Friday, September 9, 2016

How I work and travel 20 countries in 3 years?

Many people are very curious about my travel & work (or nomadic) lifestyle in the past few years - I have visited more than 20 countries in the last three years and normally stayed in a new country between weeks and months as long as I like the place - Very often, people asked me how do I travel so much and still get so much work done and still look like I have so much energy to spare?

Let me start by introducing this word if this is all new to you - Nomad.

My favorite description for Nomad can be found here : " A nomad constantly changes locations, switching from one place to another. Most nomads have some kind of place that they can call home, which is usually where their family or childhood friends are located, but they wouldn’t spend more than a few months a year there. Nor would they settle down in a new home, they just keep on changing a place, never feeling really at home, change is home. "

Internet played a big part to make this nomadic lifestyle happen for me. The type of work I was involved in included data management, analytics, sending emails and attending meetings via the phone - which is probably how your job might sound like, too. I also worked for a global company reporting to a manager who based in the states and my peers were all around the world (New York, London, ...etc). So our communications were made remotely and  my physical appearance is never needed at the office. There were still some occasions when I was needed personally at the office which then I would be making arrangements to make it happen. But other times, I would just choose a country that I like and work from any locations.

This is a growing community. Many companies today are moving towards digitalization or "cloud-based" solution as the earth is getting overly crowded and office rental is rising every single day. More and more work can be done remotely now than before. There is also a rising supply of "hotel offices" these days if you have noticed where you could rent a small little office room/cubicle for few hours so that you could still do physical meetings rather than renting a permanent office location and pay crazy rents every month not to mention the maintenance and business continuity aspects of it. All these have enabled nomadic lifestyle and make it more and more possible.

Hotel offices are not the only places I worked at. I did my work at any places with working internet ranging from my hostels, hotels, internet cafes, coffee shops, Starbucks.. etc.

My temporary "office" in Cambodia - Feb 2014

It isn't easy in the beginning. If what I have said above sounds appealing and you are about to pack your luggage and sail the sea. Let me caution you about the hardship as well. A change is never easy in the beginning - you are used to paper and seeing coworkers. You are used to the routine lifestyle at the office and the physical interaction with people at lunch. You are going to lose all of that when you are travelling. Printers are not easily found and you don't see coworkers anymore. You have to fix your problems with just your computer (sometimes being your own IT support) and the mental adaptation to this change of work style...These small little problems can be devastating... Think about that!

I used to like to print all my reports in paper form and read only paper reports. It took me a while until I could get rid of that printing habit and read soft copies. I also needed to use my mouse all the time but now I can easily handle spreadsheets with the touch pad on the laptop so that I can be more portable and worry less about carrying digital gadgets as I travel.

I worked 50 hours a week at odd timings. Being a digital nomad as well doesn't mean that you work less than people who go to the office, there are indeed time when I could be more relaxed and go swimming when possibly office goers are just done with lunch and heading back to work. But most other times, I attend to odd timing conference calls until 1-2am and wake up 6am the next day to attend conference calls with Australian/New Zealander coworkers. I tried not to go beyond what I could handle physically, I worked 50 hours on average every week. And by working 50 hours I meant being really in the productive mode but not chatting with a coworker who walked past my work station or munching snacks from Japan brought from a vacation. You know, the little office distractions that normally takes up 20-30% your time at the office (C'mon, be honest!).

I wouldn't be able to achieve so much if I hadn't been travelling. So part of this whole idea is also because I like travelling. Not everybody adores this idea of being mobile and not stationed somewhere - Being in a new country/place every other week, meeting new people, listening to new experiences inspires creativity. Whenever I felt stuck, I would take a break and walk down a new art street or try new food. I became absolutely location-independent and felt more powerful as an individual. I felt like if I survived work travelling, I survive any circumstances!

I also thank my past managers who were extremely supportive with me being location independent - there were times when I weren't able to respond to emails as quickly as I wished because internet wasn't working well. So that has then became my number one priority when it comes to selecting travel destination. But most other times, I don't see myself lacking behind in terms of performance because I am location-free. My work performance reviews have all this justified.

There is just this much time I have and so many places I wanted to see. Being a digital nomad allows me to do work that I am passionate about, while living the dream to travel the world. I met Jay for the first time when he was traveling in Singapore few years back, he was the one who inspired me into this concept of digital nomad and right now he is really successful with his startup company and still kicking ass every day as a digital nomad! Please support his article here.

I hope this has explained a lot of those questions you have about my nomadic lifestyle - for those who have only heard this for the first time, look it up on the internet today and find out more! You never know if this is going to be something you will be interested in. One thing worth at least a try is working from home a day or two this week and share your questions - do not be afraid of making a mistake because that's how you become a better nomad!

Enjoy!

Wen


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