Programming while traveling. How to be a coding nomad?

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work and travel. a man working in travel

It’s the second year after COVID and I believe no one is seriously thinking about coming back to the office and working as we used to! Time to accept this new reality and either keep working from home, or take your laptop with you and start writing those lines of code from mountaintops and remote beaches. We have plenty of opportunities for work and travel, so let’s make the most of it!

Is remote work here to stay?

Before we dive into the discussion, let’s first look at some statistics:

  • Stanford’s researchers found – in 2017! – that companies allowing remote work saw a 50% decrease in resignations.
  • According to research, even 83% of employees reject a job offer that wouldn’t let them work flexibly, and more than half of workers prefer to be able to choose their place of work, instead of working for a prestigious company.
  • Flexible work can help employers save about $11,000 a year per person who spends half of their time working remotely.

Based on this data, businesses around the world are likely to not only allow, but actively encourage employees to work from home. Which means that you can start planning your work-and-travel schedule, because that’s not the future, it’s already possible.

The challenges of being a digital nomad – how to effectively combine work and travel

Although traveling and working seem like a great idea, the reality isn’t flawless. You’ll face many challenges that will make your life more difficult.

Screen real estate is a big one. Every developer I know (myself included) has at least one external monitor (27 inches or bigger). This requires some adjustments. 

Time zone might be a barrier as well. If you stay within, let’s say, a 2-3 hours difference, it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you choose to move from Europe to the USA, or to Thailand, it may be more challenging. You couldn’t do so with most jobs. Sometimes you might need to work in the middle of the night, to talk with your teammates or your boss, so make sure you are able to do that.

Another challenge that you may encounter is finding a comfortable, healthy and quiet working space. Depending on the place you choose to work from, your surroundings may be pretty busy, which may make it hard for you to participate in calls with your team without getting interrupted. You should find out beforehand if a place suits you in those terms, and make sure that you will be able to properly work there – at least with the help of noise cancelling headphones.

As a trial run, I’d recommend taking one day working from home each week and trying to avoid using any external peripherals that you can’t take with you outside your home. Try to find a way to work comfortably without these things. And be aware that you may need to buy more equipment, such as wireless headphones or an external travel monitor.

Accessories useful for work and travel

  • Active noise-canceling headphones – They can come in really handy since you might not be able to always get a quiet place to dial in for all the meetings you have. They help you to filter out the world around you, no matter where you are, and focus on your work. The best one fits even to the air pressure around you for the best effects.
  • Power! You need electricity to work. Buy power banks, car charges (if you are planning a road trip), solar chargers, and other power providing tools.
  • Internet! Buying a mobile router is a necessity. The smaller, the lighter, the better. I’d recommend a small device with LTE capability. The less weight you carry, the more options stay open for you. When you don’t have to carry that much stuff, you could even work from a tent. If you don’t want to buy it, there are companies that lend these devices with an internet package. Their price varies based on the country you go to, the data package you choose, and the stretch of time you need it for.

router photo

Depending on the country you are planning to visit, you may have different mobile internet options. If you stay within the European Union, you probably will have a few Gigabytes paid from your country’s mobile operator. But it won’t be a big number so watch out for the high costs! If you plan to stay in one place without wifi longer, it might be best to buy a local sim card with an internet plan. Be aware of that and do your research before going anywhere.

How to enjoy being a coding nomad and keep your teammates happy?

Communicate your limitations (e.g. time zones)

Remember to tell your teammates in advance at what time you will work and be available. It’s important that they know at what time they can reach you in case of an emergency or questions concerning the tasks you all fulfill.

Set time aside to casually chat with your team

When you were working from the office or your home, you probably at least chatted with your teammates from time to time. The most efficient team is a well integrated team, so don’t forget about your colleagues. The work is not only more productive but also a lot nicer when you have good contact with the people you work with.

Learn about the place you’re going to to avoid surprises

Story time: a colleague of mine went somewhere in Spain, I think, and we could hear disruptively loud calls to prayer every morning during our daily standups. My colleague’s Airbnb must have been right by a mosque! To avoid similar surprises, learn about the city, culture and its people, so you won’t get shocked and won’t miss any adventures!

Make sure to leave yourself enough time to sightsee and soak in local culture

What’s the point of working from an amazing place if you don’t have any time to get to know it? Plan yourself a schedule of work that you will stick to and leave some space only for doing tourism. You should also plan it in advance, as some places have traditional events that happen only once in a while, and you wouldn’t like to miss them!

So can I work and travel?

As you can see, travelling and working simultaneously is possible, but to do that properly and get the most from it, you need to prepare yourself both with the right devices and the right plans. The winter is coming, so don’t be scared, get prepared and spend some time in a nice warm country, instead of staying at home! Enjoy!

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