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Tips for Balancing Work and a RV Traveling Lifestyle

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:

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

Our first RV 'office' - using the dinette that also converted to our bed. Totally unsustainable.

Our first RV ‘office’ – using the dinette that also converted to our bed. Totally unsustainable.

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.

Totally staged photo.. working outside isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Totally staged photo.. working outside isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

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!

Related Posts:

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.

Moving days... they take some planning.

Moving days… they take some planning.

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.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts:

Set a Play Schedule

Don’t get too focused on your work life.. make sure you’re embracing the locations you’re visiting too.

Make time for play too! It's not all about the work.

Make time for play too! It’s not all about the work.

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

A lot can happen on the road.. pad in time on travel days to reduce stress.

A lot can happen on the road.. pad in time on travel days to reduce 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.

Set Expectations

Our friends and family know - when we're visiting, we're temporary neighbors - not visitors on vacation.

Our friends and family know – when we’re visiting, we’re temporary neighbors – not tourists on vacation.

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.

Related Posts:

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.

Sometimes we just have to set boundaries and put up our 'Quiet Time' sign so we can get work done.

Sometimes we just have to set boundaries and put up our ‘Quiet Time’ sign so we can get work done.

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?

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27 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. Have enjoyed watching some videos and love your bus…we are in the process of working on a 1966 GM 4106 Buffalo. We are trying to find just the right GPS system. Have you any recommendations? We would appreciate the help.

  2. Great post and tips. We did a ‘dry run’ about a month ago and I learned I needed a lot less paper and office stuff than I thought I needed. Of all the people I work with about half knew I was on the road working, the others didn’t. I didn’t get any feedback from anyone regarding productivity but some were certainly very jealous! My challenge is working in time zones – for example, being in Texas and needing to call in to a meeting in Oregon – my electronic devices all changed time zones automatically but to save my sanity I kept a small alarm clock with Oregon time always set so I didn’t have to think a lot about that. What are other tips you folks use? Looking forward to the event later today!

  3. Learning so much before we even start. Took a few practice trips, with some of my Ebay stock strapped to the back of camper. Talk about IMPOSSIBLE. lol And I despise no pre-planning of when/where we will land at night. I am kind of a wing it girl, but this was just too stressful. I’d end end driving through no-mans-ville or in circles. Thanks for all the tips and advice.

  4. My mom and I have been full-timing since Sept 2013. We are lucky that she has some retirement income and SSA but to help pay for those little extras like repairs, dining out occasionally, gas for the RV, etc. We volunteer work camp in our Florida State Parks. We can stay in one anywhere from two to four months at a time, they only require a minimum 20 hours per week for a FREE campsite. Now not all of them have FHU on site, nor do all of them offer free use of a washer/dryer (which also helps in the old budget), but they are generally very flexible about when you do your jobs. Most of them only care that they get done. When we were at St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park we cleaned the bathhouses at 6 in the morning because we were there doing the summer and now that we are at Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park we clean the bathhouses between 1 and 3pm. The rest of the day is pretty much ours to do with as we want and need.

    Of course, when you are a campground host with another couple you will want to coordinate your time with them so that you can get your other jobs done and enjoy your time in the area. Generally we work 3 to 4 days on and then 3 to 4 days off. This flexibility allows me to write posts for my various blogs, create bead and wire jewelry to sell online and my mom to create her hand crocheted items that we sell as well.

    Balancing your work, travel and fun times can be difficult but with a little practice you will find what works for you.

  5. A lot of very practical advice here. Many are similar to what I’ve learned to do as a self employed small business owner for over twenty years. Nice to see how you’ve adapted these, and added some more, to the RV Fulltime lifestyle and business applications.

  6. Speeking of the work you do; I read all the services that Two Steps Beyond provides and was just curious; Is all that done working remotely or are their times you have to be somewhere in person [maybe take a quick flight somewhere] required for the “project”?

    • We’re primarily remote.. but every so often we do like face time with our clients, or need to be onsite for something. Such as our work with RVillage last year, we had some rallies and events we decided to attend as part of that. We usually drive in for those, it’s been over 4 years since we’ve needed to fly in for a work related project.

  7. Thank you so much for this article, Cherie. Really helpful, and encouraging to hear that we’re not alone. Josh and I have been wondering how to balance visitors we know we’ll be having with work, as well as our own personal interests.

