Today’s technology makes it easier and easier for more working aged folks to hit the road as full time nomads. The luxury of living in a home that has the mobility to enjoy constantly changing million dollar views and experiences is vastly more affordable and accessible than ever before.
We’re seeing more and more career minded peers joining us out here, and it’s awesome.
But we all seem to come up against a similar struggle – how to balance getting work done while managing to make the most of a RVing lifestyle.
Life on on the road for us working aged folks isn’t an extended vacation afterall, and we’re not retired.
So how do you balance all this? Of course you want to embrace the opportunities this new nomadic lifestyle affords you. But you also have to get in some really productive hours to get your work done so you can afford it and still save for the future.
Other Posts about Working on the Road:
- Jobs, Careers and Income Sources
- Ramblings: Tales from Nomads (Video Interviews with other working on the road folks)
In May 2015, we hosted one of our live video chats on this topic if you’d prefer to listen & watch:
Tips for Balancing Work and Nomadic Life
Pre-Think your Office Space Needs
Most RVs are not going to come with a built in dedicated office space. At best, you may get a small desk nook in the middle of the living space or bedroom meant for someone to use a laptop to do their banking a couple hours a week, or perhaps send some photos to the grandkids.
If your office space is used for other functions in the RV – like the dining room table, or a desk that converts to your bed, this means your office hours are curtailed by the needs of the entire household. Setting up and taking down your office setup daily can impede on your productivity.
Typical RV furniture is also not particularly ergonomic for getting work done and keeping your body from crying out in agony.
Working on a laptop on a picnic table outside is only fun for as long as it takes to snap a photo to tease your Facebook and Instagram friends. Once the sun starts glaring, the tree above you starts dropping leaves, or the bugs start biting, you’ll know what I mean.
Solution: When looking at RVs, think realistically about where you’ll get work done at, and know yourself and what amenities you’ll need. Carefully consider if having a convertable space for your office is workable or not. Consider the normal living modes of those in your household – do you have offset sleep schedules or different prime working hours? Is having the office in the bedroom really going to be workable? Do you need a door between you and other living areas to be really productive? Do you need multiple work spaces for all the members of your household who might also have office hours or homeschooling to handle?
Don’t underestimate this – you may need to plan RV modifications right off the bat just to stay sane!
- RV Workspace Case Studies (a dozen RVing nomads share their RV office spaces)
Minimize Moving Days
Moving days are exciting, you’re going to explore a new location and get a new view! That’s what we’re out here for.
But you simply can’t move every couple days AND sustain a daily life. At least not for long. It’ll beat you down – we see more RVers head back to sticks-n-bricks because of this. Between breaking camp, driving, planning and setting up – a relocation day takes most of the day’s focus.
The process of moving locations involves a bit of pre-planning to figure out where you’re going next, where you might sleep tonight and how you’re getting there. There’s constant research involved checking campground reviews, evaluating routing options, figuring out if you’ll get internet and weighing different locations against each other. This takes time. The lack of local knowledge when you get there will also involve some research to find where to do laundry, grab a bite to eat or re-stock the fridge.
Then of course there’s the actual motion – breaking camp, doing the driving and then getting settled in to the next location. No matter if the drive is 20 miles or 200, it’s effort.. and it takes time & energy to move locations.
Solution: Plan in longer stops. Staying places measured in weeks instead of days may be what is necessary to both experience a location, get your work done and plan the logistics of your next stop. Resign yourself to the simple fact that you simply can’t do it all.
- Finding Campgrounds, RV Parks and Boondocking Locations
- RV Travel Routing & Selecting Campgrounds (Video)
Set a Work Schedule
We’re always in new locations, and the draw to be out exploring in tourist mode is strong. It’s especially difficult for couples and families where one member might be pulling in the bacon, while they watch their spouse and/or kids off on constant new adventures. While the office view today may be fantastic, it’s hard sometimes to pass up an opportunity to hike a new trail, visit a new museum, go to a new festival or meetup with awesome people.
There’s no right way to do this. Some folks need to be on-call and ‘at the office’ certain hours of the week. Others work at their own pace and have to conjure up discipline to get their work done. Know yourself and the obligations you’ve signed on for… and adjust your travel and exploration schedule around that.
Solution: If you have to work M-F, re-locate on weekends. If your schedule is variable, set aside ample still days to focus on work. And sometimes, you just might need to hide somewhere that has minimal distractions to get a project done. Optimize your view from your RV as best you can, so at least you can relish in the delights of having an office with a view.
