Harald Johnsen Works Remotely

Harald Johnsen Team Photo


Years Remote


Preferred Workspace

Drammen, Norway

Home Base

Kommunikasjonsbyraaet Harald Johnsen

Founder Digital Nomad Freelancer Self-Employed

Digital Nomad Life


% Time Traveling

Past Year: 25 Cities 8
Career: 56 Cities 18 Countries

* All figures approximate as of October 2016

Harald Johnsen
Interview with Remote.co

How and why did you start working remotely?

I’ve always loved traveling, and I could never come to terms with only being able to travel 4-5 weeks a year—which was all I was able to do back when I had a “real” job in a “real” office. I basically wanted to explore the world more, not just in terms of traveling and seeing the world, but experiencing what it is like to live in and immerse myself different cultures and so on. Besides that, I’ve always seen myself as a bit of an outsider—not really wanting (or even being able) to really fit in as far as my own culture goes. The thought of living a “normal” 9-5 life always seemed a bit, well, dreadful to me, to be honest. I don’t think I’d be happy living that way. For years I tried to, and it always felt like a bit of a lie.

What advice would you give someone considering a remote job?

No convincing—I handed in my resignation and basically crossed my fingers that I’d somehow be able to make a living online. Luckily, I was right, but getting there took longer than I had anticipated, and it was not as straightforward as it seemed for a while in the beginning. I can’t recall any single moment of regret, though, and I’ve never doubted my decision to work and live this way.

What are the biggest benefits to working remotely?

I’m happy to say that I’m not even sure anymore. I used to go on about “the freedom to travel as much as you want” and so on, but now I think there may be even bigger benefits than that. There is a tremendous opportunity for true personal growth living and working this way—it’s something that is almost forced upon you, partly due to the various challenges (some of which come unexpected) that remote workers/digital nomads face. You’ll probably change more in five years of living and working this way than you would in a more traditional setting (although I do think it’s good to at least get a taste of that too).

Do you keep a regular remote work schedule? What is it?

Not really, at least not over time. I definitely settle into various routines here and there, though. A lot of the time I’ll actually do the regular 9-5 thing that I got used to back when I had a “real” job—I just don’t do it in an office. Then there are other times where I’ll work until lunch, take a few hours off and go do something else, and then come back to work in the evening. And sometimes, often for weeks on end, I’ll just work from morning to night, doing 15 hour days. That happens quite a bit if I’m working on a big project. While I don’t stick to a fixed schedule, I do have a clear plan set out for most of my workdays, and nowadays I’m pretty good at following those plans.

What gear can't you work remotely without?

  • Headphones
  • USB controller keyboard for my sound design/audio work

Do you work from a home office? How is it organized?

Yes, I do. And I like my big work desk at home a lot. When I’ve spent some time on the road working from tiny coffee shop tables, train seats, bus stations, etc., it feels rather luxurious to have a big desk to work on for a while, with a nice desktop computer and plenty of room for books or whatever else I want to be using. I’d manage fine without it, though.

How do you stay in touch with virtual teammates?

Mostly via Skype, email, and the Gmail chat thingy. It’s good to have real conversations (via Skype or just the phone) with people. I think things can get a bit “cold” if all you do is communicate via email. It’s nice to at least hear each other’s voices here and there.

Do you have tips for saving money while working remotely?

This is a massive subject, really, but when people ask me about this I always come back to this: Slow travel. Traveling slowly, finding places to stay put in for weeks or months, can save you a whole lot of money. Just getting to know a place well is going to help you avoid wasting money, and you can also get much better deals on accommodation and coworking places if you stay for weeks or months instead of days. You’ll probably also save time and work more effectively than if you’re constantly on the go from place to place, which for most of us of course translates to more money in the bank.

What does your remote company do?

We’re a web development, marketing, and digital communications firm.

(I also do a little sound design work on the side, and I’m starting a new company here before the end of this year.)

Would you consider returning to a traditional office job, or are you remote for life?

It’s not something I think about at all anymore, to be honest. Never say never, but I much prefer working and living this way, and I’m very grateful that I get to do it.

How do you stay connected to your professional community virtually?

Mostly through social media and good old-fashioned online forums.

What's the best way to develop professional contacts while working remotely?

I think Twitter is good for that, but meeting people on old-fashioned discussion forums has also proven very beneficial to me. Building a strong online profile and “presence” that attracts the right people is of course also something one would be wise to do, but it’s not something I personally put much thought or effort into. I keep meaning to, though!

How has your remote job impacted your life outside of work?

It has had an absolutely tremendous impact on my life outside of work. I’m able to actually live more along the lines of what I always wanted—being able to travel more and live in places that for whatever reason I’m attracted to.

How do you manage work life integration?

I try to spend most of my working hours on things I actually enjoy doing, and I also get a lot of variety, so I don’t usually mind the fact that work spills over into my private life—which it definitely does. I can’t leave work behind in the afternoon like most people can, but I’m mostly okay with that. It does get in the way of other things sometimes, though, and I could probably get better at “switching off.”

How do you stay physically active while working remotely?

I get gym memberships here and there, at least if I’m staying in a place for a longer period of time. I also walk a whole lot, and if I’m in a bike-friendly city I’ll try to get my hands on a bike and get around that way. I’ve explored lots of Tokyo on a bike, for example (but I’d be very hesitant to do that in places like Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur). I also go swimming quite a bit when I’m in a place like Koh Pha Ngan, but not as much as I could (or should).

How do you cope with feeling lonely while working remotely?

I’ve definitely felt lonely and isolated—especially during my first year as a digital nomad—and I still spend a fair amount of time alone when on the road, but I actually don’t mind it anymore, and I don’t really have any particular strategies that I use to make new friends and meet people, etc. That tends to happen naturally. I’ll strike up a conversation with someone almost anywhere—in a café, on a bus—or a bus station (I’ve made a couple of very good and lasting friendships thanks to long waits at bus stations in Thailand, for example), and online communities and networks are really helpful these days for meeting fellow remote workers. There wasn’t as much of a community back when I was starting out, but with people now being able to meet online and in coworking spaces, etc. around the world, I don’t see why anyone should have to feel lonely or isolated to any great extent just because they’re living and working this way.

How do you stay in touch with friends and family while traveling?

Mostly via Phone, Facebook, Skype, and email.

What are your favorite cities in which to work remotely?

It’s not a city as such, but the island of Koh Pha Ngan in Thailand has probably become my favorite place to work from. I used to think I’d never get anything done surrounded by tourists and hippies on a tropical island like that, and that I should spend most of my time in big, busy cities where everyone around me is also working hard, but my actual experience has been something of the opposite. The peace and quiet on that island actually helps me focus and work really well, and I think it may very well be the place where I have my best, most effective workdays. I don’t even mind the somewhat frequent internet drop outs (while I’ll often find it infuriating when the same thing happens in Kuala Lumpur…).

And Kuala Lumpur is another favorite place of mine—it’s the place I’ve spent most of my time as a digital nomad. I love that city—its mix of cultures, the new and the old, the futuristic and the traditional—and of course all the great food—has made this a special place to me. It’s a fairly inexpensive place to live in (for a big city), and it has a lot to offer once you get to know it—including cheap flights to pretty much anywhere on the continent should you want to get away for a little while.

Paris is a new favorite of sorts. It’s such an incredible city, and I find it a hugely inspiring place to hang out, work, and create from. It’s probably not the place to spend a lot of time in if you’re on a budget, though.