Last April, during the IAPTI Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I had the pleasure of meeting Rea Gutzwiller, already a connection on Twitter, in person, and spending some fun time together. And now I have the pleasure of welcoming her on the blog.
Taking off from your desk
We’re freelancers, right? So have you ever considered leaving you everyday view behind and take off to a new place every so often? You think this is crazy? Unfeasible even?
I’m with you. Before you’ll be able to fully enjoy your nomadic lifestyle, you’ll need to get a few basics in place. In this article I’ll be sharing the most important secrets I wish I had known before I started, so you can start fully prepared.
I admit, I’ve always been a bit of a free spirit, but at first – even after becoming a freelancer – it did not occur to me, that one could freelance and travel. Just about when I had fallen into a routine and started to get itchy feet, I stumbled across a few digital nomad blogs and thought: Wow, great, I want to go to those places too! And after I took off for China, to improve my Chinese, I didn’t stop.
What is probably most important of all is that you make up your mind. I can understand that on a cloudy, foggy winter’s day you’d rather be at a beach in Southeast Asia, but that doesn’t account for the real thing. Mind you: You will leave your house, your neighbourhood, your friends, your family, your pets, your hairdresser, the shopkeeper at the corner store and other people you have some sort of relationship with. They and mostly you will change. You will meet new people; you will live exciting experiences and scary or downright horrible things too. To give an example, I experienced one of the strongest typhoons hitting Xiamen in 50 years. There was no more water, electricity or any other supply where I lived for two weeks. These things don’t happen where I come from and if you don’t speak the language too well, horrible things can become even scarier pretty quicky. But if you’re prepared, things are mastered more easily. Ask yourself: Do I really want to become a nomad? Or do I want to live amazing things, but 80 or 90% of the time, I am quite happy where I am? You see, if you become a nomad, this isn’t just your regular holiday enhanced. This is a new lifestyle, where tomorrow is often unknown. Do you love routines? Are you okay with last minute changes?
If you think it’s scary, you can gradually start it. Try it out! A couple of months somewhere across the globe will help you decide whether you want to continue or you’re happy to go back home, wherever that is. But once you’ve tried it, you’ll realise that being on the road is not more costly and often even less expensive than renting your permanent place and going on holidays.
Secondly, remember, you can’t bring along too many things. Usually a suitcase and a daypack is the maximum. So you’ll need a base where you can leave your stuff for a while and where your snail mail will get picked up by somebody you trust and scanned for you to deal with. Also, you’ll want to go as digital as possible. I get often asked “but what about your books?” – well, frankly, I don’t have all that many books. I use digital books on a Kindle, PDFs, and dictionaries as software…
Going digital involves a performing laptop, phone and external hard drive. Once you’re fully location-independent, you’ll want to be able to do a lot on your phone. I’ve put together a list of the basics that you’ll find helpful for a fully digital office as a small giveaway from me.
The other thing I can’t stress enough is communication with your clients. Let them know about your plans, use newsletters as a means of keeping in touch with them and always let them know ahead of time when you’ll not be available. There’s Wi-Fi at most airports, Lufthansa even offers it high above the Atlantic and German ICE trains do too. But it might not be available. Think ahead, work ahead, plan ahead.
I think one of the things I actually enjoy the most when working in a different time zone is the quiet hours when the majority of my Europe-based clients have either left for the day or are not yet in the office. That way you get a few peaceful hours of work all while they will have that last minute evening job sit in their inbox the next morning. Tell them about this advantage, they might not have realised before! Set an automatic response when you’re asleep. It will spare you from waking up to 10 missed calls and 20 e-mails from the same person as to why you’re not replying. If you’re worried they’ll turn to other providers, remember, clients are humans. They want top service. They will not run away if you’re still delivering. Be confident!
At the beginning, I’d recommend you keep your actual travelling limited. Stay at a place for a bit longer, so you get to adapt to the new lifestyle and enjoy the experience. Plan enough time. If you’re on a workation, you’ll need to put in a few desk hours every day, which limits your visiting time. Hence, you need more time to enjoy the location. For all of us stable internet is important. Mind you, often these are not the most expensive, luxury places, but quite the opposite; think backpacker hostels and small pensions. For example, quite a few five star hotels still charge for internet, while I haven’t paid for Wi-Fi in a hostel in years. Many hostels nowadays offer private rooms, so if you don’t fancy sharing with 8 snoring party-goers, that’s totally okay! Never underestimate how important sleep is, which leads me to the next point:
Apart from work and play there are three things you should not leave aside on the road: eating healthily, regular exercise and good sleep.
If you follow these few tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your time on the road and work efficiently all while discovering exotic or historically interesting places!
About the author
Rea Gutzwiller translates marketing and technical texts from French, English, Spanish and Italian into German. She has grown up in Switzerland and after graduating at the ETI in Geneva and a couple of years in-house started to travel the world as a nomad translator. She has visited over 20 countries in the last 6 years, which has grown her horizon in many ways and enhanced her world view greatly. Her first article on a nomad lifestyle in a series of four has recently been featured in the first edition of connections. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.