as it interrupts your sleep schedule, makes you groggy and limits your performance. It also makes it challenging to figure out travel logistics for when flights depart and arrive as well as layovers and all that jazz… adding stress to your travels.
Beyond the travel challenges, it also influences your ability to work effectively. Depending on where you go, you may only have a limited amount of time during the day to actually meet with people from your home country or elsewhere. Furthermore, if you need to speak with someone to resolve an issue, it often takes a lot longer, even via email, as there is a time delay when people will read your email and respond.
Imagine you have a virtual assistant that you give instructions to at the end of the night and you expect to start working on something right away at the beginning of the day, their time. You go to be, thinking work is being done… but instead they have a simple question that prevents them from taking action until you respond to them. You wake up in the morning thinking the task is done, but no, the task hasn't even begun because your VA had a question, they needed answer to before they would begin. Things can just take longer to do… remember that and plan for it.
Another big mistake is getting confused by time differences in different countries. You're going to have to work with people hours behind or ahead of you and this can make life pretty tricky when you're trying to arrange a Skype meeting or meet a deadline. Make sure that you avoid this mistake by using an app like ‘World Time Buddy' which will keep you in sync with your business partners and clients. Outlook also has features that enable you to schedule meetings using different time zones.
3. Plan and Plan for Things to Go Wrong
It's also crucial that you always have a contingency plan for in case things don't work out. In other words: know what you'll do if you get to the café and Wi-Fi is down. And know what you'll do if you get there and your laptop runs out of battery… Backups, backups, backups, is the key. Plan for things to go wrong, and plan to have a few backup options, extra batteries, extra cables, backup hard drives and cloud storage.
This can't be highlighted forcefully enough. Have backups! Keep local storage of all your files and keep copies in the cloud. Microsoft 365 offers unlimited OneDrive storage as an addon to 365 Business subscription for $10/m. Seagate and Western Digital offer 5TBs for around $100. There is no excuse not to be backing up your files. Make sure your host is also backing up your internet files daily, as far back as 30 days.
Make sure you have travel insurance, identity insurance, insurance for theft for your personal belongings, as well as damage like Square or AppleCare.
4. Not Bringing the Right Tools
Your tools are everything when it comes to working on the road. You need a computer that is light, powerful and has great battery life. And you need a good camera, a good mobile phone, headphones, a mini scanner or printer, etc. This is absolutely worth the investment and will make all the difference to the way you learn and work.
Make sure you get equipment that will support you in completing your work. At the very least, you need to be able to get work done. Secondarily, you need to get work done productively. You are not likely to have everything you need, or everything that will make your work totally effortless while you travel, but you can have what you need to get your work done productively. Remember that you are not likely going to be able to get parts or equipment as easily as walking into Best Buy or ordering off Amazon like you are used to. You may, but you also may need to make do without.
5. Not Balancing Work and Travel
Finally, don't make the mistake of working too much or too hard! Remember: you are out here to enjoy the country you're visiting and to explore!
It's up to you… you have a few options with this. You can work to travel… and by that, I mean, earn what you need to in order to travel.
Or you can really aim to build a profitable business and work abroad, traveling less frequently. You can even work where you are from if you so desire and carve out travel as part of your independent location lifestyle. It is up to you.
If you can do both, great, your objective can primarily be to earn the minimum amount you need to make your travel goals possible if you like. It's all about balance and what works best for you. There is no one way to be a digital nomad or to live a location independent lifestyle. Pick the one that works best for you and aim to keep these areas in mind to help you navigate the way that will work best for you. Enjoy the journey!