One of the best things you can ever do for yourself is to work in…
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One of the many benefits of freelancing is the ability to work wherever you want.
Most freelancers work from home, but others choose to take their life on the road and work online while they’re traveling. There are lots of women freelancers who are earning money for their travels while they’re traveling the world. Some travel solo, some with their significant other, some with their family or with a friend.
When you’re working while traveling you not only need to know how to earn money online, you need to know how to travel long term.
I’ve got over a decade of on-and-off experience working and traveling and I’ll share what I know with you here in this female digital nomad guide to working while traveling.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Digital Nomad Guide for Female Freelancers
The legality of working in foreign countries
When you travel to foreign countries as a tourist, you are almost always given permission to be in the country as a tourist. While usually people on tourist visas are not allowed to work at brick and mortar establishments, most countries do not prohibit them from working over the internet. Tens of thousands of digital nomads have been working online around the world for many years.
If you want to learn if working online as a tourist is legal in certain countries you plan to visit, search online groups or forums in order to find accurate information about those specific countries.
Safety for female digital nomads
Travel in and of itself is safe. Working while traveling is safe too. Increasing numbers of women freelancers are doing this.
I travel a lot, I almost always travel solo, and I’ve lived alone in several different countries. The world is pretty much safe. You can definitely work and travel safely as a woman.
For accurate safety information about specific locations, read through and ask questions in online groups and forums which have members who live in the locations you want to visit.
How to afford working while traveling
As a freelancer, you don’t stop earning money when you start traveling. Earning money while you’re spending money traveling can be a good feeling. Working while traveling can really be the perfect way to see the world. If you want ideas about ways that you can earn income while you’re traveling, read my post on 26 work and travel jobs.
Since freelancing income is sporadic, though, there may be periods where work will be slow or your clients will be late in paying. If money does stop coming in but it’s going out at a pace too fast for comfort, you can change locations to make the money hemorrhage stop.
A lot of the world is very inexpensive to live in and to travel around. Southeast Asia and much of Eastern Europe are just a two locations which are safe for women travelers and where accommodations, transportation and meals cost a fraction of elsewhere in the world. If you enter a financial dry spell, spend the money to get yourself to a cheaper location and stay there until your finances improve. Lots of freelancers do this, I’ve done it myself, and it works.
Internet while working and traveling
Good internet is one of the most important parts of traveling and working online. There are many places in the world that have great internet and many places that don’t. Here is a pretty comprehensive list of countries with the fastest and the slowest internet speeds.
If I’m in an area that doesn’t have good wifi, what I do is buy a local SIM card for my phone, then set up my phone’s hotspot and connect the phone internet to my laptop so I can work online. This works perfectly for me.
Here’s an article with other advice about how to find good internet connections while traveling.
One thing you might encounter in some countries as you work and travel is internet censorship. There are varying degrees of internet censorship in the world, and what specifically is censored changes from time to time. This article has a map that shows what’s censored and what’s not.
Fortunately, if you’re in a location with internet censorship it still probably will not affect your work, your communications with your clients or any of your internet activity.
If internet censorship does interfere with your work, you can always buy a VPN. A VPN is a virtual private network which encrypts your data and hides your IP address so that you’ll be able to access websites that are blocked in certain countries. A VPN keeps everything you do on the internet private. This is a very safe way to be able to access content that is blocked by internet censorship while you’re working and traveling.
Keeping your devices safe
There are many ways to keep your computer and computer data safe when you’re working and traveling.
When you’re in transit, keep your computer with you at all times and not in the cargo holds of planes, ships, buses, etc.
I always use a small backpack for my computer as well as some other belongings. The best backpack I’ve ever bought is the one I currently use, from SwissGear. It’s very lightweight and comfortable to wear, plus it has a ton of zippered storage areas. My partner uses this Briggs & Riley backpack for his laptop and loves it.
When you’re out sightseeing or are otherwise away from your computer, you can secure it with a cable lock such as this Kensington lock. This is especially important if other people have access to your room, like in a hotel or hostel. If you’re staying in a private home like an AirBnB or a housesit, you’ll probably be fine to just turn your computer off when you leave.
You may be more concerned with your data than your actual computer itself. This is another reason to get a VPN like a Nord VPN, so that everything you access on the internet such as your bank accounts and credit cards will be encrypted so no one can see or steal.
And buy travel insurance! It can save you a lot of money if you need to make a claim.
Work and travel tech and gear
You’ll obviously need to travel with all the tech and gear you need to do your job. Hopefully your tech and gear doesn’t consist of anything more than a laptop and phone. Carry it in a backpack to bring on planes with you so you don’t have to check it at airports.
Also, importantly, bring the right adapters. There are 15 types of outlets used around the world. When you freelance online, you don’t want to travel without adapters to use with any type of outlet you may come across. Here is a comprehensive list of different outlet types around the world, with photos.
It’s probably best to buy an international universal adapter like this one that will work almost everywhere in the world.
Some countries, especially developing countries, may not have the best quality of electricity. There may be electrical surges. Plug your iPhone directly into a power outlet with erratic electricity and it will ruin your battery. This has happened to me. Now I travel with an external battery charger like this. I plug my battery charger into the wall, let it deal with the irregular electrical current, then plug my phone into the charger. This way I keep my phone from coming into direct contact with destructive erratic electricity and I keep my phone battery in good condition.
International sim cards
If you’re staying in one place for more than a week or so when you work and travel, it’s a good idea to get a local number for three main reasons.
