You can travel the world and still make a living. Sounds like the dream, right? For me, this is reality.
My passion is travel and I’ve built my working life around it. I run personal branding business Lovelly Communications and I’m able to operate it entirely remotely, with just my phone and my laptop as my “office”.
Of course, it’s not all lying on beaches while dreamily tapping away at my laptop – it involves a lot of planning, discipline and, at times, sacrifices.
But the opportunities that working remotely offers far outweigh the challenges.
Here’s how I manage to work while travelling the world:
Plan, plan, plan
To work from anywhere, you must be incredibly organised. Having a structure and a plan will ensure you meet your deadlines.
My calendar is my best friend. If it doesn’t go in the calendar, it won’t happen. I also use a series of time sheets, task lists and notes to prioritise my work load.
Looking ahead at my travel itinerary and carving out periods for work also helps me to enjoy my leisure time while travelling.
Communication is key
I’ve always been very clear about how I work with clients: I have my laptop and phone, and that’s my office.
Just because I’m sitting near a beautiful beach in Mexico or cycling around the temples of Cambodia doesn’t mean I’m not ready to work.
Telling people where you’ll be and what times you’ll be available will help to manage expectations. Set achievable deadlines with colleagues and clients, then knuckle down and do the work.
Discuss your business needs
“But you’re on holiday! Why are you doing work?” This is often the response I get when I tell people I work while on holiday.
Due to their working style, many people can’t fathom ever having to work while on holiday. But I tell them that my working arrangement is the reason I’m able to travel so frequently.
When travelling with my partner, I always have a discussion with him before we go about how I’ll fit work into our holiday schedule. He’s then aware of the work I have to complete and the time I’ll need to do it.
Generally, I ask for one to two hours a day of quiet time (and that could be at 10pm, if I choose). He can use this time to have a nap, go to the bar or do his own internet time while I work. It really doesn’t impact our time together or hinder the amazing things we get to see and do. It’s about managing expectations ahead of time.
Know your time zones
The clock app on my phone is a lifesaver. Wherever I’m going, I add the new time zone into the app, as well as my client’s location and my home time zone.
My laptop is always set to Sydney, Australia time as I find the majority of my current clients are on that time zone. Having my mobile and watch on local time, and my laptop set to my client’s time zone, also helps when making appointments.
Remember, just because it’s 1am your time, doesn’t mean you can’t work. I used to make clients gasp in horror when they found out what time I was working. But when you’re travelling, you get to choose your hours. I’m quite happy to work until 2am, and then sleep until 10am.
Good internet is crucial
Without a good internet connection, there is no way I could work the way I do. Obviously, internet is not always something one can guarantee. So when you do have a good connection, do the bulk of your work.
I make the most of programs such as Dropbox and Google Drive to upload photos and large files when the internet is reliable. I’ll then do writing tasks when I know I’ll be in remote areas or where internet may not be available, such as on long train or plane journeys.
Top tip: Spend more on a good phone plan, you’ll save later. So many times I’ve had to use my personal hotspot or switch on roaming to get something to a client on time. If paying a little more for my phone plan means continuing to travel the world while I work, then it’s a choice I’m willing to make.
A little sacrifice goes a long way
Once, when I was in Hawaii, I told friends I would be leaving the pool to go and do a few hours of client calls. They were horrified and profusely protested my departure. I explained that three hours of work in the afternoon could pay for all my meals and activities that day. (Plus, there’s also only so much lying around the pool I can do).
Up to the room I went, positioned myself with my laptop on the balcony and looked out over the beautiful beaches of Big Island, Hawaii. I made calls and talked to clients, all while getting paid. Not a bad day at the office, wouldn’t you agree?
Weigh it up and decide what’s important to you. Enjoying cocktails and a delicious meal at sunset was worth more to me than a few extra hours on a deckchair at the pool.
Yes, there are pitfalls to this blissful existence. I’m not going to sell it all as sunshine and roses because, at times, it can be tough.
Here are some things to consider before becoming a freelancing vagabond:
- There is no holiday pay. Working year-round is not always possible and sometimes we do need to switch off. However, with freelancing, you do so at your own expense. Have a stockpile of income to cover that period of no earning.
- Super is up to you. Contract or freelance work does not include superannuation. If you’re an employee and have an agreement where you can work remotely, that’s fantastic. But if you’re a freelancer like me, then the only person contributing to your retirement is you.
- Early mornings and late nights. Time zones are always going to be tricky when you work and travel. At times, you may need to wake at 5am for a call, or stay up until midnight to meet a deadline. Be prepared to work at inconvenient hours.
- Payment is not always swift. Unlike a regular salary that comes with being an employee, freelancers have to invoice and await payment. Sometimes it can take 30 to 60 days, or more, to be paid. When travelling, this can be crippling. Keep this in mind and budget accordingly.
- Income fluctuates. Some months you can have so much work you’re turning it away. Other months you can have a complete dry spell. Have a buffer in your bank account to stabilise low periods.
- Prepare for poor internet. Sometimes, you’ll arrive at a new hotel or friend’s house and the internet is not working. Be prepared to search for local internet cafes or to have a few “I’m sorry” conversations.
It’s all worthwhile
When it comes to working while travelling, you may need to give up time at the pool, step away from your friends or lose a little sleep. But I have found the rewards far outweigh the pitfalls.
To travel to amazing locations such as Ibiza, London, New York, Mumbai and Hawaii, all while earning an income, is a dream come true.
It is possible, and if you can make it work, do it.