    I’m like Chris, loving to put my head down for hours and then come up for air. Even though Josh and I have separate desks within the living area of our 5th wheel, what has really helped me is having a second or third office space to retreat to when one of us is on a conference call, needing some extra super-focus time or perhaps just a change of scenery. I often retreat to work on the bed or picnic table if it’s nice out.

    Thanks as always for your insights!

  8. Great post Cherie!

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ve just been on the road since May 2013 and am trying to work out the “balance” thing. I don’t consider myself a tourist but a writer on the road. I adhere to many of your suggestions. I prefer to stay in one location for at least a week, usually longer if I like it. It’s hard to buckle down and write when you’re bouncing around all the time.

    Thanks again!


    • When we’re trying to make miles and can’t afford (time wise) to make pro-longed stops – we really feel it. The balance is a tough thing, especially when there’s a huge country to see.

  9. Absolutely fantastic post Cherie and I completely agree with the problems and potential solutions you stated. I’ve been working full time from the rig since August and the moving can play havoc with my work schedule so we need to plan carefully . I also need to be given the space to work. I am on a lot of conference calls and Lee has learned which calls I am running (so he needs to really be quiet) versus I am just listening in, where noise is less of an issue. He actually asks me now what kind of call it is which has been great for both of us. Plus sometimes I just need space, and he will find something to do away from the rig so I can really focus. It’s a constant adjustment and communication between partners is super important. Thanks so much for posting this.

  10. What a timely post this was! Just yesterday we were talking about the frustrations of balancing work and play. Right now we’re about 1 mile from a gorgeous beach, but (despite what our FB and Instagram photos might show) have not had much time to explore it. Unfortunately, we are tied to a 9-5 work schedule that doesn’t allow much flexibility. One thing that helps is setting ourselves up in a campground (or boondocking spot) with a scenic surrounding. It’s much more bearable to stay inside working all day when the view out the window is something other than your neighbor’s RV. It also allows us to take short rejuvenating outside breaks without going far from the RV.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Amanda!

      I am all about the view – from my office and bedroom windows. RV parks “near” scenic attractions actually upset me if there is no views from the sites, or at least within short walking distance. Any place that is “just a 5 minute drive from…” is too far for me.

      – Chris

  11. Great post — I don’t RV, we cruise in a boat. But I work and it’s pretty much the same. One item that you didn’t talk about but that can be a problem is the spouse just not “getting” that you are working. Oh, he realizes that I can’t go out exploring, etc., but sees nothing wrong with asking “where’s the ____” every five minutes. And then wonders why I get grumpy! We finally solved it by me getting up a couple of hours before he does, and using that as my “hard core” work time.

    • Certainly an issue that most work-from-home folks can empathize with. And can definitely be amplified in these small mobile spaces where getting focused time can be a problem.

      Great solution to the problem.. we sometimes work/sleep off set hours when we’re on a big project so we each get our focused time.

  12. This post hits the nail right on the head! Even though it’s a subject not brought up much on most blogs, in reality working a full time job is still a very significant part of our daily lives, just as it would be in a sticks-n-bricks home. It’s just that everyone would rather write about the fun experiences of their day, instead of the sometimes hair-pulling stressful time spent working. I, on the other hand, actually like reading articles like this from others as it reminds me that I’m not the only one parked in a beautiful place, but locked inside the RV most of the day to get work done. Some days though, it’s just very hard to do when “fun” is right outside your window. Thank goodness for window shades!

    Thanks for this great post!

    • You’re definitely not the only one. It can be especially more difficult when followers are glowing all over the amazing scenery and new adventures, when sometimes.. you just feel resentful that you’re not able to get out there and experience it all the time. 🙂

      But hey… our office views are usually pretty fricken amazing. We have that at least. 😉

      • Exactly. The views are always there to enjoy, and it helps give a balance when staring at a computer monitor all day long. Also knowing that it’s all waiting for us right outside our door when the work day is done is priceless!

  13. Outstanding post, this is something those of us who work on our own struggle with everyday. Even though I’m not traveling fulltime yet I am trying to establish that balance as a Freelancer and it will be an ongoing concern. You guys seem to have nailed it. Thanks

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