Freelancing Across the World: Ditch the Laptop and Depend on Internet Cafes?
Working as a freelance writer while traveling the globe, certainly a dream come true, also means packing a laptop around wherever you go. And for the dedicated wanderer that ranks a light backpack up there with religion, dragging along such hardware represents a travesty. Notebook computers add substantial weight to your pack, tempt you to waste time on recreational browsing, and cause you to mentally label the most harmless people potential thieves.
So, how about just leaving the darned thing back at home?
Seem farfetched? Not quite. These days, you can travel to nearly any country in the world and find an internet cafe with great computers and a solid high-speed connection.
As you can imagine, however, running a writing business without a laptop on your person constitutes a substantial challenge. I’ve actually been there and done it for months at a time-so allow me to offer some insight into the reality of laptop-less location independence.
Believe it or not, working strictly in internet cafes can actually result in increased productivity. You see, logging all your work-hours in the same room where you sleep (and do who knows what else) can turn you into a real scatterbrain.
The internet shop, on the other hand, becomes your office away from “home,” and when you step into the office, your non-business life suddenly seems a world away. Not to mention that while internet fees come quite cheap in most places, just being on the clock adds further incentive to use your time wisely.
To maximize productivity, show up to work at the same time everyday, and confine non-work browsing to trips planned for that purpose alone.
Prepare for the Chaos
Combine the monotonous third-world lifestyle, a lack of money and abundance of time, with cheap out-of this world gaming opportunities, and you can count on every computer shop around being packed to the brim with teenagers addicted to the virtual action. Consider yourself forewarned that working alongside video game junkies distracts even the most focused of writers.
Don’t let the background noise get you down – invest in a nice set of headphones to carry in your backpack, fire up some internet radio, and you’re set. If you just cannot work with music playing, try something like classical or jazz, both of which don’t typically include lyrics and actually enhance your thinking.
By far, the biggest headache about working on various computers around the world stems from a lack of consistency-not on your part but on the part of the machines you use. Even when you do find a lab with sound hardware, it often won’t have the software you need.
Such problems can wipe out all the productivity gained by working away from your room.
Consider carrying an external hard drive, loaded with portable versions of your favorite software-portable programs exist for just about any application online these days, and when they don’t exist, substitutes should suffice.
External hard drives take up very little room in your backpack and can easily be hidden away from sticky fingers. You also might want to use a service like as a secondary storage place, just in case you do lose the external.
Spend time searching for the best computer labs upon arriving in new cities or towns. Most backpackers stick to whatever’s closest, and typically, the ones in the tourist areas have the highest rates (not to mention the shoddiest hardware).
Head away from tourist central and find the cheapest place with the best equipment and atmosphere, and make that your second home. Also, locate a few others for backup when the first choice unexpectedly shuts down or suffers a poor connection.
Want a great way to unearth the gems? Head in the direction of the local universities. I find internet labs near universities a real pleasure to spend time in, especially when traveling in Southeast Asia.
High-backed, thick-padded chairs designed to keep the gamers playing until early morning, fierce air conditioning, readily-available food, and open all hours of the night. Nice.
When you do find an acceptable place to work, look for a guesthouse, apartment, or hotel in the same neighborhood. While you don’t want to spend all your time working, crises and crunched deadlines do happen. Running down and emailing a pack of articles to a client last-minute is an occasional inevitability.
So, stay near your “office” to make these hopefully-rare dashes to work a little less stressful.
Save Work Often
Remember back in high school when you were writing that huge report and lost the entire thing because you didn’t save your work? When working in internet cafes, these sanity-splitting mistakes await once again, only now you’ve got a business to run.
In many shops, you prepay for your time but cannot always tell how much time you’ve used. In other cases, you just forget about the clock and your session expires, and sometimes, the actual power blacks out without warning, shutting everything off.
All too often, when the computer program suddenly logs you out, your unsaved work vanishes into that oh so thin air. Save your work and save your work often, both on your external hard drive and on USB.
You’ll thank me later.
Another major concern when working from shop to shop is password protection. Apparently, some proud-to-be dodgy shop owners use key-logging technology to record your passwords as you type away, a huge risk when constantly conducting financial transactions.
Dirty, sure, but what can you do?
I don’t claim expertise in this department by any means, but word on the web is you can thwart these key-logging programs by storing all your passwords in a file. Then, instead of typing them in, just copy/paste. As no keys are tapped, the key-logger loses.
So there you go – some essential tips, tricks, and warnings about working your way around the world without lugging a heavy laptop along with you. As you can see, it’s certainly possible; just be aware of the challenges you’ll face before making your decision. As always, each choice has it’s advantages.