How to become a digital nomad without travel budget

How to become a digital nomad without travel budget

Working and living for a while at a coastal city and learn how to surf along the way (like a founder friend of mine did this year in Lisbon) sounds like a dream to many of us digital workers. I always wanted to experience the digital nomad lifestyle, but due to budget and more over time restrictions can’t go abroad for several weeks right now. So I didn’t want to wait but prepare myself for the digital nomad life style while saving money and I adapted that remote working life style into a much cheaper “change your office everyday” working week. Read here what I’ve learned while working in a train, a café, a kitchen and a church and find out which working style suits you best. → jump to summary.

Day one: the train office

After attending EY’s investors’ dinner in Berlin where I met several early stage VCs and managers of EY to talk about I couldn’t find an affordable flight back to Cologne so I went for the ICE train. It took a bit more time than flying incl. the setup time, however, the big advantage of train over flight though is that you enter the vehicle and sit at one seat until arrival. Hence, I could work with less disruptions. Additional pro points of the train office:

  • Ergonomics: the position of the tray table in the train is ok to work with a laptop (much better than the 4-persons-table, they are too high), day light and lamps spend enough light and don’t create annoying reflections on the display, walking and stretching during breaks is possible.
  • Concentration: I reserved a seat in the quiet zone, where phoning is prohibited. In addition with noise cancelling head phones I could work comparibly comfortable and concentrate on my todos.

On the other hand…

  • Communication: it’s not a good working environment for telephone conferences or voice messages to co-workers. That’s why I blocked that day for work on documents (business plan, pitch deck, info letters) to which no interactions with co-founders is needed for a period.
  • Connectivity: Actually, I was positively surprised how okay-ish the free WIFI on board is working. It’s much worse than in a proper co-working space but better than nothing (like in a plane). Compensable with offline-work on above mentioned documents.
  • Catering: Food/drinks in the “bistro” are overpriced and of mediocre quality. Better bring water and snacks with you, so you also don’t need to leave your workstation behind when you go to the dining car.
  • Safety/Privacy: nothing bad happened this time but I didn’t have a good feeling when going to the bar or the bathroom knowing your laptop is easily to be grabbed. To prevent your neighbour from getting a long neck starring at your screen I recommend visual cover foils. It’s always shocking how many people work on their laptops showing to every passenger on what project their working on currently.
  • Fun Factor: quite limited, there are usually no surprises to be expected (besides delays, but that’s not a surprise).

All in all the downsides of the train office can be tolerated or compensated with preparation and the upsides may let me chose again train over flight in the future. The train office is ideal for tasks that don’t require collaboration and can be done offline while traveling.

Day two: the kitchen office

Sometimes, especially after heavy business travel, I like to stay at home and work from my workroom or the kitchen table. Besides maximum flexibility on working times and breaks, I appreciate the following advantages of the kitchen office:

  • Ergonomics: Some kitchen tables are not meant to be used for work, I, however, have a higher bar table that fits perfectly to my sitting position while working on a laptop and I can work standing to relax my back. Light and display reflections are usually fully controllable.
  • Concentration: If there is no apartment party going on, I can concentrate perfectly in the kitchen.
  • Communication: The kitchen also provides a quiet atmosphere for conference calls since nobody will disturb you and you won’t disturb anybody.
  • Catering: the kitchen office is in the heart of affordable and available food and drink supply. The coffee machine can be reached at armth-length. Full points in this category! (might be a problem if you have low self-control 😉
  • Connectivity: WIFI at home should be very fine, even though my co-founders complain about my slow connection sometimes (it’s an old house with thick walls).
  • Safety/Privacy: No need to explain, both aspects are maintained very well in the kitchen office.

There is but one disadvantage of the kitchen office:

  • Fun Factor: After a couple of days surrounded by solitude here I have to get out of the building and mingle again with people.

The kitchen office is ideal for tasks that require high concentration or intensive communication with team members and partners through phone.

Day three: the church office

To get some fresh air I went to work in the church the next day. Well, it’s not a real church (anymore), it’s a former catholic church transformed into a co-working space. In this article it represents all kinds of modern co-working spaces, however, I haven’t seen anyone more beautiful than Digital Church.

  • Ergonomics: The creator of this co-working space took very good care of ergonomic working stations as you can move up tables so you can work sitting or standing. The variety of tables, seats, chairs, bean bags, bars (including the pulpit) makes you take different positions during the day (which is doubtless great for your bag). It’s bright enough and fresh in the summer (extra pullover needed during winter though).
  • Concentration: The ability to concentrate strongly depends on which specific spot you chose within the co-working area. If you could manage to reserve your own conference room it’s perfect, if you are close to the co-working tables rather medium. Freely provided headphones help here partly.
  • Communication: To avoid being noisy to your fellow co-workers during conference calls, you find specific telephone boozes (if they are available).
  • Safety/Privacy: Those boozes are to my experience not completely sound proof, so data privacy is limited, but it should work for most activities. The same problem exists if you share bins where print outs of pitch decks and contract drafts from other startups can be found. I appreciate the option of renting lockers to deposit stuff during lunch break.
  • Catering: Apart from coffee and water (a founder’s basic nutrition) there is not much included in your monthly rent, so for lunch breaks it’s recommended to bring your own food or buy something in a supermarktet nearby as good snack bars/restaurants are rare there.
  • Connectivity: As a crucial offering of a co-working space, the WIFI connection is excellent. There is also a separate and free WIFI for guests.
  • Fun Factor: very cool as you always meet new people or chat at the coffee machine with other aspiring founders. A great way to network, as well as sharing free beer and pizza during the hub’s events.

The church office is a great match when you can work at different tables daily, don’t need 100% privacy but professional office supply and you like to meet like minded people.

Day four: the café office

To heal the culinary situation of the previous experience, I chose a café for the next day.

  • Ergonomics: limited, tables or chairs are not always built for a working-with-a-laptop position, in addition, the light is not controllable and might be too shiny, especially if you work in the café’s outside spots.
  • Concentration: It can be quite difficult to concentrate in a café, if you don’t have the ability to close your ears (like me). But for e-mailing it’s totally sufficient.
  • Communication: You can have calls in a café, since people chat at other tables, too. However keep in mind, that everybody can hear you and might be disturbed by your calls.
  • Catering: I went for a quite creative café (Café Hase) with innovative drinks and food. It was delicious, I could try out new things, but spent too much money to do that every day.
  • Connectivity: If the café is used to digital workers, they offer proper WIFI. I recommend to ask the waiters if it’s ok to block a table for a whole day and consume less than normal guests, before you unpack your instruments.
  • Safety/Privacy: If your screen faces a wall, data safety can be maintained. The safety of your belongings is limited, when you leave your place for the bathroom.
  • Fun Factor: Good, especially if you meet up with friends or colleagues (also from other companies that don’t work from your co-working space) to chat with them about common work-related issues or totally different topics to broaden your horizon.

The Café office is great if you fancy a complete change of nutrition, surrounding, co-workers and coffee break topics.


I hope to have given a good overview over urban possibilities to work remotely and to train for becoming a digital nomad. Before starting a complete nomad lifestyle learn which tools you need to work effectively and efficiently and which requirements you have towards your working environment. That will help you to avoid major pitfalls in the beginning of your nomad journey.

Here’s an overview about the evaluated office concepts:

Evaluation of tested office concepts

As for me, I think I’m now ready to work remotely and even go for more natural working environments so my next offices can be a lake, mountains or the beach. ☼ I keep you posted.

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Source: Medium:Remote Working
How to become a digital nomad without travel budget

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