Working Remotely in Another Country: Everything You Need to Know
Summary: In this post, I’m talking through the logistical and emotional sides of working remotely in another country. It can be scary, but keep reading for advice on how to plan, how to ask for permission, and more.
We are in a time where a lot of us are working remotely, or at least have a hybrid setup where we go into an office periodically, but we can also work from home. If there’s one good thing that came out of the Covid pandemic, I think it’s this! Companies realized that their employees are just as productive, if not even more productive working from home as they are in the office. In turn, employees get more flexibility and a better quality of life.
My personal situation is usually 100% remote. My company is based out of Chicago and I live in Washington. I say “usually” because I do travel quite a bit for work. Sometimes I’m traveling to the office in Chicago, and sometimes I’m traveling to our partners’ offices in other states.
When my job switched to being fully remote, I thought, why am I not working in another country? I could be in Paris. Or Scotland. Or literally anywhere I want to go!
Now, one of my favorite things is working remotely from Europe! It honestly made me wish I studied abroad in college, but since I started sharing about it, I’ve had people reaching out about the logistics of working remotely in another country. They’d ask questions like “Do you work normal work hours when you do that? Any advice on asking my boss if that’s okay? How do you manage your time so you’re not stressed out?” and so many more. So, that’s why I’m writing this blog post. Keep reading for the answers to these questions and many more!
What My Days Typically Look Like
My top priority while I’m working remotely in another country is to not make anyone else’s life harder. I don’t want other people taking on more work so that I can go out and sight see. I want the days that I’m not in my office to seem the exact same to my coworkers as the days that I am. This is how I ensure I’ll keep this level of flexibility in the future!
Keeping this in mind, I typically try to work US hours when I’m traveling abroad. In Europe, this works out perfectly! I typically work 3-11pm or 4pm-12am, depending on the time zone I’m in. This way, I still have the mornings and early afternoons to explore the area.
This is also the exact reason that I haven’t worked remotely in East Asia (yet!). The time change is just too drastic to work US hours and still be functional the rest of the day.
A typical day working remotely in Europe usually looks like waking up around 9am and heading to a cafe for breakfast. If I’m alone, I might sit and read for a while, but if I’m with someone, we’ll usually eat and head out. Then, I’ll have something planned for late morning. This can be a museum, a tour, an old castle to walk around, or anything else. Around 1 or 2pm, I’ll eat lunch out and then head back to my hotel or Airbnb after that and start work. Depending on how many meetings I have that day, I might step out for dinner around 7 or 8pm. I also enjoy grabbing food from a corner store and eating that in the hotel while I get work done.
How I Manage My Time Between Working and Sightseeing
I tend to be very rigid when it comes to my schedule when I work and travel simultaneously. Like I mentioned above, I don’t want to put myself in a situation where my coworkers are depending on me, and I’m not there. For this reason, I do keep my phone on me at all times and I will take a work call outside of my “working hours” which I wouldn’t normally do when I’m home.
This strategy is open for argument because we all need boundaries. However, I think of location freedom as a HUGE perk and therefore, I am a little more accommodating when I’m taking advantage of it.
When I’m planning for my trip, I will make a list of things I want to do and places I want to see in the city I’m in. Then I’ll figure out how much time each on will take. If it’s only a couple of hours, I’ll plan to do it on a weekday morning/early afternoon. If it’s going to take all day, I’ll plan for a weekend.
If you’re traveling with friends and working, you’ll want to be very up front from the beginning. When I do this, I typically let them know my work schedule ahead of time and that way, they aren’t surprised or offended when I have to leave an activity to work.
I seriously cannot stress this enough: In my eyes, the easiest way to lose trust with a company letting you work remotely is to not be available when you should be.
Which Country Should You Try Working Remotely From?
I LOVE working remotely from Europe. I think the time difference works out perfectly so that you can still see and do fun things in the morning and work in the evening. I usually suggest longer stays in big cities your first couple of times because there are going to be more things to do and since you’re there longer (at least a week or two), you won’t feel too rushed to see everything right away.
A creator I love to follow on Instagram, CrosbyGraceTravels, travels to Central and South America quite a bit while she works remotely. The time zones are the same, or very similar to the US, so you’d likely be working normal work hours. This could also be a great option.
If you’re a night owl, Asia might be perfect for you! The time zones are SO different that you’ll be working well into the night, so you just might become nocturnal while you’re there. I wouldn’t recommend this for a first timer, but I’m curious if any of you have tried it!
Things to Consider Before Working Remotely Abroad
Logistically, there are a few things you’ll want to make sure of before jetting across an ocean and working remotely in a beautiful country. The first is to make sure your accommodation has good WiFi. Typically, hotels in big cities throughout Europe have good enough WiFi to get by. Sometimes, I’ll need to go off of video if I’m on a conference call, but I can get my work done. If I’m staying in an Airbnb, I will usually message the host and ask what the WiFi situation is.
Depending on how long you plan to travel for, you may also need to check visa requirements for the country you’re visiting. If you’re traveling from the US to Europe for one or two weeks, you don’t need to worry about this. However, if you plan to stay in one place for more than a month or two, this is when you’ll want to make sure you know whether or not you’ll need a visa to stay. Certain countries do give visas for extended stays for digital nomads, so it is possible to stay longer! You’ll also want to make sure your passport doesn’t expire anytime soon (6+ months after you plan to get back from your trip).
Next, you need to make sure your phone provider has international SIM capabilities. I set this up with AT&T years ago and now, whenever I leave the country, they send me a text saying “you are now using an international plan,” and they charge me $10 per day for that. You can also opt to get an international SIM card once you land in the country you’re visiting. This tends to be cheaper and will be required if you plan on staying for a longer period of time.
