Finding work on the road can be one of the biggest challenges in van life. For any of us transitioning from a full-time desk job to contract work, the idea of losing healthcare insurance and guaranteed stable income can be overwhelming. At least, it was for me!
What helped was making the transition to working on the road a slow and intentional process. I was forced to own my career and no longer mindlessly let a corporation make decisions for me. Which was amazing, but exhausting and confusing.
That’s why I want to share my strategies for finding a work rhythm on the road. Tips for managing time, designating a work space, and setting boundaries.
And no matter what works for you, remember to be patient and gentle with yourself. Working on the road is more than just a job change; it’s a new way of intentional living!
What Does Working on the Road Mean?
Working on the road can mean many things. If you work for a company with flexible remote options, you might be able to take your full time job to on-the-road remote job. However, there are many other ways to do it.
Part time, contract, and gig work can be found through job sites like Upwork and Top Talent. Seasonal and temporary positions are good options for travelers who don’t desire to work online, or don’t have access to the technology or possess the necessary skill set.
I’ve met nomads from all walks of life, making money in all sorts of different ways–from social media influencers, graphic designers, computer software engineers, small business arts and crafts creators, travel bloggers, and students, to those who prefer finding short-term local gigs.
Be aware, when searching for in-person temporary or part-time work overseas, that foreign countries require specific work visas. While it is possible to find work under the table, be mindful that accepting a job like this in a foreign country means taking a job away from a local person.
6 Hacks for Successfully Working on the Road
Balancing work on the road with life on the road is like maintaining any healthy work/life balance. Keeping a few of the following tips in mind will make your work time productive and your free time enjoyable.
1. Work When You're Most Energized
Personally, I like to hop out of bed, grab a cup of coffee, and crush my work responsibilities right away. It’s a great way to start a productive day, and it means that by lunchtime, I have the rest of the day free to do whatever I want.
Not everyone feels productive first thing in the morning. Experiment and figure out what works for you.
2. Stick to Productive Habits
Sticking to a routine while traveling in a van is tough. It’s not always possible for me to wake up and work right away.
I try to stick to productive habits, rather than a strict routine or schedule. Working during travel downtime, for example, is a habit I try to cultivate. Working when I’m energized is another. Taking breaks while working, and setting daily and weekly productivity goals are other habits that help me maintain my work/life balance.
3. Use a Designated Work Space
This is helpful not only for separating your work hours from your travel or play hours, but also for keeping your body healthy and pain-free. It can be tempting to curl up wherever with your laptop on your lap, but ultimately, your wrists, back, neck, and shoulders are going to pay the price for doing this repetitively.
Carve out a specific place in your living area that you use only for work, and get a few pieces of equipment to make working more comfortable. Check out the mobile office equipment I use for maintaining a stable workspace.
Other great options for mixing up your designated work space include working at coffee shops, public libraries or co-working spaces. I love finding local coffee shops in the heart of a city–not only do I end up with a mean cup ‘o joe and free wifi, but I get a real taste of the city’s personality.
But working at a public library may be the absolute best. Not only is it free and offers wifi, but it’s quiet, usually has clean public restrooms, and lots of study or lounge areas to choose from. I definitely recommend taking work Zoom video calls from there vs a coffee shop–trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
I haven’t used a co-working space, but those offer a bit more privacy and quietness (but you’ll have to buy a day pass or pay some kind of fee).
4. Set Realistic Daily Goals
Daily and weekly goals are important. When I first started working on the road, I was so anxious about finances that I worked all the time. It took me a while to understand my budget and income well enough to realize that I didn’t actually need to work as much as I was.
I also realized that I was tricking myself into thinking I was working more than I actually was. It could take me an hour to do a twenty-minute long task because I’d let myself get distracted. Before I knew it, the day would be over and I would have only completed half of what I’d wanted to.
That’s why time management is so important for setting realistic daily goals. What helped me was physically blocking out chunks of time on my cellphone calendar to remind me when to switch tasks.
