Once upon a time, really just one generation of workers ago, the concepts of travel and employment stood diametrically opposed. If you were going to be an earner, a saver-for-your-future, a contributor-to-society, then you worked forty hours-a-week and travel was limited to maybe 10 days of vacation time per year (if you were lucky) and the occasional three-day weekend getaway. Or, if you wanted to travel, you’d be considered a bum, burning through your life savings (or inheritance?), selling puka shell necklaces on the beach to afford enough day-old croissants to survive.
Maybe those are extreme examples, but my point is: Work has changed. Today, thanks to the proliferation of the internet and personal computers, more and more people can work remotely. Even traditional 9-to-5ers are frequently offered one work-from-home-day a week as an incentive package. The advent of high-speed, 4G mobile wifi has pushed this trend even further.
Now, you don’t need to sit at home or at an internet café; wherever you have good cellular reception, you can work. Take it from me: I’ve been living and working out of a van for almost two-and-a-half years now while traveling around the country. Today I’m going to take you through some of the tips and tricks I’ve collected through trial and error (a lot of error) along the way, hopefully helping you decide whether #vanlife and/or a digitally nomadic existence is right for you.
The Right Kind of Job
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth saying: This doesn’t work with all jobs or career paths. Sorry, heart surgeons, but this kind of thing tends to require a job where you primarily work on your own and/or on the internet. I’d say it’s most popular with graphic designers, programmers, web developers, and those more elusive gigs like photographers, writers, visual artists, and even some investors.
That’s not to say it’s impossible to make the #vanlife work by showing up in Smalltown U.S.A. and finding an odd job for a week or two, or selling your watercolors on the sidewalk, but it’s significantly more difficult. Skills certainly help, but people may be leery of hiring someone who just drifted into town and is going to drift out again soon. I’m not trying to discourage you, I just want to prepare you for the realities of life on the road.
Personally, I was very fortunate to have the work setup that I did before I started this adventure. I’m a freelance journalist and had managed to establish myself in a few niches several years before I hit the road full-time. None of those niches required me to stay in any one place. I’d already been working remotely for about three years, so the majority of my employers (various magazines and blogs) may not have even known that anything changed when I switched to digital nomading. Unfortunately, freelance journalism gigs are increasingly hard to come by, especially for those trying to break in.