How To Build Stability So You Can Achieve Your Goals
Working to build a business while traveling can sometimes be summed up with a single word...
If you don't have a plan, the logistics around 'getting to work' will take more of your time than work itself!
For example, let's look at what you need to do to complete the simple task of 'jumping on a client call' if you're switching hostels every other day trekking south through Vietnam. It can quickly balloon from a 30 minute chat into a nightmare that involves finding...
A (strong) Wifi signal
A quite corner away from other loud travelers
A place you won't annoy anybody
A table, comfortable chair, and wall outlet within 10 feet of each other.
Needless to say, getting even the simplest things done can be very inefficient.
One thing that I've found while traveling through Asia is that I really, really need to focus on injecting stability into an otherwise chaotic life.
Whenever I 'just wing it' I get...
More work related stress
Less real work done
Less overall enjoyment from travel and the places I visit
Finding stability is very important if you're attempting to live and work the location independent lifestyle.
The big three reasons for this are...
1. You Need A Routine
When you're constantly moving, checking in, checking out, packing your bag, and wondering if your bunkmate is going to steal your stuff, your brain is in no place to focus on work. Because you need to juggle new situations every single day just to survive and be comfortable, thoughts of work are pushed to the back of your mind.
A routine helps with this. When you already know where you're going to sleep, eat, and go out on Friday night, your brain can stop focusing on these variables and put them on autopilot. This clears up your head to focus on work related goals and the tasks required to achieve them.
All the 'little things' like trekking across town to find your hostel, saying hello to your roommates, and 'getting the lay of the land' in a new city can suck up hours faster than you'd believe. You can be exhausted by the end of the day without having achieved anything work related!
2. You Need A 'Work Space'
Working in hostels is terrible!
It's loud, the place you claim for 'work' is often uncomfortable, and you always need to be on the lookout to make sure you're not annoying anyone with your Skype calls. (This takes your focus off of the job at hand)
In general, it's hard to focus if you're not in a space defined as a work zone. My brain never really 'switches on' when I sit on a plushy couch with my computer in my lap like it does when I'm at a desk in a quiet space.
3. You Need To Have Fun Without Wasting Time
If you're going to work you also need to unwind. When you don't know the area and you don't know anyone, planning Friday night can take a while.
First, you'll want to meet some fellow travelers who you'll have a good time with. Next, you've got to ask a local or do research to figure out where you're going. Then, (often) nothing will go as you planned!
Your time spent organizing Friday night will seep into your workday, and if you're in a new location every 3-4 days... the rest of your week!
Building some stability into your 'fun' routine by finding a few bars to consistently go to and a few friends you repeatedly do activities with will free up your brain to focus on other tasks and eliminate the hours spent planning.
The Effects Of Stability...
A perfect example of how a little stability can improve your work efficiency was my experience traveling through Turkey, Thailand, and Laos.
When my plane touched down in Istanbul, I had a goal of working at least 4 solid hours per day. I was in a hostel with good wifi, but the continual flow of guests sitting and chatting around me knocked me out of my flow. Even when I sat and 'worked' for 4 hours, the end result of this distracted time investment should have taken just 1 hour with efficient, focused effort.
Because I had new people around me all the time, the urge to socialize drew my eyes away from the computer monitor. Everyone had a unique story and snippets of an overheard conversation would draw me in. My efficiency in Istanbul was poor.
I arrived in Thailand soon afterwards and high-tailed it to Chiang Mai. I had made the decision to work location independent, and I wanted to make sure I was actually able to hustle outside America.
After 1 night in a hostel I moved in to a small apartment with a table, comfortable chair, fast WiFi, and not too much outside noise.
It took me about a week to figure out where I wanted to eat, where I wanted to go out, and meet a few friends. (who showed me where to find local film showings and similar events)
When I found a market that opened at 4AM (When I finished my American-time work day) the picture was complete.