Another good rule of thumb is designating your work and non-work days. Because once you become your own boss (especially if you’re an entrepreneur trying to run your own business), hours and days blend together. You won’t remember the last time you took a full day off. Sometimes, that may be necessary in the early days of a new business, but eventually you do yourself a disservice by not giving yourself a minute to disconnect. After all, burnout is real and taking a break can spark new ideas!
Now, I’m able to set a reasonable daily word count and know that I’m hitting my income goals. For you, a daily goal might be number of hours worked or simply number of dollars earned.
Not everyone feels productive first thing in the morning. Experiment and figure out what works for you.
5. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Diet and exercise are the foundations of enjoying van life. In fact, let’s face it: diet and exercise are the foundations of enjoying life! Prepping my meals while living in the van makes it more of an experience and ritual, versus throwing something in the microwave at home.
Try to view meal prep, eating and cleanup as a zen time where you can zone out and solely focus on your food. It doesn’t have to be a chore that pulls you away from work, but instead a welcoming break to check in with yourself (and eat something tasty).
Even on days where you may have a lot of driving, opt for healthy gas station snacks if you need a pick-me-up treat.
Cooking a healthy meal at the end of every day is also a great way to structure your time and make sure you don’t overwork.
6. Don't Compare Your Work Life to Others'
Everyone’s journey is different. Your income and work schedule are going to look very different from your friends back home—but they’re also going to look very different from other digital nomads and remote workers you’ll meet along the way.
Resist the temptation to compare yourself to those other nomads. As long as your work schedule works for you, it works.
How to Start Working from the Road
Jumping into remote work can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to. The following steps will help you get started finding work from home jobs so you can work from an RV, your camper, tent, boat, bike, or whatever your preferred form of travel is!
Create an Online Resume
An online resume can be as simple as a Google Drive folder. I have copies of my best articles saved in Google Drive, along with a one-page cover letter and resume that I send out to potential new clients. That’s it!
If you want something fancier, you could hire a developer on Fiverr or Upwork to build a website for you, or build one yourself using Wix or Squarespace. There are also free portfolio hosting options like Crevado that will host a simple portfolio for you.
Use Job Apps
Upwork is the best-known gig economy job app out there, but there are many others. Fiverr, Top Talent, SolidGigs, and Freelancer are a few that cater primarily to remote and computer-based workers.
Other jobsites like Task Rabbit and Wonolo list jobs that don’t require access to a computer. Craigslist and Facebook Groups are also excellent places to look for gigs, contracts and temporary work.
Check out my roundup of 17 gig apps to find instant, local work.
Minimize Work Equipment
You won’t always have space to set up a complete office if you live in a van or travel constantly. Pick the few important pieces of equipment that you can’t live without. For me, that’s a laptop, ergonomic mouse (so important!), portable batteries or solar panels, and an adjustable desk.
Keep Clients Informed
This goes without saying for any freelancer or contract employee, but it’s especially important for those of us who work remotely and travel frequently. There will be times when you won’t have internet access or a solid wifi connection.
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Let clients know well ahead of time when you will be offline.
PRO TIP: When traveling from state to state, keep tabs on if your timezone changes. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve shown up to a meeting an hour early or missed a meeting because my work calendar didn’t sync to a new time zone.
Have Backup Wifi Options
Always have more than one option for getting an internet connection. A mobile hotspot is usually your best bet. Depending on your data plan, you can also use your cellphone as a mobile hotspot (so you don’t have to buy a separate mifi device). Just make sure you have good cell coverage! Check out my favorite van life apps for finding cell service while boondocking.
These days, Starlink satellite internet is becoming prevalent and nomads are using it all over the world. There is an “RV” option that allows you to roam with the Starlink unit, and turn service off if you won’t be using it for a while. I’m hearing more and more vandwellers rave about Starlink’s reliable internet connection – it’s pricey, but maybe worth the extra cost?!
Read my vanlife friend’s review of using Starlink
Successfully Work on the Road Today!
The way we work is changing. Post-COVID, many companies and people are re-evaluating their relationship to work. Remote options are becoming more available. It’s easier than ever to get started working on the road if you’re interested in the nomadic lifestyle. Just remember to keep your mind focused, your body healthy, your clients happy!