OK, so I’m not a ‘nomad’ but it’s a nice word and quite a trendy thing to be. It looks, a bit like an Instagram influencer life, like the kind of thing we all want: mixing work and play freely and loving every second.
It’s not quite all that – the cripling anxiety of potentially opening your emails in the morning and finding a flaming dog turd still means checking in on your emails in the afternoon when you’re supposed to be on the ‘life’ part of the fabulous new work-life balance you’ve found – but it’s also not all bad.
After my first week of attempting this fashionable lifestyle from an Airbnb on the hillside in Tenerife, I thought I’d report back like an employee to the boardroom with some of my ‘lessons learned’.
If you’re here from a Google search ahead of your first attempt on the fictional see-saw of work and life, then I hope this post serves as useful for you.
If you’re not well, then, get booking something to try it out.
Hand luggage is crucial
My go-to hand luggage is a North Face rucksack. It serves me well for work where I hop in, out and about London – but for this trip it just didn’t have the capacity.
Being a proper ‘nomad’ requires space saving skills last seen on Changing Rooms and there are kit lists online from people who do this all the time. As the novice part-timer, though, if you’re anything like me then you’ll soon discover that nothing you have is optimised for travel and so the backpack is no longer enough.
I scoured Amazon for weeks before finally finding exactly what I wanted: a wheelie suitcase, but with specific laptop storage and a (what I call) flappy accessy bit on the front by Exzact. Far better for getting items in and out at the airport and on the plane than a normal mini wheeled suitcase.
None of the plug sockets will be where you need them to be
Just bring an extension lead. Yes, it says on the page that there’s a laptop-friendly workspace but laptops have batteries – if you’re working for longer than a couple of hours then you’ll need power somewhere there isn’t any.
I forgot this bit. My work laptop lasts only about 3.5 hours on a battery alone. So half way through a phone call towards the end of my half day I was scrabbling about trying to find power and move myself to somewhere near a power socket.
I ended up squatting over a sun lounger and facing the wrong way like some kind of alien who needed instructions on how to lounge.
On the other hand, my PowerCube is amazing. Get one.
Get the right tools
If working from anywhere is going to be anything like working from the office or from home then there’s some things you’re going to need. A wireless mouse, for one, because touch pads are terrible; a mousemat another – again, something I didn’t think of – because tables can (and often are) glass.
I also found a USB headset was an essential tool, meaning I could still have my GoToMeetings and thanks to more amazing technology, also use my work phoneline and make internal calls and conferences.
The headset I brought with me gives pretty good sound for both sides of the call and works well with both Mac and Windows, although after 3 hours on the phone one day it did make my ears a tad sore.
Other accessories included an endless supply of pens, post it notes and a big notebook. I love a bit of stationary no matter what country I’m in.
The WiFi at the place you’re going to will be awful
I predicted this one, but it’s still worth nothing. When I heard the place had WiFi, I was happy. When I heard it was 4G WiFi I assumed it would be awful. I was, I’m afraid, correct.
But no matter – because I brought my own Vodafone 4G Mobile WiFi, and thanks to the EU (oh, yeah) my 50GB of data per month was mine to use. Spiffing.
It’s quite incredible to think that I used to struggle to get 56K in a house in the middle of Birmingham, yet last week I was getting 4mB/sec on the side of a volcano in the middle of the Atlantic.
It’s really tough to turn off work
I’ve often had a jealousy of people who are able to just turn off from work. People who work part time have to be strict with themselves and everyone else to avoid working a full time job without getting paid for it and my week of ‘half days’ while abroad was no different.
Working in Communications is a particularly tough job to turn off from anyway, and checking emails occasionally in the afternoon and evening was too hard to resist.
I’d rather wake up knowing where the fires are, than go to bed worriyng about where they might be – but it continues to pull on the fictional see-saw in the work direction.
I always knew work-life balance wasn’t really a thing.
You’ll have to explain to your friends, family and Twitter why this is a good thing
I’ve had to explain a lot of times why I chose to work while I was on holiday. There’s a few reasons but ultimately it’s selfish (I couldn’t face coming back to the backlog of problems to solve) and selfless (I didn’t want to pile on the pressure to other colleagues who I knew would end up picking up the slack).
Whatever your reasons are, they’re yours – and they’re right. You do you, and other such trendy phrases. But people will ‘tell you off’ for working on holiday and ask why – exactly – you’re doing it. Just suck it up. Some of us enjoy our work just as much as our lives.
It’s totally worth it
At the end of it all I’ve mixed work with life in the sun and ended up with a tan, had some time to relax and I’ve still got plenty of leave for more time off at Christmas.
I’d definitely do it again – taking my own advice, though, of course.