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26th October 2016

How salmon fishing in Vancouver became the site of my Virtual Office - The Digital Nomad

For the past three months I’ve been working remotely whilst travelling through America and Canada. The experience has been both challenging and rewarding as I’ve adjusted to my new life as a Digital Nomad:

Definition: Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job

Hi - I'm Mike Willson, Associate Traffic Engineer at ratio:

I hadn’t been to either country before, so when my mate got married in Vancouver I took the opportunity to do some travelling. The problem was my trip was getting longer as I began researching all the different places I could visit. I realised that the longer the trip got the harder it was going to be for me to take time off work, and the more my bank account would suffer.

Luckily for me I work for a very progressive company (ratio:), who have allowed me to mix work with my passion for travel.

Keeping Connected is Critical

My goal when I left was to bill approximately 20 hours per week. I knew that the key to making my trip work was to be as contactable as possible for both clients and junior staff.

I quickly realised that access to the internet was the life blood of a Digital Nomad, in order to access information on the server back in Melbourne, and to send/receive emails and international calls. Thanks to mobile phone plans being so cheap and mobile data being generally available across both of the countries this has been easy. Using my mobile phone as a hotspot, or Wifi when available, it has been easy to regularly access all of the information I need, and use Skype and email to remain contactable to clients and staff.

The Tyranny of Time

One of the difficulties of remaining contactable is the time zone difference, with America being somewhere between seven and ten hours ahead of Melbourne (but a day behind). This means that from Sunday night to Thursday night I would be checking emails as much as possible. Luckily with the development of Smartphones I can do this almost anywhere. If something urgent was required I could either do the work or I could send it to someone else in the office.

One of the key benefits of working remotely and as a team, with co-workers back in Melbourne, is the ability to operate as a 24 hour business. Someone in the office would be able to work on a project, and at the end of the day they could send it through to me. I would then be able to continue the work and have something back to them when they arrive in the office the next morning.

Location, Location . . . actually any Location

I’ve had phone conversations or been preparing traffic reports in all sorts of locations, including:

  • Preparing a report in a van on the way to a wine tour
  • Reviewing plans whilst salmon fishing near Vancouver
  • Working, sending emails or having phone conversations on planes, trains, ferries, buses, shuttles, taxis, in cafes, restaurants, hostels, motels, hotels, and AirBnBs
  • Conducting a webinar back in Melbourne at 12am from a hotel in San Francisco.

The Flexible Future beckons the Intrepid 

What I’ve learnt from my experience is that technology has made the world a much smaller place. Advances such as the Smartphone and communication programs like Skype make taking your work with you and communicating with people around the world easy. As this technology progresses I’m sure more people will begin working remotely, or with flexible hours, or from home. This is the future, and I think its important companies are aware of the possibilities available to staff and how it can change the way people work.

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mike willson ratio traffic associate
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