You may have seen it before: a travel blogger with a laptop on his lap in a Volkswagen van with a view over a clear blue sea. They are called digital nomads and their lives are breathtaking. But how ideal is it in reality to carry out your work from different places in the world? Our editor Judith went to the Portuguese sun and sorted it out for you.
As a freelance journalist, I can basically work anywhere, as long as I have access to the internet. After years of working from home, I thought it would be great to combine my work with a trip to Portugal: the paradise for digital nomads. I’m taking my boyfriend with me, because that’s so much fun. He works in sales and likes to travel just as much as I do. First we take a five-day vacation and then we get to work.
Week 1: Lisbon
While we are walking through the Portuguese capital, I pass a building of Spaces: a creative working environment for entrepreneurs, which you also find a lot in the Netherlands. And a quick Google search tells me that there are dozens of similar concepts to choose from. For example, you can take a seat at a desk in the city for about 15 euros a day. Check wejustgotback.com for more information. A good tip if you want to take advantage of fast wifi and good coffee. We have chosen to mainly work in our accommodation during this holiday, because we find it nice and quiet. While we are working in ‘our’ apartment, we can also grab food whenever we want, and we only have to take each other into account. In the evening we enjoy a walk through the city and on days off we go to museums, drink wine and eat out. Yet we soon long for the sea.
Week 2: Ericeira
Fortunately, the sea is less than a kilometer away from our next destination. In Ericeira we stay in Surf Vida: a kind of hostel for adults where people work instead of partying and where the bar has made way for a co-working space. As a digital nomad you are in the right place here: we meet various people who have been living and working abroad for months. The atmosphere is great and the co-working space leads to productive days. When we’re not at the laptop, we’re by the sea, where my friend surfs and I read. I climb rocks for the first time in my life during a bouldering course, in the evenings we go out for dinner with our new friends and at the weekend we dance to house beats in a beach club. Life is good.
Week 3: Lagos
After a week we leave for the south, where a wonderful accommodation awaits us. The WiFi connection turns out to be great: you can even browse at lightning speed by the pool. There is no real workplace, but I can work well in the shade. I change spots and in between I take a refreshing dip. This also appears to work well for productivity: I feel more energetic – and now tanned – than ever. Especially after a spectacular canoe trip along the rocky coast at Ponte de Piedade I can’t believe my luck.
After living as a digital nomad for three weeks, I feel energized, cheerful and happy. I can only say that I recommend this to anyone with a flexible profession. There are, however, a number of things that you should take into account. I’d like to share that with you.
Tips and tricks for you as an upcoming digital nomad
This is handy if you work for a Dutch client. Portugal has only one hour time difference and that is perfectly doable. Tip: put your appointments in your calendar according to the correct ‘UTC’, otherwise things can go wrong with that hour time difference (I speak from experience).
Take a good look at WiFi and a workplace
Although you have internet almost everywhere these days, it is wise to check in advance how good the connection is. One of the tips I would recommend is to ask your Airbnb host, for example, to perform a speed test, which indicates exactly how strong the connection is. Especially useful if you regularly have to video call in a meeting. If you don’t want to work at your accommodation, you can of course always look for a co-working space. There were plenty of them in Ericeira, Lagos and Lisbon.
Consider staying longer in one place
We have chosen to see a lot of Portugal during this trip, but it is actually better in terms of costs to stay in one place a little longer. Then you could consider subletting your own home and you will receive a discount on accommodations, because you stay longer than a few days. Besides being cheaper, you also have more time to really explore an area. Staying longer also means that you no longer have to pack and unpack your suitcase as much and that you get home faster feels like.