Here’s how I can travel, yet still work so much. (and not go broke)

If you follow me on Instagram, it may look like my life is one big vacation – but then again, don’t we only post the highlights of our lives on social media? The annoying question I get as a new entrepreneur who is frequently traveling is “Do you even work?” or “How can you afford to travel so much?” Yes, I do work – the same amount as I did at my corporate job, it’s just that my 40-60 hours per week aren’t crammed solely into 8 AM – 6PM on weekdays. As stated in a previous post, I’m committed to working when my energy levels are at peak, which usually means early mornings, late evenings and an occasional weekend afternoon. Here’s how I am able to make it work:

The Digital Nomad

About 25% of my job is independent work – projects that I work on alone at my computer. This allows me to be a Digital Nomad – defined as relying on the internet and portable technology (laptop) to sustain a nomadic lifestyle. The digital nomad lifestyle is becoming more common every day and reflects the modern technology of our time. I am a Digital Nomad and have met many nomads sustaining their lifestyle through similar means. The internet allows you to connect to anywhere in the world. My co-working headquarters in Minneapolis, COCO is connected to a program called, The League of Extraordinary Coworking Space (LEXC, for short), where I have access to other coworking spaces in over 50 cities around the world. I also find that being in a different time zone than my peers, co-workers, and clients allows me much needed focus time without interruptions. Since a quarter of my job can be done independently, I usually take a work week away every other month.

Cowork Central, Lisbon Portugal

Go with a specific plan

If you’re really going to make it work, know what you’re going to work on while you’re away.  Last month, I really needed to work on a website that I estimated would take about 40-50 hours.  Before I left for my #workfromanywhere trip, I had my action plan ready to go so when I arrived in my new city I could hit the ground running.  I caution about working abroad with the purpose of “clearing your head” or “gaining perspective”. You’ll end up not accomplishing anything and come home feeling like you wasted time… clearing your head is a vacation in my eyes.  If you’re not getting stuff done, you’re not working.

Smart Traveling

“Are you spending most of your money on traveling?”

Yes, but not really. I’m spending my extra money on travel, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m fortunate enough that I really don’t have anything that I need to buy – I have the house that I want, furniture, a laid back cat, paid off loans, and I’m independent (no kids or husband that relies on me). I understand this isn’t everyone’s case, but perhaps you can follow my lead on a smaller, more manageable scale that fits within your life commitments.

Surprisingly, I found that I spend more money living in Minneapolis on a daily basis than I do living in affordable European cities like Berlin or Lisbon. An average workday’s expenses in Minneapolis costs me roughly $40-$50 per day (coffee, parking, lunch, dinner, unnecessary Target runs, etc), while living in Lisbon only costs me about $10 on an average day. Staying in an AirBNB instead of a hotel is not only cheaper for lodging, but I’m able to cook for myself in a full kitchen and spend less on food. Traveling during low-peak tourist times is great for finding AirBNBs and lower airfare.

Soup and sandwich in Lisbon, Portugal – for under $3.00 (above)

Airline Miles Programs

Using credit cards with excellent awards is a method I use to travel for less. In addition to free flights, some airline credit cards and airline mileage programs allow you to shop online at retailers for more points. If I need to buy something at Home Depot or Target, for example, I purchase online through the Delta Skymiles shopping site and choose the in-store pick-up option. With brands becoming part of a larger ecosystem, it’s easy to gain travel points. My Delta Skymiles account is linked to my Starwood properties account for earning hotel points and miles, and even Uber has a partnership with SPG that allows me to gain points for using Uber. I have so many options for free flights or heavily discounted flights (cash+miles) now.

Sprinkle “Vacation Moments” during your week

Honestly, I’m about to take my first real vacation in a year – where I don’t bring my work laptop and I’m traveling with my family. Only taking one vacation a year would have bothered me before, but while I’m on my #WorkFromAnywhere trips, I thoughtfully sprinkle vacation moments. For example, last spring I traveled to Berlin to work for a few days and while I was focused on work, I made sure that the location of the coffee shop I was working from that day took me on a path where I’d walk by a historic piece like Checkpoint Charlie or Brandenburg Gate.   That way I’m able to complete the work I committed myself to and I’m also able to find personal value in leisure and exploration.

Checkpoint Charlie – Berlin work trip

Any tips on traveling, working from anywhere, or digital nomad life? Let me know!

This article also appears on LinkedIn and is published here with the permission of the author

Written by Dan Phan

Corporate hipster, public speaker, and digital transformation educator at The Late Majority. I like great design, Star Trek, and a clean lawn.

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