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travelers talk back: working while traveling

TTB: Working While Traveling

Last week, I described how Patrick and I work as digital nomads while we travel.  Today, five other sets of travelers are talking about the various ways in which they make a living while traveling: technology consulting, SEO writing, software development, tutoring, WWOOFing, and more.

Cherie and Chris from Technomadia:
Software and Mobile App Developers

My partner, Chris, and I, have been traveling full time without a fixed home base since 2006. However, ever since 1994, I've been running a small family software development business that was designed from the ground up to be what is now referred to as 'location independent'.  We ran it out of our homes for many years, communicating with our clients via phone, e-mail and instant messaging with occasional on site visits.  So when I decided to sell my beachside home in Florida to join Chris in his tiny little solar powered travel trailer, it wasn't that much of a shift at all to take my existing business on the road with me.  All I needed was a fairly reliable way to get online (cellular data) and a way to power my laptop (solar panels) and I can be anywhere.  Today I still run that same business with many of the same clients, plus we produce a line of incredibly useful travel mobile apps.  And we're exploring other modalities of nomadism aside from domestic US-based RVing.
 
My advice to anyone exploring working while traveling full time is to definitely not look at the travel as a vacation. You will need to find balance between getting your work done and exploration, and I generally find a slower pace of travel works best.  For me, I look at it as having ever changing amazing office views and a new things to explore when taking a break.

Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy are technomads: that is, technologically enabled nomads.  Since 2006, Chris & Cherie have explored the confluence of full-time travel, wanderlust, adventure, life, career and community; all while embracing nomadic serendipity.  They are currently RVing their way around the United States, writing about their adventures on their blog Technomadia, and will be hosting a session at the South by Southwest Festival regarding Technomadism - Becoming a Technology Enabled Nomad.  Connect with them at their blog, Twitter (@Technomadia), or Facebook.

Simon and Erin from Never Ending Voyage:
Web Design and Development for Line In Web Design

When we returned from our first round the world trip two years ago Simon decided not to return to his legal career. He had been doing web design for fun for years, and although he had no formal training he decided to pursue this. He started by designing and building websites for family members and built up a portfolio that was enough to get him his first job with an internet marketing firm designing Wordpress sites. After six months we left the UK to travel indefinitely and planned to build up his freelance web design and development business Line In along the way. We had one year's savings as a cushion, but the work soon began coming in -mostly from word of mouth and from readers of our travel blog. We have done very little marketing.

My job as an arts event organiser and project manager was less suited to a location independent lifestyle, so I now take care of the business side of things, and make a little money from our travel blog.

Our biggest tip for freelancing while travelling is to take a break every now and then and rent an apartment for a month or two. It usually works out cheaper than moving around all the time, and gives you the opportunity to get some work done in a comfortable environment with reliable wifi. It's difficult to balance work and travel, and this way means that we can ease off a bit when we are travelling around again.

Simon and Erin sold everything they owned and left the UK in March 2010 to travel the world forever. For the last year they've been in South America and have just moved on to Central America.  They write about their adventures in one of their uniquely and beautifully designed site Never Ending Voyage.  Connect with them at their blog, Twitter (@nevendingvoyage), or Facebook.

Lisa from LL World Tour:
Writer, Photographer, Barista, English Tutor, and So Much More!

I knew when traveling around the world for 2 ½ years, there was no way I could just be a tourist wandering around aimlessly for that long.  I knew I had to mix it up to prevent boredom and burnout. I craved variety in my everyday life, so why would my life on the road be any different?   I needed to immerse myself somehow in society and feel like a part of it.  Finding jobs or volunteering would give me structure I craved as well as introduce me to new friends and locals.  

Now, just the sheer fact that I decided to blog about my trip and also write travel articles to be published elsewhere means that I was already working. But besides my ‘day job’ as travel writer and photographer, I landed a few other actual jobs around the world. I was a barista and sandwich maker at a café in Melbourne, a private business English tutor in Istanbul, a proofreader for one of the largest media groups in Turkey, a research Assistant in the economics department of the University of Cologne, a writer and proofreader for publishing company in Berlin, an international publicist for an English Immersion company in Madrid, an extra in Hollywood and a pet sitter in various spots around the world.   I did not plan on any of these jobs.  I simply arrived in a new place with the random idea that I could maybe find work there. In Australia, I spoke the language (sort of), so it seemed like a natural place to find a job other than teaching English. In Turkey, it’s all about connections and once I met one person…the ball just started rolling.  Besides that, I used persistence, word-of-mouth, friends’ connections and a lot of smiles.

Lisa Lubin is a three-time Emmy-award-winning television writer/producer/photographer/vagabond. After more than a decade in broadcast television she decided to take a sabbatical of sorts which turned into nearly 3 years traveling, eating, and working her way around the world.  She documents her (mis)adventures with photographs, articles, and tips from the road/train/rickshaw/camel at LLworldtour.com.  Connect with her at her blog, Twitter (@llworldtour), and Facebook.

