As many of you know I’ve been traveling for most of 2008, having left my home in Brisbane Australia back in April. As I type this I’m on the European leg of a worldwide journey, sitting in an apartment in Amsterdam.
My European travels have really highlighted some of the unique challenges you face when attempting to run a business and enjoy yourself no matter where you are in the world. The reason why it has been especially unique in Europe is because of how much moving around I am doing. Literally each week I am in a different city, which makes for fun times, but also means I am in a constantly changing environment.
As a result of my experiences I’ve learned quite a lot about traveling with an Internet business, some of which I’d like to share with you now.
Here are seven things you should consider if you decide to travel with your business…
Renting apartments offers superior accommodation often at rates as affordable or cheaper than hotels, however you don’t always get what you expect.
Whenever I’ve planned to be in a city for at least week, or whenever possible, I’ve looked for apartments to rent short term. Apartments offer more room, a real kitchen and let you live like a normal person in the city you are visiting.
Unfortunately you never know what you are going to get with an apartment. Photos and descriptions offer some insight into where you might be spending a week or two, but until you get there you never really know. I’ve been pleasantly surprised and at times, quite disappointed with how an apartment turns out. Vancouver was awesome but New York was terrible. Both looked excellent on paper and in photos.
What’s critically important when choosing an apartment is you ask for what you need to run your business, as well as your life. Part of why New York was not good was because the Internet was unreliable. When running a business you need good net access.
Right now in Amsterdam I made the mistake of not checking whether the apartment has a landline telephone, which it doesn’t, and I need to do a group teleconference call with my members this week. I’m going to have to try and do it over Skype instead, which can be hit and miss for connectivity.
Make a checklist of things to ask before renting an apartment so you cover your basis and then just cross your fingers and hope for the best, but be prepared to function in less than ideal situations and have contingency plans too.
Continuing the accommodation theme, when traveling through different cities with short time frames prepare your living arrangements in advance.
When I arrived in the UK I only had three days in Glasgow before heading to Edinburgh. Perhaps I was foolish, or maybe just tired because of jetlag (that going east from North America to the UK jetlag is a killer!), but I never got around to planning where I would stay in Edinburgh until the day I actually arrived.
Here I was at 6 PM in the evening, with my luggage, sitting at a net cafe phoning apartments up to see if they were available for immediate occupancy. I managed to find a place that turned out to be okay. It wasn’t the cheapest though.
As always, planning in advance works best and gives you the most flexibility and choice. Now I try and arrange my next destination accommodation during the first few days in the city I’m staying in before I move to the next city, rather than the day before I’m due to leave or the day arriving in the new city.
You can outsource this task too, however I found that apartment shopping is a ridiculously personal thing and deciding what’s good for you is not something that is easy for others to do. This is particularly an issue if you are like me – fussy about certain things like beds and of course business requirements such as Internet access.
If you are not so fussy, creating a list of accommodation requirements and then handing it to a person to do online research for you to come up with a shortlist of apartments for you to choose from, is a very good idea.
Have a back-up plan for computer failure. Regardless of what kind of business structure you have, chances are you will be doing everything for your business on a laptop and you don’t want to rely only on that laptop or you will suffer from “all your eggs in one basket” syndrome.
Everything critical to my business is remote from my laptop. This is great because if the laptop dies, you can head to a net cafe and do what you need to do through Gmail and Skype, or whatever tools you need to use to run your business.
A regular back-up routine is a good idea too of course. I have a Macbook Pro and travel with a hard-drive that I use with the “time machine” function in Mac OS, which has to be one of the best backup solutions for local files since it replicates your entire computer.
Don’t have anything too time critical in your business that can’t be done by other people. Traveling around means lots of unexpected things happen and when it does, usually the first thing that suffers is the time you have available to work.
I’ve been sick a couple of times this year, the kind of sick that leaves you in bed not really wanting to do anything else but focus on recovery for a day or two (probably due to all the funky things I’ve been exposed to on planes, trains and buses). Thankfully since I’ve been in apartments my surroundings for recovery have been good, but more importantly I haven’t felt stressed that my business will fall apart without me.
You need to know at the very least the critical elements of your business that need attention every day, are dealt with without a dependency on you. In my business customer service is important every day so I have help with that. Other important tasks, like writing new blog posts or email newsletters and email correspondence that only I can deal with, can go for days without my attention, if life dictates time away from the computer.
I’ve structured my business deliberately in this way and made certain choices about how I work in order to create these freedoms. While I choose how much I work for most days of the year, sometimes that choice is made for you by external elements, often unexpected things like illness, or family or personal issues, that must be attended to before work. While traveling you tend to face more unexpected things, so freedom from your business is even more critical.
