Have you heard of the terms “Digital Nomad” and “Laptop Lifestyle”?
Last week our VAClassroom University discussion group talked about how these terms apply to us as Virtual Assistants. Although it’s important to set ourselves up with a dedicated home office space, we’re not limited to doing our work there. With Wi-Fi and portable devices, we can work in many different locations that inspire us and spark our creativity.
So if you’re feeling like you need a change of scenery, where can you go?
One of our VAClassroom University students shared this article about a Social Media couple who uses their freedom to travel the world. This option may not work for all of us, but it’s exciting to see how it’s become a viable way of life for these online professionals.
And another one of our students experienced this freedom firsthand as she drove across the country. Here’s how she did it:
“I dropped in on a few friends along the way to use their wifi, and on other days I just used wifi in restaurants, so I was able to get work done on a couple contracts I’ve got on the go right now. It really has been a digital nomad experience, and I’m so excited about doing this more in the future! Fairly new to being a VA, and I’m already thrilled about the benefits! Not a photo of a destination, but here’s my laptop this evening, sitting in my friend’s dining room, with Canada stickers I acquired throughout the day.”
Image courtesy of H. Evens
Here are some other places you can go to embrace your location-independent laptop lifestyle in your own home and beyond:
Different rooms in your home
Image courtesy of Jena Kroeker
Besides your home office, are there other rooms where you enjoy working? Do you have a favorite window with a view that thrills your soul and inspires your creativity? Or a comfy couch where you can put your feet up for a bit while you use a laptop or iPad?
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I enjoy taking my laptop into the living room so I can sit by the patio doors. Whenever I need to stop and think, I like to look up and watch the hummingbirds that visit our yard. But then sometimes I need to cloister myself away so I can concentrate. When that happens, I’m glad I can return to my home office and close the door. So, if possible, seek out alternate workspaces within your home where you can retreat when you need a fresh perspective.
Image courtesy of Jena Kroeker
Depending on the type of projects you do, you might enjoy working outside for a bit. Where I live, there are many beautiful parks and ocean views where you can breathe in some fresh air and be inspired by the view. Or you may have a patio or deck where you can sit at a table and work on your laptop.
When I was attending the University of Victoria, I remember sitting by the duck pond outside the library one day and finishing my homework in record time. Sometimes that fresh air can really clear our heads and sharpen our focus.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
A popular place for Digital Nomads to work is the local coffee shop. These establishments often provide free Wi-Fi and comfy tables and chairs, not to mention easy access to tasty snacks, beverages, and washroom facilities. A coffee shop can also be a handy place to go to meet with clients if they’re in town and want to discuss your work in person.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
My favorite place to work, besides my own home, is the library. If you thrive on quiet and solitude, libraries often provide private workspaces or carrels where you can be free from interruptions and distractions. I’ve even been known to position myself near bookshelves devoted to my favorite authors so I can feel like I’m soaking up their creativity by osmosis. ☺
Another advantage of libraries is access to Wi-Fi and knowledgeable librarians who can direct you to resources if your project requires some research.
On the Road
Screenshot via www.bcferries.com
With the growth of the Virtual Assistant industry, it’s becoming much easier to work on the road. To keep yourself sharp and rested, be sure to take some dedicated vacation time if possible. But if you’re going on an extended vacation or even just a quick trip, facilities exist for you to plug in and keep on top of your projects.
For example, I was recently browsing the BC Ferries website (operating on the west coast of Canada) and found information on the Seawest Lounge. Here, an all-inclusive entry fee provides a quiet space with coffee, tea, juice, and pastries. If you’d like to avoid the extra fee, each ferry also has study desks for private work. The challenge is that Wi-Fi doesn’t work during the sailing, so you would need to stick to offline work or make use of a mobile data plan if you have one.
If you’re travelling and need an internet connection, you have many other options:
• Shopping Malls
• Homes of friends and family
The list goes on and on. Below we’ll talk more about how you can pick your ideal laptop-friendly location while you’re on the road.
Finding Your Place of Inspiration
Now, given that Virtual Assistants can work almost anywhere, what would be your ideal place of inspiration? I think I know what mine is – the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland.
Image courtesy of Pixabay
But I’m saying that based on appearance alone. To find out whether it would be an ideal work location for me, I’d have to investigate it further. We all might have a dream location that inspires us, and our ideal location is the place where that dream meets reality.
Here are some elements to keep in mind when finding a place to do your best inspired work:
In an article titled “The Digital Nomad’s Guide To Working From Anywhere On Earth,” Mike Elganlong Read recommends a free iOS app called Work Hard Anywhere. This app features “laptop-friendly” cafés, coworking spaces, and libraries around the world, ranked by users according to seating, parking, price, outlet availability, and Wi-Fi quality. What a terrific resource!
If you have either an iPhone or Android phone, you can also use Foursquare to find quality Wi-Fi. Fred Perrotta gives the following advice in his blog post, “Working While Traveling: How to Find an ‘Office’ Anywhere”.
“Open the Foursquare app, tap the Explore Nearby search box, and type ‘WiFi.’ All of the businesses listed as results should have WiFi. Skim the tips left by other users to make sure that your cafe of choice has fast, reliable WiFi without time limits. You’ll find that many people care more about the quality of the WiFi than the quality of the coffee.”
Another option is your internet provider’s mobile hotspot finder app, like the Shaw Go WiFi finder here in Canada. I am sure you have something similar in your neck of the woods!
All these tools can help you locate a workspace that suits your needs so you’ll feel comfortable and inspired away from home.
One thing to remember when you’re searching for a workspace is your preference for noise. For some people, the sound of a coffee shop inspires them; for others, it distracts them. I know that when I’ve tried to work in a coffee shop, I start to get frustrated and distracted. I chuckle to myself that if I don’t leave, I’ll be that person who slams her laptop shut, stands up and yells, “QUIET!”
Alternatively, some people find the silence in a library deafening, and they like to have a bit of noise in the background to stay focused. So it’s definitely a balancing act. You may love coffee, but if the atmosphere in a coffee shop keeps you from getting any work done, you may need to go someplace quieter. You can always head to the coffee shop for a break or for less intense projects.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like to have a beautiful view to stare at when I’m thinking or daydreaming about a project. But that scenery needs to be static. If I’m overlooking a busy street with traffic, I get distracted and start to people-watch.
So another thing to keep in mind is what scenery will boost your creativity yet still keep you focused. Do all types of views distract you? In that case, you may need to find a quiet desk or table facing a wall so you can concentrate. Does a beautiful view inspire you to produce your best work? Then by all means find a window where you can sit and gaze out at a world of possibilities.
When you’re working, do you feel comfortable with others sitting nearby, or does that distract you? Do you like a small, cozy room, or a large room with high ceilings? Do you need a private desk like a carrel or cubicle?
I was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada, where we joke that it’s so flat, you can watch your dog run away for three days. Consequently, I grew up with a feeling of spaciousness that makes it hard for me to work if I feel cramped.
So when you’re looking for workspaces on the go, I recommend searching for photos of the room including seating arrangements and windows. That way you can judge whether it’s the proper space for you.
Now we’d love to hear from you! How have you embraced the laptop lifestyle as a Virtual Assistant? If you consider yourself a Digital Nomad, where do you find your place of inspiration on the road?
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