We have all heard about the laptop lifestyle.
Traveling and working. But how does it work in practice and could it work for you? I’ll start by explaining where I am currently living and whether I can really be said to be living the laptop lifestyle. I’m currently living in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, in Africa. I’m running my business from here. To then answer everyone’s next question, my wife is on a secondment out here for a few years, I’m abroad, a long way from the UK, but, I’m not travelling. I’m living here from a couple of years, I have a house here. So, as in the UK, I’m running my business from home. It’s just that my current home’s quite a long way from my UK home in Beverley.
Being out here and working from out here has given me an insight into some of the ideals and pitfalls of the laptop lifestyle and living and travelling abroad while running your business through your laptop.
There are a few practical issues to think about. Reliability of power and internet are a couple of them. Around Europe, this isn’t an issue. Despite our grumbles about download speed, it’s always easy to get a pretty good internet connection. Paul, who designs Websites with us here, often disappears for a few weeks in the sun to Spain, Greece or somewhere else. He regularly has extended working holidays. Getting an Airbnb working in the morning and enjoying the sun and cities in the afternoon.
If you’re thinking of travelling somewhere a bit more exotic then these services can become a little less unreliable. Phone signal, Wi-Fi and reliable power are not to be assumed in the far-flung corners of the earth. But most cities now have a good mobile data connection and a local SIM card can be picked up cheaply and easily. A laptop with a good battery can help see you through those power cuts.
On another technical note, I would recommend paying for a VPN. This is a service which hides your location and encrypts (puts into secret code) all information you send across the web. I suggest anyone who sometimes works from a café in the Uk gets one of those. It stops other users in the café seeing what you are doing online, or, much worse taking customer information. The other advantage is that you can pretend to be anywhere in the world. This means the security on all your accounts doesn’t go crazy when you log to LinkedIn. When normally you log in from Hull and suddenly, you’re in Havana alarm bells will ring. But, if you pretend to be in the UK, the problem goes away.
Travel and accommodation costs vary and that needs to be factored into account. Accommodation here in Maputo is certainly not cheap. Don’t always assume that exotic countries will have cheap places to stay and eat. It’s not the case here.
One really important thing to plan is what are you going away for. Are you going to work, but somewhere more interesting, or are you going to travel and work to pay your way? The ratio and balance here are really important. I had a one to one recently with a guy living in Thailand who was travelling with his family and running his business from his laptop. But his business was taking off and he ended up spending all his time working and very little of it enjoying the travelling. Can your business manage if you aren’t in it full time? This needs to be planned carefully for your venture to be able to work.
You’ve then got to think about your customers and if they will be happy meeting remotely instead of in person? The recent pandemic has certainly made this a perfectly normal approach, but no-one knows how much that will remain the case into the future. Will everyone fall out of love with Zoom? You’ve also got to think about your motivation. If you live next to a tropical beach (we do, but it’s shut due to COVID) will you really work, or you be tempted down to the beach and the work side be forgotten?
For me, at the moment it’s working well. I’m not sure staying in the same place and working from home can quite be said to be living the laptop lifestyle (especially with a desktop and two screens). But it’s certainly different from being in the UK. I work a regular 9 to 5 sort of schedule at home. As my children are at school (well online school at the moment) and my wife has a regular job it means I am free in the evening when they are.
This lets us spend weekends getting to explore all the country has to offer, which is quite amazing. I think travelling and working is something many of us could do, with the right planning and research both into our destinations, but also into our business and motivations.