How to Work from Anywhere Abroad, According to 25 Remote Work Expats
At Skillcrush we believe that learning tech skills is the best way for you to upgrade to a flexible, exciting remote career—one you can do from anywhere in the world. Still, saying you want to travel the world and actually doing it are two very different things. To clear up any lingering worries you might have about how to build the globetrotting career of your dreams, we partnered with our friends over at Remote Year to bring you all the insider info on how to become a total remote work pro. Keep reading for the best tips on everything from what to pack to what insurance you’ll need!
The idea of traveling the world for a year (or even a few months) can be daunting. Before you depart, you want to make sure that you’ve planned for the things that you can expect, and prepare yourself for the things you could have never seen coming.
You want to pack the right things for a day in the workspace and a night on the town. You want to make sure that your credit card is actually going to work when you try to order with Rappi, a delivery service that can cater to your every need, in Mexico City. You want to be confident that your backpack is not going to fall apart halfway through your travels. Most of all, you want to make sure that you can stay connected, no matter the destination.
Overwhelmed? That’s normal. Knowing how to travel effectively comes from time living on the road with too little or too much.
Luckily for you, you don’t have to struggle through the “beginner” stage of travel. We went straight to the source and asked for advice from the most experienced travelers we know: the Remote Nation.
The Ultimate Remote Worker Packing List
Before you start making a list of things to bring with you on your trip, you’re going to need a bag —or two—depending on how you want to travel. Remotes have strong opinions on which brands and styles work best. Here are their recommendations:
“For a carry-on, use a duffel bag type instead of small suitcase. Dimensions should be closest to 21″ x 14″ x 8″, to optimize your volume while making sure it fits the carry-on maximum size of most airlines.”—Maxime DeBlue, Remote Year Kublai
“I highly recommend Away luggage. I have a small carry-on and the medium checked bag from them and I use a Patagonia Black Hole pack as my backpack.”—Tim Costa, Remote Year Ohana
“I got a backpack called Lifepack and it’s freaking amazing. It has a built-in solar-charger and speaker (which we used on a 12-hour drive from the Sahara back to Marrakesh), a lock for security (perfect for those times when you need to go to the WC at a cafe but don’t want to pack everything up), secret pockets for cash and your passport, and a ton of cool features to balance work and life.”— Kristie Yung, Remote Year Sisu
“A piece of advice, always think you are the one that’s going to have to carry your suitcase, lift it off the luggage carousel, carry it up several flights of stairs, roll it around town, etc.”—Lauren Deneweth, Remote Year Balboa
“My biggest priority item I wanted was a kickass backpack. It look me forever to choose the perfect one, but I finally landed on this one. It has everything I was looking for: nice, wide straps for comfort, a USB plug, anti-theft lock, a ton of space, and organized pockets. I’m obsessed with it.”—Kaila Lawrence, Remote Year Atlas
Once you’ve chosen your luggage, it’s time to fill it up – just not too much! Here is what Remotes recommend that you pack for your time on the road:
The Travel Gadgets Worth Investing In
“A luggage scale. Everybody needs one and no one ever has one. Boom, now I’m that guy and everyone in my group wants to be my friend.”—Kaila Lawrence, Remote Year Atlas
“A portable battery for your phone. Slack, Google Maps, camera app, WhatsApp, and other travel apps suck up a lot of battery when you are looking up directions and just trying to communicate with the group. I thought I would only use it in case of emergencies, but I ended up using it all the time.”—Eric Vera, Remote Year Kaizen
What Clothing to Bring When Working Abroad
“Life is easier if everything matches. Layers are going to be your best friend, and I’d say 10-14 days worth of outfits is good to rotate through. Stuff you can wear anywhere (cotton dresses that can be dressed up, a pair of black pants for business or going out affairs) is the best way to go. I live in jeans and tank tops and tend to dress those up or down, situation depending. But make sure you take one sexy dress (or one dope jacket if you’re a dude). Trust me, you’ll wear it at some point.”—Arestia Rosenberg, Remote Year Cousteau
