By Virginia Villari
“You are so lucky you’re always traveling!”
That’s because it’s probably the comment that remote workers hear the most.
Sometimes it feels like people don’t think you actually work, doesn’t it? And the endless stream of IG photos from digital nomads around the world, showing their mobile offices on a white-sand beach, are not helping in that regard. They don’t show the “blood, sweat and tears” behind the scenes…and why would they?
The point is precisely to make remote working look effortless when, in reality, people work extra hard to get to post those pictures.
Don’t get me wrong: working from your laptop on a tropical beach while sipping on a Mojito or from a tree house in the jungle is a totally achievable goal, but it requires a LOT of work.
Managing your own time? Yes, but you also have to be highly motivated to put yourself at work everyday on your own and to be diligent in meeting your own deadlines.
Working from anywhere? Sure, but you can end up working longer hours than you would at the office, for a smaller income, and not always in the optimal conditions to be productive.
Traveling around the world? That’s the point! But a traveling lifestyle is rather unpredictable and can bring with it anxiety, fear, insecurity, and financial instability.
That said, the perks are undeniably awesome. In fact, the demand for remote jobs has been on a steady rise for a couple of years now and an increasing number of people are switching from a full-time job to freelancing in order to be location independent.
In our efforts to be productive while enjoying and discovering new destinations, how do we balance business and pleasure? How do we make the most out of our remote work?
I’ve been a location independent entrepreneur for 6 years now and I thought it was time to contribute my experience to the bunch. Here are my 4 essential advices to conquer the challenging task of working when traveling.
1) Be Strategic.
Planning is paramount when it comes to remote working.
Whether you’re traveling for a specific job or to move to another location, you gotta have a plan: you don’t want to arrive at destination unprepared, having to face issues that are ten times harder to solve abroad and could have been avoided with a more accurate strategy.
There are 4 points I make sure to check before taking off:
- Schedule your work in advance. Regardless of your job, organize your calendar of meetings, missions, and errands beforehand.
- Create and bring work and marketing material. This includes tech gear, business cards, brochures, prints, creative tools, samples of your product and anything you know you won’t find where you’re going. I’ve found it also very useful to prepare ahead templates for job applications, graphic work and for recurring communication, like promotional emails and newsletters.
- Know your local resources: Write a list of all the things, services, people you’ll need once at destination, and search them online ahead of your trip.
- Set up yourself to be mobile-based: make sure you have all your apps, contacts and docs installed, updated and easily accessible, even from your phone.
2) Manage Your Finances
Freelancers don’t have a regular, steady income and every expense counts. Some months it goes well, some even very well, but other times you’re simply fucking dry. And finding yourself dry abroad is not funny, not to mention how financial instability undermines creativity, which is the basics of most freelance work.
Budgeting your travels is key. My best piece of advice is to make sure you have work going on, either where you are going and/or that you’ve already started and can continue over there. Don’t just drop everything and take off hoping to find a gig once abroad. It might not happen, or not soon enough before you’ll be begging your parents to buy your ticket back home.
For example: have your profile uploaded and updated on freelance jobs search platforms like Remote, Behance, Feverr, The Dots, Upwork, and others more specific to your industry. This is the best way to get your work on the market and find or be found by clients.
These are all community-oriented ventures that offer remote work packages that include coliving and coworking solutions in sought-after travel destinations. They basically take care of the logistics of traveling and getting set up in a new place, so that you have the time and peace of mind to be productive. There are monthly as well as yearly options and, overall, this can be a safer way to start living the remote lifestyle.
3) Make Yourself At Home
In my remote work experience I found that being surrounded by familiar things makes it easier to get set up and be efficient in a new place.
My husband, for example, always carries with him The Art of War by Sun Tzu (a highly recommended read BTW) and you can be sure that’s the first thing he puts on his temporary desk, no matter if it’s in a rental home or in a coworking space. I personally always carry with me my diary, a scrapbook, my tarot deck, my meditation practice notebook, a coloring book, my crystals and certain pieces of jewelry and clothing, some of which become like a second skin while others I just like to have around as decoration.
