If you’re the type to catch the travel bug from time to time, then you’ve certainly made a great choice in becoming a freelancer. With a global client base and the internet as your office, the world is your oyster.
Personally, I’m a freelance developer who enjoys traveling. Just a few short months ago I took a trip back to my home state of Minnesota to attend WordCamp Minneapolis. After that, I took off on a much longer adventure, a two-week journey across Europe that ended at WordCamp Europe in Vienna, Austria.
Thanks to my highly regimented list of “must-pack” travel gear, I was able to quickly and comfortably shift between work-mode and play-mode on a regular basis throughout my travels.
I’m fortunate that my job and my schedule allow me to embark on my fair share of travels. From the American roadtrip to the trans-Atlantic flight, here’s my list of 10 items I’ll never leave home without.
If you’re taking your work on the road, a plane, a boat, or even in a yurt in the Mongolian desert (the internet may be a little spotty there), you need the right equipment to get the job done. Sounds obvious, right?
Well, consider this a friendly reminder to never attempt to do work remotely on a tablet or phone for long stretches of time. After the third email sent while squinting at your iPhone screen, you’re ready to punch the walls of your 5-star Singaporean resort (you did spring for the deluxe package, right?).
The bigger the screen the better for me, and that’s why I like my 15-inch laptop instead of the other 13-inch models I have lying around the house. Personally, I prefer working on my three-screen setup at home and that’s why I’m looking forward to the Slide’n Joy product so much. Trust me, you want one of these too.
The reasons I prefer working from my laptop instead of my tablet or iPhone are quite simple, it’s more productive and (at this risk of sounding old) it’s easier for me to see. Also, communicating with my clients becomes more efficient and effective since I’m typing with ten fingers as opposed to just two thumbs.
And hey, now I can spend all the extra time that my laptop saved me enjoying my travels that much more.
Am I a paranoid traveler? Maybe… But the first time you misplace a phone charger or have a laptop cord short out on you in a foreign place, you’re going to wish you had a backup. That’s why I treat my suitcase like Noah’s Ark when it comes to chargers and pack them two by two.
If you’re traveling abroad, make sure you know what kind of outlets exist in the country you’re visiting. It’s true, our good-ol’ surprised-face, three-hole socket isn’t universal. You might also find that some international outlets are just downright strange looking (though Denmark’s is adorable).
You can get universal adapters for about ten bucks online, or fifty from Brookstone when you procrastinate. Again, get two, just in case. It’s in your best interest to charge all your devices to 100% before you leave too.
It’s also important to remember that not every outlet in the world outputs identical amounts of power.
That’s why I also bring an extra rechargeable battery pack along with me wherever I go, to recharge the devices that I care about most. If that battery pack bites the dust I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, however if my phone or laptop got fried in a strange place I probably would.
If you’re on an international or even a cross-country flight, and the person in the seat next to you is working all the way through it, then it’s probably safe to say they’re not a very fun person.
Remember — part of working remotely is the actual travel time. That 14 hour flight is going to get boring, and it’s impossible to sleep well on a plane anyways. So buy a book, bring some music, or download a new cell phone games to keep yourself from racking up too many astronomical bar tabs.
You can only be a tourist for so long before you’ll start craving some of the downtime comforts of home.
Personally, I think planes are an awesome place to read. Sometimes things get so busy at home that we don’t have as much time as we’d like to spend reading. For the most part planes aren’t too noisy, aside from the inevitable screaming baby. But hey, once the little guy lays down it’s a great time catch up on your reading.
If you want this business trip to lead to even more business trips in the future, then don’t shy away from networking whenever and wherever you can. Personally, I’ve made some pretty great connections while wandering around an airport waiting to catch my next flight. Yes, sometimes it’s just that easy.
So, make sure the cards you pack are easy to access and you’ll have a potential golden ticket within reach when you meet the right person. It happens more often than you think, especially for developers.
Today it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t need your help with something, and if their needs aren’t directly aligned with your skillset that’s okay too. When that happens, you can help play matchmaker and introduce them to one of your colleagues. They’ll certainly remember how helpful you were the next time around.
Wi-Fi is more ubiquitous by the day, but don’t count on a connection every place you go.