“Pack items that you love and that you’re comfortable wearing – but try to make every item in your wardrobe match as many other items as possible. For me, this meant lots of neutrals – I wore black, grey, white, and blue for the entire year and I LOVED IT. Diversify with cut, fit, and pattern – instead of bringing three identical white t-shirts, bring a white oxford, a white henley, and a white tank – each of which can be layered and worn in different situations.”—Mike Chino, Remote Year Cousteau
“You will pack too much. It’s inevitable. No matter how many of us tell you to pack as light as possible you won’t. And that’s ok. Just be prepared to leave things behind or ship things home. Even those things that you swear you’re going to need and will carry with you all year regardless of the weight. You will change your mind.”—Hunter Pine, Remote Year Meraki
“If you don’t use it often at home it is unlikely you will use it during Remote Year. I have not needed casual/dressy shoes or a sport coat. Most places are very relaxed with their dress code and jeans and a t-shirt go a long way. I’ve worn long sleeve shirts once or twice, but never felt it was needed. If you like going to very fancy restaurants this may be different. If you do leave something and then need it, know that every city has shopping malls.”—Eric Vera, Remote Year Kaizen
Essential Tools for Remote Workers
“Collapsible Tupperware (I like to make my own lunch), a headlamp (for outdoorsy side trips), and a travel towel I really love (you use this more than you realize) are my go-tos. All purpose running, water, and hiking shoes are good and I just picked up one of those Uniqlo down jackets that goes into a little pouch that could have saved me a lot more space.”—Arestia Rosenberg, Remote Year Cousteau
“Don’t forget the creature comforts. You’re in it for the long haul, and there’s no telling where you’ll be staying next month—so bring a few items to make your accommodations feel cozy. Photos and postcards, a travel candle, and a small bluetooth speaker made my list for the entire year. If you love to cook and know how to make a killer curry or tagine, bring exotic spices—they weigh practically nothing and can be hard to find in some cities.”—Mike Chino, Remote Year Cousteau
How to Budget for a Remote Work Life
Before you hit the road, it’s important to have all of your finances in place so that you know what you can spend, and what you need to save, while you’re working and traveling. You’ll need to take things like foreign transaction fees, travel reward points, and how to pay your taxes now that you’re not living in your home country full-time into account.
Keep in mind, these Remotes aren’t finance or tax professionals, so these tips should not be misconstrued as finance, tax, or legal advice. If you feel that your obligations are unclear, talk to a professional before you get on a plane.
“Get a Charles Schwab ATM Card – all your fees are reimbursed. Set up Venmo & Paypal and have a working phone number to activate them. Understand the amount of money needed to get from Airport to city center for each side trip. Having a ballpark number will keep you from getting scammed by corrupt taxis.”—Bryant Burnheimer, Remote Year Magellan
“Create a budget and adjust as you go, but don’t focus on it too much. This is your year to do what you want. If you really want to do something, figure out a way to pay for it – skip some fancy dinners to do an air balloon ride or send digital picture albums instead of postcards.”— Jessica Schlauderaff, Remote Year Darien
“There are no free banking options for Canadians (like in the USA, who can use Charles Schwab). The best one I found is the VIP package with RBC (Royal Bank of Canada). It’s $30 / month and there are no transaction fees to use any ATM while traveling. It also covers the annual fee for your Avion credit card, which is the best card to collect travel points for Canadians!”—Michelle Hargrave, Remote Year Balboa
“Read, research, study, and talk to an accountant about your taxes. For many countries, this isn’t a big deal, when you’re out of the country, you don’t pay taxes. Easy. For US citizens and residents, you still have to file while you’re out of the country, and money you earn outside of the US can be taxable. Definitely learn about the FEIE and take steps to qualify for it BEFORE you travel. There are a lot of small things you can do to help yourself save literally tens of thousands of dollars in taxes, and all it takes is a few hours of research.”—Hunter Pine, Remote Year Meraki
How to Stay Connected
Let’s face it – we all need the internet. Whether it’s to work or stay in contact with friends and family back home, staying connected while abroad is a huge concern for many travelers. As remote workers ourselves, the Remote Nation knows how integral connectivity is to a successful trip.