Those things are like “talismans” that have an emotional value because they’ve been with you through important moments or came from special people in your life path. When you travel they represent stability and provide familiar comfort in context where uncertainty is predominant.
When your temporary home, room or work space don’t look nor feel ideal to put you in productive mode, curate them with items that will make the atmosphere cozy and inspiring.
Personally, I always buy incense and candles for an area I dedicate to meditation, and arrange my desk – be it at home, in a coworking or even at a restaurant – in a way that matches my style: tidy yet decorated with my talismans and other objects that I find or buy along the way and that help me concentrate and create.
Being comfortable in an environment designed accordingly to your taste and modus operandi will definitely help you get work done.
4) Adopt a Flexible and Adaptable Mindset
Traveling is about getting out of your comfort zone and finding yourself in new places and situations, dealing with people you don’t know. This is the game and the reason why we are excited about traveling but, on the flipside, this may spawn anxiety and fear at different degrees.
So how do we overcome those negative emotions?
Unfortunately there isn’t one single way to follow, as every one is different. But one thing is certain: having a flexible mindset and an adaptable attitude will make things A LOT easier.
Just think about flying. Today’s airports funnel the pick of social anxiety and paranoia, or “Permanxiety” as Skift calls it, mainly due to exacerbated geopolitical tensions and to the consequent restrictive security policies now in force.
This increasingly complex scenario is having a massive impact on where and how we travel. Chaotic and overcrowded situations, stricter procedures, worse airplanes conditions, invasive security checks can happen to anybody.
The best thing we can do is to try not to stress about what’s beyond our control, but rather adapt our schedule around it.
More often than not, once abroad, and no matter how savvy of a traveler you are, you won’t know what to expect and you’ll have to rely on strangers for help. Being well informed about your destination and planning your travel and work schedule accurately will help, but can’t possibly cover every unexpected situation.
The trick to face the stress of uncertainty is to train your mind to be flexible. Accept the fact that things won’t necessarily go as planned. Travel disruptions, medical issues, unforeseen changes, and generally uncomfortable situations are more likely to happen abroad, away from your familiar setting.
Countless times I had to abruptly change accommodation, reschedule meetings because of flight delays or rework a project entirely because of issues with local resources. Freaking out has never done any good, so I had to learn to let go what I couldn’t change and find the advantage even in negative moments.
Try to make the best out of unfavorable situations and quickly adapt to different contexts, people and customs, instead of complaining about them.
Start revolving your work around what’s going on (instead of the other way around) and don’t get upset if tasks take longer than expected. It’s recommended to establish a daily routine, but don’t get stuck in it and be ready to re-adapt it if necessary.
I found great help in meditation to develop a flexible and open mind. It improves “mindfulness”, that is to stay and focus on the present, which is key to not get distracted.
A flexible mindset, a humble soul and an adaptable behavior are essential to make working remotely successful.
When you stay somewhere for more than two weeks you certainly don’t want to crunch yourself in a hotel room. Even when you’re on a one-week business trip – not only for corporate business but also for a creative project or an art exhibition, for example – you’re likely to carry tools and promotional material that need a larger space to be set up and stored. Besides, at the end of a day of work you want to have the comfort of your own place.
Check out Cream’s extensive portfolio of vacation and short-term rentals in some of the most sought-after holiday and business destinations. As remote workers ourselves, we made sure all our properties are located in central and convenient neighborhoods and include a complimentary concierge service that will direct you to the best co-working spaces, hotspot cafes, specialized stores and give any other recommendation you may need to get work done.
Pick the solution that suit your style and pockets and turn it into your personal home-office during your extended stay.
What do you do to make your remote work efficient? Let us know in the comment section!