I first set off from my native Scotland in 2003 for a trip to Asia and Australia. I had been working online for three years by this point, however around this time I started making enough to become self-employed through the internet. Since then, I have travelled all around the world whilst working online.
It is much easier to do this in 2013. When I first started travelling I had to constantly deal with slow internet connections. It was not uncommon for there to be 20 people sharing a 56kb connection in internet cafes in Asia, with everyone sitting there bored looking at Hotmail take an age to load a page. Things got infinitely better for travellers over the next ten years due to the availability of WiFi and fast mobile connections.
Working whilst travelling still presents many challenges. I have been living in South America since the Summer of 2011 though in September 2012 me and my girlfriend set off to travel all around South America. During this time I updated my blog regularly and finished a book that is 580 pages in print form. Just goes to show that you can still be productive whilst seeing the world.
Let’s look at how you can keep up your writing schedule whilst on the road :)
1. Plan Your Schedule
One of the greatest things about travelling is that you do not know how things will plan out. What you imagined would be a quiet night indoors can quickly turn into a night out with 15 other people. I usually try and plan out how long I will be in the one place but it rarely works out that way. If I am not enjoying a place, I will leave early. Likewise, if I am having a great time somewhere, I usually stay a little longer.
Despite plans being broken frequently, I always try and plan ahead as best as I can. One way I do this is by staying one extra day to ensure I have time to get a lot of work done. For example, if I plan on staying somewhere for three days, I would plan a schedule such as this:
- Day 1: Work for 2 hours in the morning, out all day sightseeing and then 1 or 2 hours work at night.
- Day 2: Out all day on a day trip and then a couple of hours work at night (if not too tired from the day trip).
- Day 3: Work all day long and perhaps out for dinner and a few beers at night.
Where possible, I try and do a full day of work on the last day somewhere as that night, or the following day, will probably be spent sitting on a bus. This was common for me throughout South America. Most places we visited were between 12 and 24 hours apart by bus (though I stay productive on buses too – see point 2!). We did a lot of journeys overnight but I rarely got a great sleep on overnight buses, therefore I usually did not get a lot of work completed the following day. So I got into the habit of working hard the day before so that I was not behind, ensuring that my blog was updated in advance.
If you want to enjoy yourself whilst travelling, I think it is important to be flexible with your schedule. You should still try and plan out a work schedule where possible and if something fun you had planned is cancelled, try and make the most of your time and do some work instead.
2. Take Notes Where You Can
I was initially hesitant in taking both an iPad and a laptop whilst travelling. It seemed like overkill at the time, but I was wrong. In addition to using my iPad for games, movies, books, music and podcasts; it also helped me be productive on long bus or plane journeys. On most twelve hour journeys I usually did about two to three hours of work.
I found this to be essential to how I work. It is all good and well scheduling two hours in the morning to work but if you sit down at your computer and your mind is blank, you’ve effectively lost that time. So I normally download a few books from Amazon for long journeys. The books were normally related to the articles I had scheduled to write later. I would start the bus journey off by sitting back, relaxing and reading a book. This would start giving me lots of ideas for my own work so I would switch to the iOS WordPress app and start writing the article or taking notes to write the article later. On some journeys I wrote a few thousand words…which is quite impressive when you consider I was typing on glass :)
When I finally sat down with an internet connection to publish my articles, I was in a position where 60-90% of my articles were complete. I strongly encourage you to get into the same writing habit when you are on long journeys. It is tempting to just sit and watch movies for your full journey but a few hours of work on the bus will effectively give you free hours when you arrive at your destination to do something else.
Another thing I recommend carrying is a notepad. I prefer one that is small enough to fit into the front pocket of my jeans so that I can pull it out at any time and write down an idea when it comes to me. A friend gave me a pen that had a light attached to it and it proved to be one of the handiest things I had. If my iPad was zipped away in my bag in front of me or if the battery was dead, I would simply bring out my notepad in the middle of the night and write down ideas with my light-powered pen.
You never know when you will get an idea so always take a notepad and pen with you at all times. Ideas can leave you as soon as they come to you, so write them down as soon as you can.
3. Work Effectively
I think it is vital to develop a good work ethic if you are to work effectively on the road. You need to be honest with yourself about this aspect of it. It is kind of pointless squeezing in an hour or two of work before going out for the day if you do not get real work done. In order for this kind of work routine to work, you need to not only work, but work effectively.
This means working without distractions. If you plan on writing for two hours, remove all distractions. That means staying away from from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and any other website that will drain your time. You should only be reading websites for researching the article or book you are writing.
You do not have to save up all your money for two weeks vacation every year. If you can work effectively whilst travelling, you can travel the world and see and do things you always wanted to.
What’s stopping you?