Working remotely while travelling the world is NOT a holiday and it is NOT as glamorous as you’ve been led to believe. Just kidding, being a digital nomad absolutely rules. However, doing it from the back of an Escape Campervan does present some unique challenges. Here’s what I learned from trying to keep up with my copywriting and travel journalism gigs on a 12-day road trip from Las Vegas to Denver.
1. Plan your internet access before you go
I foolishly thought I could roam with data on my Australian mobile phone contract. The price ($5 per megabit downloaded) said otherwise.
Next time, depending on my route, I would consider purchasing a prepaid 4G modem from one of the major US telcos, since tethering your laptop to your phone’s 4G is blocked by many providers here.
2. Plan your Wi-Fi and charging stops
Even a 4G modem isn’t going to help you once you get out into nature. Once you get out of big cities and towns, cell service becomes much patchier, to the point where it’s rare to camp in a National Forest or National Park campground with reception. Charging can be just as difficult a proposition, though a lot of campgrounds have outlets for RVs.
That means you’ll have to plan ahead when it comes to internet access. Especially when you’re out in the middle of America, you can’t always count on cafes and restaurants having Wi-Fi, so use the first Wi-Fi you find to plan the next one on your route. If it doesn’t say on their website, try searching Tripadvisor reviews. If all else fails, McDonalds and Starbucks are dependable standbys.
3. When all else fails, go to the library
Yet even the chains aren’t 100 percent reliable. A deadline was pressing down on me when I rocked up at the Page, Arizona Starbucks, only to be told that their Wi-Fi was down.
Luckily, I had seen the signs to the public library on the way into town and was able to hightail it over there. I was rewarded by free internet, an oasis of calm on a 40 degree desert day and what must be the most scenic reading room in the world.
Libraries are also a great place to get a sense of what’s happening in the local area: in Page, there was heaps of information about events run by the Navajo community.
4. Go old school if necessary
Depending on what your job is, you might be able to forget about Wi-Fi and charging for a little while. I wrote half a 1,250-word travel feature without either. How, you ask? By writing it down on paper with a pen. Shocking, I know. But that’s how everyone did their writing until about 150 years ago. The lack of internet even sharpened my concentration and the process of transcribing it into MS Word afterwards allowed for easy editing.
5. Don’t mess around
Speaking of concentration: focus on your work. Don’t use your valuable internet pit stops to scroll endlessly through social media (unless you’re a social media manager, of course). The whole point of doing this work is to support your travelling lifestyle. I like to use an app called Forest, which stops you using your phone for a certain period and rewards you with a cute little tree. Yes, I have used Forest in a forest.
6. Be realistic about your workload
Finally, be pragmatic about how much you’re going to get done. Even my work, which only required a few hours a day, meant I didn’t get to do everything I wanted. Don’t take on a full-time workload; go out and enjoy your road trip instead.
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