How To Working Remote—While Adventuring
Obviously, we travel, a lot—and I hate to use the term, but I think we qualify as “digital nomads” at this point. We travel to the point where we don’t really have one place that we call home right now—unless you count our Ford Transit Connect (which technically now has a bed in it, so I suppose it does count). And I’ve been traveling like a madwoman pretty much for the last six years, since graduating college. Peter’s been doing the same, so we’re both pretty versed in remote work (and play). I realized as I was driving from north of Toronto to Cleveland to do a talk that I hadn’t written a lot about how I get work done on the road. Looking at my Instagram, it may look like we pretty much ride bikes and run all day, but there are a lot of hours hunched over at coffee shops and in the van, and a lot of late nights on the laptops to make up for that time spent in sunshine. How do we balance it—and turn assignments in on time? Here are a few of the best tips I could come up with.
Balance Play and Work Time
We just interviewed our dear friend Scott Kelly for the Consummate Athlete Podcast (look for that one next month!) and as a pro mechanic and team manager, he spends around 200 days per year on the road. We asked about his best travel hack, and he said simply, “You have to love to travel.” Weirdly, that hit me really hard. Sometimes, I get really caught up in the insanity of travel and start getting grumpy, but I have to remember that I choose to do this—and as soon as I remember that, it gets easier. But that also means remembering that I’m in jobs that allow/require me to travel because I get to do cool stuff in new places, so I need to make sure I … do cool stuff in new places. So carving out that time (even if it means getting up earlier or working a little later to get actual assignments done!) is key.
Dial Your Gear
After you’ve spent most of your time on the road, working out of host houses and hotels and campsites, you start to get a handle on what the best working setup for you is—and often, you realize that you’re carrying way too much stuff! I’m still working on “curating” the perfect mobile office, and that’s coming down in size slowly. For me, that mainly means having a laptop (obviously), decent-but-not-massive camera (I love my Sony A6000), iPad (I read books and magazines, furiously), microphone (for podcasts), a notebook plus paper agenda (for hard deadlines), good pens (I’m a weirdo like that), thank you cards, and my Square plus a bluetooth mouse for book talks. I still have a bag of extra gear on top of that, plus some actual books, but the plan is to ultimately jettison that. For me, right now, the primary reason I’m always overpacked is that there isn’t one place that’s home, so I have enough stuff to last me months, in every eventuality. I think once we have a primary residence, it’ll be easier for me (both physically and emotionally) to travel with less stuff. The more we do this, the more I realize that it’s actually easier to work (and pick clothes) when I have less stuff to rummage through. Now, to put that into practice better…
Schedule Everything That’s Important
I have a regular to-do list that has all of my assignments on it, of course, but for the things that I want to make sure happen every day, I make sure they’re actually on the daily check-off-able schedule. For me, things like ‘write a paragraph in your novel’ get shoved to the wayside when I don’t have to check them off to hit “Inbox 0” for the day, so I make sure they’re listed. Also right now, with Ironman training starting to ramp up, I’m trying to prioritize my daily workouts and get more serious about them, so making sure they’re on the schedule and that I’m prepared for them is getting more and more important.
Related: Outdoor Edit // The Casually Stressed Out Edition
Set Up Your Space
For me, this means having a flat, hard surface in the van (more on that DIY build in an upcoming post) and a charger (this is our Yeti solar panel/charger setup) so I can keep my laptop going when we’re on really long drives or camping. But even more important than that is having my backpack at the ready with all of the aforementioned gear, and making sure stuff is constantly properly charged and updated when we have power and a good wifi connection. I can’t tell you how many times an article has been delayed or a quickie photoshoot has gotten screwed up because I didn’t charge my computer or camera when I had the chance. It’s maddening!
Develop Unbreakable (and Breakable) Routines
Routines shouldn’t be your masters, but they should help you keep your sanity. This is similar to the above point: in ToDoist, the app I use for organizing my life as a whole, I have four things that are “every day at 7am”: checking my HRV (plus a couple minutes of meditation), DuoLingo, and my yoga and core 10 minute routine. If I don’t have them on a check-off-able list, they likely won’t happen, so having them is great. I also have “be active” as a daily task, and that keeps me pretty honest about making sure I get in a workout. But because we’re on the road, I know sometimes those things will get skipped, and I’ve learned to be OK with that. I also learned that 15 minutes of meditation is unrealistic most of the time while traveling, so after a few months of desperately trying to cram that in, I let myself drop it—I still have my 5 minutes in the morning while I take my HRV, and 15 minutes is great, but it’s not a deal-breaker or a day-ruiner if it doesn’t happen. Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.
Related: When Routines Fail // What Happened When I Skipped AM Yoga
Plan Around Wifi
When you do most of your work on the internet, it’s pretty obvious that a lot of thought needs to go into wifi. Luckily, with mobile hotspots and campsites that now offer wifi, it’s easier than ever. But it does take a bit of foresight for us: for example, when we upload the podcast, it’s easier to do that from a place with really good wifi, like a hotel or a more established place like Starbucks (McDonalds, on the other hand, notoriously sucks for wifi speed in my experience).
Plan Around Experiences
In addition to planning wifi stops, also consider your travel schedule and what awesome adventures you can sneak in. A lot of weeks, I’ll have at least one day where the bare minimum of work gets done because there’s something cool—a long ride or run, or a visit with a friend—that’s on the calendar. But when that happens, I always have a day ahead or a day after it that’s pretty much wall-to-wall packed with work, so it balances out. The occasional spontaneous day off is one thing, but make sure it doesn’t become a regular practice, unless you’ve planned and scheduled it in. The hardest thing about travel can be avoiding the vacation mindset when you’re not actually on vacation! (That’s where all these other tips come in handy.)
Let me know in the comments: any other great tips on planning for remote work while traveling?