As I write this, I’m sitting in the motorhome my partner and I bought nearly a year ago, in the foothills of the Sierra de Mijas in Southern Spain. A lot has happened in the past 10 months, so not surprisingly this is the first chance I’ve had to sit down and blog about our journey which is soon coming to a close.
In May 2015 we quit our jobs, packed up our belongings and moved out of our mouldy basement flat in Brighton. We’d decided to explore Europe, specifically it’s top mountain biking destinations, and had bought a motorhome to live, travel and work in. We had no kids, no mortgage and enough cash to scrape by for a bit – the timing was perfect.
The decision had been a long time coming – we were fed up with long working days and commutes, weekends of getting all the necessary admin and chores done and then struggling to find the motivation to actually do something fun, not getting to ride our bikes enough, living in an overpriced and massively underwhelming flat and generally not having the time, or energy, to truly enjoy life.
In the 9 months since we left we’ve covered the French, Italian and Austrian Alps, a bit of Southern Germany and Switzerland, and the Italian and French Rivieras down through central, and now, coastal Spain. We’ve biked, we’ve hiked, we’ve surfed, been canyoning, sailing, attempted to communicate in four different languages and met some crazy and amazing people. Amongst that we’ve found time to work, drive across borders, do ‘all the admin stuff’ and also adopt a german shepherd called Jackson.
The not-so-glamorous reality
In the beginning, I was just so grateful to have a career which could be done from anywhere, at anytime, so long as there was internet connection. Evidently, having an internet connection in modern Europe isn’t as easy as we’d anticipated – cue many hours sitting in MacDonalds, bars, car parks and more, desperately trying to check emails on the weakest of signals.
Living in a motorhome itself isn’t easy – on the average day you have to devote time to driving, finding somewhere to park up for the night, getting water, power, gas, emptying the water and toilet tanks (let’s skip over that subject) – it never ends. A low point was day one of the trip, arriving in Morzine in France and having to fill up our water tank from a river as the service point that was promised no longer exists. And there was the time that we nearly flooded the motorhome, and when we couldn’t get any power. Yet you make it work, and somehow we were actually finding time to live again and it was worth it.
Not having a set routine can leave you feeling pretty bewildered and lost at first, but it soon opens up room for creativity and adventure. Nine-to-five lifestyles may suit some, but I think a lot of people could benefit from freeing themselves up a bit and living a little while you still have the time and energy (just don’t tell your boss I told you that). Flexible and remote working are relatively new phenomena, but allowing yourself and your staff the space to work around life, rather than vice versa, is a recipe for a better and more productive workplace.
Tips for balancing work and travel
With that in mind, here are a few tips for those of you who may be considering a similar adventure (and we’ve met many of you on our travels) or are interested in working remotely:
- Allocate a block of time each day to get work done. In the morning if you’re an earlybird, for example – then plan an activity or exploration for the rest of the day to ensure you maintain that all important work/life balance. Working with your bodies natural clock means you’ll be working when you’re most productive – i.e. no more forcing yourself to stay awake during that post-lunch lull. You’ll get more done and with the added benefit of not needing so much caffeine and sugar to stay awake. If you’re feeling tired or unmotivated, go and do something else, and come back to your work later.
- Vary your remote office to keep things interesting. One day you might work from a local cafe, the next day set up a table and chair outside in the sun (cold beer optional, but has been proven to help). I’ve found mixing it up can help give a different perspective on a project or problem I may be struggling with, as does working outside in the fresh air.
- Talk to people. The worst thing about working from home or remotely is long hours by yourself. Stay in touch with mankind or you’ll start to feel a bit loopy by the end of the day. Pop out and chat to someone in local cafe, call your mum or schedule in a catch-up Skype meeting with a client. Bounce ideas around with someone else if you’re stuck on a problem, or take your mind away from work for 10 minutes by discussing the football – whatever works.
- Stay connected (but know when to disconnect). If you’re doing what we’ve done and living in a motorhome, a WiFi booster is a must. It allows you to pick up open signals in campsites or towns with a much bigger range than your laptop and devices are capable of. Having said that, as good as it is to be connected, sometimes you work at your most productively and creatively when you don’t have emails and instant messages coming at you from all directions. When you’re up against a deadline or struggling for inspiration, it can help to turn your WiFi and data off for a bit and enjoy the peace and quiet.
- Alternative office spaces. If you’re spending a bit of time in one place and struggling to find a decent internet connection, or are sick of working from ‘home’ and miss the companionship of an office environment, look in to local workspace rentals or speak to nearby businesses and see if they’ll let you rent a desk in their office. It’s a great way to meet people and means you’ll be able to differentiate between what is your working space and what is your home space.
These are just a few ways in which you and your business can benefit from working remotely, regardless of whether you’re in a motorhome like us or turning your spare room in to a new office.