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Wellbeing

4 mistakes I made during my week as a Digital Nomad

My entire business might fit in my handbag but that didn’t make this week’s experiment entirely foolproof, writes Heather Smith.

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I’ve been experimenting with the concept of being a Digital Nomad. My entire business fits in my handbag. Admittedly it’s a big handbag. But my entire business fits in my handbag. Or in the cloud. And I can work from anywhere – or at least that’s what I am trying to do.

So I’m based in Brisbane and I recently spent the week in Sydney. I hear what you are saying – that’s a business trip – that’s not Digital Nomading,  Heather! I think the difference between trying to be a Digital Nomad, and a business trip, is that you can do all functions of your work or business as opposed to a select few. When I went away on a business trip, I’d come home to piles of unanswered emails, and work I needed to catch up on. When I operate as a Digital Nomad, my daily work life continues, simply in a different location – ideally with an internet connection.

I spent the week in Sydney. I’ve really pushed myself in this experiment. My goal is to do this for an extended period, but as with a marathon, I need short training sessions to prepare myself. I’ve got all the tech working out. I’ve got all the gadgets I need. I’ve got access to all my clients and work online, etc. So that side is completely fine.

But I stuffed up in a few areas. I thought I’d share them with you.

"When I operate as a Digital Nomad, my daily work life continues, simply in a different location"

1. Travelling was unexpectedly time-consuming

One of the areas I stuffed up was that I didn’t buffer enough time around meeting people in real life. I had appointments scheduled, and I’m just not familiar with Sydney transport system. Moving one millimetre on the Sydney Google maps was taking me like half an hour, which I really didn’t expect using public transport.

I’m happy to use public transport and sort of try and evolve my life to be cost-effective, embracing local transport options, but it was time-consuming. A journey that looked like I could walk it in 30 minutes was taking me 90 minutes on public transport. So, I didn’t buffer enough time around appointments.

2. Lack of familiarity with the surrounding area

Now the other thing that I didn’t appreciate was that I wasn’t aware of the noise around me. I had arranged to have some online meetings, and they were in quite noisy areas. And while I can … perhaps because I’m a mother … block out any noise whatsoever and identify the precise noise I need to hear, I can work, and type and do whatever I need to. But I discovered speaking to people with a lot of noise in the background proved to be quite difficult.

I stupidly arranged to have an interview with a journalist on a train, which I thought was a great use of my time, however, the train kept going through tunnels which I didn’t anticipate. So, we could speak, then we couldn’t speak, we could speak, then we couldn’t speak. So that was just a dumb failure on my behalf.

3. I ran out of energy

A rookie mistake, my phone ran out of batteries on the other side of Sydney. I was in Mosman needing to cluelessly navigate the bus system back to Mascot. I did have my charger and cord with me. And I spent an hour charging it up midway through the day. But I failed. The charger turned out to be a big fat liar! For some bizarre reason, even though all the connections were correct and fitted snuggly – it did not charge. I eventually worked out the plug adapter did not work. I don’t even understand how this can be possible. Anyway, the plug adapter fooled me, left me stranded in Sydney – and was thrown away after testing. Bonus travelling tip – I discovered that the Apple stores are happy for you to charge your devices in their shop – so I managed to recover myself later in the day. I’ve also now got into the habit of setting out with a fully charged device and switching my phone to low battery usage.

4. Am I not pretty enough?

Now the fourth stumbling block of trying to be a digital nomad and travel to unknown destinations while you work is that I don’t know … now wait for it … Okay … I don’t know the beauty salons to go to. I don’t know how people do this in terms of navigating haircuts and getting other treatments done in areas that you’re not familiar with. I need 10 friends to recommend a place before I’m prepared to go there. So that is something weird, and something that, I simply don’t know how people navigate. Sure, I could look at reviews on the Internet – but no-one really trusts those reviews do they?

If you’re a digital nomad what learnings would you share with someone starting out?

Heather Smith

is a Chartered Certified Accountant & Xero Accounting Advisor specialising in moving businesses to the cloud, improving productivity and profits. She's written six books including Xero for Dummies & Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days.

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