In my previous blog post, I mentioned the important step of having a reliable nomad Internet service. You will need to be open to communication no matter where you are in the world. Your clients or colleagues won’t really care where you work from, as long as they won’t have trouble reaching you.
Admittedly, one of the biggest and most pressing problems I had in my first foray as a digital nomad was getting a stable Internet connection. Back then, there weren’t a lot of devices dedicated to “summoning the Internet” anywhere. It limited my scope, choice of locations, and general schedule as a result. I was mostly stuck at home with my sort-of reliable service provider, but could not venture out farther than my patio if I wanted to stay connected to the ‘net.
Today, I am happy to report that this is no longer the case. Not only do I have a good selection of coworking spaces and coffee shops to work from; I also can travel outside the country and still get to work on my projects! It’s all here in my five nomad Internet reliability checklist. I hope it helps you in your digital roaming journey, too.
Invest in a nomad WiFi hotspot
Being an Internet nomad necessitates some investments on certain gadgets and devices. I have my smartphone for tethering (more on this in a bit), a prepaid pocket WiFi device for local-based work, and a WiFi hotspot when I travel abroad. The hotspot device works in pretty much the same way as a mobile phone would. It relies on a SIM card which uses WiFi so you can connect your laptop to the Internet anytime, anywhere.
I discovered that there are several SIM card sizes, though: the standard, the micro, and the nano. There was some initial confusion as to what I should get. So it’s a good idea to carry your device with you when you’re getting a new SIM card to avoid mismatches.
Scope out some reliable coworking spaces
In my hometown, I already have a list of coworking spaces (or “coffices” as I like to call them) that have reliable Internet connection. My friends and colleagues usually recommend them to me because they know of my digital nomad lifestyle, and how easily I can get cabin fever by working from home.
I’ve learned to do this in my travels abroad, as well. Before I even fly out anywhere, I make sure to read up on potential coworking spaces via trip and travel advisory sites. I also ask around in international travel and nomad freelancer forums for places they can recommend where I can hold video calls and online conferences without getting disrupted. Now, I also have a short list of coworking spaces I rely on in different parts of the world.
Look up stable Internet connections prior to traveling
In a perfect world, any place would have a stable Internet connection. Alas, this is not to be. As a result, one of the first things I research before I even book a flight or plan a trip anywhere is to see if it has a stable Internet connection I can use.
It’s quite understandable if it’s in the middle of nowhere, in which case I usually inform my clients and partners that I would need a few days off the grid. But if it’s a working trip, I usually call the hotel or inn I plan to make reservations with, or read up on customer reviews about their WiFi reliability. Hotels with business centers are usually on top of my list because they instinctively understand what their guests need as far as digital amenities go.
Take a speed test on your preferred device
Once I’m settled into my room or rented place, I usually do a speed test on my laptop to see if the Internet connection is up to snuff. It’s simple enough to do. Once I’m WiFi-connected, I go to speedtest.net, click on the Go button, and see my results in a matter of seconds.
The speed test measures these three important things: the ping or reaction time, the upload speed, and the download speed. Depending on the kind of Internet activity you require at the time, you can easily gauge via the speed test if your conference calls will be uninterrupted, if you can stream and download videos, if you can send large files to other people, etc. From there, you can decide if it’s worth using the connection at that place, or if you have to have a contingency plan for a more useful connection.
Learn how to tether on your mobile phone
Perhaps the most practical nomad WiFi method (as well as the most convenient) is to learn how to tether from your smartphone. I learned to do this when there was absolutely no WiFi where I was, and I badly needed to get in touch with a client.
Now, it has become my favorite backup option if my pocket WiFi or hotspot devices aren’t available. I simply go to my phone’s settings, switch on the WiFi button, enable the personal hotspot option, enter my password, and start using the Internet. As a word of warning, however: it is important to note that tethering shouldn’t become a habit because it drain both your battery life and your data plan in no time (I had to learn this the hard way – with a dead phone, I was practically helpless in case of an emergency).
There are a lot more useful hacks when it comes to obtaining a reliable nomad Internet connection wherever you may roam. In fact, I learn more of them from other digital nomads I meet during my travels! But these five on my personal checklist are the ones I usually depend on because they have worked beautifully for me, so far. These methods and tools have kept frustration, panic, additional expenses, and failed communication at bay.
If you have more tips and roaming Internet hacks to contribute based on your own experience, I am all ears! Please share them with us in the comments section.