How to travel and work (and still be productive)
Saving $5,000 for a two-week vacation can be really hard—I tried and failed at that for many years. And traveling internationally from Canada or the US is expensive (unless you’re okay wasting three-four days doing milk-run flights). Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could go away for longer and continue making money while abroad?
I’ve been traveling and working in Spain for two weeks now. I’m writing this post from Ronda, Spain. Ronda is what I dreamed Spain would be like when I started booking flights: beautiful architecture with multi-layered history, breathtaking scenery, tapas and cheap, but good, wine.
This trip would never have been possible in my previous work-life. Not only was it hard to get two simultaneous weeks off (excepting my wedding and honeymoon), but I struggled to save enough for a trip while also paying off debt and covering living expenses and other life stuff.
Spain has been a vacation as much as it’s been a research project. I spent the first week in the country at a coworking/coliving space in Javea. I slept in a dorm room hostel-style, worked on the patio or one of the other five workspaces in the house by day and adventured in the afternoon and evening. I met people from around the world, including two who will be featured in an upcoming podcast—stay tuned for that!—and learned a lot about how people manage to work and travel at the same time.
From everyone’s stories, here are three main takeaways to consider if you want to try this out:
Research wifi and coworking spaces before you go. Airbnbs and hotels don’t always have reliable wifi and the last thing you want to happen is to be somewhere unable to communicate with clients or your team. Coworker.com is a good place to look for coworking spaces around the world. Expect to pay at minimum $10-20 a day for a desk space and if you can, find one within walking distance to where you’ll be staying so you don’t have to spend extra money and time getting back and forth.
What is a coworking space? It’s a shared office space you rent. Most offer monthly or weekly rental rates and some offer daily rates as well. You’ll get a shared desk space and often access to a closed room to make calls from. Good spaces also offer free beverages and group activities you can take part in to meet other people using the space.
A combined coworking and coliving space like the one I stayed in is a great option because you’re living with people with similar priorities to you. You can find a whole bunch of different ‘digital nomad homes’ at CoWoLi. There are some incredible-looking places on this site that I want to try out.
- Pick a home base or stay put during the week. From experience, it can be impossible to work on travel days. Between waiting in airports and train lounges and being unable to connect to wifi, it’s too stressful to try and work on days when you’re traveling from place-to-place. Plan to stay put for a week at a time or more. For my next trip, I’d like to book something for an entire month as a home base (Airbnbs often offer a discounted rate for longer bookings as an added bonus) and then do weekend trips away. Look for a central location with good public transportation if you don’t plan to rent a car.
Plan your day to get the most out of your productive hours and local activities. I split my work days while in Spain, typically working about four-to-five hours in the morning (8am to 1pm-ish) and then a few more hours in the evening. This allowed me to take a leisurely lunch, swim in the ocean, partake in fun daytime activities like snorkeling, etc. while also getting my most important priorities out of the way first. That way, I wasn’t stressed about catching up on a deadline and could focus completely on having fun during fun-time. This schedule also helped me focus and be as efficient as possible when I worked—there were a couple days I finished early because I zoomed through my to-do list!
Figure out what works for you and make sure you communicate that to your coworkers or clients. Clients have told me they’re cautious about working with digital nomads because people they previously worked with were next to impossible to get a hold of due to poor communication from the contractor about their availability.
Since I’m earning my regular paycheque while traveling and I paid for my flights ($1400 return from Vancouver to Madrid) with money I spent a year saving, this trip has been very affordable. I’ve spent a little more than I usually would at home due to eating out once a day, museum entry fees, etc. but the entire “workation” will only have cost about $1,500 for three weeks (on top of flights)—and could be done for much less if you move around less (I travel somewhere new every four days and am spending about an extra $700 on transportation like additional flights, trains, buses, etc.) and eat at home more often…or travel somewhere cheaper like Indonesia.
Five years ago, I would never have thought this would be possible. I remember having lists and Pinterest boards of all the cool places I wanted to visit, but when it came time to booking my two weeks of holidays (usually split into two one-week vacations, one to visit family and one to go camping or to a music festival), I didn’t have the funds or time to travel the way I wanted to. Working remotely made my trip to Spain possible.