I have always wondered what it would be like to just pick up your life and run your business from a laptop while sipping Daiquiris on an exotic beach.
Last month, I didn’t take things that far, but I did move to a village near Barcelona. I wanted to see whether I could combine the marvels of Catalunya with a 35,000-word writing target and a set of client deadlines.
To lead with the conclusion: my digital nomad ‘light’ experiment was an experience I would and will repeat. But there are a few things I’d do differently next time. And in the spirit of sharing what I’ve learned, I thought I’d write them down. Just in case you’d like to try it for yourself J.
Lesson #1: A month is not enough
If you know you're somewhere for 30 days, and that a chunk of this time spoken for by work, you want to make the most of the leisure time available. So, we packed every free moment with trips and activities. We marvelled at Dali’s house in Cadaqués. Submerged ourselves in the urban underground of Barcelona. Learned how to mix the perfect mojito at Casa Bacardi. But while all this experience hunting was great, it was also exhausting. Especially as it left no downtime between work and fun.
☛ Don’t think 3-4 weeks. Think 3-4 months. This lets you get settled and takes away the urge to become a binge tourist.
Lesson #2: Think about your workspace
My experiment became a lot easier because some friends were kind enough to let us use their spacious and air-conditioned apartment for the month. This meant that I had a cool space to write as outside temperatures hit 35-40°C. But I also found that for more complex work, my small laptop screen and the lack of my trusted printer made some jobs a lot more difficult.
☛ Take along all the office material you need. And if you cannot do so, make sure you are closed to a shared workspace that has them available.
Lesson #3: Plan buffer time for idea overload
During this one month in Spain, I had more ideas than I’ve had all year. Part of this was due to going native in a different environment than my own. Part of it was because the palm trees and Mediterranean made me get much more serious about my down-time than I do at home. But as I had been so efficient in planning my work-time, I didn’t get to do more about these ideas than write them down and move on.
☛ Expect to have more creative ideas than usual and allow yourself time to expand on them. This will increase the chance you will use them at some point.
Lesson #4: It’s not all beaches and Mojito’s.
There is a saying that you cannot run from your life as you take it with you. So if you take your business to a foreign land, you take the good and the bad. Accounting obligations won’t go away. Neither will the little frustrations. And some days, the appeal of palm trees outside actually made it more difficult to write those extra 1000 words.
☛ As I went in without expectations, this realisation didn’t particularly delight or disappoint me. So, if there is a lesson there, it is to do the same. Be realistic that the most beautiful beach will not magically make parts of your life disappear. Though it can make them more enjoyable ;-).
Lesson #5: Take a swim beforeseeing your loved ones
My wife and son have been amazing during this month as they organised their schedule around my work-time whichallowed us to explore Catalunya together. But we were sometimes out of sync. They were in holiday mode. My head was still rehearsing a client call or resolving a writing problem. This also happens at home, but somehow the Spanish sun made the contrast between these mindsets much starker.
☛ Consider that the people travelling with you may be in a different mindspace. So, make sure your work-ation mood doesn’t affect their good time. In my case, I learned that the smartest thing to do after work, was to go for a swim and then meet my family. And frankly, it's not a bad habit anywhere J
I fully realise that picking up and moving to another country isn’t within everyone’s reach. But I also thought it would be impossible for me. What I found is that with preparation, fast internet and a little more office equipment, I could have continued for another 2-3 months without a problem. Especially as Barcelona airport was only 25 minutes away.
About this blog
Whenever inspiration strikes, I use this space to share my thoughts on customer experience management, storytelling or what ever else crosses my mind.