It’s been 10 months since we began working for ourselves while travelling around the world. All from the comfort of our laptop computers, we have been able to visit Bangkok, Bali, Vietnam, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur and more. While we’re incredibly grateful for the ability to do this, it hasn’t been all roses and rainbows. There has been challenges that I didn’t expect to face.
To give you a quick backstory, I am a business owner and a web designer. My background is project management, but I’ve taught myself to code and know enough front-end development to do all the work required to build websites and basic applications. I’m fortuitous enough to be able to work online – an ability that I’m very thankful for. Before this, I was a corporate suit working the 9 to 5 gig. My partner and I decided that we wanted a different lifestyle and launched ourselves into a year long experiment to see if it was possible to work for ourselves while travelling abroad.
Our sentiments around the subject are based in first-hand experience. It’s been an incredible year, but we’ve had our fair share of learning experiences. Some might be obvious, others not so much.
Isolation is not as fun as you’d think
If you’re an introvert, I’m sure that the prospect of being isolated from all of your clients is a blissful dream. But it comes at a cost. Being a remote freelancer means isolation from everyone – your clients, but also your friends and family. This has been the hardest part of our year-long journey abroad; while we have lived a great life abroad, we are more isolated than ever before. The best times that we’ve had overseas have been when we connected with locals or other travellers to do activities together.
My recommendation is to utilize social networks – join expat groups on Facebook and connect with people as soon as you arrive. We had a blast while living in Vietnam for 3 months. We connected with locals and expats, volunteered at local charities and got involved in the lifestyle there. Comparing our time in Vietnam to our time in Malaysia, where we did fairly little to connect with locals – we hated our time there. We spent a majority of our time in Malaysia working in our run down apartment we rented on AirBnB. It wasn’t fun!
Routine on the road is difficult to maintain
The hardest part about working remotely while traveling is creating a routine. I’m 10 months into my travels and I still haven’t figured out a routine that works for me. I get up early and try to work for 2 – 3 hours every day before breakfast – but once my fiance is awake, my routine goes out the window. When you’re in a foreign country, the allure of beaches, tourist sites and an endless list of experiences tempts you every single day. I’m terrible at self-discipline, perhaps you’re better at it than me.
To improve my routine, I’ve lent on tools like Asana to regiment my day by assigning dates to my tasks. I assign time each morning to go through my workload and figure out the challenges ahead. Then, I’m able to figure out when to best schedule my tasks around my day. I still haven’t perfected this, but it’s a work in progress.
Learn to accept what you can’t change
It might sound like a step from Alcoholics Anonymous, but it’s great advice for remote work. When you travel, you quickly realise that you are going to find yourself in plenty of situations that are outside of your comfort zone. You need to learn to either do what you can to change these situations, or more like you must learn to accept them. You don’t like bugs? Well, you’re going to see a few while you travel. Either pack bug spray, or learn to cope. You’re not always going to know what you’re eating, you’re not always going to have a comfortable place to sleep and you’re not always going to have things go your way.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Do you due diligence in terms of making sure you’re smart – things like travel insurance are a must, as is doing your research on the countries you’re visiting/making your temporary home. However, when you arrive at those unavoidable situations that don’t quite go your way, remember that it’s all part of the experience. Look at it as personal growth, try and see the funny side (if you can) and deal with it the best you can.
Look after yourself, mentally & physically
What’s the hardest part of living overseas and working remote? Looking after yourself. It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of going to bed at 2am and sleeping till noon. It’s also easy to put on weight. You’re going to be falling into the tourist trap of wanting to experience all the local cuisine, drinking at every meal and not finding a good gym/exercise program while on the road.
When you’re on the road, it’s hard to find your own space to take care of yourself. I try to meditate daily and hit the gym 3 or 4 times a week. But it might take a good week to find a gym nearby when you relocate. When you’re only staying in places for a few weeks at a time, that lost time stacks up.
The juice is worth the squeeze
While remote working isn’t as easy as it looks – I blame instagram for that one – it is an amazing experience. If you’re prepared to put in the effort, vagabonding around the world while working for yourself is entirely obtainable. It’s an idyllic method to broaden your worldly experience while still looking after yourself financially. It allows you personal freedom in a way that hasn’t been seen since before the industrial revolution. I highly recommend trying it out for yourself – just ensure you do your homework and make yourself aware of the pitfalls that come along with the territory. Good luck and safe travels.