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Travel Work Days: How do they Work?

Written by Jessica on May 11, 2012

Jess on the laptop on the beach in NicaraguaWe have designated work days during our trip down the Pan-American. Every Tuesday, no matter where we are, how hot it is, or how hung-over we are, there is a work day. 

I use this time to work on client projects, Kobus works on his online classes and Jared usually updates this website.

Here are a few frequently asked questions about our working schedules.

What’s a work day?

A work day means we don’t go anywhere. We find a good campground or hostel with internet and we stay put. We arrive the day before and stay the night after.

Why every Tuesday?

I have a conference call with one of my clients in the morning every Tuesday. Also, once we designated a day, it was easier to stick to it, rather than change it constantly. It is a little inconvenient sometimes, especially when we’re close to crossing borders. But now that we are in the traveling groove work days seems more like part of the routine and less like a necessary evil.

Knowing that we have a designated day in the future helps us to plan deadlines accordingly. We know how much we can do, and what work we should turn down. Also, it helps our clients to know when we’ll get things done.

What if there is no work?

Some work days, there just isn’t much billable work to do. The client backs out, the call is cancelled, or the work just doesn’t materialize. Usually, we work anyway.

Just like running a regular business, there is always something that needs to be done. Usually if we have extra time, we spend it updating this website. But we also use this time to investigate new job opportunities, research our next week or two of travel, send emails to Mom, and generally keep up to date on what is happening in our fields.

Jess and Jared wrking at a RV park in UtahWhat if you don’t get all the work done in one day?

It depends. Sometimes projects fall behind schedule. A client’s project explodes, students need an extra lesson, or our website needs a redesign. Usually, the extra work fits in our free time the rest of the week.

I try to keep my hours around 15 per week. I work one 8-10 hour Tuesday, and then fit the other hours in throughout the rest of the week.

Some weeks those other hours just never happen. Either we’re in the middle of nowhere with no internet, or we’re too busy livin’ the travel life to concentrate on projects. In that case we usually schedule a second work day. Sometimes these are scheduled, other times they are impromptu.

If we find a nice place, with good internet, it’s common that we sit tight another day and work a while to get everything caught up.

What happens if the work takes more than 15 hours a week?

We usually say no. In a perfect world our bosses and clients would understand that it’s difficult to work overtime when you’re trying to sort out where you are going to sleep tomorrow night. Being respectful of the amount of time you allow yourself to be plugged in is important, especially when you are traveling with others.

But this is a double edged sword. Saying no to a client in their time of need doesn’t paint a good picture of your reliability.

The best way to proceed is to set ground rules with your traveling friends and your clients. I let clients get away with pushing extra hours when I get advance notice. Another colleague goes on vacation, a big event is coming up, some executive decide the company needs to re-brand again. When I have warning I can make sure I don't piss off my travel partners and can make sure we’re in a place that they have something to do while I’m internetting.

That said, I turn down crazy short notice requests constantly. These are the types of projects I thrived on when I was building my business up and working full time. Now they are nothing more than a pile of stress that I don’t need.  Depending on your travel situation and how much work you have, you may decide this type of work is worth your while. In my opinion, last minute rush work and traveling don’t go well together.

What if you MUST travel on a work day?

It happens, not often, but occasionally. We show up a place that doesn’t have wifi or cell phone signal, or bathrooms.  We get delayed at a river crossing or a border. The car breaks down. Someone is sick.

Shit happens, but it is more or less the same shit that happens at home. We deal with it the same way. Call or email when we can. Apologize. Make up the time later. Try not to do it again.

Traveling requires flexibility. No amount of research will help you completely predict what will happen tomorrow. The bus leaves when it’s full. But these things don’t happen nearly as often as you’d think. If you do good work and don't flake out often, your clients will be incredibly forgiving, especially if you have a good story to back it up.

Hopefully that answers some of the questions about why we have work days. Feel free to post any other questions below.


Home on the Highway
#3 Home on the Highway 2012-05-14 02:29
I need to find one of these fancy remote jobs!
#2 Jessicam 2012-05-12 16:43
Thanks Wendy. I totally know your struggles. I'm working on another post about scheduling (and it's nightmares) while traveling. We've made quite a few changes in our work routines since we started this trip. It's a give and take for certain.
Wendy Pearson
#1 Wendy Pearson 2012-05-12 13:08
Great article Jessica on managing the balance! I need to find a bit more as I'm realizing I'm working pretty much all the time -i go from client work to blog updates and then squeeze in some travel experiences to write about. Great advice on setting some boundaries.

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