Last month I spent a couple of weeks in Barcelona. The initial reason was to have a holiday there, but I decided to go there for longer and work a full week there remotely. With easy access to strong Internet connections, web-based services for my work via my laptop, and online collaboration tools such as Mikogo at my disposal, I decided it would not be a problem to work there. And as it significantly increased the time I got to spend in Barcelona, why not do it?
I wrote about my preparation for setting myself up to work remotely in Barcelona last month. Now I have a few learnings to share which should hopefully assist anyone who plans to do the same in any city abroad.
1. Co-working spaces are the way to go
As I wrote previously, I arranged my stay in Barcelona over Airbnb which worked out very well. However I was very surprised by how easy it would have been for me to use a local co-working space. I visited two co-working spaces during my stay in Barcelona (021 Studio and RavalCo), at first out of curiosity to see what such spaces are like in Barcelona. It was a great experience meeting local business owners and hearing about their freelancing, business start ups, and remote working experiences. In fact I went back and worked from one of the spaces for a day. I will post a separate blog post soon about my experience with co-working spaces, including opinions and experiences from the workers I met there.
Of course everything went smoothly with my Airbnb place, however if you’re looking to work remotely abroad and don’t want to work from a flat or hotel room, I strongly recommend a co-working space. The places I visited in Barcelona both offered options to rent desk space for a month, week, or even just a day.
2. Don’t work on your first day
If you can, try to arrive a day or so before you intend to officially start working from your remote destination. This gives you time to settle in. For example, when I first arrived in Barcelona I got the laptop set up, made sure everything was working, and bought house supplies. I went to local supermarkets and bought the usual: coffee, food, drink, etc. That way when the day came to start work I had everything ready. If you arrive in your destination city and intend to start working immediately, it will be a rush and you might even encounter unexpected hurdles along the way (e.g. travel delays).
3. Ensure you have a good Internet connection
If you can work remotely abroad then you’re probably like me and glued to tasks requiring the Internet. On one of first days in Barcelona before my week of work I popped into a cafe with my laptop. The cafe offered a free wifi service but it was far from decent. Also the people around, small tables, distractions, etc would not have worked for me. I know some people use Starbucks as places to do a bit of work from but I wouldn’t rely on it. Luckily I had my Airbnb place with a good connection and privacy.
Be sure to check with where you plan to stay in advance that they have a solid Internet connection. You could even ask them to send you details of their Internet speed via speedtest.net.
4. Get out of the house!
You’re working remotely in a foreign land so you want to make sure you don’t only stare at your screen but rather experience the local scene. Of course you have work deadlines to meet during your time there so ensure you cover those first. But having breakfast before work in a cafe is a nice way to get out, try something different, and practice your foreign language skills before work.
Another suggestion is to pick a different neighbourhood for each night to visit and have dinner in – but it will help if you do your homework in advance. (More details in the next point.)
A further benefit of working remotely abroad in a co-working space is that you get out each day, meet others, and learn about the city from locals.
5. Do your homework before you get there
Following on from the previous point, this is a mistake I made and learned from. I didn’t know enough about each of the Barcelona barrios and where to eat (or not), so after finishing work I wasn’t so sure where to go. I’d spent all day working and then for the first couple of evenings, I was either looking online for where to go out or walking aimlessly around the streets hoping to find somewhere nice to eat or interesting to see. Walking aimlessly is great on holiday but not after a full day’s work when you have just a couple of hours and want to make the most of it.
I ended up discovering a list of hidden gems in Barcelona which ended up guiding me for places to eat quality local cuisine for my last few days. I highly recommend Blai Tonight!
But the lesson learned is do your homework before you work abroad remotely.
Discussion: If you have also worked remotely in a new destination, please share your tips and experiences in a comment. Would be interesting to hear what others learned.