How to Travel the World … While Working

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Workation

The author in Vina del Mar, Chile

I take a sip of chilled Sauvignon Blanc while gazing at the sprawling vineyards below my balcony. With the sun on my face, my husband and I dig into some fresh fruit from the local farmers’ market—crisp pears, figs and goat cheese.

A warm breeze flutters the gauzy fabric of my sundress as we open our laptops to start the workday. It’s 1:00 PM in Santa Cruz, Chile, 9:00 AM on the West Coast in the U.S.—and day 17 of our “workation.”

Six years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) and I set out to find a way to develop our careers while traveling the world—and without breaking the bank.

People told us we were crazy.

During some of our low points—power outages in China, freak storms in Belgium and lost luggage in South America—we thought that they might be right. But the highlights, such as working from a cruise ship that was sailing through Chilean fjords, have made what we have dubbed our “workations” worth the effort.

To date, we’ve taken our virtual office to 24 locations, turning the process of traveling while working into a science. Whether you’re an independent entrepreneur like me or you hold down a regular nine-to-five (the way my husband does as a marketing manager for an education company), you, too, can see the high-rises of Shanghai, the peaks of Patagonia or the beaches in Singapore—all while achieving your career goals.

The Career Benefits of Workations

Before you decide that taking a workation would be the equivalent of committing job suicide, consider these facts:

  • Research has found that multi-cultural experiences and exotic surroundings generate more inspired and creative work.
  • Workations decrease stress, which increases productivity, and leads to fewer sick days. Studies show that people with high levels of stress spend nearly 50% more on health expenses.
  • A study in the Harvard Business Review found that when employees take just one day off per week, they report greater job satisfaction, more open communication with team members and better work-life balance, compared to regular employees.

As long as you do it right, a workation could very well improve your performance. Here are six of my personal tips to help get you on the road to work-travel bliss.

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1. Take Stock of Your Job

It’s true that workations best lend themselves to certain professions, especially ones that require a lot of computer work. So surgeons or chefs probably won’t be able to pull off a workation regularly, if at all.

But if you do have a job that can be done mostly by computer or phone, you should try to fit workations—even just one every year or two—into your life. As for work tasks that need to be done in person, most can be accomplished virtually on a temporary basis, such as face-to-face meetings via Skype or conference calls conducted using speakerphone.

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For example, my husband is on work video chat from nine to five, so his team can send questions any time—and ask to see the view from wherever in the world we’re working.

  • http://www.GiveMe10.info/ Laura at Give Me 10

    This is inspiring! Even if a workation isn’t in the cards right now (3 school-age kids), it will definitely make me think about ways to make my own work setting a bit more pleasant and creative (but, alas, no fjords).

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      For sure! I think just having any inspiration in your workspace is awesome. Not to mention going to local coffee shops or setting up workspaces with friends. These are all ways to inspire creativity.

  • Chris H

    Great tips. Definitely doable. After spending 4 weeks working an hour or so a day from my balcony in Mexico, I’ve got this bug BIGTIME!!

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      OH wow! Mexico, super cool. I really want to try Tulum. Was Internet access easy?

  • http://www.facebook.com/lesliearthur321 Leslie Arthur

    Oh, please. This idea is useful for such a small segment of society it is almost laughable.

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      More and more people are taking workations. You would be surprised how many bosses are opening up to the idea of temporary virtual workers. We hope more and more will be!

  • MsJ

    I’m sorry but I concur with Leslie…This article is just out of touch for most people… didn’t even bother reading the whole thing. :/

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      Im sorry it was frustrating for you. I am trying to get the word out to bosses and companies to allow their employees to do this since it is so helpful for creativity It will be a slow battle, but more and more companies are adopting it.

  • http://twitter.com/UandO Weaves

    Haters gonna hate. People do want to learn how to make a better life for themselves. I applaud anyone who has found a way to create a living that isn’t soul sucking. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      Thanks! It takes hard work to set up but you can totally do it! Are you thinking of taking a workation?

  • pamelas8

    This is great! Thanks!

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      Thanks for reading! Hope it inspires your own workation!

  • Mommar

    I actually have done this without calling it anything other than “working remotely.” The tech industry is pretty forgiving of this, so don’t think there aren’t thousands already dipping their toes in this. Perhaps not giving up their permanent residence for full time travel, but it means I can combine a family trip with productive time and lessen the strain on those back at the office. Sometimes, it’s just tacking on an extra day of a work trip so I can explore the location but still get several hours of work done. It’s not for everyone and you need the right boss and co-workers but for me, it’s such a treat!

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      Mommar- Yes, this is a fun term for working remotely and it is getting easier and easier as more people go into tech. Yay for taking time out for you and combining work and travel–please do share your tips! I am trying to make it easier and easier!

  • http://www.GiveMe10.info/ Laura at Give Me 10

    I thought of something I else I do to create a mini workation — there’s a hotel near my house that has great views from the restaurant/lounge on the top floor. In the afternoon it’s empty, so I bring my laptop there and order a drink every so often and use it as my own mobile office. I get the views the tourists pay top-dollar for, for the price of a chardonnay!

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      Such a good point! I love going to hotel lobbies or hotel bars. Usually its free wifi, plush couches and a good view if you are lucky. Good point!

  • http://twitter.com/thisiseasycash ThisIsEasyCash

    Or you could take a job in the travel industry like a flight attendant (me) pilot, even a gate agent.

    • http://www.scienceofpeople.org/ Vanessa Van Edwards

      Yes! There are more and more jobs that are permanently nomadic. I’m jealous of all the cool destinations you probably get to see!

