So you want to travel freely, work remotely, and live the digital nomad life in your skoolie or van conversion? Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an accelerated interest in the digital nomad lifestyle. True enough, millions of people are now taking advantage of their ability to work anywhere as most companies have had to close their physical offices. Of course, there are lots of ways to be a digital nomad aside from working from a beach resort in Bali. Some examples are 'workation-ing' (where you stay in different locations), working from an RV, and working from a skoolie — just like many of us in this community these days.
Of course, remote working from a skoolie, van conversion, or any remote destination comes with its fair share of challenges — from having to set up a stable internet connection, to maximizing your workspace. That being said, here are a few tips on how to work remotely from a school bus or van conversion.
Reliable Wi-Fi for working remotely.
Maintaining a reliable connection is one of the biggest challenges in remote working on the road. Fortunately, most smartphones can be turned into a hotspot that other devices can connect to for Wi-Fi. However, you’ll need to double-check your data plan so you avoid any unexpected charges. For starters, I have a plan with Bell that gives me unlimited data for just $60CAD a month.
Our conversion shop is out of town in Northern Saskatchewan and we don't have active services so we actually use something coined as a 'Rocket Hub' but different service providers call them different things like Verizon calls theirs a 'Jetpack'. It's basically a battery powered router (with the ability to plug it in) that has an unlimited GB cell phone plan hooked into it.
The only downsize to this option for remote work is that the speed is throttled after you hit a certain threshold which is usually 10GB but can be increased for more money per month.
We're actually switching to Starlink for our 'remote' shop!
You can opt to use pocket Wi-Fi as well so you don't drain your phone, and it also comes with more battery life. The issue is that it's generally much more expensive than traditional phone plans but it's available for use worldwide.
In some of the newer conversion vans, like the Ford Transit, it comes with something called Ford Pass. It basically has a 'modem' built into your van so you can connect to the internet wherever you are. It's also programmed to let you do other things like lock your doors wherever you are, start your vehicle, and more.
If you're living in a skoolie and working on the road, you're most likely going to have to go for the former plans but there are plenty of options to consider! If you end up strapping a Starlink satellite to your conversion, please send us pictures!!
Equip yourself with the proper laptop & power system.
Laptops are an essential tool for digital nomads — especially when you’re living in a skoolie and can’t set up a computer. Take note that the laptop you use will largely depend on your job and the tasks you need it for. For instance, if you’re into graphic design or use heavy applications, then you need a powerful laptop that can keep up.
For example, a friend was telling me about how these HP Envy laptops are equipped with something called a modern PCB (circuit boards) that use stackup impedance calculators, which means that its circuit board is able to provide the
necessary force to balance the voltage out. This ensures that the power paths can more efficiently deliver the current to every component, preventing the battery from draining too quickly.
IN SIMPLE TERMS.. You get more bang for your buck in your AGM or Lithium battery storage which is huge when working off grid on your computer all day. A good laptop & power system is certainly worth the investment as your entire lifestyle and career depends on it!
A robust power system is CRUCIAL when it comes to spending time off grid let alone working full time on the road in your skoolie or van conversion. So which battery is best for your RV? If you're using heavy power loads, we easily recommend Lithium batteries over AGM batteries. The low down is that AGM is much more inexpensive than Lithium but you need to have 2 AGM batteries for every 1 lithium battery (of the same Amp/Hours) to have the same discharge/available battery usage.
To explain a bit further, a 100Ah lithium battery has a usable discharge of 80/90Ah while AGM only will allow 50Ah before you need to charge the batteries.
If you need a simple pictured guide to help you size out your power system, check out our blog on how to size your battery system for your van conversion or skoolie here. We can also supply you with Victron & GoPower systems! Contact us for pricing
Learn proper remote working time management.
It’s easy to lose track of time when you have a never ending to do list, especially when you’re constantly on the road. Scheduling your tasks can be quite complicated if you don’t always have a strong internet connection. So it is important to schedule tasks that require faster internet connection, (like video meetings) together, so you can do them in one go when you visit a coffee shop.
When you're working remote, depending on your career, time tracking and project management tools are essential! What seems like a previous life ago, we had a small marketing company and we used something similar to Harvest Tracker that times how long you work on certain tasks, invoices, reporting, and a ton of other stuff for working and living the vanlife.
There are also apps that help you focus, such as SelfControl — which is a Spartan option if you’re serious about not letting the internet distract you. It lets you 'blacklist' sites for a set time, and there's no way around that unless you reinstall the OS. At the end of the day, time management is key to having a thriving remote career.
If you're in a more permanent spot, it can be a lot easier to setup a secure internet setup. When Steven lived in Judy, he was parked semi-permanently at a horsing stable outside of Saskatoon and traded some time helping out for free parking space. He installed a wifi booster signal in the bus and caught the WiFi at the stable and could work all day every day!
At Paved To Pines, we use a few software applications that are more suited directly for manufacturing/builders. BUT for everyday task management and communication there are a few great options that we have used, past and presently. Slack and Trello are awesome for communication and task management, respectively.
Have a dedicated workspace.
A skoolie and van conversion may be a tiny home, but you have options other than working on your bed. From the moment you start to dream about designing your bus into a skoolie, you should already take into account where you can work. Ideally, you should have a desk separate from your bed with enough legroom, so you don’t feel cramped while you work. Everything in these small spaces have to be multifunctional. If you’re concerned about space, you can design an ergonomic workspace — such as building storage into your chair or having a pantry door that can be folded down to create a work table. Or a dinette that quadruples as an eating, working, sleeping, and storage spot!
Yes it's possible to work remotely from a Skoolie or Van Conversion.
You just need the proper setup!
- Get a reliable internet connection.
You're not going to be working from anywhere but a cafe or your house (if you still have one), if you can't setup a reliable internet connection on the road. Do some research on the ideas we've used and pick what works best for you.
- Have a reliable power system and the proper equipment.
You need ample battery storage when you're working full-time remotely on the road. Ensure your battery system charges from your alternator when your vehicle is turned on.
Additionally, make sure you have the proper laptop and equipment setup. You want something with a long battery life so that you aren't always relying on your gear being plugged in to use it.
If you need to purchase an electrical system, contact us!
- Proper time management is key.
This has many aspects to it when you consider working on the road. You need to properly manage your battery system as well as your internet connection. So using time management apps or software helps immensely especially if you're being conscious of timelines or working with a team.
- Have a dedicated working space.
This is a given. You can't be working where you sleep, it's just bad for everything, especially sleep hygiene. Create a space in your conversion that is multi functional. Check out our gallery page if you need some inspiration! If you are looking to have the experts tackle your conversion, reach out to us. We'd be happy to make your dreams of working on the road come true.