Are Remote Work and Travel Really a Good Mix?

The year’s drawing to a close and this has been playing on my mind. Especially since I’ve done a lot of it this year. Remote work and travel seem to go hand in hand… but sometimes I just wonder how well these two things really mix.

I’ve worked from home (read: “remotely”) for a long time. I’ve also traveled and worked, sometimes simultaneously. This year, I’ve really been abusing those privileges. Planned and unplanned stints to Spain, the Black Forest, the windy city of Hamburg… And constantly going back and forth to Ireland (thanks, Ryanair, I guess…).

The true beauty? Only a fraction of those journeys involved actually using my vacation days.

Amidst this traveling though, I wondered…

With all the extra stress and planning involved, are travel and remote work really a good match?

Is it better to sit at home and focus? With only the occasional stint to the coffee shop? In some cases, I’d say yes (at least for me). Then again, it often depends…

Successful remote work and travel

The fact that digital nomads exist tells us that successful remote work and travel probably does happen. Of course, a lot of that is self-reporting, so it should be taken with a pinch of salt. A nomad’s lifestyle often involves hopping from city to city, country to country. Very frequently, too. But is this actually feasible for the majority of people? Or would most of us pass out from the stress?

I’ll be honest here. If anything, I’m more of a part-time digital nomad. I don’t think I’d enjoy the hustle, at least not long-term. When it comes to work, I’m very focused, very proactive and communicative with my team: but add the extra stress of constantly organizing flights and sorting out accommodation, I think I’d go spare.

That’s just me though. I guess I’m more of an opportunistic digital nomad rather than a “part time” one. I use my remote work privileges to travel when the mood strikes.

How to (effectively) travel and work remotely

Okay, so remote work and travel can be done by some people – especially those who thrive on constant activity. But if you’re a remote worker who still wants to at least occasionally travel, it’s good to keep a few things in mind.

  • When it comes to a job -any job- remember: it’s still a damn job! You cannot shirk responsibility because, oh no, you’re now on a plane and there’s no wifi.
  • If you are “working on the go”, prepare for it. This is easier for freelancers than full-time remote workers, of course. If you’re traveling that day, let your teammates/clients know you won’t be available at certain times. Don’t just randomly disappear in the middle of the day.
  • Be equipped! If you’re traveling on trains and buses, make sure you have enough battery power. And enough mobile data!
  • Be mindful of timezones and adjust your worktimes/arrangements accordingly.
  • As always, communicate if you have any problems and let people know.

A lot of this is just common sense. Which unfortunately isn’t all that common.

Remote Digital Marketing Jobs and How to Land Them

Remote digital marketing jobs are common, right?

You’d think so. At the very least, online marketing positions give you the option to work remotely. It’s all about selling things online, after all.

When I started looking for my next full-time remote gig, I figured it was easy. The competition for any work at home job is fierce… but I’m a digital marketer. I have large skillset and experience to match. I thought I’d have my pick. To an extent, this was true. Yet most of the positions I applied for were office-based and location-specific.

Plenty of the positions I applied for had a “work from home” option. Usually one or two days a week. Compared to my current job, that just didn’t cut it. It’s a big leap going from a mostly remote setup to suddenly sitting at the same desk nearly every day. A MASSIVE leap.

Look at any standard job ad in the realm of SEO, social media or paid advertising. There are some exciting roles out there. Until you read…

Benefits: A beautiful office located in the heart of Berlin. Free coffee, tea, soft drinks, fruit snacks, games…

All well and good. If you’re comfortable in an office setup. For digital nomads or those who prefer remote working… it’s somewhat disheartening.

There’s an easier way to find remote digital marketing jobs

Don’t rule out remote-first jobs just because the competition is high. Chances are slim, but you never know. More importantly, remember: working in an office is the default. Most modern companies maintain outdated working methods because that’s what they know. Working remotely is slowly being accepted in many sectors. However, remote workers outside of the tech industry have organized “mobile” setups themselves… By asking for it.

Really? It’s really that simple?

Yes. Your prospective employer may say no… But really, that’s the worst they can say. Asking for a remote work environment is no different to asking about other perks or a bigger salary. Additionally, remote digital marketing jobs are best found in startups rather than big companies. Though if some corporate giant wants you, don’t be afraid to ask.

Successfully securing a remote setup

First things first: know what you want. Know exactly what type of remote setup you’re looking for. Do you want to be entirely remote? Are you happy to travel to their office at least a few times a year? Or… Do you mind going in on a weekly basis, one or two days? Perhaps you simply prefer having the option to work from home.

