There are lots of resources out there all about how to use your business to fund your trip around the world, or how to travel the world and work as you go. This is not one of those articles. Maybe someday I'll have that knowledge to share, but instead, I'm writing to show you how I've managed to keep my copywriting business thriving without sacrificing the thing I love to do most -- travel.
Over the past year, I've taken at least one trip per month, sometimes more. And I'm not talking about vacations. Vacations (or just plain old time off) are important for our well-being, of course. However, I hold a strong belief that travel shouldn't be reserved solely for vacations. For me, and many other entrepreneurs, it's just not feasible to take time off every time we feel the urge (or the need) to get out of town. That's why I'm writing this post -- to offer up what I've learned about working on the road, to show you that you can travel and still meet your goals, hit your deadlines, and grow your business.
Balancing work and travel isn't always easy, I’ll be the first to admit. But if you, like me, value travel and see it as an opportunity for growth (personally and professionally), you'll start to look at each trip as a learning experience and will know in your gut that it was worth it, in some way, shape, or form, every single time.
Here are a few things I’ve learned that make getting your work done while traveling a bit easier, and can help improve your overall experience. Let me know what you think and if you have other tips for working on the road, leave them in the comments or tweet me @AllyDenton.
1. Work ahead
Easier said than done, we all know this to be true. Working even just a little bit ahead, however, this is the most productive thing you can do for yourself, and for your clients, when you’re traveling. If you can get ahead on a deadline, you’ll be less stressed upon arrival and can avoid that terrible "playing catch-up" feeling altogether.
If nothing else, plan ahead for your travel days — that is, the day you arrive at your destination and the day you leave. I’ve learned that unless you leave very early in the morning or very late at night, it’s next to impossible to get much work done on a travel day. Don’t plan to deliver any high priority items on a travel day. Instead, get them done early and arrive at your destination with a relaxed mindset and calm demeanor, it will serve you well for the rest of your trip.
2. Alert your current clients
It's important to try and foster a positive, reciprocal relationship with your clients -- one that feels like a partnership rather than an employer/employee situation -- but when it comes to changes in your timezone, it’s really no more than a courtesy to let them know what you’re up to and if you’re going to be out of touch for a day or two.
Earlier this month, I spent a week in Los Angeles. It's funny how the 3–hour difference from Eastern Time to Pacific Time is just enough to really throw you off. Even if you think you won't be affected by a time or locale change, remember that over-communication is always better than under-communication, and let your clients know what's up.
3. Read on the plane
Save your money by skipping the on-board Wi-Fi next time your on a plane. Instead, read a book. If you're an entrepreneur, chances are you have a stack of a dozen (or more) books you’ve been putting off reading. I know I do. And I read everyday.
Soak up a few hours without the constant buzzing of your phone or the chiming of your inbox to steal away some time for the reading you've been putting off. And don't think you have to read non-fiction for it to "count". Reading anything is going to improve your writing and sharpen your intellect. Plus, fiction can teach you just as much (if not more) than non-fiction. But that’s a topic for another time…
4. Plan your next day
When you’re at home, sticking to your routine isn’t always easy. But when you’re on the road, it’s even harder. Instead of throwing your daily to-do’s and rituals to the wind, try to get on some sort of routine while you're away. At the very least, plan out what your day(s) should look like. Whether you’re at a conference or simply in town for just one meeting, use your scheduled events to map out a productive day and you’ll waste less time and energy worrying about what come's next.
5. Research where to work
Speaking of wasting energy, there’s nothing more exhausting than driving around in your rental car, stopping in and out of coffee shops without Wi-Fi because you can’t find a good place to work. Before you arrive at your destination, ask your local friends and colleagues where the best places to set up shop for. Don't know anyone? Yelp just became your new best friend.
Also, check out the local co-working spaces. You might be able to spend a day there for free, or purchase a week-long pass. When I travel, I usually stay in AirBnB's, but when I'm in a hotel, I love camping out in the lobby for a day. You can eat, drink, chat with folks (or the bartender at the very least), and there's usually fast Internet.
6. Set reasonable goals
While I’m all about maintaining efficiency and not letting your deadlines slide, I would argue that you shouldn't plan to finish up your year-long capstone project during a 2–night stay in Vegas. If you’re planning to set up shop for a month in an AirBnB in San Diego, that’s a different story. You might even be more productive if you operate that way. But if you're inclined to indulge in self-sabotage, be wary. You can travel often, but always travel smart.
7. Schedule meetings with potential clients
Take advantage of a network outside your local community and set up meetings with potential clients, partners, or sponsors. Chances are, you already know someone who would love to grab coffee, lunch, or a cocktail. If no one immediately comes to mind, use LinkedIn as a refresher.
Before I went to Los Angeles, I filtered through all my connections that live in the city. Then, I set up meetings with the people I wanted to reconnect with most, and filled up my week with valuable meetings.
8. Meet with others in your field
In addition to meeting with those who might want to work with you, take some time to find other writers, freelancers, or entrepreneurs who you’re interested in getting to know better. I met several other women in Los Angeles who I'm sure will be longtime friends and alliances in entrepreneurship. It's these types of relationships that can help you grow as a person and will help make starting and running your own business that much more fun.
9. Attend an event
For me, this one is easy. I'm an extrovert who loves to get out and meet new people, and I frequently travel with my boyfriend who basically attends and hosts events for a living. If you don't have that kind of travel partner, that's okay. Check Meetup.com before you leave and see what events in your industry are going on while you're in town. If there's not much there, just ask around. Locals are always your best source.
10. Explore and play
And this, of course, is my most important piece of advice. Don’t forget that even though you’re working, there's plenty of time to get out and explore bits and pieces of a new city — you just have to create it. Try new restaurants, go to the beach, spend an hour at a museum, or simply, take a walk. If there's one thing you'll regret when you get back home, it's not doing more of this.
So, go do it, and let me know how it went.