Working Remotely Abroad – Lessons Learned in Barcelona

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.

Barceloneta Beach

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

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.

Barceloneta Skyline

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.

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