What if you want to work remotely from somewhere that isn’t your home, but you’re not sure your boss will let you?
Well, the sensible thing is probably to discuss the possibilities with your company. But if you prefer to just let sleeping dogs lie, then you could simply choose to work remotely from anywhere while hiding your location.
As a travel blogger, I’m lucky to work for myself. But I’ve shared work trips with friends whose employers did not have very clear remote work policies. Determined not to draw the Eye of Sauron of their corporate head offices, my friends wanted to make sure their IP address would not reveal their true location, so I helped them set up some solutions.
Yes, it is possible that your boss (or whomever) is watching you. Using your IP address (a series of numbers with dots), someone can easily trace your location while you’re logging in from out of office.
But… there are also ways of making this impossible.
Quick solution: use VPN software
The easiest way to mask your location is to use VPN software.
This lets you access the internet through a secured encrypted connection that can be routed via a server anywhere in the world.
Think of it as making a secret tunnel through the internet from your device to an endpoint somewhere. To anyone looking at your activity online, they won’t see where you’re tunneling from, they will only see the location where it popped out.
For example, I could be physically in Belgium, but use a VPN connection to make it appear like I’m in the UK.
Using VPN software will ensure that no one can know your real location by checking your IP address (internet address), whether it’s your boss, clients, or IT department.
You do need to get a subscription to a VPN service to do this. It’s a paid service as encrypting and rerouting your internet connection takes resources. Personally, I’ve used ExpressVPN, Tunnelbear, and NordVPN.
I like NordVPN the most as it is not so expensive while offering high speeds and tons of locations. When using their VPN, I’ve easily had multiple video streams running concurrently (e.g. Zoom and Netflix) without issue.
How to use a VPN:
- Create an account and subscribe at NordVPN.
- Download the app for your device or browser (e.g. Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, etc.)
- In the app, select a location from which you want to appear
I recommend using an app for your operating system rather than your browser, as this will take care of your entire internet connection and not just your browser activity.
Advanced solution: get a travel router
The solution above is easy because you can set it up within 5 minutes.
But there may be situations where you may want to use a VPN-enabled travel router instead.
- If you want to share the same VPN connection across multiple devices (laptop, phone, etc.)
- If you are traveling with other people who also want to use the VPN
- If your work computer doesn’t allow you to install any apps
- If your company already uses a corporate VPN (you can’t have two VPNs at the same time on the same device)
I recently went on a remote work trip with some friends, some of whom didn’t want their location known to their employers. I purchased a small travel router that works seamlessly with my NordVPN account.
I bought this GL.iNet GL-AR300M Mini Travel Router. It was only 30 Euros (about $35 USD) and yet it did everything it needed to do without a hitch.
You can see how small it is in the picture above, where it’s sitting next to the broadband router of an Airbnb we were staying.
This tiny router can log on to any WiFi signal (or LAN cable connection), encrypt it via VPN, and then make this secured connection available via its own WiFi signal.
To set it up takes a few more steps, but it’s not too complicated.
- Get the GL.iNet 300M mini router at Amazon
- Plug it in using the USB cable
- Log onto its WiFi signal (the details are on the back)
- Go to the address http://192.168.8.1 in your browser
- Follow these instructions to set up NordVPN
You can have any of your devices connected to this travel router. All connections will appear to come from the location you select in NordVPN. If you use this travel router, there is no need for any apps.
Update: if the GL.iNet mini router is currently out of stock, try the GL.iNet Creta.
Why use a travel router?
While the easiest approach is just to install VPN software on your computer (if you can), using a travel router has some additional advantages. For instance, it also acts as a WiFi signal repeater, which can help ensure a solid connection at your remote work location.
One vacation apartment I stayed at had good WiFi downstairs but poor WiFi upstairs; by placing the travel router near the stairs, the internet now reached both areas.
The GL.iNet 300M travel router can also connect to 4G or 5G if you plug in a USB SIM card adaptor. That’s nice to have as a fallback option should the WiFi in your remote location let you down.
One thing to note is that this mini travel router only has so much processing speed. While traveling and working remotely, I had a 120 Mbps fiber connection available at one point, but the travel router could only offer around 15 Mbps max when running through NordVPN, due to its processor speed. This should be more than plenty for most users, but it’s still a limitation.
If you’re maybe a techie who wants to have the best, or you’re worried about any bottlenecks for very heavy applications (i.e. not just normal office or creative work), then you might want to get a proper big router that can work with OpenVPN or WireGuard. For my purposes, I didn’t think it was worth the added expense, though a router such as the Asus RT-AX3000 would give you higher throughput and let you boost the WiFi signal a lot further as well (such as into the garden, balcony, etc. of where you might be staying). According to NordVPN (see here), the Asus routers are ideal VPN routers.
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