Photo by Stefan Nikolovski on Unsplash

You always see these images of happy young people sitting under a tree, or on a beach under a palm tree, with laptops open sitting on crossed legs. It may be what attracted you to this lifestyle in the first place. But let’s get real for a minute.

While this scenario may present a message of freedom, it does not present the reality of working from the road in your RV or Van.

Think about it.  If you are hiking through the redwoods or walking barefoot in the sand, do you really want to pull out your laptop and work?  No!  There needs to be clear separation between work and play.

First you need to create a workspace in your tiny space.  For me it is the table in the motorhome. I know that if I am sitting there with my notebook and computer it is time to work.

Ideally, you work only a few hours in a day and then go play.  Some people like to hike all day and then work at night.  Me, I like to knock out the work early and have the rest of the day to myself. You are the only one that knows what makes you the most productive. The sweet thing is that we have that choice.

Have Multiple Workspaces

When the walls start caving in on you, and believe me they will, there are alternatives to working in your corner of the RV.

Coffee Shops

Before the pandemic, many people liked to work in coffee shops.  I did too several years ago.  We lived in Alaska at the time and much of the winter was dark and cold. Sitting in a cozy coffee shop was a favorite pastime for many people, not just writers and gig workers.

I would sit near the “big table,” every coffee shop had one, and write in my journal.  They did not know I was making up stories about what they were saying.  It was fun for me and a great writing practice.

The more we traveled the harder it was to find coffee shops that had the same ambiance. Sometimes it is just too difficult to find the coffee shop that feels right in the time you have in a particular spot.

Libraries

My next option is sitting amongst books at the library.  Almost every town has one and they have free Wi-Fi.  I like to imagine that every one of those books were written by someone, and many were written by people just like me.  It gives me inspiration and motivates me to write. And it is usually quiet.

The absolute best option is to reserve a study room in the library if they have them. Do this if you need the room to be quiet.  I have also used University Libraries which have many study rooms – but this usually works best when midterms or finals are not coming up. Summer is the perfect time to find an empty study room.

Shared Workspaces

Co-working spaces are great if you don’t mind sitting in an open room with others.  They usually have the best Wi-Fi and free coffee/tea.  You can bring a lunch and stash it in the refrigerator or put your things in a locker and walk around town for a while.

There are networks of such spaces that you may be able to utilize in multiple cities. Many also have conference rooms if your gig is teaching. One of our gigs for many years was traveling from city to city, offering workshops to small businesses and other related services. It worked great until the pandemic made us change our plans.

Family & Friends

I am writing this from my daughter’s couch while the motorhome is getting a little maintenance.  I can work while she works and still have dinner ready when she gets home.  Plus I can take the dog for walks and do my laundry.  I know – feels like I am the kid coming home from college with the laundry basket. I always did that to my parents whenever I came to visit.

It is always good practice to do something for those we visit.  That way we are always welcome, and when you are full time on the road, it is nice to occasionally plop someplace that is not on wheels. We have friends across the United States and visit every time we pass through.

Odds and Ends (post-pandemic)

There are many places to work for an hour or two if you just want to get out.

One of my favorites is Panera’s (when their Wi-Fi works) because I can order an iced tea and sit there for quite a while. They have ample seating, so I do not feel like I am interfering with their guests. You may find other larger restaurants that allow this.  But I will not take up a table if the restaurant starts to fill up.

Many restaurants have meeting rooms you can reserve for an hour or two. If there are two of you it is easier to say you are having a meeting. Which you are in a sense if you are working together, right?

Fast food restaurants can work in a pinch, but I would only do so for quick work. All that grease in the air cannot be good for electronics.

Do some volunteer work for a local business.  I did this in a small town when we were doing the small business gig.  I volunteered to sit at the Chamber of Commerce desk two days a week in exchange for using their Wi-Fi.

Sometimes the location you park your RV dictates what you need to do. For example, we have parked in many spots where we did not have good phone reception. If you find yourself in RV Parks, you will discover how poor their Wi-Fi is and how much you rely on your cell phone hotspot.

On more than one occasion I have driven to sit under a cell tower to hotspot from my cell to my laptop to do a Zoom call.

Let’s keep this list growing.  Where might you work when the walls are closing in on you?