Wednesday August 20, 2014
Last week we talked about the 9 Things To Prep For Your Digital Nomad Trip! If you haven’t seen it yet and want to know what to prepare for your trip, check it out. This week are talking about once you actually get there, what do you need to know?
Before I created this post I asked my amazing social media community what they wanted to know about in relation to working abroad as a digital nomad. Here are your burning questions answered plus a few extras that you will want to consider for when you are working from your favourite new locale.
1. Currency VS. Credit Card
When entering a new country each one is going to have their own regulations and fee structures around payments so before you go you will want to do a little research to see where your target country is on this topic.
In Peru & Ecuador you can use both your credit card and local currency (and in some places in Peru they took the US dollar). It’s important to know that most places charge an extra 2-4% on your purchase if you use a credit card. As well, a lot of places only take cash, especially in developing countries so using your credit card won’t apply when you are in the markets or smaller stores. You can check out Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet’s forums for more information on your specific country.
Personally, I tried to use my credit card when I could so I could just pay it off like I do at home and use cash when necessary. I never did the math, but I figured I would be paying a little extra whether it was in exchange rate and ATM fees or credit card fees.
Remember to add to the ‘cost’ of using money is the transaction fees that the ATM’s and your bank will charge you. I found it very frustrating because I never did find an ATM that would allow me to take out more than $300 US at once (and trust me, I searched high and low). That was $5 CDN per transaction in addition to the fee the ATM where I was charged me, plus exchange rate of the day. The good news is, I did find a couple of ATMs that didn’t charge me, even though my home bank did per transaction no matter what ATM I used.
Ultimately, it’s going to depend on how much you plan on spending, if there is a massive difference in cost (ATM fees, bank fees VS visa fees) and what you feel comfortable with.
2. Bank Accounts
If you plan on staying somewhere long enough, it would be useful for you to look at what it would take to open a bank account in that country. Then you could electronically transfer funds into your bank account from home in the beginning and use your new local ATM card. This would cut down on a lot of hassle and larger ATM fees.
3. The Internet
When I asked questions on Facebook about what people wanted to know, a lot of people were wondering how you find quality Internet. The answer again is ‘it depends’. When I was in Ecuador, I lived on a mountain in a small town. I decided to live there for 2 months so I needed better and faster Internet than what was provided. I ended up getting my own internet connection in my room. It cost about $100 US/month and it was worth the investment. At times, it didn’t always work perfectly, but I was able to do client calls on Skype and FaceTime just fine.
In Peru, the place that I stayed had great Internet (90% of the time) and I just used their connection.
One thing you'll want to think about is access to the internet. You don’t want to stick yourself in a place where your connection is going to be dial up speed and you are spending a few months there with clients to meet or a big launch coming up. Do your research on the areas you want to go and compare with when you need good internet. Just make sure you aren’t somewhere too remote when you are in need of a great connection.
When I was in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador the Internet was terrible no matter where I went (even in 5 Star Hotels). Luckily, I was vacationing there and not working so it didn’t matter, but I would have had a tough time if I had wanted to work there. If that is the case for somewhere you want to go, find out from the local companies what your options are. Often times the systems just might not be in place for super high speed quality Internet, but if you don't ask, you don't know. So don't be afraid to reach out.
4. Don’t Rely On Wifi Alone
Something that will be very helpful for you to have would be a router connector. If you are doing a lot of streaming (webinars, skype, etc.) than sometimes you might need to connect via hardwire. It’s better to go prepared and have a connector than be somewhere, with no connector and really bad wifi connection. In my experience wifi was fine for the most part but there were a few times where it wasn’t and it was then that the connector would have come in handy. I even tried to buy one but the only city in Peru that sells Apple connectors is Lima and I was in Cusco.
5. Telephone & Texting
If you want to use to the phone while you are there you have a few options. You could get a phone and local number while you are there if you think you will make a lot of local calls and/or text messages.
However, if you are going to be making a lot of international calls or texts I suggests using Skype for your calls (they have very cheap calling rates to mobiles and landlines around the world) and WhatsApp for your texting. I was texting my friends and family at home in Canada daily for free on WhatsApp.
Between Skype, FaceTime and WhatsApp, I never had to pay for connection with anyone. It was grand.
*Note: If you want to have the ability to text/call 24/7, even when you are not connected to a wifi connection, I’d recommend getting a local SIM card so that you can get a data plan. Personally, I enjoyed being disconnected a little more. It was like a vacation from technology.
6. Selling Physical Products
Someone had asked me what happens if you sell physical products. Do you have to stop selling them while you are gone? While I personally don’t sell physical products, I do know that there are ways to get that done virtually. You can outsource everything from order fulfillment, shipment to customer service, etc.
Tim Ferris goes into these concepts in much more depth in his book the 4-hour Work Week. You can check it out for more detailed resources.
7. Quiet Work Space
If you require a quiet work space make sure you plan ahead to find your location. In Ecuador, my work space was peaceful and quiet but in Peru it ranged between epicly quiet to loud, radio-blarring, dogs barking and kids screaming.
Depending on your work schedule and how much quiet time you need (or if you plan to work outside of where you stay), you'll want to enquire about the noise. Even still, when I asked about the noise in my apartment the response was that it's a very quiet and laid back neighbourhood... and that was true... some of the time. ;)
You might want to try and find a location near a library or even a cute cafe that you can get away from big noise depending on your location or find a place that is away from the hustle and bustle of a downtown area.
8. Create Work Boundaries for Yourself
One of the hardest things I found about working in a new location was creating work boundaries (which I am normally quite good at). However, when you are in a new place with new people, food, music and culture, the first thing you always want to do is explore and discover, not necessarily sit at your computer and work (even if you love what you do).
You really need to create boundaries and stick to them. Plan your days and make sure you get things done. Having a solid marketing calendar will really help ensure that you stay true to your schedule. As well, plan dates with yourself so that you can have things to look forward to and you know you have to be done working by X time.
I also used my exercise time as a way to explore. I would go for long walks around the area that I was in, to discover what was around me and get in my movement.
It’s really easy to let days slip by when you are in the midst of so much newness and excitement. But you didn’t work hard to get to this point and let it all slip because of ‘shiny new object’ syndrome (even though it’s tempting). So stay focused and disciplined and make sure you get your work done!
Important Note: if you want more free time while you are traveling, make sure you plan appropriately and look at what you are selling. Ask yourself: are my products and services and business systems set up in a way that will give me time freedom while I am gone or will I just be working in a different office? If you don’t like the answer, go back to your business model and adjust accordingly.
9. Make Time For A Lot of Fun
This point is in conjunction with #7. As passionate entrepreneurs, it is so easy to get wrapped up in work sometimes. Often times you might think, well I have 3 months, I’ll see this and that next month. But you know what happens: time flies and all the sudden a month or two are gone. You don’t want to get to the end of your journey feeling disappointed with yourself because you put certain things off. If you stay true to #7 you’ll make sure that you have time to explore what you want and have some extra unexpected fun, too!
10. Ensure Your Safety
The world is an amazing place from my personal experience. People are kind, considerate and curious. They love to meet you and ask questions about your culture and discover how you are enjoying theirs.
There are however, places in the world that are not so safe at a particular time. Make sure you do your research and you go somewhere safe. Not only do you not want to put your personal safety at risk, but if you are trying to run a business it's going to be difficult to focus if you are consistently worried about your safety (not to mention your family will be worried, too).
Those are my 10 tips for what you need to know when you work as a digital nomad. Is there something you have a question about? Perhaps something you experienced? Let me know in the comments below. I can't wait to hear from you!
P.S. Where do you want to go?