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The Number One Problem Facing a Digital Nomad (No Pun Intended)

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The Number One Problem Facing a Digital Nomad (No Pun Intended)

    I don’t have an office anymore. You know, like a place in a building, with its own door and chair and internet connection and phone lines and locker and Rolodexes. I worked in one for ten years, while I had one of the biggest online publishing companies in Romania. I guess ten years is the maximum lifespan for an office in my system.

    Now, I work anywhere. I named this lifestyle “digital nomading”. I don’t really know if “nomading” is a word, because my spellchecker is complaining big time, with a red and kinda flashy line underneath it. But I’m gonna use it anyway.

    Being a digital nomad means I’m working pretty much in coffee shops. Or at home. Or in the park. Or in airports. But, most of the time, it’s coffee shops. I usually get there when they just opened the place. I take a cup of tea and a bottle of water, plug my laptop in, wire my iPhone and iPad to it, and start doing stuff. Checking email, writing blog posts, coding iPhone apps or sketching and rehearsing my next workshop.

    Every once in a while I stop and start to look around. People are coming in and going out, sit at their tables sipping their coffees or eating their sandwiches. Sometimes I spot some business meetings, with two very tense parties trying to get the best deal out of each other. Sometimes I gaze at teenagers making out, because, you know, they can’t get a room yet. Sometimes there is this classy lady reading a magazine or just staring at the pages blindly while letting the music fill her up. Nice images.

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    The Problem

    But, as much as I would like to stick to the images only, sooner or later I have to accept the fact that I’m more than just images. Namely, a flesh and blood human being, with very basic needs. After a few hours, my digestive system is done with the tea and water, and there is this overflow inside me, if you know what I mean. In much simpler words, I have to take a leak.

    But that creates a problem. A real problem. You know, I usually get the best place in the coffee shop, the one near the handiest power outlet, and with the best view. That’s why I’m getting there just after they opened the place. If I just take my stuff and put it in the backpack, go to the toilet, do what a man’s gotta do and come back, I may find my best seat taken. Actually, it happened a few times, in the beginning. And that’s frustrating. And unproductive.

    The Solution

    So, I decided it’s time to solve this problem once and forever. You know, a repeatable, effective and productive solution. We’re productive guys, so let’s solve this productivity issue.

    And the moment I took this decision I realized I can’t do it only by myself. The real solution was bringing somebody else into the picture. Like, to ask somebody else to look after my belongings while I was out. It was by far the only manageable solution in that specific context.

    But believe me, this was a very, very difficult thing to do. At least for me. I was never too good with relationships. Especially with casual, coffee shop, emergency relationships. But I also knew I have to do this.

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    Once I decided what I’m going to do, I begun to work on the “how am I going to do it”.

    For starters, I started to look at the people in the coffee shop with a different eye. It wasn’t just the “how nice these people are” kind of look, but also “would they agree to look after my belongings for 5 minutes?” kinda of look. The pretty lady with a kid may not be a good solution. Too busy. Oh, maybe the two blondes with half a kilo of jewelry on each arm? Neah, two busy searching for available males. Maybe this businessman on the next table? Yeah, perhaps.

    And what exactly should I say to the other person? “I’m going to take a leak, can you watch my computer for a while?”. Nah, too straightforward. “I’m gonna be out for five minutes, can you be so kind to look after my belongings? I’m extremely grateful, thank you”. Neah, too precious. I even started to type out a script for myself in a text editor. From long experience, I knew that you have to be prepared when the emergency strikes. And a pressured bladder is quite an emergency.

    After a few trials and errors with the opening text and some observation exercises, one sunny Wednesday, I took the risk. No more packing my stuff, rushing to the toilet, doing my thing and then rushing back to the coffee shop, only to see my seat taken. No, sir. Let’s get out into the wild and ask for some help.

    I stood up, went straight to the table I’ve been observing for some time, and started to talk. I must have babbled big time because I clearly remember the eye of the lady (yes, first time was a lady) staring at me with surprise and a little bit of fear, while I was repeating for the fifth time “I have to go out for a few minutes, can you look after these for me?”. Eventually, she understood and accepted gladly: “But of course, no problem”.

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    I ran to the toilet, washed my hands and then rushed back in. Everything was in its place. I thanked to the lady and she smiled at me. I made my first connection.

    From that point on, I practiced this approach each and every time my biological mechanism was asking for his rights. I gradually became better at this. I needed only a few seconds to know which one of the people in the coffee shop will be willing to help. I also started to diversify my conversational opening lines.

    And one day something amazing happened. I started a conversation with the other person. She seemed to be English, so I asked her if she was waiting for her plane. “Actually, yes”, she said with a touch of surprise. “How did you guess?”. And then we started to really talk. At the end, we exchanged Facebook and Twitter ids. Another time there was a man who was working just like me and we shared my power outlet. And another time it was a guy I knew from the industry who happened to be in the same coffee shop for some time.

    A small, but very consistent bond was created each time I stood up, approached the table, smiled and asked if they could watch my stuff. Deep down, people love to be helpful. They smiled at me politely at first, and then, when they realized I needed them, they were actually caring and observing. When I got back and thanked them, they were somehow relieved but happy.

    It’s What Makes Us Vulnerable

    The biggest lesson I learned by being a digital nomad was not about productivity. I got that covered anyway. It was about relationships. Simple, unexpected and honest relationships.

