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Why limit yourself to the same office day after day? The world’s a big, beautiful place, and with the right internet setup you can make money just about anywhere. People who combine constant travel with work are called “digital nomads” – and this globe-trotting lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular.
Whether you’re already an experienced digital nomad or are just thinking about taking the plunge, the most important key to your success will be reliable internet. If you’re not able to find high-speed, dependable internet during your travels, your ability to work will be significantly impacted.
Interested in learning more about the digital nomad lifestyle – and how to make sure you always have a good internet connection no matter where in the world you happen to be? Here’s what you need to know:
Digital Nomad 101: Why Great Internet is Vital for Success
Being a digital nomad might sound like a rare, exotic lifestyle – but’s far more common than you think, and you don’t necessarily need any special skills. About a third of all traditional office employees work remotely for at least a few days each week.
Digital nomads do basically the same things as remote office workers, but without a home office. Typically, digital nomads will either be freelancers, contract workers or business owners. Of course, in order to connect with jobs, employers, employees and others, digital nomads need internet access.
But as long as internet access is available, these nomads have plenty of job opportunities. Digital nomads typically have internet-based jobs such as marketing, web design, computer programming and similar. Other jobs are more service-focused such as help center employee, remote computer repair technician, virtual assistant and more.
Part of the fun (and the frustrations) of being a digital nomad is finding places to work. Aside from reliable internet, the place also has to be relatively calm and quiet so the nomad can complete job tasks. Locations will vary based on country, time of day and a million other factors. But generally digital nomads flock to coffee shops, public libraries, hotels, hostels and even co-working spaces, which are large offices specifically designed for freelancers to gather.
The Importance of Performing a Speed Test
Before you commit to any spot, you’ll want to make sure the internet available is fast and reliable. For basic work such as sending emails and surfing the web you’ll want minimum speeds of 5 Mbps upload and 5 Mbps.
However, that’s the bare minimum. Ideally you want speeds closer to 20 Mbps both ways. Speeds will vary by country, city and even from block to block. That’s why you always want to test the specific café, hotel or other location where you plan to work.
A variety of speed test tools are available online, including ones from Bing, Google and many third-party companies. Try a few out to see what you like. However, you’ll probably want to avoid speed tests sponsored by your Internet Service Provider. They have a vested interest in making your speeds seem as fast as possible. We’re not saying they’ll for sure fudge the numbers, but an impartial tool is probably a more reliable choice.
Speed tests measure three different aspects of your internet connection:
Ping – This is the reaction time of your connection. A high ping is ideal for streaming video and other tasks which require lots of bandwidth. Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms).
Upload Speed – This is how fast you can send files from your computer to the internet. Upload is measured in megabits per second. If you regularly send large files or make a lot of video calls, you’ll want a fast upload speed.
Download Speed – This is the speed data can be pulled from the internet onto your computer. Faster download speeds mean web pages load faster, streaming video has less buffering and your overall internet experience is generally smooth.
Download speeds are usually more important than upload speeds for the standard user, so this number will typically be higher than the upload speed. (Download speeds are also measured in Mbps.)
You’ll want to test the internet speed before you settle into a café or check into a hotel. Also check online for reviews. Your fellow digital nomads might have already posted internet speed available at the location. If not, consider posting them yourself to help out others.
Use a Hotspot
A hotspot is a small device which brings internet access to you wherever you are. Hotspots operate on a sim card. You’ll need a larger sim card in order for this to work.
Of course, many places advertise hotspots and free wi-fi. Businesses such as restaurants and hotels have learned that reliable internet access will draw customers in the door. But on the downside, sometimes access is limited to paying customers. When you bring your own hotspot with you, you’ll have a lot more flexibility.
Be aware that in some instances your hotspot device might be throttled after excessive data use. This is pretty rare, but there are reports of it occurring, especially in Japan.
Tether to Phone
If you can’t find internet access, you can still get online just about anywhere by connecting your computer to your smartphone. This process is called tethering. Your computer will use data from your phone.
However, there are also some downsides. Make sure you use a local sim card. This can help prevent massive international rates while also improving the overall connection. But even as a local, you’ll still churn through data and battery life quickly. While tethering will get you online, it’s also best used as a temporary backup.
With the right skills, a love of travel and a willingness to travel, you absolutely can become a digital nomad. Finding fast, reliable internet is an important part of your success. But with the tips above, and a bit of proper planning, you should be able to always stay online just about wherever you go. There’s no need to chain yourself to a desk when you’re working days can be spent on exotic locations around the world!