When you are constantly connected, your work follows you everywhere – including on a leisure trip. Your colleagues and clients will expect you to answer emails and complete assignments wherever you are. This can ruin your vacation – unless you learn how to stay efficient on the road.
1) Buy a local SIM card
This is the first thing you should do when you arrive at your destination. Local SIM cards are readily available in airports and shops in the vast majority of countries. This way, you won’t have to rely on wifi or pay for roaming. The best resource to find out about local operators and prices in each country is Prepaid SIM Wiki.
If you have an iPhone, make sure it’s unlocked before you leave. In general, it’s better to have a phone with 2 SIM card slots, so that you don’t have to take out your regular SIM. If your phone has just one slot, make sure to carry a special needle to open it – this way you can switch SIMs from time to time to check if you’ve received any messages on your home SIM.
2) Rent a car
Unless you are going on a city break, a car is the best way to move around if you have to combine work and travel. Why? For two reasons:
1) You can always charge your phone through the cigarette lighter. And that means you can always reply to messages and emails (not while driving, obviously). By the way, bring a USB car charger with you, because most cars don’t have them built-in.
2) It works out cheaper, especially in Europe. This is particularly important for freelancers, who have to make sure their earnings on the road amply cover their travel costs. For example, on my recent trip to Montenegro, my partner and I rented a car from a local agency called Sitngo for just $10 a day. Just one 2-hour trip by bus along the coast would have cost us $8 each.
2) You can stop and do some work at a gas station or McDonald’s. Gas stations and roadside fast-food joints are fantastic places to work. They are open 24/7 and have plugs, bright lights, and bathrooms. Even though I generally advise not to work at night, gas stations are an exception. There’s music, people around, and – most importantly – a ready supply of coffee. What I personally like to do is work hard for a couple of hours, then reward myself with a burger and fries.
3) Evenings are for fun, not for work
You know what can really spoil a day of sightseeing? The thought that you have lots of work to do in the evening. You won’t be able to properly enjoy your much-deserved dinner, either. And when everyone else goes out for a drink, you’ll feel obliged to say no – because otherwise, you’ll be back too late to finish the work.
The solution is to do most of your work in the morning. Split your assignments for the day into two uneven parts. Leave the smaller and easier or more pleasant part for the evening. For example, you can answer emails or write a short article that doesn’t require much research. Make sure your evening tasks don’t take more than an hour – and go to bed before midnight.
4) Use those early mornings
From my own experience, the best time to wake up and do some serious work is at 4:30 am. Believe me, it’s much easier than it seems – and definitely much easier than trying to keep your eyes open staring into the screen after midnight.
To work so early in the morning, you’ll need three things:
1) A hard surface to sit on + a plug. If you can, go out of the room to the lobby or sitting area. If there’s no such space, your bathroom floor will do the job. Don’t try to work in bed or in an armchair – it will just lull you back to sleep.
2) Some light. If you can’t turn on the light, carry a small USB gooseneck light like this one.
3) Something light and tasty to give you energy. Sweet, pulpy juice like guava or pear works miracles in the morning. Don’t drink acidic juices like an orange on an empty stomach, though – it can cause irritation.
5) Travel with hand luggage only
Dragging a wheeled suitcase around makes you slow and sucks out your energy. It also takes a lot of time to unpack it in the evening and pack it again in the morning. And don’t forget the time wasted waiting for your luggage at the airport. This is all the time that you could use for productive work.
If you need to work on the road, you need to remain as active and ready as you can – and use every minute wisely. So make that little step into the unknown, drop the suitcase and welcome the backpack. I use this 20l Simond backpack that is perfect both as carry-on luggage and as a hiking backpack.
Take only what you really need. For your shampoos, shower gel, etc., use a set of small travel bottles like this one.
6) Carry the right plug adapter
Needless to say, you need to know what sort of plugs your destination has – and carry an adapter. Actually, you’ll need an adapter for multiple devices (like these), so that you can charge your laptop and phone at the same time. Laptops often have thicker pins than, say, phone chargers. , so test yours with your adapter before you leave.
7) Get a real vacation every once in a while
If you follow my tips, you’ll be able to do all your work AND enjoy your trip at the same time. But it won’t be easy. Chances are, you’ll feel happy but also very tired at the end.
You can do this from time to time, but you can’t live this lifestyle all the time. So make sure that every six months or so you go on a trip where you won’t do any work. Warn your clients or co-workers at least two weeks in advance that you just won’t be available. Finish as many projects as you can. Discuss who will stand in for you while you are away.
It’s not easy to say, ‘Guys, I won’t be checking my emails next week’. But you have to say it. Believe me, they will do just fine without you.
Working on the road is an art. It’s all about choosing the right way to move around, to structure your time, and to pack your things. Even when you master this art, it still won’t be easy. But at least you can get the job done – and still have a great time on your trip.