When you’re in the planning stages and trying to figure out where to stay, I’d ask yourself if you’re looking for a quiet getaway in the countryside, or a bustling city with a lot of things to do. I’d recommend the latter if you’re new to working remotely because a quiet getaway sounds nice, but it can get lonely quickly.
When it comes to choosing a hotel or Airbnb, in addition to WiFi, you’ll want to make sure you have a place to work. Most hotel rooms come with a desk. Most Airbnbs come with some sort of table. A lot of hostels have shared working areas. There’s usually something available, but make sure it’ll work for you.
The last piece of advice I have for this section is to think about whether or not you’d like to bring friends along. Personally, I love working remotely and traveling with friends. I am an introvert through and through, but I also have a lot of FOMO. Having to work forces me to spend time alone, recharging my social battery, and I find I have more fun with my friends when I do get to hang out with them. You just have to be honest with yourself and your friends. Make sure they know you have to work and don’t get sucked into the fun so much that you blow off getting things done.
How to Avoid Getting Lonely When Working Remotely
An Article that Changed My Life:
Working remotely in another country can get lonely, especially if you decide to make it a solo trip. I did a short solo trip to Italy in 2019 before I met up with a group of girls I had never met before (more on that here!). I stayed in Positano along the Amalfi Coast by myself. It was the most beautiful place I had ever been and because of that, I didn’t want to sleep. I wanted to see it all: the coastline, the beaches, the souvenir shops, the lemons. I wanted to eat all the Italian food I could fit in my belly and sail to Capri and drink every glass of wine my eyes came across.
And I did all of that.
And then I got REALLY sad. I had just gotten back from a day trip to Capri and it was raining, so I was soaking wet. I also hadn’t eaten much because I wanted to see the entire island in just a few hours. I got back to my hotel room and felt an overwhelming sense of dread. “I don’t want to be here anymore,” I thought to myself. “I want to go home and I still have another two weeks in this country.”
Everyone back in the US was still sleeping. I felt silly, but I Googled “What to do when you’re lonely traveling solo” and I came across an article that changed my life (seriously). Indiana Jo didn’t know that their simple words would literally change the way I travel forever.
That article made me feel seen and it made all of the annoying thoughts in my head make more sense. It also had the most basic, but often overlooked advice: Tend to Your Basic Needs First. Are you hungry? (yes, I hadn’t eaten since breakfast). Are you uncomfortable? (yes, I was soaking wet). Do you need a nap? (I sure did). Do those things first and then check back in.
I decided to lay down for a nap (something I rarely do) and then go find food for dinner. After that, I felt so much better. It was incredible. My body was just screaming at me to chill out and give it what it needed, and then we were alright.
I still need reminding of this sometimes, so keep this article handy. You’ll know when you need it.
Bring Friends with You:
Just because you’re working doesn’t mean you need to travel alone! If you do bring friends along, I’d try to bring at least two. If you bring one friend, especially one who doesn’t like to be alone, you may feel the need to skip out on work to be with them. However, if you have two people with you, they can always do their own thing while you work. I’ve done this a few times. I’ll usually plan something with them for the morning, then go back and work. Later, we’ll all meet up for dinner and then I’ll head back to work some more.
Try a Hostel:
I don’t typically do this, myself, but hostels are great ways to meet people when traveling alone. I have several friends who have stayed in hostels and are still friends with people they’ve met years ago. They often also have coworking spaces available so you can feel like you have coworkers, even if they have a completely different job!
Tips for Requesting to Work Remotely Abroad
I feel like some people might disagree with me on things I say in this section, but this is what has worked for me. I will preface this by saying I work for a very flexible company and I know my bosses have my back. I feel like I can be completely open with them and don’t ever try to hide anything. I know not everyone has had that experience, so do what you think is best for your situation.
With that said, I do recommend being completely upfront and honest about your intentions if you can be. The easiest way to lose trust is to just GO and hope no one will notice. Chances are, that will be the time you’ll get a call from your boss about an emergency and you’ll have to explain you’re having a picnic by the Eiffel Tower and it’ll take you at least 30 minutes to get back to your hotel room. Being upfront with everyone is also a sign of respect and acknowledgement that your actions effect others.
When you’re asking your supervisor about working remotely from another country, set expectations as clearly as possible. At the very least, I’d let them know where you’ll be, the times you plan to be working, and what times those correlate to in the US. If you’d like, you can also share more about the tasks you plan to get done this week and ensure them that the location you’re in will have no impact on your work output.
We have a shared calendar within our team where we put PTO dates and travel dates. I usually add “Sarah working from _____” for the dates I’ll be gone, just so everyone knows.
Lastly, I wouldn’t suggest asking to work remotely for a month right off the bat. Start with a shorter time frame and work your way up. The easiest way to do this is split a trip into two parts: a remote work part and a PTO part. For example, you could go somewhere for 10 days and since that includes weekends, you could work for 3 days and take 3 days of PTO.
This is my preferred way to travel. I love going somewhere for two weeks and taking a week of PTO and then working the other week.
If I had to sum up this advice, it’s to do whatever you can to build trust with your company that your work will still get done, and do whatever you can not to break that trust. After a few trips, your coworkers will understand that nothing really changes when you’re working abroad. They can still reach you. They can still rely on you. If that’s the case, it’ll become less of a thing every time you do it.
Where are you headed?
I have had a lot of people reach out to me and ask the questions that I’ve answered in this post, so I hope it helped. Working remotely in another country sounds so intimidating until you do it. Trust me, it becomes easier and easier every time you do it.
If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out on Instagram or comment below. Also, if you’re headed somewhere new to work remotely, how exciting!! Let me know where!