As with any position, read what they say about the job. Apply for it, sell yourself. Maybe slightly emphasis your remote working skills… But don’t overdo it. In addition:

  • As with any other job, emphasize your skills and how they can be applied to the position. Your employer doesn’t care about your desire to work from home. They care only about how you can contribute to the company.
  • Do not mention remote working straight off the bat. Only talk about it after you’ve discussed the role, your experience and your skills.
  • When you do discuss a remote setup, ask about their “work environment”. If you’ve held a remote position before, don’t be afraid to say it. Explain that it’s the style you’re used to.
  • Should your employer seem open to the idea, proceed.

This advice goes not just for online marketing, but any position that can theoretically be done from home. The main takeaway here is that you have to ask for some things. Remote digital marketing jobs are more plentiful than you think. You just need to be tactful!

Becoming a Digital Nomad – How Do You Make It Happen?

Becoming a digital nomad is often a slow, steady process. You don’t wake up one day and suddenly decide to start traveling and working remotely. For many, it happens gradually, step-by-step. Sometimes there are a few lucky accidents. For the most part, it is planned. The best part is that there are plenty of ways to switch over to the location independent lifestyle. For those interested in beginning this new adventure, there are several important points you need to cover before you jet off.

Any major lifestyle change takes a lot of mental and emotion energy. The nomad lifestyle is no different.

You can read all the blogs and articles you want on digital nomadism. You can follow the many well-known nomads on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc… But if you don’t actually take the steps yourself, you’ll still be sitting in that open-plan office.

If you want the nomad lifestyle, you need to be honest with yourself. Do I have the right skills to travel and work remotely? If not, do I have the attitude and initiative to learn them – and overcome the obstacles that may be presented to me?

And what are these skills?

  • The ability to put up with a high level of discomfort and frustration. As a nomad, you’ll travel a lot. You’ll plan trips that go awry. If you’re freelancing, you’ll deal with the trials and tribulations that it brings. You need to be incredibly stress-resistant. The same can be said for physical comforts: get used to sleeping on sofas, futons and having to use your mobile data efficiently.
  • The ability to be alone. Being a digital nomad means being alone sometimes. You’ll go to a new place, make lots of great friends and then leave again. Sure, you’ll stay in touch with them. Maybe meet them again occasionally. When you move on to your new residence though, you’ll need to make a whole new group of friends. And that’s not to mention the reduced contact you’ll have with friends and family in your home country.
  • The ability to work independently. You’re not just a digital nomad: you’re a remote worker (whether freelance or employed). You need to take your work seriously. You need to be proactive and disciplined: your clients and your company are counting on you. They won’t be looking over your shoulder. Additionally, they won’t accept many excuses for not handing in work on time or being communicative.

You must either have these traits or be willing to develop them. If you’ve never travelled much, then this lifestyle will be a big change from what you already know.

The first (basic) steps to becoming a digital nomad

If your job ties you to one place, becoming a digital nomad is impossible. If you work as a nurse in a hospital, for example… Well, they kind of need you there. You can’t fix bandages and take blood tests without being present. Not yet, anyway. If you work in a shop – the same applies. And a great many other places.

For some, switching to this lifestyle also means changing careers. And that can be a HUGE leap.

On the flipside, you may have an in-office job where you don’t leave your desk. Literally everything you do is on a computer. You’re surrounded by colleagues and you travel to that office daily. Good examples are accountants, programmers and even project managers.

The change here won’t be as big, but you may have to argue your case with your employer. Which brings us to the skills of remote working. And I would say…

One of the most important telecommuting skills is communication. Effective remote working is sloppy at best without consistent, clear communication.

When switching to a remote work environment, you must make sure…

  • You’re GOOD at clearly and proactively communicating over text, voice call, video call and email… Whatever method of communication your clients/employer needs.
  • If you must change careers, see how many of your skills can be transferred to a remote work environment. Are you a good copywriter? A visionary graphic designer? Or are you a diligent account? All of these are standard, well-paid remote jobs.
  • Know what you are looking for in a remote job (not just the other way around). In truth, it’s not that different from finding a regular one. You’re just not going to be physically present.
  • If your current job can theoretically be done remotely, see how easy it could be to make the switch. Your current employer may surprise you.

Remember: Having a remote job (whether employment or freelance) is an integral part of being a digital nomad. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, get learning!

Beyond work, know what the digital nomad lifestyle entails

You don’t truly know if you like digital nomadism unless you try it.  But let’s just say you’ve managed to become location independent. You work from wherever you like: your home, a coffee shop, whatever. You’ve got a full-time remote job, or perhaps a couple of steady clients. What then? Well, now it’s time to move.

This means being organized. You have to book flights. Take care of visas. If traveling to a country that doesn’t speak your language, you may have to learn a few words and phrases in a foreign tongue.

Becoming a digital nomad is about becoming a traveler. For many, it’s their first step on the path to becoming a global citizen. It can a beautiful, enriching and exhilarating experience. But you have to put the work in.

