WORKING ON THE ROAD – TRAVELING WITH A CAMPERVAN AS A DIGITAL NOMAD

By Susanne Rieker

#vanlife and #digitalnomad. Sounds like a pairing made in heaven. But does it work? I’ve been traveling in a campervan around the south of France and Italy in September and October, trying to work on the road, with some yoga thrown in as well.

I have to say, while it was an unforgettable trip, it wasn’t always easy to combine my passion for exploring new places with getting done what needed to be done. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Working on The Road – Traveling with a Campervan as a Digital Nomad

I love the life part of #vanlife

When I prepared everything the night before, I could make my coffee without even getting out of the bed… While this may sound claustrophobic to some people, I loved my cozy van. I don’t know how I would have felt if I’ve traveled with someone else, but for me alone it was perfect. I loved sitting in the bed with my Macbook on my knees, looking into the treetops. I loved cooking in the little kitchen. I even loved cleaning up, because such a small space gets messy pretty quickly.

I’m addicted to the internet

I haven’t been camping ‘wild’, I always stayed at camping places (I had to promise my parents whose van I borrowed for this trip). But if you think that those would come with WiFi, don’t count on it!

It’s in the nature of camping places that they are spread out. So, most have a small corner close to the reception where you can get WiFi and where you can see people standing around looking on their phones.

I knew this wouldn’t work with me, so I got a local French sim card which sounded like a great deal – 100GB for 30 days for just €29! The problem was, I only ever got a relatively good reception (only 3G, forget about 4G or LTE) when I was close to a bigger city. Everywhere else reception was nearly non-existent.

I much preferred staying at remote camping places surrounded by nature, but here I couldn’t go online. So, every few days I had to look for a bigger city and go there to get some work done. Unfortunately, the camping places that are relatively close to a city are definitely not surrounded by nature, more often by highways with the accompanying traffic noise replacing the sounds of the wind in the treetops…

Traveling with a Campervan as a Digital Nomad

It’s possible to get work done while offline

I have to admit, this whole internet situation was frustrating. Definitely a lot of attachment issues here. Because the truth is, I could work offline, and with less distractions. Like right now I have very poor internet and I’m just writing blog post after blog post. I’m thankful that I still have Mirosoft Word and don’t rely on Google docs and that I don’t store all my files in the cloud but on my desktop as well.

Camping places are weird

All the people I saw on camping places seemed to love their camper van and their life, which is great. It’s definitely a happy bunch of people! I just didn’t connect to anyone I met on a camping place.

Maybe this is different in other locations, but there were only couples, mostly older, and really, no diversity at all. I heard for example in Portugal you’ll find more younger people camping, so I’m feeling kind of bad that I didn’t make it there.

Traveling with a Campervan as a Digital Nomad

Traveling alone can get lonely

Since I didn’t connect to my neighbors on the camping place, I was spending quite a bit of time by myself. Changing locations every few days didn’t help, and I was happiest when I stayed longer in one place and connected to people there, for example by visiting a local yoga studio. I also visited friends on my trip that I haven’t seen for ages and without those connections I would have felt much worse. I think for a longer time this way of traveling and living would feel to lonely for me though.

What’s with the weather?

When you’re living in a campervan, you’re obviously much more exposed to the elements. I was traveling in September and October and in the nights and mornings it could be chilly, and I had to put on the heating. While I normally hate the cold, I actually loved snuggling under my duvet in the bed in the morning, watching the sunrise.

The bigger problem was in the afternoons, when it got insanely hot inside the van and impossible to work. I quickly got into the habit of getting a few hours of work done in the mornings and taking a lazy siesta after lunch.

Let’s sum it up

I’m so grateful for this experience and that I could try out #vanlife! I dreamed about it for a long time and already looked at buying my own van, but now I’m not so sure anymore. My biggest issue was definitely the internet connection and also trying to find a balance between traveling, exploring new places and working.

I was happiest when I stayed longer in one place, but to do that I don’t need a campervan, I could just rent a place on AirBnB for a few weeks or months and immerse myself much deeper into the local community, like I do when I’m in Bali.

So, I would still love to go on a campervan trip as a vacation, but not trying to work on the road, and not by myself again.