With 46 flights, 34 cities, and 23 countries under his belt, Leadtail’s Ed Munro is a well-seasoned traveler. But, unlike many who have the travel bug, Ed can travel for several weeks—or even months—at a time while taking minimal time off work. It’s all thanks to the remote work culture we enjoy here at Leadtail.
Now, there’s nothing like a real vacation, but if you’re like Ed, a few weeks a year isn’t nearly enough time to visit all the places on your list. That’s why Ed has mastered the art of working while traveling. He treats his travel much like a business trip so that he can travel the world and not miss a beat at work.
How does he do it? Let’s take a look at some of Ed’s best tips for the aspiring digital nomad.
A “Work-first” Mindset
Ed is so successful at managing his international travel and a full slate of clients because he organizes his travel around his work. “First and foremost, you’re here to work. You’re not here as a tourist,” he says of visiting other countries.
That means that, depending on where he is on any given trip, Ed may work odd hours as he arranges his sleep schedule, sightseeing, and other activities around a North American Pacific Time workday.
Speaking in a video recorded on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in a time zone fourteen hours ahead of his home time zone, Ed shares how he arranges his time. “When you’re working for a specific time zone like I do—I have to alter my hours when I’m here to Pacific Time. That means I work overnights. You have to be prepared for that if you want to do remote work [while traveling],” Ed says.
Make the Most of Travel Days
One of the ways Ed stays productive on his trips is by optimizing his travel time to allow for as much work as possible. He always arrives at airports early and, whenever possible, uses the business lounge to get as much done as possible while waiting to board his flight.
Train travel can also provide good opportunities for productivity. Ed keeps a portable WiFi hotspot with him during his trips so he can always access reliable internet. He also uses a VPN to ensure all of his traffic is secure.
He also tries to travel on weekends as much as possible. Arranging his travel schedule this way helps him travel with less stress and fewer interruptions to his workday routine. And when he can get ahead on administrative work like reporting during his travel time, it frees up opportunities for sightseeing and other activities during his stays.
Rest When You Can
“One of the things you have to think about when working in a different time zone,” Ed says, “is to try and get enough rest.”
That often means sleeping in two- or three-hour shifts throughout the day. “It’s rare that you get a full eight hours of sleep unless it’s a weekend,” Ed says.
With meetings scheduled primarily based on North American time zones, many of Ed’s client interactions will happen throughout the night. He’ll also post content and monitor feeds based on Pacific Time business hours. So he’ll grab naps throughout his current time zone’s daylight and evening hours.
He also recommends booking your travel in such a way that you have time for “rest days” during your trips. These are days that Ed sets aside when he doesn’t plan to visit any local attractions. Instead, he uses the time to relax and recharge.
And don’t be afraid to schedule a day for doing something fun that you’ve been looking forward to. If there’s something you really want to do or see, plan an off day into your schedule so you can enjoy it without juggling other responsibilities.
Don’t Forget to Eat—And Exercise
Ed’s eating schedule is also impacted by his working hours. “It’s always good to have supplies with you,” he says, “so you can have food while you’re working—usually in the evening.”
That means buying a few groceries if you’re staying in an Air BnB or other accommodation that provides a kitchen facility. Or you can order extra meals as takeout from local eateries you discover along the way.
Ed says that maintaining an exercise routine during the day is also extremely important. Planning in time for movement throughout the day will help maintain your energy levels and keep you sharp as you go through the day.
Best Practices for Remote Work International Travel
Over the years—and thousands of miles—Ed has refined his processes and discovered several best practices for making your trip successful.
- You can often book less expensive flights when you purchase long-haul, multi-city itineraries. These are generally much less expensive than roundtrip tickets.
- Always confirm that your accommodations (whether hotel or Air BnB) provide access to reliable internet connectivity. Spotty WiFi can add unnecessary stress to your workday.
- Keep a portable WiFi hotspot, or use a local SIM card for your phone as a backup for mobile connectivity.
- Always use a VPN to keep your work traffic secure.
- Back up your vital personal data electronically. Keep digital copies of your passport, credit cards, and all your work and personal passwords. A secure password management system like 1Password or LastPass is helpful.
- Secure your personal belongings with NFC or Bluetooth tracking tags.
- Always purchase travel insurance to protect yourself in the event of an illness or injury.
- U.S. cash—especially $100 bills—is a global currency. Carrying a few hundred dollars in cash will help you navigate visa fees (for countries that require entry visas), get you a better currency exchange rate, and serve as an essential backup when you don’t have access to a working ATM.
Other Tips for Managing Remote Work
While Ed is probably the most prolific globetrotter in the Leadtail team, many others also travel frequently—and stay on top of work while they do it. And as a fully distributed team, we are all accustomed to working across multiple locations and time zones.
International All the Time
Account Manager Corina Manea lives and works in Madrid, Spain. Even though she’s based in a European time zone, she chooses to work primarily during Pacific Time business hours, between 9 am and 3 pm. The most important thing, she says, is to communicate with the team to let them know when you’re available and “on the clock.”
Co-Working in the Culture
Kate Sowerby is also a digital nomad of a sort. A London native, Kate has been traveling through Central and South America for the past couple of years. Like Ed, Kate recommends scheduling travel days on weekends. She also enjoys using co-working spaces in the cities where she’s staying. It’s an excellent way to get out into the local community and experience the culture while staying productive.
Several of the frequent travelers on the team also encourage using a portable second screen in addition to your laptop to make your working experience more comfortable. There are several options available at affordable price points. The one thing to consider is the size of your external monitor. You want to be small and light enough to comfortably fit in a backpack while also being large enough to make a difference in your workflow.
A Family Business?
Nancy Poon often continues to work while traveling with her family. She is always careful to set expectations with her co-workers and family. She plans for her working hours and family time so that she can fully enjoy her trip while staying on top of tasks. Again, communication is essential for a successful working vacation.
Danielle O’Neil’s extended family spends the summers together at a family property in Connecticut. She says setting expectations and boundaries with family is essential to planning a successful summer. She has a dedicated space for working, and her family knows that if the door is open, they are welcome to interrupt. But when the door is closed, she needs to remain undisturbed.
Ease into the Nomadic Lifestyle
A common theme among the travelers at Leadtail is to acclimate to traveling while working.
It’s essential to take it slow, using a short trip to test your equipment and travel plan. Short trips also help you get a feel for what it’s like to work on the road (or on the rails or in the air).
“Start with projects that are not urgent. Wait to sign up for tasks that are time sensitive until you know your working style while you travel,” says Kristi Tucker Dobson.
Enjoy the Perks
A fully distributed company like Leadtail offers terrific opportunities for those who want to live the digital nomad lifestyle. But even for those who aren’t planning to travel constantly, the flexibility that comes with remote is a massive benefit. With careful planning and the right mindset, anyone on our team can enjoy traveling while fully managing their work-life balance.
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