How to work while traveling. (Photo taken in Phenom Phen, Cambodia).
I want to take my work with me, and travel the world. How do I do that?
It’s a question that I have been asked many, many times since I started my business and took it with me around the world 4 years ago, and even more so recently, as I rapidly explore every nook and cranny of South East Asia for the latter half of 2016.
Here’s my advice:
Book a flight. If you want to take your work traveling, the very first step is to actually set your plans in motion. Nothing will happen until you take that leap.
When I decided to take my work traveling, I made that decision because I was already traveling, and I needed to work. I figured it out along the way. I didn’t wait until the conditions were right. Because they’re never going to be right. Traveling is a messy, unstructured, crazy, time-zone-changing, slipping-through-the-days way of life. It forces you to become very, very present and very precise with the use of your time.
Promise yourself that you’re going to make it work. When you prioritize your dream: working while traveling, you stop trying to make your dream fit the box of how you think working while traveling looks like. Because it doesn’t look like that. There’s many, many (too many) people who call themselves digital nomads and post photos of themselves sitting around by pools all day, sipping cocktails. That is not the reality of working while travelling.
The reality is waking up at 5am in the morning to be ready for client calls because of crazy time-zones. It’s having problems connecting with decent internet to work with 24/7. It’s having cold showers, and crazy bed-head hair, and no makeup because you lost you mascara in transit somewhere. It’s doing all your days work between 6am and 10am in the morning, in the darkness of your dingy hotel room, because your boyfriend who doesn’t work while he’s traveling, likes to sleep in.
It also means that you spend most of your days really living. Work is no longer the main focus of your days. There’s a much healthier work / play balance because you are here to play. To explore, to taste, to try, to see, to hear, to breathe, to walk. And that makes it all worth it.
Drop your expectations. The idea of working while traveling and the reality of working while traveling are two very separate things. It’s not going to be anything like you think it will be. Having expectations will confine you to trying to live out those expectations. The best thing you can do is be entirely open to how things come about, surrender to it all, and keep showing up and doing your work, every day.
When I used to travel on my own, I would spend a month or 2 or 3 or maybe even more if I really liked it, in one place. This allowed me to create a daily routine and rhythm, much like you would at home. Since traveling with J, who doesn’t share my preference for slow travel, we’ve been on a steadily paced race to see as many different places in SE Asia as possible, until the end of the year. Since June we have traveled through New Zealand, Malaysia, Borneo, Brunei, Burma, Thailand and have just arrived in Cambodia, with still Laos and Vietnam ahead of us. It means I’ve had to adjust my approach to work, to make it work.
I am not working anywhere near full capacity, and have pulled back on almost everything, with my focus on doing the bare minimum to keep the wheels of my business turning. Instead of having a weekly schedule, I write blog posts and emails to my people when I want to, and am only working with the clients that signed up to work with me prior to our travels. My main focus is on social media, which has become much, much easier since closing my public Facebook page, and building relationships on Instagram and more personally on Facebook, so that when I slow down next year, I have a ready platform to interact with and sell to.
Be organised. I have several tricks that I use to stay organised. One is that I block tasks in my calendar, for example my 1:1 client calls happen in blocks of four hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only. Julien knows we can’t travel on those days, because of that, making planning efficient and easy. I also start my work early most mornings, so I can enjoy the day with the rest of the world, and not have to worry about missing out or not having finished my tasks.
I write my daily ‘to do’ lists as tasks in my calendar, so I don’t have to fiddle around with paper, and can just look at my phone to see what needs to be taken care of that day. I write all of my client notes, ideas and everything I need to capture when I don’t want to open my laptop in my amazing Filofax planner. Plus, many of the apps I love and use are listed here.
For additional organisation, you can read my non-negotiable travel-essentials and packing list here.
I have an ongoing draft in my emails titled ‘Quotes + SM Drafts’. This is where I write all my social media content in moments of inspiration so that when I want to post, and I don’t have anything potent ready to share, I just go here, and pick something out. Because some days are filled with living, and don’t leave time to assimilate, and share.
Get a sim with data. Internet is insanely unreliable anywhere you go (even Europe!). When you rely on internet to do your work, this singular thing will be your greatest source of frustration. Fortunately, you can ease that frustration tremendously by getting a new sim with a good data plan in every new country you go. I still sometimes have issues but much, much less so, because I can simply hotspot to my phone or work directly off it, whenever I need to. Getting a sim and data is also surprisingly affordable. I arrived in Cambodia yesterday, and bought a sim for $1 USD and 2 gig of data for $2 USD. Easy, right!?
Be flexible and adaptive. The biggest trick to successfully working while traveling is being flexible to the constant changes, and being highly adaptive to them. You cannot control what or how things are unfolding and the more you try, the harder it gets. You have to let go of all that and just do your work, no matter what it takes. It doesn’t matter how you do your work, it only matters that you keep showing up and doing the work.
Most of my work happens on my bed sitting in all sorts of pretzel shapes. I know no-one cares whether I was in a beautiful office or cafe or not. What they care about is the impact, compassion, wisdom and knowledge that I bring. If you are making a difference, and people are paying you for it, then you’re a success. It’s that simple.

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