Congratulations! You’ve decided you’re ready begin a Digital Nomad lifestyle and are about to embark on your first long-term trip. It’s daunting, I know. Especially if you’re not self-employed and work for a company in a 9-5 setting. Not knowing what to expect or potential situations that could arise are major stressors and Digital Nomad concerns.
Questions that kept me up at night before my first trek included “How will I make calls and be in touch with my co-workers and clients overseas?” and “What if my boss resents me for being an inconvenience?”
These doubts and questions are totally normal, although many of these problems are easily solvable and MUCH less stressful than you think they will be.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
How DO I stay in touch with clients and co-workers?
This one’s easy. There are endless programs and apps dedicated to providing seamless communication between parties, whether it’s internationally, or just in different timezones. Prior to leaving the United States, my company used a program called GoTo Meeting to communicate with clients, but since then, I’ve discovered UberConference, which has changed my life. Such clear quality (and free!) conference calls across the globe. Highly recommended.
Did you know you can make audio and video calls through Facebook for free? Well now you do. Again, Facebook Messenger calls are extremely clear, in fact, they’re clearer than when I use my regular data calls to my mom when I’m in the U.S. The easiest part is, most people already have the Facebook Messenger App already downloaded so there’s no confusing sign-up process involved.
The Time difference
First thing’s first: Manually change the time on your phone to your destination’s time zone as soon as you board the plane. This will exponentially help ease jet lag and get you in the right frame of mind once you touchdown.
As a personal preference, I have found that it’s also easier to keep my laptop clock set to EST, the timezone of the agency I work for. I have found it’s sooo much easier to open up my computer when I’m working and automatically know what time it is in the States – especially since all of my meetings are still scheduled in EST time.
Also, add the World Clock Google Calendar widget to your desktop. I spent far too many hours looking up time changes and counting forward and backward on my fingers before I learned about this secret.
I am generally a pretty social gal, so you can imagine my trepidation when I realized I’d be traveling 8,000 miles away where I didn’t know a single person. The best and easiest recomendation I can give to someone in that situation is to join as many Facebook groups for expats and nomads as possible. If you’re a solo female traveler and haven’t joined the Digital Nomad Girls Facebook group yet, what are you waiting for?!
Not only will you meet and connect with fellow Nomad Ladies, but you’ll gain useful insight on things like health insurance for travelers, where to find tampons (Yep, in some countries, they aren’t plentiful), how to vote abroad, and other expert advice.
If you plan on making Chiang Mai your first trip as a Digital Nomad, join these Facebook groups first:
Your Clients Hate You for Leaving
Let me tell you, the Digital Nomad guilt is REAL.
Even if you complete all your necessary tasks on your to-do list, you’re going to feel guilt about not being in the office and accessible at all moments of the day by coworkers and clients.
But you know what? It’s a blessing in disguise.
I think the American work culture makes you feel like you have to be “on” at all times and always available when a client needs something and it’s simply not true. Whether you’re sitting in an office, or working from a rooftop overlooking the mountains of Thailand (like I am now) you are not required to be at the beck and call of others 24/7. And you shouldn’t feel bad about it if you decide to take a stand against it.
Now that I’m not so available, those who work with me have adapted and now respect my time more. No longer are the texts at all hours of the day interrupting me, expecting me to drop what I’m doing, but now I get consise emails outlining what specifically they need from me in a professional format.
I’ve never been so efficient as I have been while working 8,000 miles away! How crazy is that?
FOMO = Fear of Missing Out.
If you’re lucky, you get to have co-workers you become incredible friends with, like I do. FOR REAL. Come work at The Modern Connection in Charleston, SC and you’ll find a rare team of individuals who genuinely like each other and work together to create awesome projects.
But with having a bomb work culture, comes with terrible FOMO when you leave.
The most popular worries when it comes to not putting in daily face time include: not getting a promotion, your peers will respect you less, or feeling forgotten. When I decided to be a Digital Nomad full-time, the hardest part has been preparing to ask my supervisor and boss. I put some feelers out to a co-worker on Gchat about what she thinks and if there has been any animosity or noticeable difference in my work and she said:
“Well other than the fact that we miss you, I don’t think there’s any difference. In fact, I feel like you being away has seriously improved your work ethic. Like you can just tell that you’re super happy in everything you do now.”
And that’s when you know you’ve made the right decision, folks.
Tuning out Distraction
This is a biggie. I was convinced, as were my parents, that I was going to be too distracted trying new restaurants, walking the night markets, checking out temples during the day, that I would forget my actual purpose: to work and keep earning a paycheck to afford this nomad lifestyle.
But I’ve found that it’s the complete opposite! Because I am so thankful and appreciative of this opportunity, I make sure to go above and beyond so that I can keep doing my thang around the world. Actually, I have a secret (don’t tell my boss, shhhh) I usually get the same amount of work done in about 75% of the time. Meaning, because I’m not distracted by gossiping with coworkers, taking coffee breaks, unessesary meetings that could be emails – I get an 8 hour work day finished in about 6 hours and sometimes it’s even less than that.
It turns out I had a right to be fearful of distraction as one of my Digital Nomad concerns, but it certainly wasn’t while I was traveling…
How to Turn “Off ” Work
There’s obvious benefits to leaving the 9-5 office culture, but one of the biggest drawbacks is how to draw a line between when the work day starts and when it stops. This is especially true if you work with a team in another time zone. You have to decide with your team if you will be working on your destination’s time zone, office time zone, or a mix of both. I chose the latter.
At a 12 hour time difference in Thailand, I begin my work day around 4:00pm and work until around 12:00am midnight. This gives us an overlap of 4 hours where we can communicate with each other in real time with no difficulties.
It’s important to outline your avaibility time and let everyone know when they can reach you. This will maximize efficiency, and for lack of better words, force others to write everything they need from you and your tasks in one complete email. Instead of a text here, a Gchat there, an email here, and a post-it note left on my computer there…. which was an average day when working in the office 😉
Not Having Office Materials
Meh, I’ve rarely found that this is a problem so far in my journey. That’s the best part of technology, right? Everything is digital! If you do need access to traditional office materials or machines, your best bet is to join a coworking space. For a relatively small fee, you can pay monthly or daily to work and have access to a printer, desk, private Skype rooms or conference rooms to hold meetings remotely.
I hope this eases a few of your Digital Nomad concerns and if you’re considering becoming a Digital Nomad just BUY THE TICKET ALREADY!