If I look at my own evolution as a digital nomad, it starts with an attitude of “Roaming charges, schmoaming charges!” Then my outlook transitioned to “How the &*$! do I unlock my iPhone?” The current stage is “Hmm…I have SIM cards from six different countries floating around. I better get these in order.”
As a decidedly NON-techy person, I thought I’d share a few tips that I’ve learned the hard way that make it a lot easier to work from anywhere.
1. Unlocked smart phone. If I could only give new nomads one tip, this is it. Get an unlocked smart phone and buy a local SIM card (not always the easiest thing; the iPhone 5 takes a micro SIM, which is not available in Argentina. I had to buy a regular-sized SIM and take it to some guy with a paper cutter, who turned it into a micro-SIM.). SIMs aren’t hard to find (usually there’s a place in the airport) and they’re generally cheap. I’ve only heard of a few countries that require paperwork/ proof of residence to get a SIM card. Once you have this baby, you’re set. I can wander around for hours and not worry about missing important emails. I can access maps, apps, and anything else I need. AND, using my iPhone as a personal hotspot has gotten me out of some sticky situations when there was no wifi to be had.
2. The cloud is your friend. I keep almost everything in Google Drive or Dropbox, and I back it up with Carbonite. This does not mean that if my laptop disappears or breaks it wouldn’t SUCK. But in this event, I could get on any computer and have my documents available.
3. And….CHARGE! I keep my computer, phone, and iPad as close to fully charged as I can. I don’t know how good this is for them, but if the power suddenly goes out, at least I have a little juice left.
4. Support on the home front. Traveling Mailbox has made my life so much easier, receiving all my mail and scanning it so I can decide what’s important; they’ll either shred, forward, or (in the case of checks) deposit each piece of mail. For awhile I had a friend getting my mail, but this is a HUGE ask, especially when it comes to depositing checks. I also have a virtual assistant in the US who I occasionally lean on to print/sign/scan things for me or deal with stuff that has to be done locally (for example, it’s impossible to set up a new Google Voice number if you’re not physically in the US– if there’s a workaround for this, I couldn’t figure it out).
5. Skype and Google Voice. I’m on the phone a lot, and I use Skype almost every day. I feel like the service has improved dramatically over the past few years, and I make almost all my calls using their “call a phone number” feature. In Mexico I was able to forward my Google Voice number to Skype, which then forwarded to my local Mexican cell phone (this hasn’t worked in Argentina, so I just rely on getting voicemails through Google Voice and then calling people back).