As a remote worker, there’s nothing more simple and pure than the love for a strong WiFi signal. Afterall, this is how work gets done, video conferences attended, and emails sent to clients and colleagues across the globe. When there’s WiFi insecurity– power outages; no signal on the 6-hour train or bus ride when there’s supposed to be, or any other nightmare inducing scenario… remote workers are some of the most resourceful in locating that bomb bandwidth! In my remote work adventures, Central America proved to test that theory…
A Remote Worker’s Dream Location
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua is a laid-back surfing town catering to backpackers and vacationing nationals. The sleepy beach hub seemed the perfect spot to set up a home base to work remotely while enjoying the many restaurants and outdoor activities during downtime. Our first apartment was next to the colonial church, 2 blocks from the beach, and we had a great view from our balcony of the nightly lightning show. It was paradise… or so we thought.
WiFi Disaster Strikes
Little did I know that our sweet little San Juan was notorious for experiencing day-long power outages, on a regular basis (insert facepalm emoji here), and our first power outage happened on day two. I was just sitting down to begin work– a day that consisted of three important video meetings when I realized I couldn’t load Gmail. Neither my mother nor my daughter could connect with their devices and we confirmed the dreaded news when none of the apartment lights would turn on.
I ran to the balcony and looked out, desperately searching for signs of power… but just saw people sauntering along, unphased by the sweltering humidity or lack of electricity. I ran downstairs and across the street to the computer store being run out of the living room of someone’s home– surely they have power! In my hysteria, I was able to ask our neighbor, what the hell was going on?? How long will the power be out?? What am I supposed to do?? The guy shrugged and said that usually, the outages last a few hours, sometimes 24 hours.
That’s impossible! I have to work!
Near tears, I asked him what I could do, and he put his finger up to his ear and said,”Escucha”–listen. I strained my ears, not knowing what I was listening for. All I could hear were dogs barking and a low grumbling whirl somewhere off in the distance. Our eyes caught, and he pointed to his ear again “El generador”– the generator. He told me to follow the sounds of the generators and I’d find electricity. I took off running down the streets passing wheezing, leaking generators powering little cantinas, but no coffee shops. I took a random turn and was greeted with a powerful, ear-numbing growl– a big, rusty, beautiful generator sitting out on the sidewalk, blocking the path, vibrating and shaking the ground and bringing power to Cafe Mediterraneo, my office for the day.
I ran back to the apartment to let the other’s know the good news and to grab my computer and my wallet. I set up shop at a corner table and enjoyed coffee, fresh pasta, and strong WiFi.
Disaster Never Strikes the Same Place Twice
(wait… yes, it does)
A day or two later, the power went out again, about halfway through the workday. I was prepared this time and had looked up coworking spaces in San Juan del Sur the day before, just in case! We packed our computers and decided to find the coworking space that was supposedly half a mile from our apartment. On our treck over, I lost google maps and we had to stop in several bars until we found one with a generator that also had WiFi, to connect and look up the address of the space. No one we asked had ever heard of this coworking space, and I was getting anxious to get back online.
After climbing a huge hill and getting temporarily lost we came to what had to be the spot– although lacking signage, the space was surrounded by locked gates and cement steps leading up to a main house and resembled the photos I’d seen online. I was able to grab the attention of a passing housekeeper, who had NO idea what I was talking about when I mentioned the coworking space. She disappeared and another person came down and escorted us up, without a word. What we stumbled upon was the infancy of NomadLife coworking and coliving space. For $10 we enjoyed a killer view, strong WiFi, free coffee and plenty of open workspace. It served its purpose well and I was able to wrap up the workday surrounded by a few other remote workers and a great vista of the sunset.
Coworking in Costa Rica
Before leaving the city for the weekend, I needed to wrap up work on a Friday so I chose a coworking space in San Jose. I spent the full day working from Selina Coworking which newly opened in June 2017. It’s a hip and comfortable space located across the street from its sister business Selina Hostel that has a full bar and a delicious menu that I tried out during my lunch break.
Free coffee and tea, helpful staff, and access to basic office supplies–notebooks pens, highlighters– made the fact that the coworking media room (printer, scanner, etc) which wasn’t functional yet, forgivable. Located in Barrio Amon and surrounded by beer houses, cafes and street art, this coworking space is perfect for working remotely and for exploring the city. The WiFi was strong and consistent, and I was able to make work phone calls to the states without interruption.
Where You Should be Working From
Now that I’m back in the states, I usually work from home, or I schlep to one of the nearby coffee shops for a few hours. At other points in my travels, I’ve shamelessly used Starbucks as my office and they’ve saved me in times of power outages and weak hotel WiFi. When traveling, I always make sure that the Airbnb/hotel/apartment I’m staying in has strong, dependable WiFi (I confirm this before booking) and I usually work from ‘home’. My philosophy of #nopantsnoproblem is usually frowned upon in public– but the occasional coworking/coffee shop experience is something I look forward to when I’m traveling.
After traveling for one year through 14 countries, I’ve experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to WiFi dependability and strength, tracking down indifferent waiters for the WiFi password, or even having consistent electricity to charge electronics. Regardless of where you work from, every location will have a struggle, but thankfully here are two lists that share popular digital nomad locations to get you inspired:
Momondo’s Top 10 Digital Nomad Destinations — highlighting locations based on budget, hobbies, and quick trips
Nomad’s List Best Cities to Work Remotely — based on cost of living, internet speed, weather and other metrics
What do you think? Is there a city or country that should be on the digital nomad hotspot list?
Let me know in the comments below!
Photos: property of Graveyard Shift Travel