Gone are the days of mandatory full-time work in an office, coming home exhausted after 5 o’clock. People today are interested in achieving a better work-life balance than previous generations had. We want to create lives full of exciting experiences, rather than waiting until retirement to enjoy travel and leisure. With the rise of remote work opportunities due to the pandemic, there’s no better time than now to take the leap and start working on the road.
Are you interested in becoming a digital nomad, but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered with answers to all of the common newbie questions. Van dwellers and remote work experts from a variety of backgrounds chime in with their own tips. Armed with a good source of wifi, a comfortable workspace, and, of course, the right information, you’ve got this.
Cover Image @vanziehartlieb
TYPES OF REMOTE WORK FOR VANLIFERS
You may be wondering, “what types of work can I do on the road?” It all depends on your skills, interests, and travel style. If you plan to stay in one place for a couple of months at a time and enjoy interacting with people daily, you can snag a seasonal job such as working at a ski resort or helping with the harvest on a farm. Traveling nurses can temporarily relocate to areas of high demand for assignments.
If you’ll be switching locations more often, you can still do jobs like photography that take you outside of your van. Registering with a pet- or house-sitting website is also a flexible way to make some extra income along your travels.
On the other hand, you might want a job that provides you with the ultimate freedom when it comes to your itinerary. Remote desk jobs are ideal because you can work anywhere with cell service from the comfort of your van. Digital nomads often do graphic design, web development, online teaching or tutoring, accounting, customer service, data entry, writing, virtual assisting… the list goes on. Essentially, any position that can be accomplished with a computer and cell phone is fair game for van life.
If you’re extremely hardworking and lucky, you can even make an income from your adventurous lifestyle itself, whether that’s by making YouTube videos, blog posts, or sponsored content on social media.
Full-time or part-time, freelance or for a company, the possibilities for remote work are near endless. Digital nomad roles are one of the most popular ways to make money on the road, so that’s what we’ll focus on for the rest of this post.
GETTING A REMOTE JOB
Perhaps the easiest way to get a remote position is to adapt your existing job to a traveling lifestyle. If you work on a computer at your current job, whether in the office or at home, try this option first. Talk to your employer about the idea and see if they’re open to a trial run. If you continue performing well, there’s a good chance they won’t mind you switching up your locations.
If you’re trying to find a new remote job, you can look on traditional job search websites like Indeed which often have search tools for remote positions. To get more specific, check out sites dedicated entirely to virtual work like FlexJobs, We Work Remotely, and Virtual Vocations. Freelance creatives can find gigs on Dribbble, Fiverr, and Freelancer.
Job listing websites can help you get an idea of the types of opportunities available. However, simply sending in an application isn’t the best way to stand out amongst the growing number of professionals interested in working from home. We talked to Juliana Rabbi, a career coach who focuses on remote work, for some advice. Here’s what she said:
“If you want to land a well-paid and good remote job in 2022, the last thing you should be doing is applying for remote jobs. This is not effective anymore, and it’s also what everyone else is doing. Instead of applying for a job: create a list of your ‘dream companies,’ follow them on LinkedIn, interact with people working there, and use every relationship opportunity to add value. If you do all of that before applying for jobs, I guarantee you will achieve better results.” -Juliana Rabbi, Career Coach for Remote Work (@juliana.rabbi)
CREATING A WORKSPACE
Having a calm, ergonomic, and distraction-free workspace can do wonders for your motivation and productivity. So how do you accomplish this on the road? First of all, it helps to start with a van model that has at least one–if not multiple–possible workspaces built into the layout. Check out “8 Great Campervans for Working Remotely” for our recommendations.
Some of the most common spaces van dwellers turn to for working on a laptop include dinette tables, front passenger and driver seats with moveable table surfaces, and folding tables set up outside the van under an awning or other source of shade. Although carting around a folding table might seem like a lot when you have limited space, your outdoor desk can serve multiple functions as an extra surface for food prep and an alfresco dining table. If you want to work inside your van but don’t have a built-in working surface, try a collapsible tv tray table.
If you’re traveling with a partner who’s also working remotely, make sure you each have your own desk space. When phone calls or Zoom meetings are part of the equation, it’s probably best for one partner to be inside while the other works outside. In a pinch, turn to noise-canceling headphones.
