The road to ul­ti­mate pro­duc­tiv­ity when work­ing re­motely while trav­el­ing the world

Oi Vietnam - - Contents - Text by Dror Lieben­thal


work­ing full-time for ten-plus months, across more than 15 coun­tries. It’s one of the most fun and re­ward­ing things

I’ve ever done. My work breaks over the past year have in­cluded things like scuba div­ing in Belize, polo lessons in Buenos Aires, music festivals in Hun­gary, and more.

Work­ing full-time while on the road is not easy, but it’s def­i­nitely a skill that can be mas­tered over time. For those in­ter­ested in the nuts and bolts of how to travel while work­ing, there are al­ready sev­eral great ar­ti­cles out there ex­plain­ing how it’s done. If you’re not fa­mil­iar, I rec­om­mend start­ing with Top­tal COO Bre­an­den Be­neschott’s guide.

In terms of lo­gis­tics and plan­ning, pulling off a full-time work sched­ule while on the road is much eas­ier and cheaper than you prob­a­bly think (at least in my ex­pe­ri­ence), and the in­fra­struc­ture for do­ing so con­tin­ues to grow rapidly. How­ever, the fol­low­ing prob­lem is far more dif­fi­cult to solve, es­pe­cially when trav­el­ing solo: Can you fully en­joy your trav­els while not sacri­fic­ing the qual­ity of your work?

Strik­ing The Right Bal­ance

Can you nav­i­gate travel lo­gis­tics, work full-time and take care of your­self phys­i­cally and men­tally, all while set­ting aside enough time to ex­plore the places you’re vis­it­ing, find fun things to do and meet new peo­ple?

Since you won’t have much of a sup­port sys­tem when you’re alone in a for­eign coun­try and (usu­ally) don’t speak the lan­guage, find­ing the right bal­ance is crit­i­cal. Your rou­tine has to be sus­tain­able in the long-run, and if you aren’t care­ful, things can go down­hill in a hurry.

As I’ve been trav­el­ing, I’ve got­ten a lot of ques­tions from friends and col­leagues about the psy­chol­ogy of this life­style, in­clud­ing every­thing from how to avoid lone­li­ness to how to max­i­mize pro­duc­tiv­ity. It’s not for every­one, but this life­style can be both in­cred­i­bly fun and ex­tremely pro­duc­tive, pro­vided you fig­ure out how to do it in a way that works for you. As I’ve trav­eled, I’ve no­ticed some key habits, mind­sets, and tricks that are im­por­tant for any­one who is con­sid­er­ing work­ing and trav­el­ing to keep in mind, re­gard­less of their oc­cu­pa­tion or in­ter­ests.

Go To X To Do Y

When you have the op­tion of liv­ing any­where, it can be dif­fi­cult to choose a des­ti­na­tion, and go­ing to places to see/ do touristy things can get old fast. I’m a big fan of go­ing to places to do spe­cific (non-touristy) ac­tiv­i­ties, as op­posed to just go­ing to places that sound in­ter­est­ing on pa­per.

In the past months, I’ve gone to: • Por­tu­gal to learn how to surf.

• Ber­lin and Zurich for con­fer­ences.

• The UK to take a trip through Wales. • San­torini to join friends who were on va­ca­tion.

• Is­rael to visit fam­ily and work on my He­brew. • Belize to learn how to scuba dive.

• Brazil, Uruguay, and Ar­gentina for the Top­tal Road­trip.

Work­ing full-time and trav­el­ing the world might be eas­ier than you think, es­pe­cially when you’re trav­el­ing for a pur­pose. I’ve found that hav­ing a pur­pose to your trav­els leads to a few great out­comes:

• It’s a lot eas­ier to struc­ture your time and pri­or­i­ties.

• It’s eas­ier to meet fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple with shared in­ter­ests.

• You learn amaz­ing new skills that you’ve al­ways wanted to learn.

• When you’re trav­el­ing solo and de­vot­ing a lot of time to work, it’s im­por­tant to limit the ex­tent to which you’re “re­solv­ing” the same prob­lems on a daily ba­sis. What I mean by that is, you don’t want to find your­self wak­ing up ev­ery morn­ing with­out any plans for where you’re go­ing to work, what you’re go­ing to work on, where you’re go­ing to eat, who you’re go­ing to meet, what non-work things you’re go­ing to do, and so on.

Not only is it easy to waste a lot of time and en­ergy an­swer­ing the same ques­tions over and over again, but it will also quickly make you feel like you’re swim­ming in cir­cles with­out ac­com­plish­ing much. To be clear, I am just as strongly against do­ing any­thing that’s “too or­ga­nized” while trav­el­ing. I’m pretty averse to re­sorts, guided tours, and so on.

As a good friend of mine likes to say: “I al­ways love see­ing big cruise ships. The more I see of them, the fewer peo­ple there will be wher­ever I am.” The ad­ven­ture and un­cer­tainty of trav­el­ing is half the fun, and it’s im­por­tant not to lose sight of that by plan­ning too much.

