Many many people have an ideal in their mind: “I want to work and travel. It will be SO AWESOME!”
And in many ways this is true: no fluorescent office when all you need is sleep, no 8 blanket work-hours whether the work requires it or not… but for those of you who are not familiar with the lifestyle, here are some not so hot truths about travel-working that you should consider before heading out to the wilderness with your laptop.
First off, I should start out by saying that there is a difference between landing someplace with a roof, like a friend’s house, a hotel or a seasonal rental and doing a road trip, where you pack a car and go exploring.
I’ve done both, and the first is obviously easier. You can request a desk, quiet and the rest.
Road-trippin’ is a bit different… Moving from place to place regularly – like I did when I traveled Australia – needs some management; here are some things to be aware of:
1. You won’t want to work
Yep. Remember how when you were a kid and every day was SOOOOO long? And how they drop asleep after the zoo or some other excursion? This is because of the inherent novelty factor. Kids – having had less experiences – savor every. little. moment. So their 24 hours are experienced inside “Einstein time” – the experience of time stretching because of how they process reality.
This is exactly what happens when you hit the road. Driving for several hours every few days, into new territory, I experienced my days being extremely long, my mind overfilled with visuals and experiences. Every new bend, every new vista, beach and wild animal, would shoot my child-mind into a happy frenzy, so by the time we unpacked the truck with the tent, kayaks, grill and the rest, all I wanted to do was hit the beach and pass out.
Give yourself AMPLE on-ramps (as was coined by Eben Pagan) to get to your tasks.
Don’t set unrealistic expecations of how much you will get done on any given weekday. Weekdays on the road occur as Saturdays and Sundays.
Be prepared to MAKE yourself sit down to do stuff.
2. Focusing will be difficult without a designated work area
I was living in a tent during these travels, for months. It was a large tent but a tent nonetheless… Which means you don’t necessarily have a space exclusively dedicated to work.
And this can mess with your mind. I know for me, having a nook I know I work at helps a great deal – especially doing what I do – which requires a lot of focus and concentration. If you have client calls, be prepared to sit in the car, under a tree, to get some silence.
3. Internet and power can be shotty
When I set out, I bought a wi-fi router USB thingy from a mobile provider out there and refilled my data prescriptions online with a credit card. No “phone card” type things necessary (some providers did this horrific thing), and luckily, Australia’s coastline has terrific mobile reception. Mostly.
But what about power? When you travel on a budget, every buck can count, and even though camp-travel in Aus is inexpensive, we had to make sure to get a spot with a power plug, which often meant opting out of the more awesome, remote camp sites and hanging out next to an RV or skipping out on either the client or the campsite – depending how tight the deadline was. Can put a damper in your sunset.
You’ll obviously need equipment for this too. If my camera didn’t disappear out there, I’d have shown you a great pic of the giant orange cable that ran to the power adaptor in the tent, to the laptop. It was a sight to see.
4. Get your storage straight
Australia gets hot. Laptops get hot. The two aluminum boxes mounted on the back of the pick up we lived out of got hot. Everything of value had to get locked inside these giant sun attractors. What do you need? Padding, layering and more padding.
This is important. Don’t fry your equipment.
5. Make sure your travel companion is cool and understanding about your potential schedule limitations
Making yourself work out on the road is hard enough, but if your travel companion gives you hell for this, it can make life unbearable.
I was lucky that it was all discussed and decided before we set out, but there are OBVIOUSLY going to be tiffs if the tide is just right or if the sun is perfectly sitting in the sky nudging you to hit the water… it’s natural. You’re sort of on vacation…
Would I do it again?
Not like that.
The bottom line is that if I’m road-tripping, I’m road-tripping. I have zero desire to manage several clients while I’m embedded in nature like that. I was doing design and development work, which completely clashes with nature for me. I can write, draw, come up with great ideas, but implementation can be difficult.
At this point I keep my stuff separate. If I travel and work, I make sure I have an office or desk space I can leave my computer on. I’d rather not live in a tent for months at a time, and if I actually need a vacation, I take one.
Work should be it’s own thing, and play – equally important – its own.