If you are planning anything major that requires significant commitment of your time, plan your trip so that you stop somewhere for long enough to live a stable life.
In July I relaunched Blog Mastermind. This required creating new video content, preparing a launch strategy, communicating with lots of people and generally doing a lot more than I usually do on a day to day basis. As a result, I planned my trip to have a full two months in Toronto, which allowed me to live like a normal person with a routine, work on my project during the week and travel around acting like a tourist on weekends.
You know you run a truly global business when you can coordinate an entire product launch from any place that you have good net access. We’re lucky today we have all the tools that the World Wide Web provides us, so you can do a lot without being in a certain place at a certain time. Obviously this requires your business structure is something that can travel with you, but that’s a whole other topic already well covered in the archives of this blog.
This might be the hardest piece of advice for entrepreneurs or those of you addicted to money – take on less than you would usually.
During the past few months I’ve said “no” to more projects and more opportunities than ever before. I’ve also not written about many things on this blog or in my email newsletter. Of course by doing this I’m also forgoing a lot of money and my business is not growing as fast as it could be, but you need to slow down if you want to have the time to enjoy everything you are experiencing while you travel.
Traveling with your business shouldn’t be spent with 10 hours a day in front of your laptop in a different city each week. You may as well stay home and work and save the money you spend on travel and accommodation if that’s how you intend to work while overseas. You can create certain efficiencies within your business structure to free up time, but at some point you need to make a deliberate choice not to do something in order to free up your time and your mind so you can relax and enjoy your new surroundings.
I spend most nights doing “status quo” work on my business, just like I am doing right now writing this blog post. I’ll spend one to three hours each day, maybe write a blog post, respond to some emails, coordinate the one major new thing I’m working on, but that’s it. Sure I’m thinking a lot about what new projects I want to do, but they are in the pre-planning stage, ready for action when I return home to Australia.
Watch your cashflow and/or plan to have “nest eggs” to live off as you travel. Europe is expensive. North America can be affordable and most of the rest of the world can be very cheap (maybe not Japan), if you are coming from a country with a strong currency (that’s a seriously subjective matter nowadays!).
You know where you are traveling to and can do research to prepare for how much things cost, but you never really know until you get there. I personally like a bargain, but I’m not a backpacker. I don’t want to spend all my time looking for the absolute cheapest accommodation, food and things to do, and I want to be okay with spending money to avoid any problems and make my trip as comfortable as I can. Of course I don’t want to blow the budget either.
We all have our own self-imposed “limits” when it comes to how much money we spend. Thankfully the Internet provides many tools we can use that makes the search for what we consider affordable easier, but as always with travel, expect to spend more than you plan to.
There’s going to be hidden fees and all those unexpected circumstances that pop up. If that means you spend more on an apartment than you want to because you were poor with your planning (a mistake I’ve made), or food costs more than you expect, or a last minute flight costs five times more than you want to pay – whatever the reason – you don’t want the idea of that or the chunk it takes from your budget to ruin your whole trip. This is a mindset issue and a reality based on how much money you have.
To help deal with this situation you can rely on one or both of two things –
I had the luxury of both the above benefits. I’ve got savings built up from selling websites during the past two years and cashflow from my current business, which requires minimal effort to maintain beyond the two to three hours of work I do each night.
If you read my blog from start to finish you might have an idea how I’ve managed to do this, but obviously it’s not “simple” but the idea that you need to have money saved up and/or cashflow coming in while you travel in order to enjoy your trip should be obvious.
An Internet business provides a great avenue to create the conditions to travel without needing to think like a backpacker and be comfortable with spending money to enjoy yourself, within your own limitations.
Personally I would never have left on this trip without knowing that if push came to shove I could spend money to help deal with whatever situation came my way. On top of this, when I check my bank balance I’m still making more than I spend, so I know the system is working despite my travels and even though I turn down many opportunities.
In your case you need to look at your own business cashflow, your systems and your savings and decide whether you are ready to travel or determine what needs to happen in order to become ready.
I hope this article has helped to highlight a few of the issues you need to consider and I wish you best of luck with your travels if you manage to pack yourself up, with your business, and see the world.
I’d appreciate your feedback on the topic of travel and business. I’m planning a report on this subject and it helps to have a feel for what people really struggle with. Is it the money? Is it creating systems to leave your business? Is it figuring out how to travel and work at the same time?
Let me know what specific concepts you would like discussed as comment replies to this post and I’ll answer in future resources I release from this blog.