Ally Basak Russell, who leads the international marketing team at oDesk, a marketplace for online work headquartered in Redwood City, Calif., compiled a list of tips that have helped her find success as a digital nomad working in locations around the world. Russell, who is currently based in London, said she hopes the strategies will assist aspiring as well as fellow digital nomads.
Here is an edited version of Russell’s Top 10 Lifehacker Tips for Digital Nomads:
1. Add the World Clock Google Calendar widget
Digital nomads are often faced with scheduling meetings across multiple time zones. On a typical day I’m on calls with customers and colleagues in Sydney, Berlin, Oslo, and San Francisco, sometimes simultaneously. Before a fellow digital nomad tipped me off to her scheduling secret, I spent far too many hours looking up time changes and counting forward and backward on my fingers. When I’m on the road, scheduling is especially difficult because I’m often tempted to accept Google’s suggestion to auto-correct my calendar by shifting it to the local time zone. After a few botched meetings, I’ve learned to keep my calendar settings on my home country time, and then add my road trip city to my World Clock list. Here are some great instructions on how to add the Google Calendar Labs feature to your calendar.
Ally Basak Russell, a digital nomad based in London, at a hostel in Hanoi, Vietnam
Bonus Tip: If you are trying to schedule a meeting across multiple time zones without visibility into other guests’ calendars, try sending out a doodle. This desktop app works with guests’ calendars (and time zones) to find an open time slot that works for everyone.
Thankfully, my calendar now looks like this:
2. Get an unlocked phone and local SIM card
You may be shocked to find out how inexpensive mobile phone service can be outside your home country. If you’re a long-term digital nomad, I would not recommend paying for an international plan with your home country carrier. Instead, buy an unlocked phone from a reputable seller on Amazon.com AMZN -0.06% (don’t forget to get a charger that fits your local plugs or a plug adaptor) and then get a (usually) free chip from a local mobile carrier in your destination city.
Of course the need for an unlocked phone means that you may not be able to afford the most current version of the iPhone. Even though I’m a diehard Apple AAPL -0.37% user, it was worth the cash I saved to deal with an Android during my travels since my carrier simply would not let me unlock my iPhone until my contract expired.
Bonus tip: If your local carrier is especially expensive in your destination country, consider using an Internet connection to load up your next meeting location on the Google Maps mobile app. Your phone’s GPS functionality should work even when your data plan is turned off, as long as you download the map before you’re out of the Wi-Fi zone and zoom in far enough to get a lay of the land.
3. Give up Skype for Google Hangouts
No offense to our friends at Microsoft MSFT -0.24%, but Skype’s call quality just ain't what it used to be. The screen-sharing function is tough to find, and unless someone on your call has the premium package, you can’t do video calls with more than one party. Enter Google Hangouts. Even with a dial-up connection in the more remote places I’ve traveled, I can usually get decent video call quality and sound. Headphones always help.
4. Buy a USB Ethernet Adaptor
Many places in the world have not yet mastered the joy of an accessible Wi-Fi connection. Even some global conference sites and Western-style hotels don’t offer Wi-Fi in-room. If you like to travel light with a MacBook Air like me, you’ll need this connector to get a hard-line connection to the Internet. This device is also crucial when you’re in a crowded coworking space where everyone is competing for precious bandwidth. A hard-line connection is often much stronger than the free Wi-Fi, allowing you to calmly take meetings from the seat with the best view while everyone around you scrambles around saying, “Can you hear me now?”
Bonus Tip: Pair your adapter with some noise-cancelling headphones for a truly delightful call experience.
5. Get reimbursed correctly using Oanda.com
Oanda.com is an online currency converter tool recommended to me by our finance team. It’s helpful because you can select the date of your transaction after the fact to get the most accurate exchange rate for your expense report. It’s especially helpful when I use cash instead of a credit card while on the road.
Bonus Tip: To make sure you never have to worry about lost receipts from cash transactions, consider applying for a credit card with no international finance charges. I use United’s Explorer Plus card, but unfortunately it doesn’t have the chip and pin functionality that is so crucial for getting around in Europe.
6. Amp up your battery life with a mophie
Nothing is worse than losing your connection to the world during working hours due to a drained battery. For some reason this always seemed to happen to me once I touched down in a new city or when I needed to call my aunt to wish her a happy birthday. On my mom’s recommendation, I got a mophie. This little ditty packs extra hours of battery power for chatting, tweeting, and taking photos. It’s compatible with most phones and tablets, and charges up quickly through your computer’s USB port (no extra adaptor necessary).
7. Keep up with your favorite shows and movies through Amazon Instant Video
I’ll admit it. I am a Bravo TV (US cable network of The Real Housewives and Millionaire Matchmaker fame) and indie-flick lover. And sometimes nothing is more comforting than watching some mindless telly after a long day of customer meetings and speaking engagements. Unfortunately, many of my favorite TV shows and movies are not available while I’m overseas—Netflix doesn’t have a good variety of options when my IP address registers from outside the US, and my Comcast Xfinity (cable provider) login doesn’t work at all. I’ve found that the best solution to getting my TV and movie fix is Amazon Instant Video. I can’t watch shows for free, even with a paid Prime subscription, but I can usually get quality resolution and a large selection of on-demand rentable media for $1.99 per pop.
8. Ditch Pandora for Spotify
Pandora simply doesn’t have licensing rights outside the US, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve tried Tesco’s Blinkbox streaming music player in the UK and found that it doesn’t hold a candle to Spotify’s offering (now free even on mobile phones and tablets outside the US). I’ve upgraded to the premium version so I can listen to my playlists without an Internet connection and commercials. This added functionality comes in handy when I’m hosting networking receptions and other marketing events for oDesk. Berlin-based SoundCloud is great for discovering local artists, but sometimes you just need that one specific Little Dragon or Beyoncé song to make it through the day.
9. Download an app that lets you text for free internationally via an Internet connection
This tip has been covered in extreme detail by many tech sites, so I’ll leave the details to the experts.
10. Document your adventure with 1secondeveryday.com
If you don’t have the energy to update your journal before or after a hard day, try this app to force yourself into memorializing your travels. First popularized in a TEDtalk a few years back, this app does a great job of capturing one telling second of your life each day, conveying your nomadic surroundings and state of mind without a lot of effort or upkeep. Even if many of your days look the same, the results can be breathtaking. If 1secondeveryday.com is too high-maintenance for you, a good old-fashioned shared Photo Stream, private Facebook Group, or Instagram feed can do the trick. Your family and friends back home will thank you for sharing your adventures with them.
For an interview with Russell, click here.