I’d like to start with a humble apology. I really haven’t posted much in the last month. There are many excuses I could make. Instead I’ll simply say that I wanted to enjoy a month-long trip in Europe; without feeling pressure to do work.
This leads us to the topic for today’s article…
Much has been said about the concept of the Internet Lifestyle. For some, it seems like a dream come true. With a laptop and a wireless connection you can work from any spot in the world. Take a look at any advertisement for a ‘home based business’ product. Odds are you’ll see shots of ordinary folks “working” while living in a warm, tropical paradise.
With all that said, I think there’s a dark side to this lifestyle. What’s not talked about are the many hassles that occur while running a business out of a backpack.
I’ve traveled for about 11 months in the last two years. That’s 46% of my time working while being on the road. During this time I’ve learned that are certain negatives to this lifestyle:
#1 – Lack of Quality Internet Connectivity
Finding a decent Internet connection is often a major obstacle. Yes, most hotels/hostels offer this service. However you can never predict its quality. You might get reliable access. Or you could end up with a connection that’s reminiscent of dial-up from the 90’s.
Furthermore Internet fees can quickly add up. While most hotels offer this service for free, others charge up to $20 per hour. (Thanks, but no thanks Switzerland!)
#2 – Conflicting Agendas with Family, Friends, and Loved Ones
For the most part, I’ve traveled solo. That changed this year when I went to Belize (in April) and Europe (this month) with my girlfriend Kristin. This was a new experience because I had to make compromises with how my time is spent.
Traveling with another person (or a family) requires a PhD in time management. Not only do you have to plan out fun activities, you also have to schedule time for work. This isn’t as easy as it sounds.
#3 – Things Slip through the Cracks
I love traveling, but I also love having a home base. A central location helps you stay on top of all your work. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. When you’re bouncing around the world, it’s easy to let important things slip through the cracks.
I’ll be honest when I say my business took a step backward in the last month. I didn’t post many blog articles, I missed a few important emails, and I didn’t complete certain tasks that advanced my business.
On a long enough timeline, traveling will destroy your business. Sure you might complete the critical tasks. But you’ll miss out on a number of opportunities. The Internet game is always changing. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backwards.
#4 – Routine Things Become Un-Routine
It’s difficult to find time to work when routine activities become a chore.
Think about the bottom two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (the Physiological and Safety Levels). As humans, we can’t do anything until these basic needs are solved: Food, water, sleep, safety etc.
At home, most of us don’t think about this stuff. While traveling, you spend a LOT of time fulfilling these basic needs. This is especially true if you’re switching hotels every few days. In a given day, you have to solve these basic dilemmas:
- Where (and what) will you eat?
- Where are you going to sleep tonight?
- How will you find transportation to this location?
- Are you (and your family) safe in this spot?
- Is your property safe?
This isn’t an exaggeration. You can spend hours each day on these activities. Obviously this will have an impact on the amount of work you can complete.
#5 – Negative Impact on the Mind-Body Connection
I work best when I’m relaxed and able to exercise on a daily basis. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible while traveling. Like I just described, you’ll spend a lot of time fulfilling basic needs. Then you’ll also do a lot of fun activities. And the remainder is spent on doing work. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for exercise.
Traveling can be a negative for anyone who enjoys physical fitness. Unless exercise is a priority while traveling; it’s hard to get your ‘daily fix’ of endorphins. The end result is you’ll experience a decrease in creativity and inspiration.
#6 – Decrease in Future Business Activities
In 2010, I traveled for seven months. During this time, I only concentrated on routine activities. The end result is didn’t do spend any time on the tasks that grow my business. Instead I concentrated on putting out urgent fires and other immediate activities.
Why is this bad? Well in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the four *types* of tasks you can do. He states that successful people spend a lot of time in the 2nd Quadrant – Doing important but not urgent tasks:
With traveling, it’s easy to forget about growth activities. Instead your precious time is spent answering emails and putting out fires. Yes, these are important things to do. But this leaves little time for doing things that grow your business.
