What you need to know about working remotely while backpacking
What once was a dream for many has become the new norm. Since the pandemic, many employers have allowed their staff to working remotely while backpacking, eliminating the need for daily commutes and long days in fluorescent-lit cubicles. While some enjoy the comforts of working from home, others likely have asked “what if” I didn’t have to work from my city, or even country.
This was my exact mindset in 2021. After working my new job remotely for months, and a year of no travel because of COVID restrictions, I was eager to leave Canada. Solo backpacking overseas had always been on my to-do list and since I was already working remotely, I figured it was worth asking my supervisor if I could continue doing so, but from Europe. Thankfully, she was incredibly supportive and within 3 weeks, I signed an international work agreement and flew to France to begin my travels.
Working while backpacking was an adjustment. Although I felt prepared, situations came up that were tricky to navigate, and over time, I learned what worked best for me so I could continue to be an effective employee and teammate. Here’s some insight I gained after spending 3 months working in 10 different countries.
Should you backpack while working remotely?
Before going all in there is a lot to consider. And be really honest with yourself. Are you the type of person that’s only productive in a consistent working space? Do you prefer silence or don’t adapt well to change? If so, working while backpacking might not be the right fit. The biggest thing to take into consideration is the constant change of environment. Despite, who or what may be around you, you need to make it work. Which can mean getting creative when life doesn’t go as planned. I’ve had virtual meetings everywhere from stairwells to public buses due to unforeseen circumstances. Is it ideal? No. However, it’s part of the experience.
If you work for a company, check with them regarding remote work policies. Even though they’re okay with you working from home, there could be rules surrounding working outside of your country. It’s not uncommon for companies to require employees to sign an agreement or to follow cyber security procedures before working abroad.
Creating an itinerary
I cannot emphasise enough the importance of planning ahead. I’m the type of traveler who prefers booking things last minute and quickly learned that doesn’t mix well with remote work. Know where you are going and how you are getting there, don’t wait to book a plane ticket. Country hopping every four days, in the beginning, was my biggest mistake and burnt me out. Try to stay in one destination per week and relocate on the weekends. This will save you from having to stress over delayed flights or other inconveniences that could interfere with your work week. Also, if you are country hopping, be aware of time zones as it can get confusing if you’re still following the work hours of your home time zone.
How to find the best hostels for remote work
Finding the right hostels to stay at is essential for success. Party hostels are fun but aren’t appropriate work environments. Trust me, you don’t want to be in a Zoom meeting with a beer pong tournament happening in the background. Look specifically for places that are tailored towards remote workers and that have designated workspaces. Always look at the reviews and make sure people have positive comments about WIFI access and workspaces, especially if you will be in a rural area. My go-to hostels for remote work are the Selina chain of hostels. These hostels are specially designed for remote workers and are incredibly reliable in terms of workspace and WIFI. Most locations have a mix of co-working and private spaces, which provides opportunities to network with fellow travelers while also being able to sneak away to a quiet meeting room.
The work and life balance
The main challenge of working remotely while backpacking is balancing work and your personal life. Naturally, there will be so much to see and do, yet depending on your work schedule, you will need to make sacrifices. This can be particularly difficult if you meet other travelers who aren’t tied to work. I remember being in Greece and missing out on a hostel cliff-jumping excursion because I had meetings – disappointing to say the least. However, don’t worry about this too much, you will still get to sightsee and have the best experiences if you plan accordingly. Depending on your work schedule and the time zone you’re working in, there can be benefits. For example, if your workday doesn’t start until the afternoon, optimize your morning by waking up early and being the first in line at any attractions you want to visit.
Tips for success
- ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP PLAN. This is so important! Do you want to work from a café? Great! Make sure you have additional options in case the first location doesn’t work out. I know it sounds cliché but expect the unexpected.
- Bring the right equipment. NNoise-cancellingheadphones, portable chargers, extra electrical adapters, whatever you think you will need to work effectively, purchase it before your travels. This eliminates the panic of being in a foreign country and trying to track down an item that may not be easy to find, or compatible with your equipment.
- Pay for data on your phone. Depending on the nature of your work, you should be easily accessible to co-workers, clients, etc. Yes, it’s tempting to rely solely on WIFI to save money, but it can be risky. For peace of mind, invest in a cheap pay-as-you-go eSIM (Airalo is my favourite.)
Working remotely while backpacking pushed me out of my comfort zone, challenged my problem-solving skills, and of course, allowed me to experience new cultures and meet some awesome people. If you have realistic expectations and are willing to put in the work, I promise you’ll love it just as much as I did.
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