4 tips for traveling while working

07/16/2017 11:55 | Mary McKee

Many bloggers write about how to work while traveling; there are even some translator-bloggers out there discussing this subject (most notably, see the posts by Jonathan Hine). I’ve worked as a Spanish>English translator for extended periods from a variety of countries (Thailand, Mexico, Cambodia, Argentina, Spain) and have put together some more advanced tips that took me a while to work out. My goal is to help you make your life more comfortable physically and mentally while you’re a working nomad!

  1.        Travel with the same work setup that you use at home. 
**If you work with just a laptop and use the touch pad that comes with it, skip to tip number 2. If you work with anything in addition to your laptop, keep reading!**
To stay in good physical condition while traveling, adapt your work setup to be as close to your home workstation as possible. If you work from an office with two screens, a mouse, a keyboard, your screen lifted to eye level, an ergonomic chair, etc. and plan to travel and work with just your laptop, you are putting yourself at risk for physical problems. I use a foldable external keyboard, wireless mouse, mousepad, a tablet as a second screen, and an ultralight computer stand when I’m at home AND when I’m on the road. My entire office setup weighs under 5 pounds. I’ve found lightweight, travel-friendly options for all of my ergonomic necessities and I use them while at home and while traveling, so my office feels the same to my body wherever I work.

2.       Always have a back-up internet plan (preferably two).

There’s nothing more frustrating than having your connection fail repeatedly while trying to log on to your cloud-based translation memory provider or your client’s online portal. Today, most accommodations offer wireless internet for free or a minor fee, but the strength and trustworthiness of the connection varies widely. It’s up to you to make sure that you can reliably connect to your clients and online resources.

Some people assume that they will be able to work in coffee shops. This is reasonable if you’re headed somewhere in the US or Western Europe. However, café Wi-Fi is insecure, unreliable, and putting your fancy computer gear out on a table for any passersby to see could make you a target for theft in lower-income countries. Be safe. Don’t parade your expensive goods in public unless you feel confident that you’re safe.

I use T-Mobile as my cell phone provider because I can use my unlimited data and texting plan around the world, for no additional cost. If my first (or first two) internet options fail, or I’m concerned about security, I can stream the data from my phone to my computer.

Another option is to bring a cell phone that uses GSM networks (in the US, T-Mobile and AT&T are the only two carriers whose phones are compatible) and buy a cheap SIM card and data plan to use while you’re abroad. Most countries have cheaper data plans than the US, and you can likely set yourself up for a few weeks for a very low cost (tax-deductible, but always check with your tax professional).

3.       Pick your lodging based on its table and chair options.

Even if you work with just a laptop and no peripherals, take some time when booking your lodging to make sure that there will be a reliable, suitable place for you to sit and work. Many Airbnb listings come with some kind of table and chair in your room; even private rooms in hostels often have some kind of surface and chair you can use. Don’t rely on public spaces in a hostel or hotel, because you don’t know who else might be using them when you need to work.

4.       Assume that outlets will be hard to find.

Regardless of where you stay or plan to work, assume that you will need to power your device(s) for an entire work session without the possibility of plugging into an outlet. There’s nothing worse than trudging to a café you’ve determined is safe and has strong internet, only to realize that your laptop battery is low and there are no outlets. If you use your phone or tablet for work, buy an external battery pack to bring with you so you’ll never have to worry about snagging that next job via email at strange hours while you’re in a different time zone.

Do you have experience working while traveling? Share your tips on Facebook or LinkedIn!

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