How to Be Productive When You Work While Traveling.
“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 from tropical beaches and jungle resorts, doesn’t help in this regard.
In fact, they don’t show the “blood, sweat and tears” behind the scenes…and why would they?
The point of social media is precisely to make work (whatever that is) look effortless. But, in reality, especially when it comes to freelancing/remote working, most people work extra hard to get to post those pictures.
Working remotely from a tropical beach, a tree house in the jungle, or from a different co-working space every time, is a totally achievable goal, but it requires a LOT of work.
Perks and Hustle of the Remote/Freelance Lifestyle
- Managing your own time. Yes, but you also have to be highly motivated to put yourself at work everyday on your own and be diligent in meeting your own deadlines.
- Working from anywhere. Sure, but you may 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.
- Living a traveling lifestyle. That’s the point of the hustle! But a traveling lifestyle is rather unpredictable and could bring with it insecurity, anxiety and financial instability.
That said, the personal and professional freedom of freelancing/remote working are undeniably awesome.
Accordingly, 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 while traveling.
1) Be Strategic
Planning is paramount when it comes to remote working.
Whether you’re traveling for a specific job or moving to another location as a remote worker, 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 boxes I make sure to tick before taking off:
- Schedule work in advance. Regardless of your job, organize beforehand your calendar of tasks, meetings, and errands you’ll need to be doing once you arrive at destination.
- 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 also find very useful to prepare ahead templates for job applications, graphic work, or email marketing, to name a few.
- Know your local resources: Write a list of all the things, services, people you’ll need once at destination. Then search them online ahead of your trip to make sure they actually have what you need.
- Set up yourself to be mobile-based: make sure you have all your apps, contacts and docs installed, updated and easily accessible, from all your devices.
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.
In general, financial issues undermine creativity, which is the basics of most freelance work.
Therefore, budgeting your travels is key. My best piece of advice is to make sure you have one or more gigs going on, either where you are going to and/or that you can continue working on remotely.
Don’t just drop everything and take off, hoping to find jobs once abroad. It might or might not happen; or just not soon enough, so you’ll be begging your parents to buy your ticket back home.
For example: have your profile uploaded and updated on freelance/remote jobs boards and search platforms such as:
and many others that are specific to your industry. This is the best way to get your CV on the market and find or be found by clients.
Other opportunities you should check out in order to get your digital nomad lifestyle started are co-working retreats options like:
and many more.
These are all community-oriented experiences, which offer packages for freelance/ remote workers. They include relatively affordable co-living and co-working solutions in sought-after travel destinations.
These organizations take care of the traveling logistics and of getting you 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 could be a safer way to start living the remote/nomad 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 co-working space.
Personally, I always carry with me my Moleskine agenda, my journal, a scrapbook, my polaroid camera, my tarot deck, my meditation practice notebook, my crystals, and some little other objects I like to have around as inspiring decorations.
Those things are like “talismans” that have an emotional value because they’ve been with me through important moments, or came from special people in my 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.
For example, I arrange my desk – be it at home, in a co-working or at a hotel restaurant – in a way that matches my style: tidy and garnished with my talismans and other objects I find or buy along the way.
That helps 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. Though, on the flip side, this may generate financial, professional and social anxiety.
How do we overcome those negative emotions?
Unfortunately there isn’t one single way to follow because every person is different. But one thing is certain: having a flexible mindset and an adaptable attitude will make things A LOT easier when you work while traveling.
Just think about flying. Today’s airports funnel the pick of social anxiety and paranoia – or “Permanxiety” – as travel news aggregator Skift reports in a related article, – 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 and state of mind 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.
How can we deal with the stress due to uncertainty?
The trick is to train our minds 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 fix and try to find benefits even in negative situations.
Try to make the best out of unfavorable situations. 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.
Establish a daily routine, but don’t get stuck on it. Rather, be ready to change 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 not to get distracted or anxious.
A flexible mindset and an adaptable behavior are essential to make working remotely successful.