Slow internet is better than no internet, so I always bring a hotspot along just in case. If you’re traveling internationally, this might be a bit more tricky/expensive but I’d encourage you to try and make it happen.
I’ve personally been on an international trip where the hotel Wi-Fi didn’t work at all and it was miserable. Well, at least the time I tried to spend working was miserable anyway. Do yourself a favor and spend the extra few bucks to guarantee a stable connection, even if it’s not as fast as you’re used to back home.
This is a big-city and international issue mostly, but keeping some physical cash with you at all times is going to save you time no matter where you’re headed. You never know when a restaurant will be cash-only, and you don’t want to get stuck scrambling around trying to track down the nearest ATM. Thanks, but no thanks!
When you’re traveling abroad, buy the local currency before you head out. The exchange rates at those convenient kiosks at the airport totally suck, and using your credit card internationally can rack up fees and leave you to do conversions all day long to try and figure out how much you’re “actually” paying.
If you’re like me then you can take this one step further and bring a daily cash budget. On my last trip I split my money up equally into ten envelopes, one for each day of the trip. This made budgeting a breeze and made it real easy for me to make on-the-spot decisions about what I should and shouldn’t be spending on.
Laptop, chargers, wallet, phone. Check… Seriously though, if you bring nothing besides the clothes on your back, and a few everyday essentials in your pocket, you can still have a successful and memorable trip.
This is a friendly reminder to step away from work from time to time and use your devices for things other than work. Or, in this case, documenting your adventure to share with your grandkids someday.
When I’m traveling, work is always top of mind, but if there’s a skatepark, a sweet view, or a cultural hotspot, you better believe I’m going to stop and take some photos to share with my friends and family.
Sometimes us developers can get so busy working that we forget to actually live our lives. When you’re out traveling please break free of your daily routine. Treat yourself to a meal that isn’t pizza or coffee.
Get out and make some memories, but don’t forget to stop and take a couple selfies along the way.
As freelancers, we have the luxury – should we choose to accept it – of traveling anywhere we want, when we want, just because we can… So our business trips aren’t quite the same as our salaried employee friends.
There’s no more expensing it to the company, no one’s making any plans for you, and you’re not forced into working from one specific physical location. Which means, for you it’s almost always business as usual.
When you’re on the road, you must commit the time necessary to keep in touch with your clients.
Keep in mind though, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell your clients about your travel plans. It’s also perfectly okay for you to take a complete, 100%, non-working vacation. Remember, always be honest with your clients and have these conversations before you leave, also try to give them as much notice as you possibly can.
But wait, what if you truly are taking a non-working vacation and you won’t be available?
Well, you can help your clients prepare for your vacation as well. Connecting your clients who typically need things done “today” with another expert will help build trust while you’re gone.
In my experience, the majority of requests (even those marked “URGENT”) can wait, which means you’ll start building a steady stream of stockpiled work that’s just waiting for you to come home.
Sometimes bags get stolen — it’s literally happened to me and whether or not you’re a frequent traveler it could just as easily happen to you. Don’t be lazy with security, make your bag look like it’s not one to be messed with. If you have to check a bag, there are plenty of TSA-approved locks that’ll do the trick.
Now, there’s no guarantee that TSA themselves won’t look through your stuff, but hey, at least they’ll need you there to unlock it first. I also bring a tether-style bike lock so I can lock my bag to something sturdy in my hotel room when I’m out and about. You can never be too careful, or too paranoid I suppose.
So, now that we’ve gone through all the items, the only question remaining is what do you put it all in?
For me, I try to pack as many things as I can into my carry-on, especially the things I value most. Seriously, my checked bag was stolen from the Las Vegas airport just a few trips ago. And that really, really, sucked. But, it would’ve been worse if I’d packed my most valuable things (like my computer) in that bag.
Before you leave on your next trip ask yourself if there is anything in that checked bag that you couldn’t live without. Is there anything irreplaceable that you’ve packed? If so, it might be time to rethink and re-pack.
As a freelancer, I’m extremely fortunate that I get to to travel the world while still producing the highest quality work for my clients. In fact, creating a better user experience for anyone who visits your website is something that I can help you out with. No matter where in the world you (or your visitors) call home.
So, if you’re looking to improve the quality or performance of your site, please get in touch with me today!