WORK-LIFE BALANCE / JAN. 28, 2015
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The Digital Nomad Survival Kit: What You Should Never Leave Home Without

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It’s one thing to be an online worker living in your own country or in a city where you’ve always lived, and quite another to fling yourself far and wide, and expect things to run as smoothly as they did back home.

While it is possible to thrive as an online worker without a home address – and even without your own Wi-Fi connection – here are some things you should always have in your suitcase, no matter what.

A backup computer or digital device.

I have backups upon backups, and that means I don’t travel light. I have a desktop computer for video editing, a laptop for working on the go, and a tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard setup, just to be sure. On top of that, I also have two iPhones. OK, I’ve gone a little overboard, but I happen to frequent countries with more than one mobile network – and it costs a lot more money to call across networks – so I need two phones. Having a backup in the form of a laptop and a tablet means I don’t have to stop working when there’s no power.

A cloud storage system.

Heaven forbid you should lose one – or even all – of your digital devices. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, you need a way to access your work files, and fast. Whether you’re using iCloud, Dropbox or some cloud-based system tied to your company’s network, it’s going to save your hide, should you lose your devices.

Backup chargers.

Try buying an Apple charging device for a new iPhone in a developing country. Just try it. It’s not fun even to try – and if you do find one, it’s even less fun to find out how much it costs you. And don’t forget any converters you might need – as well as a surge protector to guard against developing-world electrical snafus.

That credit or debit card you stash away just in case.

As a world-traveling worker, you probably are already aware that it’s helpful to have more than one bank account -- as well as an online payment method -- to access funds and pay bills, and that you should only walk around with one card at a time, max, in case of theft or robbery. (It happens!) But if you lose your computer or other devices, you’ll need a way to pay for a new one right away. That means having money you never, ever touch unless there’s a medical emergency or your livelihood is in jeopardy. Don’t use it for a last-minute trip to the beach, as much as you want to go...

A business-class outfit.

You might work mostly online, but there may come a time when you need to do something that involves not working in pajamas. Have at least one tie and a pair of slacks or one nice dress you can use for that impromptu meeting with your boss who just flew into town on vacation, or the new client you didn’t expect to get. What’s more, dressing in a business-y manner can get you upgraded more easily when you’re flying around.

Copies of all of your important documents – and another copy with a trusted person back home.

This includes your birth certificate, passport, medical records and any leases on storage units, rental contracts or other things you may need to access. Giving a copy to a friend or family member means you can get bailed out when times get tough. What’s more, think about giving a second copy of one of your debit cards to your trusted person back home, just in case there comes a time when you need someone to loan you some funds.

Wi-Fi boosters, satellite phones or other miracle devices to get you online when no one else is.

If you aim to live in a really remote location, find out what the local businesses or the banks are using, and try to imitate their setup. It might cost you, but hopefully you’ll be saving dough by living that remotely.

Living and working abroad is an enriching experience, and in the age of worldwide connectivity, one that more and more people are choosing. While far from comprehensive, this guide should help you get started in knowing what to pack.

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