By October 9, 2013 Read More →

Can you work away from home in a swimsuit?

Is it possible to work away from home for half the year?

Carrie Ballard, Vestri Opti - Work away from homeCarrie Ballard is an American editor and writer living in Europe, fascinated by different ways of living/working. Her guest post describes her experiment to work away from home in combination with a family trip:

Is it possible to work from home away from home for half the year? I wanted to find out for myself. My dream is to live in two places, part of the year in each.

Since I run a company from my home office, my expectations were that it could be managed. I would get my business partner’s support, take my laptop, let my teammates know, and make arrangements for schedules and commitments. Everything would work smoothly and it would be little different than being in my home office.

From my cold, damp, flat country, I moved for a trial of one month to a beautiful hot, arid, mountainous country. Good accommodation, high-speed internet, a big veranda, and a month to try out working in another place.

There were clues even before I left. My husband did not see this as a work trip but as a potential month-long vacation; I kept telling him how I saw it and how important it was to me to work every day, but he continued to see it differently as far as his own plans were concerned.

Then my family and friends said “Do you want to go visit this National Park for 3 days with us?” and “Let’s get together since you are so close” – five hours away by car takes up a lot of time.

The real difficulty has turned out to be that no matter how much I tell myself “I am working”, the scenery, weather, and rhythm of life are so different from my usual work place that I struggle to feel like my working self.

I can’t focus as completely, I am thrown off by the time differences, and am quick to feel pulled in two directions. I wonder whether work is a geographical thing as well as a mental and emotional activity.

Would you be the same person with the same focus, ambition, drive if your home office were in Barbados or Thailand
for 6 months? Is your career rooted in the place where you are and looks very different when you are somewhere else?

A pattern emerged. Despite my best efforts to keep to deadlines regardless of time zone differences, I was falling a day or two behind. I was not able to stick to getting up at 6 AM to have quiet time as I had planned. My husband joined a Meetup group of local hikers who hike in the mountains nearby once or twice a week and invited me to come along.

The realizations started coming in about the third week as I began to see that pattern more clearly. ‘Work’ for me involves being in my own workspace, be that company office or home office. Dining room tables and sofas in another house don’t cut it. I need to schedule much more strictly. Conflicts with family members who have come along are natural.

Work away from home - Carrie Ballard, Vestri OptiI have a week and a half left now. I am already imagining the place I am going home to, where it is cold and raining. I have agreed to go on a 4-day vacation trip with my family next week, which is eating into my work time even more. I wish I were staying another month or two. I am not working enough.

What have I concluded after a month of trying to work away from home?

  • One month is not enough time to really know what it would be like.
  • It would be wise to choose a remote place where the only human you will see for 6 months is the postman once a week.
  • Barring that, don’t go live anywhere near people you know if you want to immerse yourself in work.
  • Set aside a workspace immediately, one with a door you can close.
  • Get up very early every day and work while everyone else is asleep and before the plans for the day emerge.
  • Wear clothes that you associate with focus and accomplishment.
  • Schedule time every day that is ‘vacation time’ or not-work-time and stick as much as possible to those times.

I have an intriguing experiment in mind for the vacation/work conflict. The idea would be to go to the place for vacation then stay on there for back-to-work. That might ease the conflict between work and play.

I’ll try that next time.

Carrie works as a copy editor with writers and translators, making sure their work is as good as it needs to be.

Posted in: Mobile working

12 Comments on "Can you work away from home in a swimsuit?"

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  1. Carrie says:

    I am back and very interested in hearing others’ experiences of working in different ‘homes’!

  2. Ajith Edassery says:

    That’s an interesting topic for most of us Judy 🙂 The beauty of online content based business is that it can be executed from anywhere in the world if one has a laptop and Internet connection. However, I would never ever do any work if I am on a family vacation (even prolonged). But working from a different place/country is fine with me if that’s the intention anyhow.

    • I think the intention is key. Going somewhere to work is very different to going to explore the country. It’s when you try to combine the two things that it gets difficult, especially if other members of the party have other priorities!
      Have you seen the guest post by Phil Byrne about location-independent working? I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to keep working when you travel around, with all the organisation and admin required for each country, not to mention different customs and culture. I suppose you just get used to it, and I hope we’ll hear more from Carrie about how she refines her routine on her next trip.

  3. Carrie says:

    I know someone who works all over the world. I can only tell where he actually is by looking at his Skype profile – he posts what city he is in. He is a developer and regularly moves around to live in different places (ie not because he has clients in those places). I find it astonishing, because of the disruption and the lack of roots. But he thrives on it.

    • I don’t think it’s for me either, but it’s fantastic that the opportunity is now available, both for those globe trotters and people like me who only want a small taste at a time!

  4. I get the opportunity to hone my skills at working away from home after the original test! How about Paris for three weeks. No family visits, no distractions (yeah, right), and lousy weather that makes one want to stay indoors. Follow vestriopti on Twitter and I’ll post how it’s going. Wish me luck.

    • That was quick, Carrie! No distractions in Paris…I look forward to seeing how that pans out 🙂 Nice place you’ve got, I can picture you carrying home the breakfast baguette.

  5. Carrie says:

    Ah mais oui madame! Cafés really are as great as people say they are. And I really enjoy meeting Parisians – it’s a fair fight because I speak French. I am already muttering to myself ‘sit down, turn on my laptop, I’m WORKING…’

  6. Not being able to speak the language would be a distinct advantage for cafe working, wouldn’t it? Now you’ve ditched the swimsuit, I hope we’ll get to see you tres chic in Parisienne mode.

  7. Carrie says:

    Now that you mention it, not speaking the language might be an advantage…But not fun. Oh well! And I’ll work on the très chic part. The French do it effortlessly – moi? Non.

  8. Carrie says:

    Thank you Judy! That’s really nice.