I started to work remotely almost three years ago. As every other software developer, I used to do my job in fixed hours from 9 to 17. Some day one of my colleagues told me that he is planning to discover new markets. He was going to do his business remotely for some time from Asia. When I received the first photos of his travel, I realized that only the sky is the limit. I did some research and came to the conclusion that I should give it a try. I decided to earn a living from home to verify whether I am able to do it effectively. Fortunately for me, I got an opportunity to work fully remote so I decided to become a digital nomad.
Working remotely is not only about being location-independent. It also requires discipline and the ability to prepare one’s own workplace.
Remote work: expectation vs. reality
Only half true is what you can see in the pictures. We can’t work from a beach, a bar with a cute view, or anywhere on earth. We are dependent on the internet connection which in many countries is bad or barely working. One day somebody told me: “Pawel, today your internet connection is faster than before”. It was really striking for me because I got used to a slow internet connection. Since then, whenever I rent a flat I always require a speed test from the apartment‘s owner.
The most useful thing to be done before hitting some country is research. Visa policy, crime level, network, food, best places to stay, and price are the most important issues to check before choosing your work destination. On the web you can find a lot of news and opinions about travel destinations. At the same time, most of them are very subjective and usually do not show any disadvantages.
Sri Lanka and its Internet
One of the trips that I deeply remember was a journey to Sri Lanka. In the beginning, everything seemed to be fine; flights, accommodation, people, etc. No sooner had I started my work than I realized that I can not connect to the company VPN. It was a crucial thing. Without it, I was unable to work, which basically meant that I need to come back or at least change the country. Fortunately, thanks to other coworkers we discovered that since in Sri Lanka there is no wired internet (only 3/4G). The local operators have enabled firewalls with too restrictive rules. After that, we had to test five operators and only one let me work through VPN.
Digital nomads are responsible for arranging workspaces so in practice it means that you can not:
- work from hostels/restaurants,
- work from the beach (because of sand and sun),
- work without internet (unfortunately forget about Cuba and etc)
but you can:
– work from rented room/condominium/apartment/villa,
– work from co-working workspace
Remote does not mean easy
Of course, there might be some exceptions. Someone can claim that he or she is able to work without a network or on a beach and I respect that. However, one should bear in mind that if you want to be honest with your supervisor/customer you need to have good quality contact with them and provide them fair work time. In my previous local job, we used to have a really nice saying: “if you do not have anyone to ask questions, change a room”. So if you want to be a digital nomad, you must be a person who is able to organize a single part of one’s job alone. Starting from time and project management, through contact with colleagues to problem-solving skills.
Communication is one of the key skills for those who work remotely. You will experience that most employees communicate asynchronously. That is why when planning your workday you must take into account that probably all responses/interactions will be done after you go offline. For example, if you create a pull request it might be highly probable that you receive the first messages even tomorrow. This is why it must be absolutely clear for you what you want to do in each day of your work.
The biggest benefit of remote work
The greatest thing about a remote job is that it allows you to do your job from every continent and country you wish to. If you like aurora borealis you can do your duties from Norway. If you appreciate low budget you will love Vietnam. Remote work is a powerful tool that makes my dreams come true. Without this, I could not do what I like and where I like. There is nothing better than discovering new cultures and places in harmony with professional life.
Traveling certainly isn’t for everyone, but If you want to live wherever you want and you are not a millionaire, you need to grab a remote job with you.