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Working while traveling is a dream many of us share–an open road, a remote office, and the autonomy to do what needs to be done when we want to do it. But life as a digital nomad comes with its fair share of challenges as well. The transition from physical office to portable workstation can be an intimidating one. To make it a bit easier, we’ve laid out 10 tips to make your life as a digital nomad 10 times easier.
1. Get a VPN
VPNs help digital nomads in two major ways: first, it creates a secure tunnel to keep your internet activity private. This is especially useful for those who spend a lot of time on unsecured public wifi networks, which can be compromised by hackers.
Secondly, content licensing restrictions make certain websites and services limited or altogether inaccessible. Netflix, for instance, has a larger catalog of shows and movies in the US than anywhere else in the world. Hulu is often blocked outside the US, while BBC and ITV streams are only available in the UK. A VPN allows you to evade these geographic restrictions by routing your internet traffic through a server location of your choice.
Our pick: ExpressVPN is super simple to set up, fast, reliable, secure, logless, and has a ton of server locations to choose from.
2. Digitize paperwork
Working while travelling often means not having access to a printer or scanner. Thankfully, a couple smartphone apps are all you need to digitize your paperwork, whether it be filing taxes, signing contracts, or filling out visa application forms.
Scanner apps use your phone camera to create quality PDF copies of your documents. PDF editing apps will let you fill out and even sign official forms. You can write and save your signature onto the app using nothing more than your fingertip.
Our picks: TinyScanner is our favorite scanner app because it’s free and simple. Adobe Fill & Sign is our preferred app for filling out and signing PDF forms. It’s also free and doesn’t require registration.
Managing income and expenses and sending invoices electronically are vital tasks for digital nomads. Many accounting apps will store your transaction sheets to a secure cloud, and some even let you connect your bank accounts so you don’t have to input new transactions manually.
Our pick: Wave is a fantastic free web-based app that tracks your transactions, links with several major banks and PayPal, and lets you send invoices from within the app. You can even accept credit card payments from customers.
4. Local apps
This one takes a bit more research because the apps vary on a city-by-city basis, but it’s worth the effort especially if you plan to stay somewhere for an extended period of time. Look up the local food delivery services, taxi hailing apps, maps, accommodation sites, ecommerce companies, and translation apps. Don’t depend on global apps to work well in every country. Uber might not be popular or even legal where you’re going, and Google Maps might not have the best information on local public transportation. Preparing these apps ahead of time will go a long way toward making your life easier when relocating. Don’t forget to check out local listing magazines and websites for things like food and tourist attractions, as they often have high-quality but less well known destinations.
5. Productivity apps
Staying on task can be the biggest challenge for workers on the go. Do yourself a favor and try out a few productivity apps to make sure you’re not cheating yourself or your employers. Keep in mind that while it’s great to assist yourself with a few productivity apps, too many can actually result in the opposite affect and interfere with your work flow.
Our picks: Google Keep for quick, one-off notes. Evernote for longer notes, web page clipping, and encrypting private notes. Trello for task management, especially if working with a remote team.
Bank transfers are a complicated and sometimes very costly way to get paid. Invest in a few different e-wallet apps to make it easy to send and receive money on the go.
7. Awards programs
I seriously regret not signing up for frequent flyer programs until about three years into my digital nomad career. It doesn’t take long to sign up, and they are easier than ever to use and monitor with a simple app. Hotels, credit cards, dining, trains, car rentals, and more all have reward programs for customers.
Our pick: AwardWallet is a slick app that automatically logs airline miles and other rewards after you’ve input your account information.
8. Cloud storage and backup
Your devices are much more likely to be lost, stolen, or damaged while traveling, so it’s extremely important to have a backup ready just in case. “Backup” means that the files and folders on the cloud are an exact copy of what exists on your computer. “Storage” is where you put files that may or may not already exist on your local hard drive.
Our picks: SugarSync is a great backup service with a 5GB no-expiry free tier that encrypts everything stored online. Google Drive comes with your Gmail account and includes support for all those great Drive apps, like Google Docs and Google Sheets. It’s especially efficient for Android users.
9. Portable work station
A laptop and cord can take up a lot of space in a backpack if you are just going out for the day and want to get some work done on the road. We recommend a tablet paired with a Bluetooth keyboard and possibly a mouse to take the weight off your shoulders. I personally use my Kindle Fire HD and a cheap generic-brand BT keyboard, and it works great.
10. Understand visa requirements
If you’re traveling to another country and plan to work, research the visa requirements and stipulations. Immigration laws have not yet caught up to people living the digital nomad lifestyle, so it’s important to know how to fill out the forms and what to say when quizzed by the immigration officer. If you’re on a tourist visa, for instance, don’t say you’re working. Know how long your visa lasts and how many days you’re allowed to stay per visit. If you need to apply in advance at a local consulate or embassy, spend the extra dime to do it through an experienced agency to save yourself some headache.