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The following post, written by Becky Trowbridge (a freelancer and fellow Executive in Sweatpants), is part of an ongoing series to provide you with additional perspective into the virtual workforce.
I’ve fulfilled part of a lifelong dream by spending the past two months combining travel and work, thanks to oDesk and some outside freelance contracts. I slid down a waterfall in the Swiss Alps, climbed the Eiffel Tower, hung out where J.K. Rowling penned her famous Harry Potter books…and I also set up a membership system on a website, created an email newsletter template, and managed advertising and blogs for various clients.
Working while traveling can be very hectic and certainly comes with some sacrifices. Sometimes it means turning down dinner invitations or making some tough decisions about which sights to see in a limited amount of time. After spending some time working and exploring in Edinburgh before my solo backpacking excursion, I can tell you that it is much easier to stick with a routine when you have a base. Traveling to a new country every 2-3 days, attempting to get your bearings, figuring out the local currency and customs, sightseeing, and finding time to work can get exhausting. It’s much easier when you have a slightly longer period of time to get to know a place and don’t feel the need to be rushing around the entire time.
Ready to break out of the typical 9-5 and take your office around the world with you? Here are some tips to help you get going:
I prefer to work in the morning, but since it’s prime time for exploring, and nearly everyone I work with is working 6-8 hours behind me, I’ve found that working in the afternoons and late evenings has been best for me while traveling. When I come back to my hostel, physically exhausted from a day of climbing stairs and wandering around a new city, I’m grateful for the “break” that working gives me. With constant changes all around me, I’ve found that working with my clients helps me feel grounded in places where I feel like I’m always off-kilter. Find what works for you and commit to setting aside some time each day for working. I check my messages in the morning and evening and work for a set amount of time every day, even on the weekends.
Don’t shut yourself up in your room and hide from the world. It will make you cranky and resentful and both your work and travel will suffer as a result. Find a café with internet access, check out the local library, or try hanging out at a museum with free WiFi to use as your office space for a few hours.
One of my most enjoyable traveling work moments was a client meeting held via the Skype app on my phone on the terrace of a café in Croatia. Working like this also gave me the bonus of time spent soaking in the atmosphere of the area rather than constantly rushing from place to place.
Not everything will go according to plan—that’s just part of travel and of life. Even the most reliable trains are late when a guy straps himself to the train tracks (true story). Or, for example, your internet access might not be as reliable as you had hoped. Your Australian roommates just invited you out for a drink. Be prepared to be flexible. Work ahead of schedule whenever possible to avoid last minute crises. Let your clients know that you’ll be traveling on the day of your scheduled meeting in case there’s a delay…because there will be delays from time to time, and sometimes you won’t have internet access to let them know.
Work doesn’t have to be this giant hurdle that holds you back from doing the things you love. There’s no need to live for the weekends and dread Mondays. The greatest thing about working for yourself is that it gives you the opportunity to create a career that you truly love and the flexibility to do the things you care about. There’s no better time than now.