Do you have to work to live your dream of traveling now? You can do it. But not without adjusting your mindset. You’ll need a survival guide to work remotely while traveling.
Working Remotely From Meander
Although many cruisers keep their dirt house as a home base, we could not. We could not afford to have a house and a boat. So we downsized by selling nearly everything we owned to buy Meander.
For a while, the proceeds from selling our house formed our sailing kitty. But eventually, we had a decision to make—either move back to land to work traditional jobs or find a way to work remotely from the boat.
I’ve written about how Mike and I found remote work from our sailboat. In broad terms, it’s been a success.
I work as a virtual assistant on other websites. And Mike works remotely for architecture firms needing help with projects during busy times.
But to make it work, we’ve had to adjust our thinking. And the way we travel. If you want to work while traveling by RV or living on a boat, you’ll need to do it too.
How To Travel While Working Remotely
I have 9 tools in my toolkit to survive working remotely while traveling on our sailboat.
Remind yourself you’re not on vacation
At times, I find it challenging to focus on work when I’m surrounded by independently wealthy people. They suggest fun things to do and expensive restaurants to eat at.
But I have to keep reminding myself: I’m not on vacation. I’m living my life.
When you live in a moving vessel or RV, it’s easy to fall into the temptation to cover as much territory as possible. But traveling quickly (if traveling six mph can ever be called quick) to arrive in Florida in the least time possible is a bad fit with remote work.
By traveling fewer miles each day and not traveling every day, we have time to get our work done.
It’s harder to go more slowly than stopping. But sometimes that’s what you have to do.
Both campgrounds and marinas charge lower fees when you stay longer. So stopping a month will not only help you work more. It will also save you money on your stay.
Arrange face time with clients
Stopping also allows us to arrange face time with work clients.
My husband finds this more helpful than I do. Two of my current virtual assistant clients are also nomads. Mike’s clients work in bricks and mortar buildings.
He finds it helpful to work a lot of hours during a temporary visit to a job site—without the distractions of having to care for a boat. And it’s always nice to build your relationship with people you work with remotely by having a little face time.
Have realistic expectations of how much you can work
Everything takes longer when you live on a boat. Heck, it takes longer when you live in an RV too.
Remember, when you’re a nomad traveling in a self-contained home, you have to do everything yourself. You can’t flush a toilet and know your waste will disappear. You need to empty your own holding tank—which also means arranging to be where you can get a pump out.
When grocery shopping involves unhooking the car you’re towing from your rig or dinghying to shore from an anchorage, believe me, it takes longer.
So don’t assume you can work long days and still take care of your routine life. At least not unless you have a “wife” whose sole job it is to make your life easy. I’ve been waiting for my “wife” to turn up for years. I know I’d get loads more done.
Plan for uncertainty
How many times did I plan my day just to have to scrap my task list? I’ve lost count.
Procrastination doesn’t work when weather or other factors cause you to shift plans quickly. That’s why I always work ahead.
If a storm comes through and we need to move to a safer anchorage, I can’t exactly say, “Oh, can we wait a few hours until I get my work done? I need to get this podcast set before noon.”
Do you think RV living is more certain that living on a boat? What if a wildfire starts blazing through the forest a few miles away? Or what will you do if your computer’s motherboard dies when you’re boondocking on the edge of nowhere?
Build uncertainty into your work schedule to save yourself loads of stress.
Efficiency is key
When you worked in a regular job from land did you start surfing Facebook during the afternoon doldrums? If you got tired of a task, did you put it off for later?
Wasting time is a luxury only the salaried can enjoy. When you’re hustling for yourself, you need to work efficiently.
By bundling tasks and creating tools to make my work go better, I’ve been able to get an amazing amount of work done in a short period.
BTW, this is one reason NOT to work for an hourly rate. Your new-found efficiency will work you right into the poor house.
Which means you must…
Charge what you’re worth
I’ve worked in nonprofits my entire adult life. I find it shocking to see what people earn in business doing tasks similar to those I’ve done for nonprofits.
But I need to get better at charging what I’m worth.
For now, I’ve set a floor on what I’ll work for. And I don’t take jobs at the low end of my scale unless I can gain another benefit from it.
Time is precious. It’s too expensive to give it away.
Invest in good tools
If you gathered remote workers in one place, you’d hear one major complaint—bad internet.
We’ve traveled through parts of northern North Carolina where we’ve had no cell service or internet for miles. Campground and marina wifi is often miserable. And what bandwidth exists is often split between many people who want to stream videos besides those who just need basic internet to work.
Luckily, others have done the hard work of keeping up with the technological challenges of nomad life. Check out tons of resources for folks needing mobile internet at Technomadia.
Besides having good internet, make sure you have redundancy. I save all my work passwords in a password-protected spreadsheet that I share with two people.
If the boat went down, I could get my work done at the nearest library. A Bluetooth keyboard makes my iPad a replacement work computer in a pinch.
And yes, don’t forget to back up frequently. When my husband’s computer got fried in the middle of a big project, we spent thousands of dollars recovering data. Guess who didn’t back up his computer?
Remember, the higher your expenses, the more you have to work.
Live simply to work less
Yes, I know it’s not a vacation. But that doesn’t mean I want to spend 16 hours a day working on my computer while dolphins frolic just feet from my boat.
I’ve always been mindful that what I spend relates to what I need to earn. But there’s nothing like living on a boat to make you more conscious of expenses.
That’s why I’m more unwilling than ever to pay for a bad meal. There’s nothing worse than signing the tab at an overrated, waterfront restaurant than thinking, “Darn, I could have bought new sheets for the boat for what I just ate.”
Emphasize The Remote Over The Work
I love working. I spend my time on projects that I find interesting and that supports people doing cool things.
But it’s still work.
However, the setting where I work now is far more interesting than even the best view from the tallest office tower. If you can relate, maybe working remotely is in your future too.