Here is their advice on how to get your phone and data prepped:
“I used local sim cards on an unlocked iPhone 6S Plus. I also set up a separate Google Voice number for receiving text messages like for 2 factor online logins (since I don’t have access to my original phone number to receive those messages).”—Jono Lee, Remote Year Battuta
“I’ve used Google Fi as my phone plan all of Remote Year. I started the year using a Nexus 6P and upgraded to a Pixel XL when it was released. You show up, turn your phone on, and it connects. The coverage has been great, working in every country. It’s nice to have the bonus of the same phone number that can always be reached as well as taking side trips to different countries and not needing to get a new sim card.”—Mark Meyer, Remote Year Ikigai
“I used my T-Mobile plan all year with the exception of Morocco and Vietnam, and then I put my plan on hold (one month only) and used the Remote Year Sim Cards. Every now and then I’d use Skype to make a call, but mostly used T-Mobile to do everything.”—Sam Timmerman, Remote Year Magellan
“My goals were to maintain my U.S. cell number that I have had for a long time; be able to make/receive calls and emails at all times (not just when connected to WIFI); be able to make local calls to my wife, and call local numbers for food deliveries etc.The only way I could find to achieve all of those goals was to port my U.S. cell number to Google Voice and then forward that Google Voice number to Skype. Google Voice seems to have superior voice mail features – when the call gets forwarded to Skype and there is no answer and the caller leaves a message I get both an email to my Google email PLUS a direct notification on the Google Voice icon on my phone with a transcription (of varying accuracy) of the message.”—Scott Dukette, Remote Year Veritas
How to Protect Yourself While Traveling
You never know what might happen on a yearlong trip around the world. For that reason, Remotes have a bit of advice for being prepared for the unexpected:
Types of Travel Insurance You Should Buy
“Travel insurance is not optional. Shit happens: I’ve heard of broken bones, surgeries, car accidents, items stolen… all kinds of crazy stuff. You do not want to be abroad without help when something inevitably happens. I picked a recommended plan and went with Tokio Marine Atlas Travel Medical.”—Kaila Lawrence, Remote Year Atlas
“I saved insurance until the very end- hoping that it would just kind of work itself out. News flash– it doesn’t! When I finally sat down to look at all the options in detail, it probably took me 8 hours to make a decision.—Jess Jaeger, Remote Year Kaizen
“I went with Seven Corners Liaison Majestic, based on a combination of price and coverage, and the fact that I could do it all online. I broke my arm in month 8, and had to pay cash for the emergency room and follow-up surgery. They paid me back for everything minus the deductible and obvious extras like WiFi at the hospital. No questions asked, no fight, no argument, and it was all direct deposit. I didn’t even have to go home to pick up a check.”—Hunter Pine, Remote Year Meraki
What Kinds of Medical Prep To Do Before Traveling
“I got a Tetanus booster, Hepatitis A (I still have to get my 6 month booster before we go to South America), Yellow Fever, Tdap, and Typhoid pills. I opted not to get the Rabies vaccine, although it was recommended for some countries, and a Meningitis booster (pricey, and I was still within a safe enough range from my last one that I wasn’t at a major risk). If you have an itinerary going to South America, make sure to get a Yellow Fever vaccine AND a confirmation slip that has the date you were vaccinated, in addition to a signature from the person who vaccinated you. I believe some places require this in order to be allowed into their country.” —Ashley Mikalauskas, Remote Year Balboa
“I use daily contact lenses and have had issues getting them delivered to some countries (i.e. In Peru you need a Peruvian prescription for them to get past customs). If I had know what a hassle it would be to get them I would have gotten longer wear lenses that I could easily stock up on for the year before leaving so they wouldn’t have taken up so much luggage space.”— Gemma Hughes, Remote Year Libertatem
Congratulations! You’ve bypassed that “travel beginner” stage and are ready to head out on your adventure, lightweight luggage in hand. Keep these Remote Nation tips in the back of your mind throughout your travels – you’ll never know when you’ll need to open up a new credit card or talk yourself down from buying that dress that you’d only wear once or twice.
Looking for even more help with remote work? Check out our latest resource: The Remote Work Mega Guide