While spending the last week in Los Angeles I believe I’ve figured out the secret formula to working on the road. Well actually it’s not a secret, and not really a formula at all, but I’m gonna call it that just because it sounds cool. The Secret Formula!
Anyway it dawned on me during this trip that there are at least three distinct forms of travel, each with inherent benefits and pitfalls in relation to working on the road. By understanding the limitations of each mode of travel, you can effectively anticipate your level of efficiency.
3 Types of Travel
In general, trips can be broken down into three categories:
- Long-Term Immersion
- Medium to Long-Term Location Hopping
- Short-Term Sight Seeing
Now I’m sure you can break it down even further, but these three generally encompass the types of trips that me and Marla embark on.
By far the ideal trip for working on the road is the one that I think everyone dreams of, whether working on the trip or not; that’s immersion. I consider immersion to be any trip of a month or more in which you stay in a single location.
The benefit of immersion is, quite obviously, time. When you’re afforded the ability to travel and completely immerse yourself in a new culture for a month or more, you also have the opportunity to live like a local. While a local, you’ll surely go out on the town and see the sights, but you do so on local time. There’s no need to cram anything into just a few days.
When you want to work on the road, time needs to be your friend, but if you’re not quite on speaking terms as of yet, you better become besties…fast.
The massive amount of time and lowered pressure of immersion lends itself nicely to allowing you to have a bit of structure in regards to your work schedule. I hate over planning a trip as much as the next person, I actually avoid it as much as possible, but when it comes to working on the road some semblance of a structure is vital.
This became ever apparent in Los Angeles.
Short Term Sight Seeing
Prior to leaving for sunny California, I had already planned on cutting my work time down to somewhat of a minimum. While I did plan on getting some work done, I tried to make sure there were no major deadlines during that week.
Eight days in Los Angeles in the middle of the bitter cold Chicago winter was refreshing, but 8 days is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an immersion trip. We had a great time and did many things on our short term sight seeing trip, but 8 days definitely did not afford me enough time to establish a work routine.
Each day of the trip was spent, no surprise here, enjoying our time in LA. Each day we would come home a bit later than planned after hiking down around the Hollywood sign or after sitting in on a hilarious TV taping or after watching the amazing talent at Santa Monica Beach and then we’d spend some time chatting with our awesome hosts. It was a lot of fun, but after a full day there was only time for a little shut eye before doing it all over again.
I know, having a blast on a trip is nothing to complain about, I certainly have not complaints, but this type of schedule does leave little time for work. Each night I’d try to plug away a bit on the computer, answering emails and getting a few things done, but being such a short trip as this one was, spending long stretches of time working would have meant staying up much later than I would prefer. (yes I’m a night person, and yes I’m normally up working all hours of the night at home, but on a trip I have no interest in sleeping my days away.) 🙂
Working on the road during this trip was not a bust by any means, but I have to rank short term sight seeing as the most challenging form of travel when working on the road.
Not everyone has the opportunity for long term immersion travel, honestly we haven’t even dove into this realm as of yet, however something that’s at least slightly more attainable and definitely easier on the location independent worker than short term sight seeing, is location hopping.
Back in September, we spent 22 days in Europe. We went from London, to Paris, to Venice, to Milan, Florence, Pisa, Rome and Fregene. In the future I plan on going more the immersion route than location hopping, as this trip definitely was, however one unexpected benefit was the built-in work routine.
The trains were our friend in Europe. Traveling from country to country and city to city involved anywhere from 2 to 15 hour travel by train. This meant 2+ hours (generally more) every couple days in which I was guaranteed to have down time (aka focused work time).
Looking back, this was quite ideal. At the time I had thought to myself that staying put would have been more beneficial, however having this built-in down time ensured that we had no possibility of filling those hours of our day with more adventures.
I find, at least for us, that travel closely follows many of the same principles as a to do list. If you give yourself 3 days accomplish something, it’s gonna take you all 3 days to do it. No question. The same rings true for our travel, if we have 3 days to see Paris, we’re going to fill those 3 days with every last sight and adventure that we can come across, while remaining mindful of our experiences of course, but filling that time is simply inevitable.
I believe that the time insensitive nature of immersion travel can help combat this filling of time, but constant location hopping certainly made a strong case for itself and ranks as highly effective on my list.
For those of you fellow location independents, just a little bit of planning can go a long way. Maybe just getting out of the house and heading to a warm climate or climbing into a cozy snow covered cabin is all that you’re looking for and maybe you’re able to swing it so you can get some work done on your trip. However if you expect that you’re heading out on an adventure where you’ll find yourself constantly seeking more and doing more at every opportunity, then maybe it’s a good idea to reconsider working from the road this one time.
Remember that location independence is about the freedom to work from anywhere, not about working from everywhere. If you find that your travels are suffering and “work-you” never relinquishes power, then try unplugging. Being able to work from the road is great, but if you’re traveling but never making any time for yourself, then how much better off are you really? Becoming a prisoner to your work is just as bad whether you’re in a cubicle or abroad.
Do you typically work from the road? How have your experiences been for both short term and long term travel? Let us know in the comments.