Set a Play Schedule
Don’t get too focused on your work life.. make sure you’re embracing the locations you’re visiting too.
When in a stationary life, you had spare time (hopefully). Maybe it was fulfilled with hitting the gym, going to a movie, vegging in front of the TV, mowing the lawn, going shopping, visiting the spa, taking the kids to soccer practice or hanging with friends (it’s been so long now, I honestly forget what most people do in their spare time.).
When you’re on the road and working anything close to a 40 hour work week – you still have spare time.
Consider your traveling explorations to be a replacement for the old routine of whatever you did before and after work. It’s just now, it’s not a routine – what you do in non-work hours is exploring the new location. Whether hiking trails, exploring a quaint downtown, inbiding at the local brew houses, hunting down gems – or whatever floats your particular boat.
Solution: You have work time, and you have play time. Just like before. You may find you just need to adjust your work hours to allow for play time during the day when things are open or ideal for exploring.
Minimize Travel Stress
Traveling adds a new kink to your work life too – there are variables in connectivity, distractions, road hazards and even power availability. There is nothing more stressful than having a video presentation, remote conference or big project delivery scheduled right after you arrive to a new location.
What if you hit traffic on the way? What if you get distracted with amazing scenery? What if you get a flat tire? What if the campground loses your reservation?
Oh, and don’t forget those time zone changes you’re likely to encounter often and your calendar program is likely to get confused on.
And gasp… what if there’s not enough workable internet when you arrive?
Solution: Whenever possible, plan your arrival for at least the day before any scheduled online events or big delivery dates. Test out the connectivity, and have time to come up with a back-up plan if needed – which could range from finding a coffee shop with WiFi to moving locations. Sometimes, work will just have to trump a new adventure – if you know you’ll need ample power for your computer and equipment to get a project done, it may not be the most ideal time to be embarking on your first boondocking in the wild adventure. For the time zones, when we mark an appointment, we always put the time & time zone in the description – to reduce the chance of our calendar program getting confused.
When you announce to your friends and family that you’re hitting the road and will be in their area, the invitations come flying. Most folks don’t have a concept of interacting with a visiting working nomad – they’re used to people visiting when they’re on vacation. But you’re not on vacation, you’re actually a temporary neighbor.
If you’re meeting up with other fellow RVers in your travels, you may find some are retired or are on breaks from work. It can be extra tempting to join them in exploring the area or indulging in daily happy hours that all cut into your productivity.
And of course, if you’re working with stationary clients or co-workers remotely, they may not fully grasp the lifestyle you’ve embarked on and how it might impact your availability.
Solutions: Set expectations! When visiting loved ones as you pass through their town, make sure to emphasize that you are NOT ON VACATION and can’t spend all your time with them. When meeting up with other nomads, it so helps to be around others also balancing work/life – they get it. If the people in your work life know of your nomadic status, let them know in advance when you’ll be traveling in weak connectivity zones. If you can’t be out of touch for long, plan your travels and connectivity setup accordingly.
How We Balance
Ok, I have to admit.. we suck at this balancing thing. We both have a very thin line between work and ‘life’ – meaning even when we’re out hiking, we’re usually talking shop.
To top it off, we both are best productive in different ways. I do great working a few hours here and there, and I can crank out quality work on a regular basis. Then I’m good to go out and enjoy some quality spare time.
Chris however needs extended periods of distraction free time to get a project done, and he does it to depths that mystify me. (Thus why you see me posting blog posts about 25-to-1 – we both contribute great stuff, just in different ways.)
We find that when we’re on a major project – whether it be writing a mobile app, writing a book or consulting on a big project – we just have to find distraction free time.
We try to minimize the number of re-location days, and find locations that are relaxing, have stuff hyper-local to explore and have great connectivity. We don’t pre-announce our locations to minimize drop-by visitors or tempations to rendezvouses with friends.
And then we super focus on the project at hand. We take breaks for hiking and a little light exploration of the new area around us – but we will go into intense back-to-back long work days.
And then we come up for air after a few weeks. That’s when we make miles, plan visits with family & friends, do volunteer work and go into more of a relaxed mode with more exploration time. We’re still getting some work done during these times of course, but we can spend the days out exploring or being with friends, and get in some work hours after the sun goes down.
We’re a pretty effective team, and we’ve accomplished some pretty impressive stuff together while enjoying a very mobile adventurous lifestyle since 2006. But we ceratinly have room for improvement.
How do you balance work and a mobile lifestyle? Any tips and tricks to share?