Work While Traveling Abroad: the NuNomad

YES, it is very possible and likely if you prepare. If you have a profession, job or skill that is currently being performed on a computer or telephone, then you are a good candidate for the life of a nu nomad. (But don’t start packing your notebook computer and toothbrush just yet.)

Like any big step in life, you have to prepare for it. There are three primary areas of preparation for NuNo living:

  • Prepare your vocation.
  • Prepare your travel gear.
  • Prepare your mobile office.

Let’s start with the job thing. If you have a profession, job or skill that is currently being performed on a computer, then you are close. You should have already established a service or work record. If you are fresh out of school or have a dead-end job that cannot be performed by computer, by phone/telephony, or taken with you, then you have to (as my mentors have impressed upon me some time ago) “pay your dues first.” (Read on. The medicine is not that bad.)

Traveling with Your Established Source of Income

So, you have an established source of income that can be taken mobile? How do you begin to make your dream into a reality? Here are some preliminary tips to start having adventures while you continue to support yourself:

  • Remember that the more time spent in preparation up front, the less time you will spend in anxiety when your trip happens. Begin early – preferably more than 6 months if you’re planning for a long voyage – in planning as many details of your mobile office as possible.
  • Start small. If you have never worked from the road before, do a couple practice trips first. Take a 1/2 week vacation within your country of origin. Get a feel for what equipment you need/don’t need, how to find internet connections on the road, etc. Also get a feel for how you need to prepare your clients for your mobility.
  • Keep in mind peripheral activities needed to maintain your income. For instance, you will not only need to service your clients, but you will also need to be able to bill them, pay your own bills, maintain any licensure requirements, etc. If you are providing a professional service such as coaching or counseling by phone or internet, consult your insurance provider to understand their policies for practicing out of state.
  • If you intend to stay out of the country for an extended period of time, learn about tax requirements in your country of origin as well as in your hosting country before you go. You are on the cutting edge of a new workforce trend. Policies may be unclear.
  • Will you travel alone or with others/family? If you intend to travel with others, think about what they will be doing while you work. Do you need to set up child care? What will your spouse do with their time? You wouldn’t expect your seven-year old to sit in your office while you work all day – it won’t be different on the road.

The presentation of your travel plans to clients will be important. Be sure to send a message of reliability and consistency. Clients will want to know that you will be as accessible to them as you have always been and that they will receive high quality service. If you have already been serving them via the internet or telephone then your own travel should have a minimal effect on their experience. However, if you have been serving clients in person, the transition to telephone/internet will be more difficult. Consider transitioning to these methods first to establish your reliability for some time before you begin traveling.

What to Bring

What you will bring with you as a nu nomad is a bit more involved than that of the average traveler. In addition to the usual travel preparations and gear concerns (from immunizations to selecting the right backpack) you have a mobile office to configure.

As with your other key travel gear, you will want to select your mobile office equipment judiciously. Aside from the weight and bulk factor involved (which is a primary concern), there are other concerns such as functionality in certain climates (tropics and deserts can be a challenge to some), availability of service and parts, and cost. Remember, your notebook computer will be your office—respect the fact that it is going to be your primary business partner while you are on the road.

Mobile Office Gear

There are several key items that you will need to consider for your virtual office. Below is a partial list, followed by a more complete check-list.

Hardware

  • Notebook computer (preferably “ultra-portable”)
  • Back-up medium (external drive or disks)
  • Power-surge protector
  • Multi-national power adapter.
  • Mobile/cell (tri-band) phone w/Bluetooth
  • External mouse or trackball
  • Headset (for telephony access)
  • Carrying case (preferably a hard-shell case)

Non-Hardware

  • Dial-up access (Access the Internet via standard telephone line or mobile phone.)
  • VoIP /telephony account (Computer to computer/land-line service, such as Skype.)
  • Hi-speed Internet access (Know where the cyber cafes are, or order it for your flat. Also, G3 telephone service may offer a speed comparable to that of Wi-Fi service.)
  • Your notebook’s original back-up program disks.

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of traveling as light as possible. Yes, this is our mantra for packing your backpack, but it is equally true for your mobile office. Consider the weight and size of the notebook and its attachments.

Which Notebook is Right for You?

The best way to choose your notebook computer is to consult the experts. There are several well-established computer magazines and websites that have already done the testing and reviewing (and do a great job of advising you what you need or don’t need in a machine). With that said, here is what we look for:

  • Select the smallest and lightest, yet powerful (enough) machine you can find. Machines built for power and speed are generally heavier, bulkier and require more power from your battery than the ultraportable types.
  • Construction: Don’t choose your notebook just on looks and speed. Your machine will have to be able to take some hits. Things to look for include strong screen hinges—this will be one of the first things that breaks. The lid should not be so soft as to not protect the screen from excess pressure.
  • Power Adapter: Few people think about the AC power adapter, but it can add a lot of unnecessary weight to your bag.
  • Wireless: Needless to say, your machine must have wireless capability. Both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
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