You are a digital nomad, which means you no spend lots of time working outside an office. There are no more walls and strict schedules, only you and your laptop, plus your backpack, traveling the world, from one country to another, or, maybe from one city to another, within the same country. Where I want to arrive is the fact you work in places your former boss would had never approved, such as airports, cafes, parks and beaches. And coffee shops and tea shops and… well, mostly coffee shops.
You get there early in the morning or just in time for brunch, find a free power outlet, make sure the establishment has a strong WiFi, then it’s time to plug and play!
As you write posts, programming software and answer emails you take a sip from a latte. The breeze cools you down, your mind is enjoying the background noise and when you want a pause, you can do your favorite sport, watching people coming and going. Another latte, another hour of work.
But then… it strikes! Powerful, unbeatable, undeniable! You can’t oppose it! You need to GO TO THE LOO!
This is when you face the biggest problem only digital nomads will understand: you have to leave the seat and go to the restroom. You have two obvious issues: how to keep your seat and how to protect your belongings. Most digital nomads have to struggle to find a good working place, so they hate to lose it. In some places, losing your seat can equal losing the opportunity to work in that place. It’s frustrating! It’s unproductive!
The obvious solution
You need to solve this problem! You need to find a great way to keep the seat occupied and ensure your stuff is safe until you come back from the restroom. The obvious solution for this problem only digital nomads will understand is getting help; you can ask a friend or another digital nomad to keep an eye on your things until you get back. This way, you can do what you have to do without worrying you won’t find your laptop and you can rest assure your seat will not be taken by someone else.
Let’s recap what you have to do when you need to take a restroom break while working in a coffee shop: you look around for another digital nomad like yourself, go and greet him or her, exchange couple of words, then ask if they can look after your stuff for couple of minutes. They will say “Sure” and you will go and do your things, come back to your remote office, thank the other person and carry on working.
The other obvious solution
The other solution is just packing everything and take it with you. It’s crazy, I know, but paying for another laptop because your old one was stolen while you was in the loo is more crazy, even ridiculous!
Well, the reality is a bit more complex than that, unfortunately. In reality, the obvious solution gives birth to more problems than solutions. How can you know who to trust, how to find the right words to say and…what if there are no other remote workers in the place? What happens then?
The second obvious solution is counterproductive to the core! If you are new in this thing called digital nomading, you might think packing everything and taking it with you, then trust the providence to recover your seat would work better than searching from other people and asking them to help you.
The complex reality, where thousands of people work remotely, challenged them to find solutions to the loo problem only digital nomads will understand – in premiere, here are the solutions other remote workers found and I am now sharing them with you. Ready?
Hang on until the next break
Use the restroom break as an opportunity, not a productivity problem. Find a coffee shop to work in and dive into your routine until you find the need to go to the loo. When the time comes, pack everything, go and do your thing, then leave the place. Head to another coffee shop! Meanwhile enjoy the weather, the city and the people around you! You can also go to the park for some outdoor time, then return to a coffee shop for more work. Just change the way you look at the loo problem and make it an opportunity for exploring the city. You might find the break refreshing, as many studies state environment changes as great creativity and productivity boosters.
Leave trinkets on the table
Another solution to the problem only digital nomads will understand is to leave inexpensive items on the table, in order to retain possession on the seat. Pack the valuable stuff, like the laptop and other devices and take them with you in the restroom. Before you leave the seat, make sure you check if anyone is haunting for that spot – if they will see you packing the laptop, they might believe you’re leaving, even if you leave your sunglasses, bandanna and cookie on the table.
Many laptops are compatible with cable locks, so you can use one to secure your device. Use the clasp straps and secure the laptop to the table and your other stuff. If someone will try to steal it, they will make a noticeable fuss, ending up with the entire table, alerting the other people inside the establishment. Cable locks can be easily defeated, but not faster than you can come back from the restroom, so they can protect your laptop and give you enough time to do what you need to do.
Don’t forget to lock the screen and use encryption!
As a digital nomad you need to have a backup of all your work, just to be safe. Life offers you a lot of unexpected events and you need to be ready when your laptop will decide it’s time for a breakdown. Use the cloud backup services, external storage or a stick. Having a backup comes with another advantage: you can leave your laptop alone with less worries. Just travel with a crappy laptop and make it look even crappier with stickers and some savvy-placed duct tape, then lock it and leave it on the table when you go to the bathroom. If someone does manage to steal it, you will have your work in the cloud or on a stick, safe and sound. Plus, you won’t cry too much for the old device.
Choose your seat wisely
For some remote workers, the problem can be solved by simple logistics. Never sit next to the exit: this is an invitation for thieves to pick up your belongings and flee as fast as possible. Pick a seat in a corner, away from the exit, where anyone who attempts to steal your laptop would be seen by the people inside the cafe. If you can, pick a table next to a window, so you can supervise the seat from outside if you go out to breathe some fresh air.
Become a regular
This is another simple trick but it only works if you spend lots of time in the same place: befriends other regulars and offer to look after their stuff. They will do the same for you. You can also befriend the waiters and tip them for looking after your laptop and things while you step out for couple of minutes.
Location matters a lot
All digital nomads I’ve met agree on one thing: what you do when you have to go to the loo depends on the place you are. In wealthy areas you can leave your stuff on the table without worries, if you are working in a wealthy county, in a posh coffee shop. In poor countries, if you can’t or won’t avoid them, don’t leave the laptop unguarded. For example, in South Korea you can leave a 17” Macbook on the table and leave for an entire hour! After all, locals often don’t even lock their bikes.
Use safety apps
There are smart devices you can use to keep your laptop safe. One of them is Sensor 1, which announces you when your stuff is being moved. Of course, you need to have a plan for the event the alarm will go out and you are in the restroom, in the middle of the “action”.
Apart from this, there are lots of other devices, apps and programs which can alert you when the laptop is moved, where it is and so on – this way you can locate your laptop, even if it is stolen.
If none of these appeal to you, just wear an adult nappy and trust the universe 😛
PS: Always keep your papers, wallet, money and phone with you, so you won’t be really f***ed up if someone does manage to steal your laptop.