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    Because, you know, most of the time, when I read about relationships, I have to face those big words like “commitment”, “empowering”, “gratitude” and so on. Big words are nice. Impressive. But they are not very helpful. Not when you’re in a simple, biological situation. When all you want is to take a leak and still be sure that your stuff is taken care of. In that case, you have to open up, be honest and give the other person some control over your belongings. And hope they’ll agree. And deliver. That’s all. That’s where real connections are created.

    It’s not our strengths that are creating valuable relationships. At most, our strengths can make a relationship survive when bad times are coming. But our true, meaningful and useful relationships are created by our vulnerabilities. And by the genuine need to accept and expose them. I can hardly imagine a bigger vulnerability than the one created by an almost exploding bladder, in the middle of a crowded mall. You’re so powerless and cornered and desperate. You gotta solve this fast. You gotta take some risks and put out some trust, otherwise things may literally explode.

    This small exercise of opening up and practicing a little bit of trust each and every time I have to take a leak at “work” became, as strange as it may seem, one of the biggest highlights of my days as a digital nomad. Because I know now that not only I will solve this in an effective and productive way, but, what’s even more important, I may end up with some new friends too. :)

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    Last Updated on November 25, 2021

    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

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    Protecting Your Online Life With Secure Passwords

    With all of the recent online services and companies falling under attack to hackers in the past few months, it seems only fitting to talk about password creation and management. There are a lot of resources out there discussing this, but it never hurts to revisit this topic time and again because of its importance.

    Password management isn’t necessarily a difficult thing to do, yet it does seem like a bit of an annoyance to most people. When it comes to password management, you will hear the famous line, “I don’t really care about changing my passwords regularly. I have nothing important online anyways.” Let’s see if you have nothing important online when your PayPal account gets taken over because you thought the password “password” was good enough.

    In my opinion, it is an “internet user’s” responsibility to make sure that they keep secure passwords and update them on a regular basis. In this article we will discuss how to make your online presence more secure and keep it secure.

    The easy fundamentals

    First thing is first; creating a strong password.

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    A strong password is a mixture of alpha-numeric characters and symbols, has a good length (hopefully 15 characters or longer), and doesn’t necessarily represent some word or phrase. If the service you are signing up for doesn’t allow passwords over a certain length, like 8 characters, always use the maximum length.

    Here are some examples of strong passwords:
    * i1?,2,2\1′(:-%Y
    * ZQ5t0466VC44PmJ
    * mp]K{ dCFKVplGe]PBm1mKdinLSOoa (30 characters)

    And not so good examples
    * sammy1234
    * password123
    * christopher

    You can check out PC Tools Password Generator here. This is a great way to make up some very strong passwords. Of course the more random passwords are harder to remember, but that is where password management comes into play.

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    Managing your passwords

    I know some people that keep their passwords in an unencrypted text file. That’s not a good idea. I suppose that if you aren’t doing much online and are decent at avoiding viruses and such, it could be OK, but I would never recommend it.

    So, where do you keep your strong passwords for all the services that you visit on a daily basis?

    There are a ton of password safes out there including KeePass, RoboForm, Passpack, Password Safe, LastPass, and 1Password. If and when I recommend any of these I always count on LastPass and 1Password.

    Both LastPass and 1Password offer different entry types for online services logins (PayPal, Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, etc.), credit cards and bank accounts, online identities, and other types of sensitive information. Both have excellent reviews and only differ in a few subtle ways. One of the ways that is more notable is that LastPass keeps your encrypted password Vault online where 1Password allows you to keep it locally or shared through Dropbox. Either way, you are the holder of the encryption keys and both ways are very secure.

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    LastPass and 1Password both offer cross-platform support as well as support for Android and iOS (LastPass even has BlackBerry support). 1Password is a little pricey ($39.99 for either Windows or Mac) where LastPass has free options as well as premium upgrades that allow for mobile syncing.

    Upkeep

    You should probably change your passwords for your “important” accounts at least every 6 weeks. When I say “important” accounts I am referring to ones that you just couldn’t imagine losing access to. For me that would be Gmail, PayPal, eBay, Amazon, all my FTP accounts and hosting accounts, Namecheap, etc. Basically these include any account where financial information could be lost or accessed as well as accounts that could be totally screwed up (like my webserver).

    There is no hard and fast rule to how often you should change your passwords, but 6 to 8 weeks should be pretty good.

    Alternatives

    You may think that all of this is just too much to manage on a daily basis. I will admit it is kind of annoying to have to change your passwords and use a password manager on a daily basis. For those people out there that don’t want to go through all of the hub-bub of super-secure, encrypted, password management, here are a few tips to keep you safe:

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    1. Create a unique and hard to guess “base password” and then a pattern to use for each site you logon onto. For instance a base password could be “Ih2BaSwAa” (this stands for “I have two brothers and sisters who are annoying”). Then you would add something “site specific” to the end of it. For Twitter Ih2BaSwAaTWTTR, Facebook Ih2BaSwAaFCBK, etc. This is sort of unsecure, but probably more secure than 99% of the passwords out there.
    2. Don’t write your passwords down in public places. If you want to keep track of passwords on something written, keep it on you at least. The problem is that if you get your wallet stolen you are still out of luck.
    3. Don’t use the same passwords for every service. I’m not even going to explain this; just don’t do it.

    These are just a few things that can be done rather than keeping your passwords in a management system. Personally, with over 100 entries in my password management system, I couldn’t even dream of doing any other way. But those out there with only a few passwords, having a simpler system may be beneficial.

    So, if you want to be a “responsible internet citizen” or you just don’t want to lose your precious account data, then creating and maintaining strong passwords for your online accounts is a must.

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