Lessons I Learned From My First Digital Nomad Experience
Three weeks in Bali.
This is what I’ve been waiting for. Travel is one of the main reasons that I embarked on my location independent journey. I quit my 9-5 and started a virtual assistant business (more on that here) so that I could travel for more than a couple of weeks a year and not have to ask permission from anyone (I had other reasons, but freedom was a huge one!).
Nine months after I started my business and four months after I quit my job to work full time on my business I got the opportunity to travel to Bali (get a taste of Bali here).
Here was my plan:
- Notify my clients 4 weeks in advance that I’ll be traveling.
- Do as much work as possible starting the month prior so my clients’ social media/newsletters/etc would be uninterrupted.
- Train my subcontractors to take over some of the time-dependent tasks that need to be done while I am traveling.
- Calendar in the remaining tasks that I will take care of while I am away.
And…here was my reality:
- My clients are seriously wonderful people and were gracious about my travel plans, especially when I told them that nothing would be interrupted.
- Man, did I WORK. I worked about 70-80 hours a week for the month prior to my trip so I could enjoy as much as possible while away. This brought me to the point of almost burnout and, as a side note to consider, I didn’t have much time to spend with my significant other during this time. Since I was traveling without him, that’s definitely something to take into account in the future. It also took me about 2 days into my trip to feel light again and release the stress I was carrying.
- If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I have the most amazing team! Your team is SO important and I trust mine with anything!
- I definitely had to rearrange some of the days/times I calendared for my tasks, but I was able to complete the work I planned for myself while traveling (planned being the keyword). I was traveling with a friend who is a long-term digital nomad (check her story out here), which was so great! I never felt like I was missing out or bringing anyone down because she had to work too!
And now come the surprises and lessons!
- I onboarded a new client at the start of my trip. This is not something I would like to do again while traveling. The truth of the matter is that, while it’s no problem for me to do work with clients I am familiar with, it takes more concentration/effort/focus/etc. to start a brand new project. I normally pride myself in giving my clients top-level service, and that’s just plain difficult when you are on a trip for just a few weeks and starting a new work project. I would definitely NOT do this again in the future unless I was somewhere for longer term where the work/travel balance was 50/50 and not 20/80.
- The big tasks that I pre-planned on doing, I did well, but the little things that are quick but require my laptop or internet and I normally do really fast throughout the day, I couldn’t do in a timely manner and so I ended up being a bit more disorganized and had to catch up when I got home.
- I had a discovery call with a potential new client who was SO patient when my wifi went out like 4 times during our zoom meeting!
- Being in a new beautiful environment and traveling with another entrepreneur to bounce ideas off of, released creative juices in my brain that had been dormant or just hadn’t been given the space to breathe. I’ve been inspired to write this post, my first monthly newsletter (sign up here), and come up with a new offer!
And the biggest lesson I learned:
Three weeks is not a good length of time for me to do this digital nomad thing. In my case, I think that either a 10-day trip or a 1-month trip would be better.
On a 10 day trip, I’d be away for 5 business days. That’s a pretty easy amount of time to prepare to be away and clients are generally pretty understanding if you’re away for just a week.
On the other hand, if I choose one location to spend a month at and do little side trips for a few days at a time from there, it will be easier to balance working and traveling without having to spend a month working like crazy before I go and without feeling like I’m missing out on experiencing the location that I’m visiting.
In the end, I had an amazing trip to Bali and I succeeded pretty well in balancing the work that I did while not missing out on experiencing a new country. However, there were definite things I will do differently in my future travels, mainly either traveling for a shorter or longer period of time and not starting a new project if I’m traveling unless it’s on a longer trip where I can focus on work a bit more.
Any new venture involves learning and experimenting. I am here as proof that you can do anything you set your mind to if you want it bad enough.
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