Wherever you choose to work, you’ll want to create a peaceful, clean, and functional environment. Check out our “Tips for Van Life Storage and Organization” to take control of your space.
FINDING INTERNET WHILE VAN CAMPING
Besides a physical space to work in, you’ll need strong wifi and cellular data. Figuring out these technical aspects can feel intimidating for newbies, but have no fear–the experienced van dwellers are here!
We reached out to couple Lovell and Paris Lee, who have found financial freedom through van life and are now sharing the knowledge with others through their Travelin’ Hustlas Podcast and YouTube channel (Novel Kulture). They’ve been working on the road for 5 years, and have tested out different sources of internet so you don’t have to. Here’s what they have to say to the Rec Van community:
“Wanna run your business and travel at the same time? When working from your van or RV, it is essential to have a reliable source of internet and cellular data connection. If you’re serious about cranking out some good work, then take a look at what works for us.
For mobile browsing and GPS, we use the Weboost Drive RV to boost our cell signals in bad areas. For heavy hitters like large file uploads and conference calls on the go, we installed the Pepwave Max Transit Duo router with the Poynting 7-in-1 antenna. We don’t pay anything to use the Pepwave or the Weboost. We do, however, pay for the 300GB/month AT&T data plan. The combination of the Weboost and Pepwave has been a game-changer for our over-the-road capabilities.
We loved our first 4 years on the road. But, what held us back when creating content for our Youtube channel ‘Novel Kulture’, was having to rely on coffee shops and libraries. This led to significant fatigue and frustration. Their connections are simply not strong enough, safe enough, or reliable enough to get real work done on the road.
After taking the measures we discussed above, we were able to confidently and comfortably launch our Travelin’ Hustlas podcast. It’s fitting that our podcast’s focus is on sharing how digital nomads make, save, and invest their money while living full time in their van or RV.” -Lovell and Paris Lee of Novelkulture (@lovellandparis)
SETTING A SCHEDULE
If you’re working full-time for a company, you might be part of the traditional 9-to-5 hours set. But for most digital nomads, there is more wiggle room when it comes to scheduling. Job flexibility is a major draw for van dwellers because you can make your workday work for you. You’re able to put in the hours whenever it best fits into your travel plans.
Prefer driving to new locations in the morning, exploring in the early afternoon, and cozying up to work in the van after dark? Want to work longer hours on a few days to get more days off? You can! Pro tip: try working through the weekend to get national parks and other popular destinations basically to yourself on weekdays.
The only downside of all of this flexibility is that you may find it hard to be productive if your working hours are “whenever.” Plus, you might be tempted away from work by the gorgeous and ever-changing scenery around you. That’s what van lifer and artist Jamie Leo speaks to here:
“Working remotely can be difficult when the world is your backyard! It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to explore instead of work… every day. That’s why I’ve found it helpful to create a schedule for myself to carve out specific times to get work done. It’s also very helpful to set up a workspace that will help me feel productive – I like to set up my table and play light music. This helps push me into the mindset of work so that I can get a lot done and have plenty of time to adventure later!” -Jamie Leo (@andwhatliesahead)
As Jamie points out, even if you don’t have a schedule imposed on you by an employer, you might want to figure out a general guideline to get in a healthy routine. Set your working hours for the time of day you tend to feel most productive, make sure you have little breaks built into your daily schedule, and create a firm boundary between work and play. For example, instead of firing up Netflix at the table you’ve been sitting at for hours, close your laptop and mark the end of the workday with a refreshing walk or cup of tea.
One of the reasons van life is popular with young people is that it offers a fast track to better finances. Whether that means paying off your debt in record time or creating a robust investment portfolio to set you up for the future, being a digital nomad can help you reach your goals.
For the best chance of success, make a detailed financial plan. To get started, turn to the free resources Lovell and Paris offer on their website, including a savings plan, singles budget, and couples budget, all fully editable and tailored to the van life experience.
Looking for more information on working remotely? You might like our “Guide to Remote Working While Boondocking” and “How to Work on the Road: Q&As with Van Dwellers.”
Ready to start enjoying more work-life balance, financial freedom, and year-round travel? Visit Rec Van to explore our top-of-the-line selection of new and used camper vans.