Todd has a fantastic saying that we’ve adopted as a family moto:
We don’t travel to get away from our lives, we travel to live our lives.
Though some trips, or parts of trips, are for relaxation and might be considered “vacation”, many of our trips are not. Instead, we aim to immerse ourselves in a totally new experience… different culture, place, food, scenery, people, issues, marketplace, etc., to learn, grow, and boost our creativity.
Because of the amount we travel and how we approach travel, we do a lot of work while traveling… we even go on trips with the objective of focusing on a specific idea, project, or product that we want to take to the next level while in a new environment. There are multiple obstacles to working while traveling, and over the years we’ve worked hard to overcome them. We get a lot of questions about how we work effectively when traveling. Below are some of the most asked questions and our answers.
Don’t we feel resentful about spending time on work while in a great new location?
The short answer to this question is no. However, it took practice and changing our mindset to approach travel in a new way. We used to approach every trip like a vacation and wiz through work as quickly as possible doing as little as possible.
As we traveled more and recognized the need and value of working while traveling we started to plan for work before even going on trips. Many times we have specific work that we want to focus on while traveling because we know we’ll be out of our box and able to approach our work in new and creative ways. We get excited about the work we’ll accomplish while traveling!
We also consider our work while planning trips. We sometimes go to fewer locations and plan less activities because we want to have flexibility when it feels right to work. We have never been the types of travelers that like to be completely scheduled, so this works well for us. We always figure that if we love a place and want to do more, we can always return!
Do we schedule work into our days?
Yes and no. As we approach each day we come up with a plan that includes work time. However, we don’t plan exactly when we’ll work days ahead of time or before we arrive. Because our schedules allow for flexibility, we know that there will be time each day and we give ourselves the freedom to go with the flow of what each day brings. If we have a day that’s booked solid morning until night, we plan more work time the day before and the day after.
What does Daniel do while we are working?
One of the biggest obstacles to working while traveling is making sure the kids are occupied. Daniel always has multiple things to keep him busy… Legos, a sketch pad, books, and new movies and games on his iPad. Also, we work with his teachers to make sure he has some assignments specific to the trip. For example, on our recent trip to Costa Rica Daniel had to write about each day and also had to write four pieces about animals in Costa Rica.
We also involve Daniel in the plan for each day so he knows what to expect. We’ve found that early morning and mid-afternoon are often the best times for our family to plan work time. Daniel enjoys some time to play and get his assignments done in the morning welcomes some time to read, play, or rest in the afternoon.
Something we’ve had to watch out for is the electronics slippery slope. If Todd and I don’t keep an eye on Daniel, he’ll use his iPad all the time instead of doing other things. We try to have a time limit every day, especially for games, and have some days with no games.
How do we stay connected?
We spend time before every trip understanding the internet availability we can expect and making contingency plans. If you are serious about working while traveling it is really important to have plans B and C, and to know if there are times you’ll be off the grid completely.
In addition to knowing the internet availability where we are staying, we consider the need to enable the international plan on one of our phones and explore at least one other way to stay connected. On our last couple international trips, we’ve ordered a TEP wireless device. The TEP arrives a few days before the trip with an envelope to return it after the trip and we pay a daily rate or $8-10. The TEP draws from all available services and creates a hotspot for up to 5 devices. We’ve used the TEP in Canada, and Costa Rica and have been very pleased.
You may be wondering why we don’t use the internet where we’re staying. We do, however we find that the internet can be really slow during peak times, like the morning. Having another option helps us be much more efficient. In lots of places around the world the internet pops on and off a lot and we can’t always rely on a stable connection. We also like to have an internet connection while driving. Click here to learn more about the Tep wireless device.
How do we prepare to have everything we need to work effectively while traveling?
For me, this is really straightforward… I have my laptop, iPad, and chargers. If I’m taking a long trip I might bring a hard drive, but usually just upload my work to Dropbox. I also make sure I don’t need to rely on the internet to get what I need and download critical materials to my hard drive ahead of time.
For Todd, it’s a little more complicated… in addition to his laptop, iPad, and chargers, he needs to pack camera equipment, card readers, and have a plan to access images that he might need. Todd spends a lot of time prior to trips making sure he has what he needs. He also plans for how he’ll keep the images on his memory cards secure while we’re traveling. Here is a look at a typical carry on load for Todd, this was for our recent 10 day trip to Costa Rica (packing post coming soon!). If you are interested in any of the specific items that we you use you can find them here: http://www.thesechels.com/our-gear/
One other item that we stay focused on is making sure our electronics are always charged. There are times when power goes out, or we need to work off our batteries, and it’s important to be prepared.
What about people we need to meet with?
Though in-person meetings are out, there are tons of free and cheap ways to meet with people virtually. If you need to have a conference call, freeconferencecall.com is an awesome resource. If you want to meet over the computer and see the person you’re meeting with, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Zoom.us work well. I’ve found that Skype and Google Hangouts can be unreliable at times. If you have a super important meeting that you need to conduct and/or need to include a number of people, you might want to look into premium options.
What other things do we do to help us maximize our time?
As we traveled more and more we started to see areas of wasted time. One of the big areas for us was packing. We packed too much and didn’t have it organized in a way that could be easily be unpacked and repacked. On trips where we moved around, this became a big issue… we spent hours unpacking and repacking when we could have been experiencing and/or working.
Wrapping it up
With the right mindset and planning you can do amazing work while traveling and maximize the value of your experiences. Double bonus: you’ll be able to plan more travel experiences since you aren’t looking for “time off”!!
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