Marisa Morby works while she travels and offers insights on how you can do the same.
Traveling around the world while working is one of the coolest things I ever imagined I could do. It's made for some great stories, awesome adventures, and amazing food. In fact, I'm writing this to you from a coffee shop in Rome, just down the street from the Pantheon.
If you're hoping to make travel a part of your career, I've got some tips that can help you get where you want to be a little bit faster, and hopefully save you from some frustration and learning along the way.
Know Your Travel Style
The idea of making travel a part of your career sounds great. And it is — but it requires a lot of self-awareness. You'll need to think about what you're ultimately hoping to get out of the experience so that you can make a good decision about your next step.
There are a few important factors that you should consider to make sure you'll both enjoy your travel and stay productive as you go.
Figure out how long you want to stay in one place
I prefer at least a month, allowing me to both work and play as a tourist without rushing to see everything around me. Friends of mine prefer a week or two in each city they visit and pack their itinerary because that's more their travel style. It works for them!
Other people I know stay for months in one spot before moving on to the next country. They like building personal relationships around the world and traveling to the outskirts of the city they stay in, really soaking in the culture.
There's no right way to do it, so figure out which style best suits you both as a tourist and for your working schedule. Some key questions to ask yourself to figure it out:
- What do I want to see and do in the places I visit? The longer the list, the longer you'll probably want to stay in each place.
- What pace do I want to experience? If you thrive when your schedule is overflowing, you can take shorter trips in more places. If you need a lot of hours each day to work, you'll probably want to stay longer to make room for yourself to be a tourist.
Do you prefer to travel for work or work while you travel?
When I worked for a job that required me to travel, I had short trips to France, Chicago, Portland, Canada, and London with a packed itinerary. Most days involved meetings with coworkers and locals for business, while the last day had a fun event in a trendy part of the city. After dinner each night, I'd answer emails and work a little overtime. I'd tag a weekend onto the end of the trip so I could do a bit of touristing before I left.
Now, though, I work while traveling. I set my trips myself, cover my own costs, and do work that doesn't require me to be anywhere in particular. It means I had to set up my own routine to compartmentalize productivity and exploration and become much more self-directed. I have the confidence to do it because I learned a lot about time management from my prior job, so make sure you feel the same way before you dive in.
Explore the Right Jobs
If traveling for work purposes sounds like a lot of fun, there are many roles that have it baked in to the job. For example, if you're into fashion, Regional Sales Managers, Retail Buyers, and Independent Sales Representatives have to travel as part of their job.
If you're leaning towards self-directed travel and dragging your work along with you, there are options for that as well. The first is to look for work only at companies that allow their teams to work remotely.
The second is to do freelance work on contract for one or more companies. You can either do freelance work on your own or start working with an agency.
Working while traveling also doesn't just mean you have to be a software developer, like many people believe -- I'm not! Many freelance jobs — copywriter, executive assistant, data analyst — can be done remotely now, and as long as you are upfront with your clients, you won't have any issues.
If you're already in a job and want to just test the waters on remote work, you can do that, too! Here's a short guide on asking your boss to let you work from home... or from Rome, if that sounds better.
Keep Yourself Productive
The most important thing you need to be on top of if you're going to travel while you're working is to keep yourself super productive. There are a few critical skills you want to start practicing right away so that you can do your best work:
Set clear expectations
Setting expectations can be tricky, but it's probably the most important skill to have. Setting expectations means a lot of things: be honest about the work you can handle. "No" is a complete sentence. Be honest with yourself and others if you can't take on more work. Let people know when they can expect to hear from you and how often. Set reasonable deadlines and stick to them.
Create a routine
Whether you're working in a company, working remotely, or working for yourself, routines are important. They keep you accountable. You need to set routines that work for you and your job.
Some good routines might be:
- Setting a meditation and goal setting session every day
- Checking your email at set times each day or only on certain days of the week
- Setting up a consistent gym schedule
- Further reading: how to set up a travel routine that works for you.
Learn to manage your time
This is the skill that probably takes the most practice. We all have 24 hours in the day, so why are some people so productive while others maybe get one thing done during a day?
The main difference is time management.
Here's how I schedule my days -- and it has made me far more productive than I've ever been. And that means that I get more time to play!
- Write down what you need get done in a work week.
- Separate out your tasks by type (e.g. editing, writing, reporting, researching, etc.).
- Schedule full days with only one type of task. This is called context batching. My week has individual days split up like this: Research day, Writing day, Edit day, Network day, Code day.
- Work in 90 minute to 2 hour blocks with a set 15 minute break in between. During your break, leave your computer (and phone!) and walk around, move to a different area, get a coffee; anything to give yourself separation from your work.
- Make a to do list at the end of each day with only three to five things you will complete the next day. If you can do more, that's great, but the list is just the critical things. If you only finish these three things tomorrow, you've been productive.
It's Your Life, Control It!
If you want to make travel a part of your career, I promise you it's possible, but you need to be serious about it. You'll need to be honest with yourself about what you like and don't like, as well as your strengths and weaknesses, so that you can stay happy and productive on the road.