Digital Nomad life can be tough if you choose a bad country for your travels and your remote work. Freelancers should always consider the Internet connection, price of living, transportation and other issues that could appear during a trip. I live a Digital Nomad lifestyle for two years now and I would never make the same mistake of not checking the country before traveling there. I have countless memories when I was searching for good wifi and walking kilometers just to charge my computer. Never again.
I am sharing my and other freelancers’ experiences of the places we visited and hated. Well, maybe hate is a strong word, but it was hard to do the job.
So I traveled to the Philippines without reading anything about it, I just knew a couple of things about this beautiful country, but I didn’t know that it is so terrible for freelancers. First of all, if you are in Manila it is so hard to find a proper place with good wifi. The first day I had to send one email and I just went door to door searching for any wifi signal. Finally, I saw a billboard of an Internet cafe and from then on I worked from those places. Even McDonald’s and Starbucks didn’t have wifi. I actually wrote a blog post about “The best places to work remotely in Manila, the Philippines”.
Then I flew to Palawan, an island well known for rotational blackouts (I didn’t read about it either before traveling to Palawan). It means that during the day electricity is gone like 5 times. Sometimes this electricity shortage lasts for an hour, but sometimes for 24 hours. It was challenging to work for me since my work depends on a good internet connection.
Europe seems like a good place to work remotely, but some countries are actually not the best choice. For example, I spent 4 months in Italy and it was tough to find a proper cafe where I could pull out my computer and work. The thing is Italians have a different coffee culture, you go to the cafe drink your espresso or cappuccino at the bar and leave. If you want to sit and sip your coffee, you have to pay service fee and if the place is near popular monuments then it could be quite expensive. Also, not all cafes have wifi because they focus more on the quality of coffee that the quality of wifi.
To be fair, most countries in Africa are challenging places for digital nomads to work. But out of the nine countries I visited on my most recent trip to Africa, Malawi was definitely one of the worst. Don’t get me wrong; I love Malawi, and the people there are incredibly friendly and hospitable. But the country suffers from a very low level of development, even when compared to some of its neighbors, like Zambia. Finding a stable WiFi connection, or any connection at all is a real challenge. In larger cities such as Lilongwe, WiFi is better but still not that reliable. You may have to try a few different cafés and restaurants before you can find a decent connection.
Anybody who wishes to visit Ethiopia should know that the internet – as well as other commodities that can be taken for granted in many countries, is not a thing there. Good Wifi is somehow less important when the main purpose of your trip is tourism. Yet, if you take your work with you during your trip, you may find the overall experience of digital work in Ethiopia frustrating.
Though most hotels promise Wifi and indeed will let you access it for free, this hardly works. You may be able to log in to your email – but it will take a while to download any new messages. You may manage to get on Facebook or Instagram, but they will load very slowly. And you’ll have to forget about sharing photos, voice messages and documents on Whatsapp – there are strong firewalls in place that will block any such message from sending or receiving.
You may be having somewhat decent Wifi in Addis Ababa, but the moment you leave the capital, your chances of being able to do any online work are lower and lower. Depending on the region, even electricity is not stable at all: there are regular power cuts.
If you’d rather work from a coworking space, you should know that there only are two in Addis Ababa and none in the rest of the country.
Being location independent is wonderful. You get to be nomadic and the travel opportunities are limitless. However, if you land on one of those countries which are not so digital nomad friendly like China, it can be a nuisance or career-ending catastrophic event if you are not careful. Specifically, the biggest challenge for digital nomads working in China is the notorious Great Firewall. The policy controls the internet and many major foreign websites are blocked. You will have a hard time accessing major western online services, including Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Netflix, etc. What’s worse, the legality of VPN is not clear. In January 2019, a citizen of Guangdon was charged for setting up VPN service with the “Lantern Pro” app. As a matter of fact, the authority has been cracking down VPN since 2017. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to dissuade you from going to China. It’s an amazing country with so much to offer. However, if you are a freelancer or digital nomad, you will want to research your options beforehand to ensure you have access to proper and unrestricted connections in China.
Imagine this: after a day in front of the computer and working for people all around the world you can pack your backpack, grab your hiking boots and explore one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Explore the most stunning mountain peaks and
on your way, you can check your emails because wifi is great in most parts of the country. You can choose whether you like to work from home or from one of the cafes that have free wifi. Or you actually work outside if the weather is good.
You are inspired by nature and the scenery of it.
Is that not a perfect working environment for a Digital Nomad or any freelancer?
Well, it could be. If that country would not be Switzerland. This breath-taking, gorgeous country in Central Europe does offer all that for freelancers and Digital Nomads but of course, there is a catch.
To work remotely in Switzerland you would have to earn tons of money. I mean, really tons of money. While you could live like a king in Thailand for $1000 and less, in Switzerland you don’t even get a nice room in Zurich or Lucerne for that money.
Yes, you could sit in a cafe and sip your cappuccino while working, but keep in mind that one cappuccino easily costs $5-7. Let´s not get started about prices for food, transportation, and the internet.
While Switzerland as a base for Digital Nomads somehow sounds amazing, it probably is one of the worst countries to work.