I Didn’t Appreciate the Benefits of Working Remotely… Until I Lost Them

At one point in my early career, I got bored of working remotely. I’d never worked in an office, so I was willing to try it out. I’m glad I did – but I will say I’m also glad I took up remote working again. After working two years in a standard office job, I started to sorely miss the benefits of working from home.

I seriously appreciate the benefits of working remotely now. It’s not something I’ll take lightly again… However, my two-year experience in an office was invaluable. It taught me a lot about different working styles, dealing with different people and how I can improve my general productivity.

After all, I thought the experience of working in a brick-and-mortar company was invaluable. Back then, I thought my CV was lacking because I had only been “freelancing” for a couple of years (years later, a job coach specifically told me not to play down my experience as a freelancer).

“Besides,” I thought, “I’ll obviously get paid more, get better benefits and be taken more seriously…” All for showing up at a specific time, sitting at a specific desk and keeping up appearances.

So I gave up freelancing and went straight into my first 9-to-5 job. And you know what? It wasn’t so bad: stable money, health benefits, even subsidized transport. It was great!

The first thing to go… Enthusiasm

I never liked school. Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy learning. In digital marketing, you have to keep updating your knowledge. But I didn’t actually enjoy going to school and being in the same place every, single, day. My new office was the same: I sat at the same desk for two solid years.

This type of routine works well for a lot of people. It gives them a sense of structure. Unfortunately, it made me feel trapped. All of my days blended into one. I lost track of time: life became a series of getting up, coffee, sitting, typing, lunch and going home…

The work was interesting, to a point. But that paled in comparison. I began to dream of days when I’d use my remote working benefits to sit in a new café down the street… Or take my laptop and work from a hotel room in Portugal.

“Forget it,” I told myself, “you’ve a proper job now. And more money than you’ve ever had. This is what “grown up” work is like. Deal with it.”

I realized how independent working remotely had made me

Remote work had turned me into a self-starter. As a freelancer, I had to be organized and make sure I knew where my work was coming from. I had to hit people up and do a bit of marketing. There was no one on my back to get me to do things. I had to be my own boss.

Working in that office had turned me into something else. I became content to wait for tasks. If there wasn’t much to do, we’d sit around and chat. I lost my proactivity… And only waited for directions from my manager.

Basically… I turned into an office drone.

Two years after started, I asked to switch to a remote working set up (Germans like to call it “home office”). It worked out well… Then I found a new job and thankfully, I can be as remote as I like.

I will never take remote working for granted again!

Are All Remote Jobs Flexible?

With remote jobs, flexible work options are a given, right?

Not necessarily.

The main difference between a telecommute position and one based in a office is really quite simple. Work at home jobs are just that – jobs where you work in your own home. All other aspects of the job are the same: you may still have to go to meetings, be available at certain times or even bend to someone else’s schedule.

Essentially…

’Remote’ does not always equal ‘flexible’.

It’s food for thought when you’re looking for new challenges. Admittedly, working remotely often does mean that you’re on a flexible schedule. Especially if your colleagues are scattered throughout different time zones. Often, you’ll have to adhere to only a vague or loose routine in order to facilitate efficient communication.

That’s why it’s important to look at the fine print before you decide to continue with that application.

Remote Jobs: Flexible or not? What I noticed when searching

Whether remote jobs are flexible or not depends on several factors. These are often the same factors that determine whether any other office-based position offer flexibility:

  • The nature of the job: If your job is tending to the needs of customers, you may be required to work in shifts. Call-centers spring to mind.
  • What your colleagues need: Your work could theoretically be deadline-based, but if your colleagues want you on call at certain hours, you may be required to work specific times.
  • Meetings: If you’re needed in a bunch of important meetings throughout the day, it could leave you with very little wiggle-room.
  • If the company is more traditional/corporate then it’s likely you’ll only receive a certain level of flexibility.

Not everyone who wants a work from home position necessarily needs to be on a flexible schedule. For many people, scheduled breaks and lunch hours are usually enough.

Types of jobs which may not be flexible

The Western world at least is moving towards a more flexible work mindset – which is a good thing! However as stated before, the nature of your job may only allow for a certain amount of flexibility. The following remote jobs may not offer as flexible a schedule as you might think.

Human Resources

You may need to be in regular meetings or on-call throughout the day to answer certain questions. This is especially true if you have a lot of different meetings throughout the day. If anything, remote HR jobs aren’t very different from the in-office variety: you just have the luxury of sitting at your kitchen table.

Customer Service

It probably doesn’t matter if you’re mostly answering emails. But if you’re on the phone to customers or chatting with them online, you’ll probably have to work in shifts.

Virtual Assistants

A lot of VAs actually work in accordance with a rather strict schedule. That’s because people need to know when their VA is available in order to speak with them, give them tasks etc.