With a routine in place, a quiet, private, comfortable station to work, and a few 'fun' bars where I could unwind, my efficiency shot through the roof.
Finally I was able to 'hustle' for a solid 12-16 hours per day. It felt great to be up and running. With my rent at less than $5 per day and meals costing $1, I knew I wouldn't have any issues for at least 2 months!
I was able to really dig in to my business. I got my first few cleints, and I actually started generating revenue. I could answer client questions, hop on Skype whenever I wanted, and manage employees without scrounging for WiFi.
I quickly learned about managing all aspects of a business, and I was fully immersed every single day. I worked hard and grew a lot as a business owner.
When my Thai visa was nearing it's end, I hit the road for Laos. Traveling full time again, I didn't have a long term housing agreement. I made business calls sitting on my hotel bed and once again had to worry about annoying roommates with late night conversations.
Traveling through Laos, I got almost nothing done. It wasn't until I arrived in Hanoi and got another apartment that once again, I was able to hustle.
3 Ways To Build Stability Into Your Travel
Constantly being on the move is terrible for work efficiency. So far I've found three ways to build stability into a location independent lifestyle.
1. Renting An Apartment
As I've mentioned in the stories above, renting an apartment has been key to helping me get things done on the road. It provides a private space with strong WiFi so I can work efficiently.
Rent in Asia is cheap and in a place like Chiang Mai or Hanoi the Wifi is fast. When you do the math you'll spend about the same amount on hostel bookings as on an apartment, but you get none of the privacy.
If your mission is solely to travel and explore, you may find the 1-3 month commitment to stay in an apartment to be restricting. If you're mission is to work, create a business, or manage freelance projects, an apartment is an obvious choice over living in a hostel.
2. Join A Co-Working Space
Joining a co-working space actually gets you into a good old fashioned office.
One of the biggest benefits of joining a co-working space is that you'll have other businesspeople around you to talk with, share ideas, and keep you motivated. It will also, of course, give you the quiet atmosphere, Wifi, and stability you need to efficiently work.
Membership typically isn't that expensive, but you will probably spend as much on membership here as you will on your rent/hostel. This will double your baseline living expenses.
This isn't a problem if you've got an established, profit-generating business, but if you've just arrived in Asia with $1,000 in your pocket it can give you a heart attack!
That's the only reason I don't think co-working spaces are for everyone. When you're starting out traveling and working, keeping expenses low is important to avoid stress, invest in your business, absorb your mistakes, and give yourself the most time possible to learn without going broke.
Your apartment will have everything you need to get work done, so don't feel like you need to cut your 'survival runway' in half just to work in an office setting.
3. Get A Location-Specific Internship
I'm experimenting with this now and I love it!
I reached out to Sean, (the founder of the BADLADZ Resorts in the Philippines) and told him I was interested in working on some marketing initiatives for him. He responded with a 'Yes!' and I'm now living at the beautiful Dive Resort.
What I love about this setup is that I don't need to worry about my housing or food while I am here. I get to learn about marketing, work on my own business, and go scuba diving without the constant stress of... 'Holy shit! Will I be able to pay my rent next month?'
I also get to meet like-minded people (Sean is a member of the TMBA Dynamite Circle) and learn from their experiences.
An internship like this is great because it combines location independence, stability so that you can hustle, and mentorship to foster learning!
Rather than hustling on your own to build something from nothing you get to piggy back off of the experience of others, get plugged into their system, and leverage your time/effort.
Working for the right person can teach you skills relevant to what you want to do in the future. For most newbies, this is much better than trying to learn it all on your own.
Whether you're hustling for your own business or somebody else's, you need some stability in your life in order to get work done efficiently.
Finding this stability when you travel can be challenging, but it's vital if you want to build a business or learn a new skill.
Renting an apartment, joining a co-working space, or taking on a career-focused internship that covers your living expenses are all ways to get the stability you need to relieve stress, work, and build something substantial.