November 24, 2021 • 8 min read
A blast of hot air touches your face, and you squint your right eye open to take a peek at the sunlight streaming through the windows. Somewhat disoriented, you sit up in bed and try to recall something. Then you mutter, "Where the heck am I now again?"
Whether it was for a family get-together on another island, a friend's staycation birthday party at a local resort, or a short stint in another country for a workshop, it's always a bit disorienting to find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings during a workweek. But hey, if you get the privilege of having flexplace and flextime at work, you take advantage of it. No questions asked. Right? After all, if you can store it in the cloud, you can work on it anywhere in the world.
However, maintaining work output and sticking to deadlines while on the move may not be as easy as it sounds. Luckily though, here are some pointers that may help you enjoy that trip without compromising your productivity.
Much like every task or project, being prepared is a primary ingredient that makes or breaks your work trip. It may sound a bit cliched, but there's no downside to knowing what to expect beforehand. Not only will this help you figure out what to bring, where to go, and how to behave so as not to offend locals, but it will also help you budget your time and money wisely for the whole trip. Believe me. It's really easy to miss an important Zoom call because you didn't know your hotel didn't have stable wifi. Or you waste an entire afternoon because you took the wrong bus or train.
Also, consider the amenities you may need at each location. Are there any places nearby where you can grab a bite to eat or get your laundry done? Is the hotel or inn near the bus stop? And in case you need an alternative place to work, are there nearby cafes or co-working spaces with a stable internet connection?
Don't leave so many things to chance, or you might end up compromising your work output and regretting your trip instead of reaping its benefits.
Unless you're a covert agent with handy stashes of foreign currencies in secret locations around the world, you will need to find a way to access your funds conveniently while you're traveling. However, not all ATMs or banks have the same fees. If you're not careful, you may end up paying huge costs for the same transaction twice.
Fortunately, there are many international payment apps with e-wallets (e.g., Google Pay, PayPal, Venmo, etc.) that accept major credit and debit cards. There are also countries with local payment apps that you can connect to those international payment apps. For instance, there's WeChat Pay and Paylah in Singapore, Kakao Pay in South Korea, GCash and PayMaya in the Philippines, and GrabPay that's available in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Mind you, there are some countries that still mainly conduct business in cash. So be prepared to have a spot of local currency on you, in case you need it.
Just because you may find yourself in a different country or locale every week or so doesn't mean you can't establish daily routines to make sure you get your work done and still be able to go sightseeing. After all, one trick to becoming a successful digital nomad is to manage your time wisely. And yes, this is where you'll thank your lucky stars that you did some research beforehand.
How to accomplish this exactly? Religiously set aside work hours every day, so you don't miss anything, especially critical deadlines. Perhaps you can dedicate your mornings to work and then the afternoons for some leisure activities. If you're anticipating a long and stressful flight or commute ahead, then make sure to file those leaves beforehand or inform your boss that you plan to offset those missed hours at a later date. Or if you can, perhaps try to get some work done while in transit.
Also, don't forget to inform pertinent people when you're on leave, especially if you may be unreachable for a few hours or a day. Take note of your schedule and give some leeway for possible delays and other unfortunate circumstances. Lastly, check in with people as soon as you arrive or get settled... so you don't leave your teammates or clients hanging. And if you're traveling alone, it also helps if someone (anyone) knows where you are. 😉
Going on a work trip means you need to bring the appropriate tech. So when you're packing your luggage, prioritize the hardware (laptop, phone, cords, chargers, etc.) you can't do without.
As for your wardrobe, bring clothing appropriate for the climate or weather, of course, but be careful not to overpack. If you're going on a short trip, pack enough for those days. If you're going on a longer one, you can set aside time for a visit to the local laundromat for fresh clothes every few days. And for some extra space on that luggage, you can also learn how to do the "army roll" technique. 👍
Also, bring the appropriate bag. Make sure it's sturdy and secure enough to be able to carry the weight of all your stuff, especially if you have connecting flights or you're changing trains.
Regardless if you're staying for a month or only a few days in a location, you still need to eat and get enough time to rest. You're still human, after all. So make sure to inform your boss or teammates of your timezone so they can expect when you'll be available for work-related correspondence or short chats. And if you're traveling with friends, make sure to inform them of your work hours, too, so they know which hours you're going to be MIA.
In short, be transparent about your routine so you set the right expectations for the people around you, and there will be minimal misunderstandings.
Unless you're Sir Richard Branson with unlimited funds and your own private jet, you're likely to choose destinations with a specific purpose in mind. After all, regular people like us are heavily influenced by available funds and limited time. If this is true for you, then sort out your priorities from the get-go.
If a trip is mainly for work (e.g., conference, client meeting), then make that your top priority, with which all other activities around it are just dispensable bonuses. However, if the trip is primarily a social one, but you have a deadline to catch up on, then this is where tip #3 will be mighty handy. Again (and I can't stress this enough), file appropriate leaves and inform your team of times when you may be unavailable so people will know. Being unreachable without notice can be considered AWOL, and that's unethical behavior for a professional.
Don't lose sight of what you need to accomplish while you're at each destination and try to enjoy it at the same time... whether the trip is for leisure or work... or both.
Take advantage of opportunities to tick off most (if not all) goals on your list at each location. Make the most of each trip by setting aside time for you to do something for yourself, especially if it's mainly a work trip.
For instance, if you're in a locale where there's that historic building you've always wanted to visit or that hike to a cliffside with a scenic view you want to snap photos of, don't waste the opportunity. Jot those visits in your planner and make sure to follow through it, come hell or high water. Well, maybe not so dramatic but try to actually keep the activities that are for you. Trust me, it will make the trip not only enjoyable but also memorable.
After all, who knows when you'll be able to come back there? As they say, "Carpe diem, baby!"
Whether you're traveling mainly for work or leisure, and whether it's domestic or international (when things become much safer to do so), it's perfectly doable to be a savvy and productive digital nomad. You just need to get organized, be focused, and stick to accomplishing those essential goals on your list.
Line is a Content Writer at Arcanys. She's also an editor, a bibliophile, a collector of pretty knickknacks, and a versatile doer with serious OC tendencies. She loves the written word undoubtedly, reads creepy stories by Poe, and shows great enthusiasm for every project like an eager beaver.