How to REALLY Balance Internet Work with Travel
This post isn’t an attack on traveling. It’s still a passion that I hope to enjoy for many years. My goal is to honestly describe what it’s like to combine traveling with an Internet-based business. The good news is there are a number of ways to maximize the fun while ensuring you complete the critical tasks:
#1 – Learn to Let Go
First off, it’s important to identify what’s absolutely important. These are the activities that you need to maintain your current business. As an example, here are the things I need to do on a regular basis:
1) Post articles to my blog
2) Answer emails from customers and readers
3) Write emails for my affiliate marketing business
These are activities that can’t be eliminated. While traveling, you want to make sure these are completed. Then every other task should be eliminated or outsourced. This includes the future business activities I just mentioned.
Traveling requires a compromise. You won’t enjoy the experience if you’re working full-time. That’s why it’s important to let go of certain aspects of your business. Ultimately this will help you concentrate on the important and urgent activities that are critical to your success.
#2 – Do Work Ahead of Time
This recent trip has reinforced the importance of doing work ahead of time. My original plan was to do the important things throughout the trip. Unfortunately I didn’t anticipate all the obstacles I would encounter during this time. The end result is didn’t complete many tasks that are critical to my Internet business. Put simply, my plan was a failure because I failed to plan.
My advice is to complete work before leaving on any trip that’s one month or less. That means doing the following:
1) Letting customers/readers know you’ll be traveling during this time
2) Using the schedule feature to deliver email messages, blog posts, and articles
3) Creating an “out of office” response for your phone and email
4) Completing all important projects before leaving
5) Identifying the areas that need to be monitored during your travels
The last point is especially important. All Internet businesses have a few areas that require regular supervision. (Like answering emails from customers.) It’s important to identify these tasks so you’ll know what’s a priority.
#3 – Schedule Work Time
There is a major lesson I learned while traveling for most of 2010. You need to schedule your work time. You won’t get anything done if you plan on doing things ‘when you have free time.’ Odds are you’ll find other ways to occupy these free periods.
What’s worked for me is to designate certain days for working. While I’ve traveled a lot in the last year, I’ve also spent many days locked inside a hotel room… typing away on a lengthy piece of content.
The good news is you probably won’t need to work while traveling. Most tasks can be completed in the weeks before you leave. This leaves you enough time to put out any fires and respond to critical tasks.
Really, the key here is to identify the important things that need to be done and make sure you complete them in a timely manner.
#4 – Figure out Internet Connectivity
There is a major reason why I recommend creating a work schedule. It’s the best way to make sure you have a decent Internet connection. Understand that you won’t have access to the Internet every single day. Actually this is a good thing because it allows you to relax while traveling.
The important thing is to have a quality connection during those work periods. My advice is to send an email to the hotels/hostels and explain that you need to complete work while staying there. Ask the following:
1) How much do they charge for Wireless?
2) How fast is their connectivity?
3) Is it accessible in each room or is it only available in certain points (like the lobby.)
This little bit of research will help determine where and when to do work.
Finally, Starbuck’s Coffee has a pretty liberal Internet policy. Most offer free access. So all you have to do is find one on the day you’re completing work. This is a great alternative if you’re staying somewhere that has bad access to the Internet.
#5 – Communicate with Travel Partners
Your travel companions should understand your need to do work. But it’s important to be upfront about how much time is required. The good news is it shouldn’t be a lot if most tasks were completed before you left.
My advice is to work when your travel companions are doing something on their own.
Here’s an example. In Munich, Kristin went on a tour of the Dachau Concentration Camp. I did the same tour only a year ago, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out. While she went on a tour, I spent the day working. We then met up later that night and continued with the rest of our trip.
#6 – Relax and Enjoy Life!
The ultimate goal of traveling is enrichment. Embrace the idea of visiting a new place and having relaxation time. This isn’t the time to stress out or worry about what you’re missing.
Work hard during the weeks leading up to a trip. Then only think about business during the periods you’ve scheduled. In fact, don’t go online unless it’s an emergency. Unplugging from the Internet is a great way to recharge your batteries and gain a new appreciation for your business.
Final Thoughts on the Dark Side of the Internet Lifestyle
There are many challenges that come when you combine travel with work. The goal of today’s post is to show what it’s really like to run a business out of backpack. At times it can be frustrating. However it’s doable if you stick to a plan.
Moving forward, I’ll still travel a lot. The only difference is I’ll follow my own advice. All of my work will be done ahead of time and I’ll make sure I’ve planned for every foreseeable problem.To Your "Internet Lifestyle",