20 Tips for How to Work and Travel …without going insane (Part 2)

How to work and travel

Want to find out how to work and travel …without driving yourself insane? In this 2 part series, I explain how, after 4 years on the road, I’ve finally figured it out.

This is part 2. You may want to read part 1 first.

How to Work and Travel …without going insane

11. Find an “office” system that works and keep it all together

Motivation can be a key issue when you have the distraction of travel constantly at your side so it will really pay off if you eliminate as many barriers to work as you can. And not being able to hit the (working) ground running is one of those barriers.

I used to have my laptop, notebooks and pens spread across different bags and would waste time every morning getting my “office” together.

Now, I keep everything in one bag, which I call my office..although never in front of thieves – to them, I call it my dirty laundry bag…but I digress. When I wake up I pull out my office bag and I can be set up and running in minutes.

Work and travel tips:

  • I’d recommend having the following in one handy bag: laptop, chargers, camera, notebook, pen, plug converter and mi-fi.
  • you might be interested to read about the 10 travel gadgets I wouldn’t travel without.
  • over the years I’ve learned to pack an extra foldable backpack that I can pull out for day trips to save me having to decant everything from my office bag every time I want to use my daypack. It may seem like an extra item to take but it has saved me countless time faffing around. You can find details about the rucksack in article on the The Art of Packing Light.

12. Make sure you always have the holy trinity in your accommodation: wi-fi, power and a/c

Chefs need a kitchen, builders need hammers and digital nomads need wi-fi, a source of electricity and, if you’re anything like me in a hot country where your brain can’t focus above 25 degrees, a source of a/c.

When I was just travelling and casually blogging, my focus was on finding the funkiest place to stay and spending days in remote locations didn’t stress me out. Now, my travel decisions are more heavily focused on finding the Holy Trinity of wi-fi, power and a/c than the best view or off-the-grid spot. As a digital nomad you need to be on-the-grid most of the time and you need to advance plan for any time you’ll spend offline.

Work and travel tips:

  • check reviews – people regularly write about a hostel’s or hotel’s wi-fi speed.
  • if you’re in a hostel, try to take a dorm bed next to the plugs so you can work in the quiet of your room
  • email your accommodation to ask for a room close to the router – most places will accommodate your request if they can.
  • if all else fails, buy a local sim and carry a mi-fi device for those urgent deadlines.

13. Get over your addiction to a/c

If you read my blog often you’ll know I’m a mess of contradictions. So, having just said that finding a/c will probably be a huge factor in your travels, the quicker you can acclimatise to the heat and humidity and unhook your dependence from the cool air, the more you’ll open up a greater list of locations you can work from (outside cafes in Thailand, hotel rooms that only have a slow turning fan for example) and the more you’ll get things done.

Work and travel tips:

  • gradually reduce your time in a/c.
  • expect to go slower for the first few weeks as you acclimatise to the heat.
  • wear loose, comfortable clothes when you work – you don’t want to be distracted by the fact that you can’t breathe in your tight denim shorts.
  • carry a sarong or scarf with you – I’ve learned from too many hours sat in faux-leather chairs in humidity that a sarong can be invaluable if you don’t want to spend your work hours slipping around on your own pool of seat sweat (sorry for the visual!).

14. Accept that some minor, mundane things will take huge chunks out of your day

Constantly being in unfamiliar places, you’re simply going to have to accept that many small tasks that would take no more than minutes at home are going to take you a lot longer. From finding a decent place to have breakfast to spending a half day searching for contact lens solution in Vietnam (true story…and still I didn’t find any), it can be beyond frustrating wasting valuable travel or work time dealing with mundane tasks. However, that’s the reality of life on the move and its something you simply have to accept (unless you want to drive yourself insane with irritation).

Work and travel tips:

  • work some “mundane task” time into each day to deal with this essential but inconvenient chores.
  • try to hit deadlines one day in advance so you don’t get stressed when something else comes up that you have to deal with (this is good practice in all working life but even more vital when your lifestyle throws up more anticipated challenges than mainstream life).
  • if you see something you know you’re going to need in a week’s time (soap, shampoo, sun lotion), buy it when you spot it.

15. Budget for coffee shops

how to work and travel

There is work and there is efficient work and the two can have very different results. I’ve found over the years that by taking myself out of the hostel common room or hotel lobby and into a coffee shop, I can get twice the work done in half the time. Sure, sitting in coffee shops, particularly the likes of Starbucks – the place where coffee beans go to die – is not my idea of dream travel, and handing over several dollars a day for coffee and snacks is a frustrating cost in my travel budget, but it helps me get stuff done. In half the time it would take me to get the same amount of stuff done on crappy wi-fi or with distractions. And, by being more work efficient, I can free up time for more fun activities.

Work and travel tips:

  • just accept the cost – anything you spend in a coffee shop spend is still going to be cheaper than renting an office.
  • minimise your time inside with a good, focused to-do list and a time limit to how long you’ll spend in the cafe.
  • if you’re spending a lot of time in coffee shops, consider getting some virtual office space with a company like Regus – I had this for a year and found it really helpful, particularly in big cities like Manila.

16. Plan ahead for travel days and fun nights

There’s no point spending all of your time working – there needs to be time for travel and fun too, otherwise you may as well be back in your home town. You just have to plan ahead for travel days and fun nights.

Keep to your schedule for posting, make sure you have your to-do list done and, if you’re being really good, get a day ahead of yourself with your work so that you can spend the day/night entirely switched off from your work and enjoy your leisure time guilt-free.