While these are three of the most common types of job with limited flexibility, there are many more. At the end of the day, a job isn’t just about your skills or the specific tasks you’re needed for. You’re there to help a company get things done and grow: sometimes, that means less flexibility.

 

The Path to Location Independence

Maybe you can imagine how excited I got when I learned that location independence was actually a thing.

I mean, I got really excited. Having grown up in several countries, I never liked the idea of being tied to just one.

It does sound like a flight of fancy. Though practically speaking, it’s possible (especially for full-time digital nomads). Yet how many people actually achieve it? For the most part, it seems to be the domain of successful business people and/or the independently wealthy. Certainly, the rise of remote working as a more accepted style of employment has also helped. But for the individual who simply wants to choose where they live -regardless of employment- it can seem that bit more daunting.

mountains location independence
I wouldn’t advise moving to the top of a mountain, though. The wifi usually sucks.

Here’s the thing, though: Being location independent doesn’t mean you want or have to flight from one country to the next. Since you’re independent, you can choose to stay in the same damn place for the rest of your life.

That’s the whole point…

…your choice of location is up to you.

The Real Definition of Location Independence – and how to achieve it

Location independence can be considered a lifestyle. It means you’re not dependant on being a specific geographical location – for any reason. Of course, there are many implications that come along with this. Many take it to mean that they can work from anywhere, but it goes further than that: you don’t have family obligations, you don’t have property that you must oversee, there isn’t a wild tiger that you have to defend your bear cubs from, etc.

When talking about digital nomadism though…

The only factor limiting most aspiring nomads is the job they work to earn money, survive and live.

The truth is that even today, most companies don’t offer full-time remote work straight off the bat.

But for most people, the path to location independence requires work and planning. Just like anything in life. There are lots of industries that provide the possibility – in theory. But it’s not as simple as getting a new job.

Often, it helps to have a bigger plan:

  • Look at your current situation. Ask yourself just what it is about it that you don’t like. Do you hate going to the exact same building every day, at the exact same time? Does your daily commute knock ten hours out of your week? Look at these problems closely and see how they can be solved.
  • When thinking of career, consider whether freelancing is a viable option. The truth is, not everyone is built to be a freelancer. Or to set up their own business.
  • Would you be happier maybe with a mix of both? Perhaps commuting to the office one or two days a week isn’t so bad. You can do most of your work from wherever you want, but you still get a bit of facetime with your boss.
  • Or perhaps you really just want to get out there and see the world, and holidays are NOT enough. For digital nomads, this makes total sense!

For digital nomads, work and career are still highly important

As a digital nomad, you’ll miss out on a lot of career opportunities by refusing to be tied to one place. This is a sacrifice you’ll have to seriously consider. For those who find it difficult to get a full-time remote job, there are alternatives. Freelancing is one of them, but also consider contractual work.

If you’re in an industry that doesn’t lend itself to location independence, it may be time to switch careers. See what transferrable skills you already have – and apply them to something new. But with that we’ll give one small hint: don’t just go for a job because it’s remote. You must at least be competent at it and enjoy your work.

 

Europe Remotely – A Jobseeker’s Review

I decided to do a review of Europe Remotely for one simple reason: I live in Europe.

Germany, to be more specific.

During my job search, I found plenty of telecommute positions located in far-flung places. The United States, Canada, Australia… Even New Zealand (not that there’s anything wrong with that…).

I have no problem working for a company in a different time zone. I’m quite happy to compromise occasionally and work a few odd hours during the week. However, certain remote companies do seem to have an issue with me being in Europe.

How do I know?

Well…

’Remote – US & Canada Only’ frequently appears on job advertisements.

Not all of them, mind you – but this notice appears enough for it to get tedious. So I dedicated part of my job search to finding jobs specifically located in a European time zone.

When it came to platforms focusing on Europe… It was slim pickings. Then, I found EuropeRemotely.com.

Is Europe Remotely any good then?

I guess it depends on your definition of “good”. As a job board, it’s laid out in a pretty standard manner. This is the first thing you see when you log on:

europe remotely first page

I mean, it’s pretty much what you want. A list of remote jobs based in Europe… No fancy frills, nothing. As a job seeker, I didn’t really give a hoot. I scanned the list and looked for positions in my field (namely, marketing/copywriting).

And damn… There are a lot of tech and software jobs.

Which is good news for software developers, web developers and IT people. Seriously. If this is your industry, and you either live in Europe or don’t mind working for a European company then keep this platform in your bookmarks.

Scrolling down a little further though, Europe Remotely showed me this:

europe remotely first page 2

Ah, so they do divide it into categories. That’s handy.

After that… There’s not much else. Well, a blog with three posts. Thankfully, the jobs are regularly updated. Even for techies though, they are rather minimal. This platform’s definitely worth a look now and then but don’t rely on it!