Four Key Lessons Learned from Working from Anywhere

When I left my home in Philadelphia, I had no idea I would become a digital nomad.

It was 2019, and after a decade as a career coach in Pennsylvania, I wanted to make a career pivot and travel. So my partner Brad and I rented out our house, put our belongings in storage, and made a plan: 3 months in Asia, 9 months in Europe.  During our journey, we have learned many things but I want to share the four key lessons I’ve learned working from anywhere.

Four Key Lessons I’ve LearnedOpens in a new tab. from Working from Anywhere:

  1. Keep your gear simple
  2. Assess your hosts
  3. Schedule time to connect
  4. Work async

After an incredible summer in Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, we headed to Portugal, and I began working for a remote work training company, WorkplacelessOpens in a new tab.. I loved working in cafes around Porto and traveling on the weekends to see friends in Lisbon or visit the Douro Valley. In addition, I was teaching a university course. I would take my laptop to teach while on trips to Gran Canaria, Estonia and Peru, using coworking spaces or spare bedrooms.

Then COVID hit. When the world went remote, our work shifted dramatically. No longer were we supporting small remote organizationsOpens in a new tab., but…everyone.

Brad and I decided to start road tripping across North America. Traveling by car and staying in rental apartments, we’d pick locations for one to four weeks at a time. Since 2020, we’ve traveled for a month in Eastern Canada and enjoyed two cross-country road trips from the East Coast to California. (Favorite stops have been Santa Fe and Big Sur.) This digital nomad lifestyle was a changeOpens in a new tab. in pace from Portugal, where I had a more traditional remote work set up with one apartment and one time zone.

Katie Scheuer, Head of Learning Experience at Workplaceless

Here’s what I learned from my digital nomadOpens in a new tab. experience:

1. Keep your gear simple. My “office” consists of a Lenovo laptop and my iPhone. I picked a workhorse computer that wouldn’t give me any trouble. My phone is a hotspot for backup Wi-Fi or acts as a second screen when I’m running client facilitations or taking notes on the go. I don’t use a mouse. I don’t have a standing deskOpens in a new tab. or even fancy headsets, mics, or cameras to weigh me down. My headphones are used for walking meetings while I’m outside on my phone.

Keeping my gear simple means I can quickly adapt. For example, I can work in a cafe if the Wi-Fi isn’t great in my apartment or get some admin work done on the road if Brad and I have a long drive ahead. I can work in any environment – sometimes it’s a couch (using a pillow to keep things ergonomic), other times it’s a kitchen table and occasionally a proper desk. Digital nomading, for me, means keeping things simple.

Katie Scheuer, Head of Learning Experience at Workplaceless

2. Assess your hosts. A major part of ensuring my digital nomad work-life is sustainable is reliable Wi-Fi. While I have a hotspot on my phone as a backup, in COVID, it’s not so easy to work out of cafes, and I have client meetings that require quiet and privacy.  

Before I book a stay, I always ask the hosts of the apartments I’m renting, “Can you please share your Wi-Fi speed (Mbps)?”  From their reply, I assess their speed of responsiveness (within 12 hours = good, more than 24 hours = don’t book). I’m also confirming the Wi-Fi speed is sufficient for my needs: 25 Mbps might be ok for project work, but I usually need at least 100 Mbps for team meetings.

Katie Scheuer, Head of Learning Experience at Workplaceless

And finally, I’m assessing the tech-savviness and depth of response of the host. Are they comfortable getting this information? Did they problem-solve if they didn’t have the answer right away? Do they understand the importance of high-speed internet?

3. Schedule time to connect. Beyond the standard Zoom meetings and deep work tasks, it’s critical to find time to chat with team members and industry peers. I always make sure I am staying in a conducive location to daily or weekly walking meetings. Does the neighborhood have sidewalks? Are the city streets outside my apartment generally safe and quiet? Is there a beach or park nearby I can drive to?

Any time I have a casual conversation with a colleague, I make sure it’s a phone chat or a “walkie-talkie” to get some fresh air and exercise while we talk. This helps me stay connected to my new environment. I never want to miss out on enjoying my surroundings, even if I’m working! I have great memories of meaningful conversations with colleagues walking under shady trees in South Carolina, in Balboa Park in California, along dusty roads in Arizona, and along the coast in Nova Scotia.

4. Work async. My team practices async-first workOpens in a new tab., which means we prioritize independent deep work time and documentation of information. We don’t assume team members are always available to chat because it’s work hours. I block my calendar for team meetings, limited to a few times a week and strategically chosen. I connect with my clients over sync calls. But beyond that, my calendar is open for deep and focused work. 

Katie Scheuer, Head of Learning Experience at Workplaceless

Because of this approach, I can plan my travel around my work and my work around my travel. I can drive 8 hours or book a plane ride on a Wednesday. I can work PT time zone one week and head to Prague next week. My team and work adapt to where I’m located, not the other way around.

Written by Katie Scheuer, Head of Learning Experience at WorkplacelessOpens in a new tab. – If you’re curious about digital nomading and async-first work, I post regularly on LinkedInOpens in a new tab.. Feel free to follow me or send me a DM! Our team also shares regular posts about remote and hybrid work on our company blogOpens in a new tab..

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