In short, don’t just go to Thai­land. Go to Thai­land to mo­tor­bike from Bangkok to Chi­ang Mai. Go to Brazil be­cause you’ve al­ways wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence Carnival. Go to Nepal be­cause you dream of hik­ing the An­na­purna trail. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less, and it’s when you go some­where with a goal in mind that things be­gin to take off.

Set Aside Time Ev­ery Day For Learn­ing

When you’re work­ing at a startup, there are al­ways a mil­lion dif­fer­ent tasks that need to be ac­com­plished, and you’re con­stantly in a race against time. You can eas­ily spend all of your wak­ing hours knock­ing things off of your to-do list, and with so much that needs to get done, it can be hard to jus­tify in­vest­ing time in any­thing that’s not the task at hand, or at least di­rectly re­lated to the task.

Be­ing on the road is no ex­cuse for com­pla­cency. You can work, play, and mas­ter new skills, just as you would from home. How­ever, tak­ing time each day for the ex­plicit pur­pose of im­prov­ing your skills and learn­ing new things has a pro­found and pos­i­tive im­pact in sev­eral im­por­tant ways:

You be­come much bet­ter at your job. Whether it’s tak­ing a data science course, read­ing case stud­ies on hy­per­growth com­pa­nies, or learn­ing SEO best prac­tices, in­vest­ing in devel­op­ing a strong cross-func­tional skillset will in­vari­ably make you more ef­fec­tive at your job in the long run. Ev­ery time I read or watch some­thing just be­cause I want to learn about it, I al­ways come away with a bun­dle of new ideas, even if that thing was only tan­gen­tially re­lated to my job.

You’ll be hap­pier. If you’re like me and en­joy pick­ing up new skills and be­ing pro­duc­tive, you’ll be a more out­go­ing, ad­ven­tur­ous and happy per­son when

you’re learn­ing new things. I usu­ally feel pretty great af­ter spend­ing a few hours read­ing in a café or get­ting a ma­chine learn­ing crash course by the beach. But af­ter binge-watch­ing movies? Not so much.

It’s eas­ier to meet peo­ple with shared in­ter­ests. The more di­verse in­ter­ests you have, the more likely you are to have some­thing in com­mon with a stranger. More im­por­tantly, when you’re in­ter­ested in learn­ing some­thing (es­pe­cially if it’s re­lated to tech or star­tups), you can al­most al­ways find groups on or else­where that are full of peo­ple who or­ga­nize events cen­tered around the topic. This is a great way to meet and learn from peo­ple who share your in­ter­ests.

Much like the “Go To X To Do Y” strat­egy, set­ting aside time ev­ery day for learn­ing is all about feel­ing like you’re mov­ing for­ward. By carv­ing out time to pick up new skills, I work more ef­fec­tively, stay hap­pier, and en­joy my trav­els much more.

Pack Light, Stay Mo­bile, And Make Lo­gis­tics Easy

It’s no fun when an air­line loses your lug­gage. It’s even worse when an air­line loses your lug­gage and you’re alone in a for­eign coun­try, don’t speak the lan­guage, have no con­tacts, and have a long list of un­read work mes­sages that you des­per­ately need to check.

You’re trav­el­ing solo, so you can main­tain an amaz­ing level of flex­i­bil­ity. You won’t end up us­ing at least half of what you were orig­i­nally go­ing to pack, so ditch the suit­case, put that ex­tra sweater you’ll never wear back in your closet, and go carry-on in­stead.

I fit all of my be­long­ings into one Deuter 65L travel pack and 25L Mar­mot back­pack. There’s plenty of space for every­thing I need, and I can carry every­thing com­fort­ably on my back with­out trou­ble. Stay lean with your lug­gage and dozens of road­blocks that would’ve be­come huge pains will never hap­pen in the first place.

Road war­rior es­sen­tials: Hard­ware, travel packs and SIM cards. Don’t get car­ried away. Pack light, but pack smart.

The fi­nal thing I’ ll add here is that travel lo­gis­tics are way, way eas­ier than you prob­a­bly think, es­pe­cially once you get a pre­paid SIM card. These usu­ally only cost USD15-USD20 for a few GB of data, and get­ting one is pretty much the first thing I do when mov­ing to a new place (it’s also ab­so­lutely essen­tial for work­ing from the road). If pos­si­ble, make sure you get a SIM card that al­lows teth­er­ing. For bonus points, you can also look into get­ting dual-SIM smart­phones or 3G/4G routers.

With a work­ing phone and the rapid global rise of Airbnb and Uber, not only can you typ­i­cally find a nice, rea­son­ably in­ex­pen­sive place to stay within a few hours and get a ride there within a few min­utes, but you can do all of this from your phone, with­out ever tak­ing your wal­let out of your pocket. Si­de­note: It pays off to do a lit­tle re­search on Airbnb hosts; if you’re in a coun­try where you don’t speak the lan­guage, find­ing a host who does (and who might share some of your in­ter­ests) can make a big dif­fer­ence.

These so­lu­tions, cou­pled with the steady de­crease in flight costs, mean that many of the pains as­so­ci­ated with travel are quickly dis­ap­pear­ing. You can de­cide to jump half­way across the world to­mor­row and have every­thing planned out just a few min­utes later with­out break­ing the bank.

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