Freelancing On-the-go: Wi-Fi Wireless Woes
As I sit here in the Melbourne Airport, it’s starting to dawn on me that I’ve been looking at travel and freelancing with decidedly rose-colored glasses.
Up to this point I have always thought that working while on the move was a relatively simple thing. With the world-wide penetration of wireless, moving throughout the world with your laptop should be a snap.
The reality is, it makes me want to chew glass.
Where did things go so wrong?
My travels to Australia started off without a hitch. My hometown airport in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (try to say that fast three times) was dreamy in comparison to what I was about to come up against. Soft, reclined chairs with free wireless and charging stations built right into the chair made for a pleasant work experience.
Strangely enough, as I would soon discover, major airports guarantee neither free wireless access nor availability to a power outlet. I have a feeling that traveling on the Hindenburg would have been more comfortable and convenient.
As I arrived at Calgary, I could see things quickly going downhill. After hunting around for a wall outlet, I attempted to get hooked up to the Internet. There were several options to accessing the “free” Internet including logging on with your Facebook account or getting a password sent to your mobile. I elected to go with the text message route. I fully expect my mobile to be inundated with Viagra offers when I return to Canada.
36 hours in the air and 5 different airports later, I came to grips with my entirely dismal work-while-traveling experience. From snaking a power cable behind a wall in an attempt to grab some electricity, to being faced with paying $5 for 15 minutes of wireless time in the Melbourne airport, I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea that I won’t get a lick of work done while in airports.
McDonalds, you big jerk
Since I didn’t feel like paying $15 a day for my hotel’s Internet (seriously, what year is this anyway?), I decided to hit the Melbourne streets looking for a Starbucks or McDonalds where I could get a coffee and a cup of free wireless.
Right away I was overjoyed to find a nearby McDonalds that was not only offering free wireless but also had outside seating and was open 24 hours a day. So soaking up the sun and trying to keep down a McDonalds coffee, I was ready to get to work.
Logging onto the wireless was easy as pie, receiving emails, however, was as tough as a 15 year old fruit cake. For some reason, McDonalds was blocking all my outgoing email ports. With a few emails to my email host, and some back and forth tech support, my patience and battery was beginning to run low.
With laptop in hand I headed up to the counter to ask where the nearest power outlet was. The server looked at me and with a straight face said:
“I’m sorry sir, McDonalds doesn’t allow any plug-ins. For the safety of the children, you know.”
I looked at her and replied, “Well that’s fortunate because I was planning on finding one and sticking my tongue in it.”
Apparently, McDonalds figures that Australian children are completely stupid. Faced no doubt with the first wall plug they’ve ever encountered, they will be unable to resist the urge to stab a metal object into it. Don’t ask me where they will get these metal objects? I assume children in Australia are packed off each morning with butter knives and screwdrivers with the encouragement to go nuts on any unattended power outlets.
In the near future I look forward to McDonalds’ restaurants that are completely enshrouded in bubble wrap. With all the sharp corners and hard surfaces in the world, McDonalds will have to do its part to protect the children. Now if they would just do something to address the most severe danger that children currently face – their food.
Working from the road, just a dream?
A big part of going freelance is the ability to pack up and work from locations throughout the world. I had really hoped to get some work done during the traveling portions of our trip. This, unfortunately, doesn’t always seem to be the case.
With a backlog of work and growing frustrations, I’ve started to take a long, hard look at the convenience of being a digital nomad. So what are your experiences? How do you find working while traveling? Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.