If you take Instagram for its word, travel journalism appears to be the crème de la crème of gigs. Not only are these writers given the opportunity to experience scattered corners of the globe, but they have the ability to detail their journeys for aspiring travelers to read. For many freelance writers — especially wanderlust ones — taking their job on the go is both practical and inspiring. But while a digital nomadic lifestyle is definitely alluring, it also presents plenty of roadblocks, delays and interruptions. This adds another responsibility to their job description, as they must find a way to maintain focus, creativity and productivity across time zones, wonky WiFi and plenty of beautiful distractions that lure them away from deadline.
Here, seasoned professionals share their best advice on how they balance work and travel around the world:
1. Give yourself a wake-up time — and stick to it.
It’s always the battle of the wills for blogger Stacy Caprio (of Accelerated Growth Marketing) when she touches down in a new destination: Will she sightsee or will she work? Considering her travel schedule takes her on the road regularly, she’s developed meaningful habits that foster her career. One beneficial way she experiences each place while also reaping an income is by implementing early starts. “I set my alarm and force myself to wake up at a set time each day. This helps me keep a ‘working schedule’ and is the best way to start the day. If I don’t set an alarm or have a set wake up time when traveling, I’m always tempted to sleep in as if I’m on vacation, which hinders getting work done,” she explains.
2. Outsource what you can.
Even when you work for yourself, there are small, yet time-consuming tasks that take away from the juicy parts of your job you actually enjoy. From invoicing to responding to nagging publicists and a slew of other must-do tasks, outsourcing can be a freeing way to lighten your load. While true for any freelance writer, for those who aren’t location-dependent, these extra hours can mean the difference between having a cocktail on a beach in Bali — and not.
That’s why travel writer Chantae Reden says it’s worth the investment. “ I hand off tasks that may take me a long time — social media, preliminary research for articles, website design — to a virtual assistant so that my time is freed up to work on the biggest tasks that will bring in the most money. When you work for yourself, it’s really easy to spend your time doing things that don’t necessarily advance your business,” she explains.
3. Consider a hotspot.
While freelance travel journalist Sue Campbell knows how to pack a smart carry — prioritizing must-haves over frivolous items— there’s one tech tool she never leaves behind: her Skyroam. This wireless, portable hotspot can connect up to five devices, charge her laptop or phone and offer 24 hours of unlimited data in 180 countries for only $8 a day — no contract required. This means there’s never an excuse for not having internet to submit content or respond to urgent emails from editors. “I find it especially useful when I am in a car or van trip so I can work during travel to and from attractions. And it’s light, which is good, since I never check a bag. You would be surprised what you can do without — but not this!”
4. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones.
When you’re in your hometown, you know exactly which coffee shop or co-working space is the most conducive to your working style. But when you’re on the go, you must adopt a trial-and-error approach. Especially if you tend to be easily persuaded by sounds, senior editor Megan Marrs (founder of K9 of Mine) swears by noise-cancelling headphones while traveling. “Being in any public space — especially while in a new country — can be quite distracting. The sounds, voices, and activity around you can make it very difficult to focus on tasks at hand. I find that using noise-canceling headphones, along with instrumental or lyric-free electronic music, really allows me to tune out distractions and get into my best work mode,” she shares.
5. Always work at airports and on airplanes.
Depending on where you are in the planet, you may or may not have internet at an airport. And while many airlines do offer WiFi for purchase, it’s spotty at best. Even so, Campbell says not to discount this opportunity to work. While many travel journalists — including Campbell — usually have to choose between sleep and work to meet their deadlines, it’s almost always worth it to get through a few tasks since you’re stationary for a portion of the day. While some writers will choose to load up offline Google docs to piece together stories, others might sift through somewhat brainless jobs that don’t require the net. From reviewing and editing photos or interviews to organizing research and other duties, this means you can spend more time indulging in a new place, instead of playing catch-up at your hotel or AirBNB.
6. Schedule days to see the sights.
Though it might sound counterproductive, depriving yourself of the city, country or town you’re visiting makes digital nomadic life worthless. After all, if you’re going to spend all of your hours behind closed doors or staring intently at a laptop, why travel at all? Columnist and author Kelly Hayes-Raitt gives herself days — and full permission — to log off and explore. “Knowing that I’m not working tomorrow fires me up to finish my work tonight. And the sightseeing recharges my creative batteries,” she adds. Other digital nomads adopt a “no work on Fridays” approach, so they can focus during the week and give themselves long weekends. Whatever the case, having a dinner reservation or walking tour booked makes it that much more likely you’ll meet your deadlines.
7. Plan ahead.
Much like you would have a list of deliverables and meetings with a full-time role, assigning yourself deadlines and setting your priorities is part of the gig of being a nomad. Before heading to bed, Caprio makes a list of tasks that need to be completed the next day, which saves her time in the A.M. when her brain is still adjusting to jet lag. Having a clear picture of what needs to be checked off not only helps her stay focused, but it keeps her from missing important assignments, too.
8. Find a coworking space.
Find yourself in Prague — and finally heard back from the top editor at your dream publication? Your few weeks exploring Eastern Europe suddenly became busier. For serious work that requires your undivided attention, Marrs says it’s worth the fee to join a co-working space. Because the digital nomad community has increased the amount of options, chances are high you can find a free desk or call room in most places globally. “Getting into a coworking space a few days a week makes sure I get my work done with enough time to play and have fun in whichever city I’m in,” she says. And as a bonus? Networking with others in your field who could lead to assignments — or just travel buddies for a handful of dinners.