Top Tips for a Digital Nomad in Australia
Invest in good headphones
When you’re working away from home or the office, small things can make a big difference when it comes to productivity. I tend to work from home most of the time, but sometimes I’ll go to a coffee shop for a change of scenery. When I’m anywhere with background noise though, I find it virtually impossible to concentrate fully without wearing headphones. I’ve had a pair of Bose QuietComfort headphones for the past three years and can honestly say that they’re amazing. Admittedly they’re not cheap, but you get what you pay for; the quality of the noise cancellation is incredible, they’re well built, hold their charge for hours (long enough for a flight to the UK) and they come with a good protective case. Genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever bought. Find them on Amazon here.
Bonus tip – I use brain.fm all the time while working. It’s a music player specially designed to help you focus. I love it because; one, sometimes I just don’t know what to listen to on Spotify; two; most of the tracks have the perfect frequencies to drown out background noise; and three, maybe its a placebo effect but I genuinely think there’s something special about the sounds that help me focus better than when I just listen to regular music. Get a one month free trial with this referral link.
Get a phone contract with a lot of data!
If there’s one thing that’s critical to working remotely, it’s a decent internet connection. I’ve found the speed and quality of wifi connections in hotels, cafes and the like in Australia tend to be pretty rubbish, and so never rely on them. Instead, I have a mobile contract with unlimited data (or at least more than you’re likely to need). I’ve used Amaysim since I settled in Australia and have always found it to be good. I use their Unlimited 45gb plan which costs $40 a month and also includes free international calls (great for when I need to call home). Use this link to get $10 of free credit.
Be honest with your boss
I’m a terrible liar so this isn’t really optional for me, but if you’re going to head away from home to work for long periods of time you really need to let your boss know. It’s inevitable that there’ll be times when you won’t have internet access, or your laptop battery will die or you’ll get stuck in traffic on the way back from a morning surf – which could all stop you from dialling in to a meeting or responding to a message on Slack, and thus lead to awkward questions.
I’m lucky to be working for an amazing company that has embraced remote working and really trusts its employees to get their work done; but it’s all based on trust. I catch up with my manager via Zoom at least twice a week, let him know where in the world I am, what I did last week and what’s on my to-do list for the coming week.
Be realistic about where you can be productive
Don’t believe the hype about digital nomads laying around in hammocks with their Macbook in one hand and a pina colada in the other: It’s bullshit. For one, you’ll get a terrible back ache after a very short space of time; and two, it’s impossible to see a laptop screen in bright sunlight. You need to be realistic about the type of environment in which you’ll be able to be productive.
Everyone’s different, and while some lucky people can work and be productive in a noisy and distracting environment with their laptop perched on a tiny table, I am not.
I really like working in coworking spaces when I’m travelling because – as with working in a regular office – they give the sense of separation from being at home and provide a more distraction-free environment. In Australia though, the cost can be prohibitive, especially for longer periods of time. You can expect to pay around $500 per month for a decent coworking space, which is way beyond my budget. Instead, I prefer to set up the best work environment I can wherever I am staying.
Create a good working environment
Okay, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to carry a deluxe ergonomic chair around with you, but it’s worth spending some time setting up a workstation that’s comfortable and will allow you to be productive.
Space is an important factor, so when deciding on somewhere to stay, think about where you can work.
In my current adventures in Australia I’m travelling by car so have enough space to bring my monitor – which I’d highly recommend if possible. A lot of my work involves analysing datasets in Excel which is quite tricky with just my laptop screen, and definitely affects my productivity. I also have a folding laptop stand that is light, strong and sturdy and would highly recommend. You can buy it from Amazon here.
I’ve also been carrying around a portable camping table (see photo above) which has been really useful when my girlfriend and I need to work in the same place (we’ll take turns between using the ‘desk’ and dining table).
I also recommend bringing a couple of cushions with you (one to actually sit on, and another smaller one to act as a lumbar support). It can really make a difference to your posture and comfort when you’re sitting for long periods on dining table chairs.
Extension leads and powerboards are essential! Bring at least a couple each so that you can set up your work station in the best spot.
Use a schedule – and be disciplined
One of the most difficult things about working remotely is being disciplined about work. When Mecha and I were in Byron bay, we’d look at the surf cams and be tempted to head out whenever it looked good, but this definitely affected our productivity. Being British, I have an intrinsic desire to make the most of every second of sunlight in case it disappears any moment (not much danger of that up here in Noosa) so I find it difficult to sit inside when it’s a beautiful day. As I mentioned above, though it’s important to be realistic about where you can be productive – and sitting outside in the sun isn’t ideal.
We’re now being much more disciplined about how we spend our time. We have three potential schedules depending on how the surf looks. Here’s an example:
6am – Wake up, check the surf cams. Coffee and breakfast (if not surfing)
6.30 – If the surf is good, we’ll be surfing if not we’ll have started work
9am – If we went for a surf, we’ll be back home and working by this time
1pm – Stop for lunch. Sit in the sun for a while or go for a walk and get a coffee
2pm – If we didn’t surf in the morning, we’ll check again now. If it’s good we’ll go. Otherwise we’ll go back to work.
4.30pm – If we went surfing at 2pm, we’ll be back home working again by now. If we went surfing in the morning, or not at all, we’ll be finished for the day.
6pm – If we went surfing in the arvo, we’ll probably finish around this time
7pm – Dinner
Keep your things organised
Let’s be honest, moving your stuff around every few weeks (or less) is a pain in the ass. But you can make it much easier by keeping organised so that you don’t need to sort everything each time you head to a new place. Because we’re travelling by car, Mecha are carrying quite a lot of stuff around (monitors, the camping ‘desk’, surfing stuff, yoga stuff, Mecha’s extensive clothing collection ;)) but we try to make sure that everything has a place.
We keep foods like spices, herbs (and all those other little bags and jars you accumulate) in shoeboxes that we can lift in and out of kitchen cupboards easily. We have a similar box for toiletries. Wetsuits, beach towels and sunscreen are always kept in a readily accessible box in the car.
Seek out good deals for accomodation
It’s been a tough year for the Australian tourism industry, but that has created opportunities for people like us who are looking for long term accommodation at an affordable price.
The first place we stayed in Byron (we booked at the height of the covid lockdown when prices were probably at their lowest) is currently listed on booking.com for nearly $2,000 per week. We paid the same amount for the whole month. We paid only slightly more for the second place, but still far less than the going rate.
The single best piece of advice I can give is to contact places directly. Websites like Booking.com take a big chunk of the price you pay when you book through them, and the prices tend to only be set up for shorter-term stays, so you’ll nearly always get a better deal if you go direct.
This can be time consuming however, especially in places where there’s hundreds of holiday apartments to contact. That’s why Mecha and I built a script to scrape the search results for a term (in our case ‘holiday apartments Noosa’) and extract all the email addresses from those websites. We then emailed everyone in one time and watched the offers roll in. Sign up to our mailing list to hear when we post our next article with exactly how we did it, including the script itself, and the email we sent out to enquire about places.
Got any tips or questions about being a digital nomad in Australia? Leave them in the comments below!