Shannon from A Little Adrift:
Freelance SEO Consulting

I currently work as a freelance SEO consultant and content writer from the road. I landed my job through a friend when I was fresh out of college; he supplied the training and since I already had a background in writing it was a good fit.  From day one the job was locationless, but it took me two years of living in LA to realize that I could instead use my job to enable RTW travels. Once I was trained through, it comes down to making the right connections and maintaining relationships - those relationships are what I have called on over the last two years to keep my travel funds topped up!

Once I was on the road I essentially the toughest part was, and has been, to ensure internet access every three days (a requirement for my work). There were times in India when computer cafes refused to allow me to plug in my own laptop (with website software) to their internet connections - that meant racing through some towns so I could update sites and meet deadlines! Working from the road is a lot easier now that I slowed down; that's my best advice to soon-to-be-nomads: go slowly and remember to live out of a place of gratitude. It's so easy to get frustrated when you're couped up in an internet cafe with dial up connections and deadlines and you forget that within a few hours you'll be enjoying a beer overlooking some amazing temples.

There are challenges to working as a nomad, to paint it any other way would be a lie, but I've always found the benefits outweigh those questionable moments!

Shannon traveled around the world from 2008-2009, documenting her entire journey on her blog, A Little Adrift, came home, and then hit the road again, working as she travels.  Her site is a wealth of information for female solo travelers, vegetarians, and anyone wanting a dose of cheerful honesty about out-of-the-way destinations like Cuba and Bosnia.  Connect with her at her blog, Twitter (@ShannonRTW), or Facebook.

Jaimee and Asa from Chasing Summer:
WWOOFing through some of the world

When Jaimee and I decided to take our around-the-world trip we purposely decided not to work while traveling. We wanted and looked forward to a break from our jobs. However, given that we had limited money we looked for ways to stretch our travel dollars while on the road. One way that saved us money was WWOOFing. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. A WWOOFer buys a membership to each country where he’d like to “wwoof” and the membership gives access to the list of farms that are looking for workers in that country. The standard agreement is that the hosts will provide room and board in exchange for an average of four hours of work per day. We chose New Zealand because we planned from the beginning to stay in New Zealand for at least two months during the Southern Hemisphere Summer.

We did five stints, and we had two great experiences, two good ones and one bad one, so overall a better than average experience.  The conditions varied a lot, depending on the hosts.  On the South Island, we WWOOFed on a stud sheep farm where we mostly did weeding and yard work. The hosts were a charming older couple who treated us like family, even taking us one day to the County fair where we watched a sheep shearing competition (can you say New Zealand stereo-type?). On the bad side, we worked at a German-run pizza place that was listed in the WWOOFing guide as an organic pizza restaurant using farm fresh ingredients, but was actually a road-side dive-bar with a garden overrun with chest-high weeds. The five days we spent there were not the finest moments of our trip, and if there was a way to give hosts ratings (a la couchsurfing reviews) we would have definitely given them a negative reference.

The work was as varied as our hosts, mostly simple garden tasks like weeding or tending to plants. None of the work was too strenuous, and mostly the hosts respected the four hours a day “rule” leaving us plenty of time to explore the area on our own. The only exception being the pizza place where we our hosts treated us like slave labor with the expectation that we work outside during the day and inside the bar or pizza place at night.

Overall, we enjoyed WWOOFing and it was a success in that it did save us money, and we saw many parts of the country that we probably would not have otherwise seen. It also gave us some unique experiences and insight into the culture of New Zealand. On the negative side, we found it hard to know in advance what the situation would be like from the host listings and without a rating system it’s hard to leverage the feedback of other WWOOFers. We also had to be very flexible in our available dates and sometimes it was a struggle to find hosts for the dates and places we wanted to go. But if you’re up for an adventure, and can tolerate the unexpected, I’d definitely say give WWOOFing a try. You can read more details (and see pictures) on the wwoof tag on our blog.

Jaimee and Asa traveled around the world from 2009 to 2010, traveling through Australasia, Asia, and Europe.  They are currently back in New England, enjoying the wintry weather, and offering their couch up to fellow Couchsurfers.  Connect with them at Chasing Summer, their blog.

 *Travelers Talk Back is a part of the RTW in Retrospect Community Project, a series that intends to bring together the opinions of travelers on how they planned for their trip and how that planning panned out.  And, we want to hear from you!  If you are a recently returned RTWer or current RTWer and would be interested in contributing, please let me know via comments or e-mail at theroadforks [at] gmail [dot] com.

03/01/2011 13:34
For the first ten months of traveling I was really jealous of other travelers who had jobs who could make them location independent.

