Over the course of 2015, I worked from three different continents and eight different countries. This isn’t because I’m a mega-corporation with budget for offices across the globe, or because I’m fleeing from the authorities over borders. I started working remotely from coworking spaces abroad for the first time last year – and the results have been extraordinary. Here are the five biggest professional benefits I’ve experienced from my time as a digital nomad.
- Getting out of my comfort zone
The eye-opening impact of travel is well-documented, but the impact it can have on work and productivity is more surprising. Being in a culturally different environment has enabled me to work faster, be more focused and tap into my creativity. Without the distraction of bills, chores and anything else that might take up valuable time at home, working from a laid-back coworking space in an unfamiliar country has increased my writing output without any extra work hours. Away from your regular surroundings, a clear mind is easier to achieve.
- Accessing stories in a new place
For freelance writers, remote working from overseas has a lot of pros when it comes to unearthing new stories and brainstorming distinctive angles. If an interesting local story is unfolding in Chile, it may be that your regular US or UK publications aren’t aware of what’s happening, don’t have the insight or understanding to report it well, or don’t have a correspondent or freelancer in-country. This provides an opportunity for roaming scribes to make new connections or solidify relationships with old contacts. Take advantage of being based far from home, and use your experience of a place to sell yourself to editors.
- Working from a collaborative environment
The coworking spaces themselves are creative hubs and a great opportunity to expand your personal and professional networks. At their hearts, venues for remote working are all about collaborating and connecting with others, whether they work in your field or in a completely unrelated area. Most spaces will offer a calendar of events, and some have specific orientation sessions for new members, but the most significant factor is being seated literally a table away from a truckload of talent and innovation. Having problems with your website? Curious about the local tourism industry? At a coworking space, somebody in the room may well be able to help you.
- Saving money and living cheaply
Some of the most impressive coworking communities I’ve visited are in countries like India and Indonesia, where the cost of living is much cheaper than in Europe or the United States. A remote worker in a developing country can afford to eat out more than at home and at a fraction of the cost, and it’s likely coworkers will already know all the good restaurants and coffee shops around. If you’re looking to build your portfolio or take time out to work on a bigger writing project, the ability to live cheaply and save money can make remote working very appealing.
- Having a better work/life balance
We’re all seeking that magical formula for balancing fun and productivity, and coworking makes navigating the terrain easier. When you find yourself in a new place and want to go exploring, at coworking spaces it’s easy to find others to join you – and time zone differences even make it feasible to take “breaks” during traditional office hours. Managing your own schedule means you can pop out and discover a new area at lunchtime, or take an afternoon off to venture out with your fellow coworkers. Nine times out of ten, you’ll even come across story leads. The line between work and leisure time may become blurred, but what does it matter when you’re able to find great stories?
Whether you want to become a full-time digital nomad, travelling from place to place as you work, or you’re planning a brief coworking trip this year, take advantage of the huge benefits of working remotely from abroad. The experience will change your life and your work.
Freelance features journalist and foreign reporter. Writes mostly about politics, development, technology and culture. Twitter: @LaurenRazavi (www.twitter.com/laurenrazavi)