Hannah Alford and her husband, Chris, run Love Play Work (www.loveplaywork.com), where they coach people how they can set up their lives and jobs to be able to work virtually, from anywhere in the world, something Hannah and Chris have been doing for over four years now. Read her tips and advice below.
Perhaps you run your own business and cant take time off, or dont really want to leave your job but still have a hankering to go travelling? There is a new breed of workers-cum-travellers out there who call themselves Digital Nomads, and this could be the answer for you.
"Digital Nomads are basically location independent - do your work from anywhere in the world."
Digital Nomads are basically location independent, which means that they can do their work from anywhere in the world with the help of their laptop and an internet connection. This means that you could be working from a cafe in Calcutta, a beach in Bali or poolside in Puerto Rico.
My husband, Chris, and I take regular career breaks this way, travelling the world and running our business as we go. Weve been doing this since 2008 and have just returned from a one year career break, travelling the world by staying in Home Exchange properties, and showing our clients how they can do the same.
Jobs you can do from anywhere
A lot of people who choose to be location independent do office type jobs which can easily be managed from a laptop ANYWHERE. Copy writing, web design, blogging, marketing, IT support, programming...
We run an occupational psychology consultancy which means we do selection tool design which can be done from anywhere we have a laptop, once we have completed the initial client site work.
The key aspect in all of this is having the ability to deliver a product or service which doesnt rely on you being physically present in one location all year round. Or if you do need to be present some of the time, enough flexibility that someone else can handle the hands-on stuff while you are gone so you can focus on other elements of the work (like finding and maintaining clients, advertising, promotions, content creation and website development)
Setting things up
There are a few pieces you need to have in place for this to run smoothly. You need to establish a relationship with your clients where they know to contact you by email and dont expect you to be on hand personally whenever you need them. Its useful to have an online element to your business i.e. sell products via the internet as this can create some handy passive income. You need to have a strong team of virtual assistants or freelancers you can depend on so that certain tasks can be handled despite your absence. There are also technical processes you need to set up to ensure you have access to emails and files wherever you go and an answering service (if you need one).
Life on your terms
"Work in between going to the local food market, yoga classes, visiting temples and beaches."
We recently heard from one client who told us that she took a route last week on her current trip exploring South Africa specifically because it would allow her to swim in a mountain pool and waterfall. Those are the kind of experiences you can have when you work in a way that is completely flexible. In 2011, we lived in Thailand for 3 months - we completed a long term project while we were there in between going to the local food market, taking up a regular yoga class, finding a network of friends to hang out with, visiting temples, beaches and islands.
Of course there are times when you have to stay home and work instead of exploring the country but it is very much on your terms; if you put in long hours and meet your objectives one week you can go island hopping or scuba diving the next.
Its a good idea to have some foundations in place for ways to earn money before you go. If its your first time of juggling travel with working for yourself it can get a bit overwhelming - there is quite a lot to do in figuring out where to go, where to stay, what to do and trying to build a business from scratch at the same time might be a little much!
Its also a good idea to plan to have a base. Being location independent technically means you can travel wherever you like but you need to be practical; you need to go where there is an internet connection and a comfortable working space. You need to be able to get your head down and work in peace when you have deadlines to meet. Its not the same as backpacking where you are constantly on the move - and staying in hostels can be a challenge if you have work to do and everyone else is partying!
Because we have a home in the UK and because we realised that we prefer to have a base for a few weeks at a time to allow us to properly explore an area and meet our work commitments, home exchanging presented an ideal solution. There are thousands of listings to choose from and plenty of people signed up, who love to travel, so you simply have to choose a destination and see what homes are available! Sometimes we get unexpected offers land in our inbox so even though we didnt have any travel plans we will suddenly find ourselves spending a month in a condo in Mexico or two weeks snowboarding in Utah. Apart from the fee to join the website Home Exchange, charges about $120 a year, there are no costs, so home exchange can be fabulous for your travel budget, especially as the arrangement can often include exchanging cars as well.
"Its worth trying to establish contact with people who have a similar lifestyle to yourself- even if your paths dont cross physically."
Do be warned! When you travel most people at home will assume you are on holiday. So, even though you can be a bit stressed about a client or have done a long, tough week at your desk you wont get any sympathy from friends and family who will assume youve been hanging out on the beach!
Life continues as normal for the people you leave behind and its easy to lose common ground with them. The reality for people living a more traditional lifestyle can be a draining commute, doing their weekly shop, worrying about the rise in gas bills. Its hard for them to relate to your choices when you have structured your life so you dont have these worries.
If you make the effort to connect with them, there is a thriving community of people who travel and work in this way, and because they also live in quite a transient way they are very friendly and open. Its worth trying to establish contact with people who have a similar lifestyle to yourself - even if your paths dont cross physically (this year!) its helpful to have the support of people who 'understand' your lifestyle.
We find that being in the UK can be a bit negative i.e. with the media and the economy etc. Its nice to get away where goals seem a lot more achievable and life less of a struggle. We also like the benefits of living a less traditional life with our business- its a lot easier to feel inspired and creative when you work overlooking a beautiful lake, than it is being stuck in one place all the time!