Work and travel tips:

  • try to get into a habit of less impulse more planned fun – try to book ahead your week interspersing your work and fun/travel days as evenly as possible.
  • don’t forget that travel days where you’re moving from one place to another can take up an entire day even if you’re not moving far – check-in, check-out, eating and showering after you’ve been sweating with your backpack on can easily evaporate a whole day…and any work motivation that goes with it.

17. Get used to missing out

All work and no play can make you a dull traveller but equally, and more realistically, you are just going to have to get used to missing out. A. Lot. The chances are, especially as you transition from traveller to digital nomad, that you’ll be constantly surrounded by other travellers who have no other commitments beyond fun and exploration, and you’re really going to miss that lifestyle. It can be incredibly frustrated watching other people head to the beach/see some cool ruins when you have to work all day. But remind yourself this: when all those people go home in a week, a month or more, you’ll still be doing what you love doing. Days chained to your laptop is part of the trade-off for that ongoing travel lifestyle and the sooner you accept that, the easier it will be.

Work and travel tips:

  • write down the activities you want to do in each place, schedule time for them and try not to veer too much off your plan.
  • console your inner FOMO (fear of missing out) by knowing that most of the travellers around you reach the end of their trip. You won’t and overtime you’ll end up seeing much more than those other travellers combined.
  • develop a network of online bloggers and digital nomads to help you get some work perspective as you travel – chances are they will be sat in a different yet equally interesting location also in front of their laptop working. (If you ever feel like you need some support, drop me a line on Facebook).

18. Don’t plague yourself with guilt

One of the main reasons year 3 was my year of the melt-down is because I spent most of my time feeling guilty. When I was in coffee shops working I was kicking myself for not being outside and exploring (“you’re in the final frontier of the Philippines and you’re sat in this coffee shop – what’s the point”). And when I was outside exploring, I was plagued with guilt for all of the work that I had to do (“you have four posts ideas whirling around your head, broken links that need solving and tourists boards to pitch to yet you’ve treated yourself to a mid-week snorkelling trip – you don’t deserve it”).

Kick the guilt. It honestly does nothing beyond take you on a one-way ticket to insanity!

Work and travel tips:

  • as I’ve already mentioned, plan your free time ahead and work around it.
  • give yourself a guilt break. If you’re not balancing things well, don’t kick yourself. Brainstorm a plan for finding a better balance. Unless you were born with digital nomad blood in your veins, you’re going to have a lot of failed attempts at the work and travel balance before you get it right.

19. Take a holiday at least once a year

I work seven days a week and you’ll find that most digital nomads, travel bloggers and entrepreneurs will tell you a similar tale. Of course, I enjoy my work so doing it seven days a week isn’t a chore (in my world the word “Work” is synonymous with “eating chocolate”) but it’s important for creativity and mental and physical health to take a break every now and again.

Until this year, I hadn’t taken a holiday for four years. When I went to Cuba it was the first time I’d switched off for a long time and damn did it feel good. And not only that, while I sat in a rocking chair sipping rum on a porch in La Boca, I came up with some good ideas for when I got back to the world of wi-fi.

Work and travel tips:

  • start planning about 6 weeks in advance for your break – you’re probably a one-man band (or a couple who are taking a break together) so you’ll have to schedule posts in advance posts for while you’re away. By doing a bit extra each day for a few weeks you can complete switch off.
  • ask around and see if you can get other bloggers to guest post on your website to fill your time away.

20. Accept that there will be low motivation days

I try to write every day but there are absolutely days (at least a couple per week) when my motivation is low, my writer’s block is high and I just can’t get into the work groove. This happens in mainstream office life too. The only difference is that in the cubicle world you still get paid. Try not to kick yourself too much for these low motivation days – you can work around them…

Work and travel tips:

  • the upside of having so many different things to do (social media, images, writing, accounts, PR, SEO) is that if you’re not motivated to do one thing (write), you can still do something else (edit your photos).
  • swap around your work and travel days so that you chill out on the low motivation days and work when you’re most geared up.
  • take a break and don’t feel guilty – your motivation will return, most likely the second you stop trying to force it.
  • keep a monthly record of your successes and milestones, no matter how small, and if motivation is missing for an extended period, read over your document for a feel-good motivational push.

So, they are my tips for how to work and travel…without going insane. Do you have any other tips to share? How you tried any of these and had any success? Let me know in the comments below.

If you found this article helpful, you may also like to read:

So, You Want to Start a Travel Blog? 10 things I Wish I’d Known

Top 10 Tips on How to Be A Better Blogger – From the Experts

The 10 Travel Gadgets I Wouldn’t Travel Without

The Art of Packing Light

Or you can find more general tips on blogging by clicking on the button below.

Blogging ButtonPhotos by: Mike Licht.


Article written by

Jo Fitzsimons is a freelance travel writer who has visited over 60 countries. www.indianajo.com is the place where she shares destination details, travel itineraries, planning and booking tips and trip tales. Her aim: to help you plan your travel adventure on your terms and to your budget.

2 Responses

  1. Kissairis
    Kissairis at | | Reply

    I’m transitioning just a few weeks to a full-time, remote job. I’ve always loved traveling but haven’t had the opportunity to do it for longer than 2-3 month stretches. I’ve been freaking out a bit about how to mentally make the switch from “carefree” traveler to “getting things done and still exploring and enjoying new locales” traveler. I found these two articles EXTREMELY helpful. You’ve given some great tools and things to think about. Thank you!

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