I say semi because I’m not always travelling. Neither am I always (24/7) doing work on the go while staying in a foreign town or city for an extended period of time. So, what actually defines a digital nomad? It is a person that works remotely in the world, as long as she has her equipment (laptop) and Internet. Once in a while, I also like to use “location-independent” because it sounds cool.
I’m a designer that travels now and then.
Can I be a digital nomad and still fulfil all work expectations as a Designer?
In recent years, I have tried taking work with me while I travel. This post documents some attempts.
The Near-Impossible: Working at the Library
It is near impossible for me to get any graphic work done at the library in my home-land here in Singapore already IF I were to use my Razer mouse, which is kinda loud when I’m clicking clicking clicking. Can I use the trackpad? Yes I can, but it is not as efficient as my Razer.
The Tough: Working on the Go
In A Moving Car
This was me doing quick research in the car so that I can craft a quotation (I had portable 3G of course). That experience was nothing short of carsickness-inducing, cos the car was going downhill through winding slopes from the highlands of Cingjing in Taiwan.
On A Coach Ride
I went along with a package tour with my family and travelled to various states in South Korea. There will be a few hours where we’ll just be getting from one place to another in the coach. So when I’m not drowsy from the coach’s motion, I did my work, laptop placed on top of my bag on top of my legs. Executing artwork was possible, but not particularly awesome (can’t click exact points while the coach is bobbing up and down).
On A Flight
I travel Cattle Class, naturally, I don’t get a lot of space to myself. With that limited space everyone shares, there’s bound to be wandering eyes of strangers looking at my laptop screen. It’s ok if I’m writing articles because I can make the TextEdit font really small, but I get ever so conscious when I’m trying to work on a logo and someone’s witnessing the execution! Please don’t watch my screen when I’m doing design, I cannot produce anything!
The Alright: Doing Work at the Cafe
Up till now, I have not really attempted doing work at a cafe overseas, but I have enough experiences doing work at cafes in Singapore. Starbucks is hands down my preferred – although its coffee costs a bomb – simply because of free WIFI and electricity sockets which I can use; respectful cafe-visitors, and a buzz of activity that is usually more therapeutic than distracting. More importantly, Starbucks’ culture is the same across different countries, so I’m sure there’s no difficulty to navigate and blend in seamlessly wherever I go. I can be productive doing work at the cafe, especially when my back faces the wall and I face people outwards, so they don’t really see my screen when I’m doing design.
However, there’s a limit to the time one can spend at a cafe because eventually, you’ll need a visit to the toilet. There’s no way I will leave my laptop unattended in public places!
The ‘Best’! Working in Hotel Rooms
This room in Taipei (Taiwan) was a cosy new hotel that doesn’t come with windows in the room. No big deal for me actually. The table space is decent enough for my laptop and mouse and the chair was ok-comfortable. The room was clean and WIFI was fine.
Another hotel in Busan, Korea.. where I sat late nights at the little table to work on logos and reply emails.
Here I was, doing work while visiting. Hotel Grand Hyatt Macau has a huge suite and you can use your laptop really comfortably at this dining area! This photo was not posed.. I was providing design support for some email developers.
#justforthegram: Posed Shots
Working at the Beach
I cannot imagine nor want to do this because:
- If the weather is perfect for the beach, it is too much of a waste to be doing work.
- If the weather is hot, it is too hot for my laptop. It will burn (from the inside and burn my thighs).
- I really don’t wish to get sand inside my laptop…
- There is probably no 3G at the beach, unless I brought portable WIFI along.
Working at the Hotel Balcony.. in Winter
My room in Santorini came with a patio that overlooks the sea (if you look farrr enough). It will be quite perfect if it’s summer, but it was winter when I went. It was just too cold to stay outdoors, so I retreated to use the room’s dressing table as my workstation!
The truth is, if you're a designer, it is a real challenge to work without a decent internet connection.
You can’t do research being one reason; you can’t download resources (high-res stock images); you can barely send out artwork to clients via emails.
Being able to work independently of location is a luxury for sure. While getting to travel on normal workdays can appear glamorous, in fact, I was sacrificing downtime to get my stuff done. It requires more than coffee to do work while everyone else’s resting or sleeping soundly. It takes determination and self-discipline. But it’s a trade-off I gladly accept. Perhaps next year, I can be stationed in a city for a month at least and try to be a proper Digital Nomad for real? It’s too early to conclude whether I can keep up with this lifestyle and to define whether I like it or not. I will experiment with more trips and plug in different conditions! Here’s to more travels!