  • Kate

    This is very inspiring and something that I do hope to do “one day” (without procrastinating too much of course). I work as a grant writer and I definitely can see opportunities to make this work in conjunction with the organization I work for. I can start with the international locations we work in and go from there! It’s something I’ve been thinking about but this article gives good tips on making it a reality. Thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/vvanedwards Vanessa Van Edwards

      Hi Kate–Grant writing definitely lends itself well to this kind of lifestyle even temporarily! I also have leveraged travel for groups I work with and it can really enhance the travel experience. Go for it and keep me updated on your adventures! @vvanedwards

  • http://twitter.com/eemusings eemusings

    Awesome! It’s evermore possible to be location independent nowadays. I’m going to be doing the digital nomad thing for the rest of this year as we travel (http://nzmuse.com/2013/04/funding-our-rtw-trip/) though I don’t think it’s something I would do long term.

    • http://twitter.com/vvanedwards Vanessa Van Edwards

      Hi! Definitely can get tiring after a while. You have to find balance. You are going away for a year! Cool! Keep me posted on your adventures @vvanedwards

  • Larry

    This is a little off-beat. It’s not for everyone for a whole lot of reasons that should be obvious, BUT I am curious to know if there are any tax-advantages to be realized by conducting one’s work life/life in this manner?

    • http://twitter.com/vvanedwards Vanessa Van Edwards

      Hi Larry, Great question! The biggest tax advantage for me has been setting up my LLC and writing off the business portions of my travels that I would not be able to do otherwise. For example I did an article on traveling through Chile and was able to write off the research for that. It helps a lot with cutting down on the cost. Plus I get a lot of freebies when I review things as well.

  • Kevin

    What business are you in? Workcation or simply traveling for extended periods of time (yr +) are feasible to most people but at a price of shrinking their income. Thoughts?

    • http://twitter.com/vvanedwards Vanessa Van Edwards

      Hi Kevin, Definitely this is a balance. I am a writer and speaker. I have found a way to increase my income traveling because I can reach new audiences or cover topics I wouldn’t be able to if I was in one city. I think there are ways to keep your income going up as you travel but you have to be creative = )

  • http://www.alisonelissa.com/ Career Coach, alisonelissa.com

    It was interesting to read about your lifestyle. I’m too much of a homebody to want the same for myself, but I’m glad that you’ve found something that works for you!

    • http://twitter.com/vvanedwards Vanessa Van Edwards

      Hi! Definitely this is not for everyone. I get itchy when Im home too long, but some of my closest friends dont even like really going away for the weekend. Great point, definitely have to like leaving the nest = )

  • bleubanana

    My husband is a self-employed attorney, and he always conducts work while we are on vacation. He has a paralegal at the office, but some things need his attention. It would be great if he didn’t have do conduct any work, but he doesn’t mind it so much and he keeps it to a minimum. Being on vacation actually keeps him in check b/c he knows he can’t conduct work for endless hours on end like when he’s in office, so he keeps it to a minimum.

    • http://twitter.com/vvanedwards Vanessa Van Edwards

      Hi! Thanks for sharing this. I hadn’t thought about legal work before, but of course that would absolutely work! Maybe he could try to extend his vacation into workation so that he can take more time off?

  • http://twitter.com/janeenwrites Janeen Johnson

    Great Piece, my current job or Nationality does not allow me this kind of freedom but I make the most of my weekends, public holidays and vacation and I don’t have a lot of money and I do live in Jamaica so a great view is never far. I have a friend that does this very well , she blogs and even wrote a book called How to travel the world without quitting your job http://absolutetraveladdict.com/how-to-travel-the-world-without-quitting-your-job/
    I think its becoming more popular plus many business are moving towards virtual offices to cut down overhead expenses. I agree its difficult if you have children but if you don’t and your job allows, why not? Great inspiration.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lavon.washington Lavon Washington

    I definitely agree with Vanessa. As an avid traveler getting away always is a pick me up and recharges the body… if I can get that while working its a win-win.

    I am a consultant and my previous employer had an virtual model… you could work from anywhere as long as you had an internet connection. My previous employer was IBM. You either worked at the client site or from home.

    So more and more companies are exploring the virtual model for some of the benefits that Vanessa outlines and to reduce over head. i.e. building leases, electricity bills, phone bills just to name a few.

  • http://AbsoluteTravelAddict.com April D. Thompson

    Happy to see you discuss this topic. I wrote about my experience in detail in my ebook, How to Travel the World Without Quitting Your Job: http://absolutetraveladdict.com/how-to-travel-the-world-without-quitting-your-job/.

    There will always been naysayers, but for to those open to actually doing something different, this is great advice.

    ADT

  • Brittany Murphy

    This sounds amazing, like my dream life! I need to figure out a way to work from home.. and then move home around. :) Inspiring, thanks for sharing!!

  • Anonymous Citizen

    If the author does indeed have the intent of making this concept more acceptable to mainstream employers, I’d suggest the primary focus be on the work itself…just using the term ‘workation’ (an oxymoron in my view) will turn off most employers. The virtual employee (working remotely) is not a new concept, as the IT industry has been doing this for decades. I think the idea should be to convince employers there is a real benefit in doing this but you don’t do yourself any favors by packaging it as a see the world while you work.

  • Steven Irby

    This is exactly what my girl friend and I have been planning to do! We too live in Portland, OR and plan to leave next summer.

    If I work remote, is it hard to work with the time zone difference? I would have to work 9-5 PST.

  • Bart

    How do you subrent your apartment just for one month when you are on workations? Are there any websites I could sign up for it?