Number one, like I said above, if the wifi is not good, you can use your local SIM to create a hotspot to use your phone internet on your computer. Number two, if you meet someone you’d like to connect with while you’re in that location, you can exchange phone numbers. Number three, you can store the phone number of your accommodation on your phone so if you have a problem while you’re out and about or if you get lost, you can call and ask for help.
Here is a great list of local SIM cards around the world.
Where to work
Coworking spaces exist all over the world. Here is a pretty comprehensive map showing where you can find them.
If you don’t want to pay for a space to work, you can set up shop in the room or home where you’re staying, in a coffee shop or anywhere you feel comfortable and are allowed to sit and work.
If noise makes you lose your focus or your patience, you may want to travel with noise-canceling headphones like these. They’re one more thing to pack but are also helpful on overnight flights to block out crying babies and people who stay awake all night talking.
When you read about digital nomads, you are likely to see photos of people working on their laptops on beaches. I don’t think I’ve ever personally worked on my laptop on a beach due to the difficulty of seeing my computer screen through the glare of the sun. If you want to give it a shot, an anti-glare screen protector like this may help you be able to see what you’re doing.
How to meet people
There are so many travelers in the world now. Whether you’re going to be traveling and working for a short while or you’re planning on making a lifestyle out of travel, there are tons of ways to meet fellow travelers and local people.
Facebook groups are a great way to network with other travelers. On my Solo Female Travelers Facebook page you can get travel advice, network with, hang out with and even make friends with other women traveling alone or living in the locations you visit.
Working and traveling with a family
Even if you have a partner and/or children, you can work and travel. Lots of parents are world schooling nowadays. And there are so many jobs online, your partner can likely earn money by freelancing while traveling too!
What about your pets
You can get a housesitter. Housesitters are regular people – often travelers themselves – who stay, usually free of charge, in people’s homes in order to take care of the home and often animals, gardens and even farms, while the home owners are away.
There are many house sitting websites you can join where you can find a housesitter you’re comfortable with and/or list your house so housesitters can find you.
You can actually even be a housesitter yourself while you’re traveling and working online. Staying in people’s homes is a really safe option for women travelers and a great way to see parts of the world where housesitting is available. You usually will not be charged anything as a housesitter. Housesitting is very popular in Australia, and I’ve house sat there in two times through HouseCarers.
What about prescriptions
Some countries do have restrictions on how much prescription medication you can bring into the country, usually allowing only a month’s supply. I’ve traveled with prescription medication before, though, and have not had a problem bringing in more than a month’s supply anywhere.
If you’re going to be traveling for a few months or less, bring as much medication as you’ll need during that period, in the original containers. Prescriptions may or may not be easy to get refilled in another country.
If you want to be a digital nomad for the long term, you’ll need to find out what countries you can get your medication refilled in and you’ll need to make sure you’re in a country where you can get a refill when it comes time. Call your embassies in different countries to ask if you can get your specific medication refilled there and, if so, what doctor or doctors they recommend to get the refills from.
Traveling with health issues
Quite possibly. Many women do. Here are some impressive examples of women freelancers with serious health issues who’ve worked online while traveling the world.
Ali is an American expat living in Germany and a frequent traveler who lives with ulcerative colitis.
Gail traveled the world for two years with an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s.
Cazzy travels the world with Type 1 diabetes.
How to get paid
You’ll receive payment from your clients just like you do at home, over the internet.
If you’re currently being paid by check by any of your clients, let them know you need to start being paid online. Paypal is the most popular way to send and receive money online, but as a freelancer you have other options as well, such as Payoneer. You can learn about several different ways to get paid over the internet here.
How to get local currency
It’s very easy to get local currency while you’re traveling internationally.
All of the world has ATM machines. Stick your ATM card or debit card in an ATM machine, and out comes local currency. To avoid paying fees, get a card from a bank that will reimburse your ATM fees. I’m American and have a Charles Schwab card. At the end of each month it reimburses me 100% for any fees I’ve paid at an ATM machine.
You can also use credit cards much of the time in much of the world. Not all businesses in all locations accept credit cards, but a lot do. Try to get a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees.
Check out these credit cards for American travelers.
Check out these credit cards for Canadians travelers.
Check out these credit cards for UK travelers.
Check out these credit cards for Australian travelers.
What to tell clients
Use your own judgment and think about whether your clients will feel comfortable with the fact that you’re working with them while you’re traveling. If you think they’ll be fine with it, no harm in letting them know. If you think they won’t be okay with it, then don’t tell them.
Your clients may notice you’re communicating with them during different business hours, though, since you’ll be in different time zones, so if they ask what’s up, just tell them. They’ll see that you’re still producing the same quality work, so they should be fine with the fact that you’re traveling.
Final words of advice
Fear is the enemy. Time can slip away easily. The world changes, you change, life changes. If you want to try working and traveling, do it sooner rather than later.
If you enjoyed this digital nomad guide for female freelancers, you may want to download my free ebook, How to Shift Your Mindset from 9-5 to Freelancing here.
Photos by: Christian Joudrey, Ethan Wilkinson, Mirza Babic and me.
Sabina Lohr is a lifelong freelancer turned entrepreneur who created World of Freelancers to help others discover how to work for themselves online and live the freelance lifestyle. She’s always really enjoyed the freedom that freelancing brings, including several years on and off of working online while traveling and living abroad.