But now that I've started to actively look for how my skills could apply elsewhere I'm actually quite surprised. While I don't think the blog will ever be my primary source of income it has been a really good platform to show off some skills and local knowledge and fingers crossed by June I figure something out!
Ayngelina's recent blog post: Theres no pouting at Machu Picchu
03/01/2011 19:29
Ayngelina - I think that's very true and one of the things that I think Lisa has done really well. She gets some business through her website because her blog showcases her writing and photography talents!
03/02/2011 00:07
I love this series of posts! Many bloggers brag about how they are travelling the world over a long period of time but then don't tell the reader how they are doing it. Extremely inspirational!
03/02/2011 10:27
Thanks Denise! I love hearing from these folks, too, because all of them are traveling and working in such different ways.
03/03/2011 13:43
I have to agree with Denise. I love how candid you and Patrick are about how you do it, what it costs, etc. So few travel bloggers actually earn their wage blogging, and I find it a bit shady when they don't ever actually disclose how they afford to have a "digital nomad" lifestyle without any sort of job or income. I also like to see these varied careers of people who aren't freelance journalists (which I often think of one of the few jobs that can be location independent) but manage to take their careers on the road anyways.
Camels & Chocolate's recent blog post: The One with the Edge and the Car Crash
03/02/2011 01:21
What a inspiring post! It's nice to see people applying their skills and talents to a dream lifestyle. They are truly modern day superheroes!
03/02/2011 10:25
Thank you Connie! These guys are some amazing people - so I totally agree with you, they kind of are like traveling superheroes!
03/02/2011 11:22
Thank you for sharing everyone's story. It is indeed very inspirational to read how others are living their dreams. Currently my husband and I are trying think "out of the box" and do exactly the same!
Debbie Beardsley's recent blog post: If its Tuesday, it must be Romanesque!
03/03/2011 09:13
Thank you Debbie! When I asked these travelers to chime in, I didn't expect that they would have so many different ways of working while traveling. It's good to see that there's not just one way to make the location independent lifestyle work.
03/02/2011 20:36
Great post! My husband and I are also looking at ways to work remotely, not only to be able to spend more quality time with our families (we are fom different countries), but also to allow us to travel when we want. We have shared this in our Facebook page and our friends are loving it. This is inspiring many people. Thanks guys for sharing your experiences!
03/03/2011 09:30
Romana - Thank you so much for sharing this. It is possible to work remotely, without a doubt, but takes a lot of effort and a bit of planning! I hope you both find a way to make it work.
03/02/2011 21:15
While I don't seek to be location independent, I do admire those who have figured out a way to make it work. It's always important to follow your heart!
Andi of My Beautiful Adventures's recent blog post: FAQ’s About My Upcoming Wedding (Part 1)
03/03/2011 09:25
I'm sure being location independent isn't all that practical for you since you work as a Chinese medicine doctor, too! It's definitely not for everyone but we're pleased that so many who have wanted to make it work have been able to do so.
03/03/2011 21:50
A lot of variety in experiences here - very cool! It's nice to hear about Jaimee and Asa's experiences WHOOFing; that's something we'd like to try eventually, but it's a bummer to hear that there's no way to evaluate potential hosts.
Christy @ Technosyncratic's recent blog post: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
03/04/2011 11:58
We've never done WWOOFing either but I was glad to hear from Jaimee and Asa that you can travel, have fun, and still get free accommodation! It seems like a great option for those who don't want to be digital nomads.
03/05/2011 15:25
Great post from a wide variety of kick-ass Nomads. I'm hoping my site/consulting can one day be as successful as these pioneers.
Gareth Leonard's recent blog post: Travel Review: EasytoBook.com
03/07/2011 13:04
Thanks Gareth! Good luck with your site and digital nomading work.
03/25/2011 23:16
Great post! Thanks for sharing how other travellers are location independent. We are in the process now of looking at ways we can expand our site and looking into other ways we can make money to help us keep travelling and be able to lead a life where we can travel whenever and wherever we want!
03/29/2011 09:49
Absolutely! Good luck with figuring it out - it's tough to make it work in the beginning but so worth it.
Akila's recent blog post: a girl in the bonaventure cemetery
03/26/2011 17:28
What a fantastic post! I love to read about other people who took up a 'nomadic lifestyle' like we did, and how they do it. The travelers you feature have such different ways of earning money while traveling. I definitely have to check out wwoofing, read about it quite a few times but never really looked into it. Sounds like something we might want to try one day though.
03/29/2011 09:55
Dani, WWOOFing does sound awesome, doesn't it? I didn't realize that you only work for 4 hours - it actually seems like a great way to get to meet and interact with locals while also getting free accommodation.
Akila's recent blog post: a girl in the bonaventure cemetery
08/25/2011 01:15
ha! I heard about WWOOFing not long ago and thought it was amazing. I'd been long wishing to work in a farm in Italy! Will definitely keep that in mind :D
08/27/2011 09:34
Rod, We've heard really good things about it from people who've done it and Italy would be a wonderful place to try.
Akila's recent blog post: elizabeth on 37th
08/02/2013 05:06
GipsyCat
Loved it you guys!!! very inspiring! thanks for sharing

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