A digital nomad adventure seeker dishes out advice on how you can live life to the fullest from a mobile office.
Groggy voices murmur over a crackling fire as someone brews coffee nearby. It’s a foggy early morning in the Cascades and my fellow full-time climbers will have to reach deep for the motivation to starting climbing soon before the sun begins to scorch. But this isn’t my plan for the morning: I have two meetings and a deadline on my plate.
Today will be a full day. Luckily, Squamish granite will provide afternoon solace. But first, I need to get tea in hand, coffee percolator going, and yoga mat unrolled. Before anything, I need to ground down—and thankfully, we’re finally at a point in the road trip where the mat can touch grass instead of snow.
I’ve been on the road for three months, and I welcome the transition to summer. Snow in South Lake Tahoe, made for a joyful beginning to our trek north. It also threw my travel partner and I into the proverbial fire as we worked out the complications of cohabitation in a Chevy Express.
We chased late-season snow into Canada, our mountain bikes and climbing gear at the ready. We didn’t have a destination, per se—instead, we had a shared goal of getting after it. We spent most of the spring in Lil’wat, St̓át̓imc, and Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w territory (a.k.a. Whistler and Squamish), riding until the snow melted and enjoying an early climbing season. Then we ventured to Pemberton, Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula before tickling granite in Washington and Idaho en route to Colorado. All along the way, I have been able to build the brand program I have been working on for the past year.
Life has become, finally, everything I’d been working to create since doubling down on my career as a digital nomad several years ago. I’ve finally figured out a formula that lets me play as hard as I work. Here are a few tricks and tips I’ve learned through four-and-a-half years of trial and error, conversations with other roadlifers and self-reflection:
Set aside time first thing in the morning to take a short walk, meditate, stretch or drink coffee while taking in nature. These few minutes will ground you in the day before the to-do list takes over your brain. The Insight Timer app helps tremendously.
Set boundaries for yourself on work and play, dedicating yourself to each one fully and completely. That means no emailing while playing!
Block your time and communicate constraints to both adventure and work partners when it might impact your activities. For work: Try Calend.ly to share your availability and Slack for integrated client communication.
Recognize that things usually take longer than you think they will. Optimism bias is your own worst enemy.
Make Your Own Success
You need a power source to keep the dream (and your computer) alive. While a Goal Zero battery is great, more economical tools do exist: try a car power inverter for around $30 to charge electronics while you drive.
Early morning or late-night work sessions require good lighting. Try solar lights with a USB backup charger to set the mood both on and off the clock.
Stay organized: Compartmentalize cables and devices. For example: I keep my cables in a zippered mesh pouch that I can throw in my backpack anytime I want to pop into a coffee shop.
“Four words for you: Massive. External. Hard. Drives. When working from the road, uploading or downloading content from the cloud is not always an option. I save photo and video assets I create offline on external drives. Get a 2-6TB drive from Costco for just $60-$100,” shares Kaya Lindsay, of One Chick Travels productions.
Manage yourself better to maximize productivity. Apps like Any.Do (for tasks) and Asana (project management) help set priorities.
Make Yourself at Home
Going to new places is what summer is all about—but do you know where to camp, hike, swim, sleep, and connect with community when you’re there?
Get yourself some apps that make playing easy: Try AllTrails for hiking, Trailforks for Mountain Biking, Mountain Project for climbing, and Gaia GPS for downloadable topographic maps. Try free camping apps like Recreation.gov and The Dyrt too!
Invest in local communities: visit gear shops, farmers markets, and coffee shops at your destination of choice to tap into local knowledge.
Unplug whenever possible to soak in your surroundings. Enable offline file storage (i.e. keep working files in the cloud, but synced locally on your computer) so you can maximize time outside.
Ultimately, the key to working from the road is patience, communication, and (occasional) connectivity. Regardless of whether you’re working 40 or five hours per week, these tips should get you off to a great start.
Now go, get lost. Along the way, I bet you’ll find yourself (and do better work in the process).
Dani Reyes-Acosta is the founder of Nomad Creativa.