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Today we’re chatting with Lis Dingjan of The Identity about her location independent lifestyle.
Hi Lis! Tell us a bit about your business and how you keep it location independent.
I run a boutique creative design and development studio and do consulting work on a range of subjects so I’m able to work online from anywhere as long as my laptop is around. Any contractors or clients I work with are based all around the world so we keep in touch with a mixture of email, Skype, shared wunderlists and slack app depending on what project it’s for.
What does an average month/year look like in terms of your location (we assume there’s no average day!)?
I have absolutely no idea! If I’m planned more than a month in advance it’s fairly impressive! I make quick decisions and plenty of last minute decisions. One moment I’m in Cambodia, the next living in the Netherlands, then I find myself in Morocco for a week and suddenly in Belize before I’m somehow in Australia.
I believe in spontaneity and taking chances and opportunities. They’re everywhere when you open your eyes to them. I can’t remember an average year since I was about 11 to be honest! Generally I know I’ll be working, I’ll be studying (this is unlikely to ever stop as I head into a masters – I’ve sat exams all over the world) and that I’ll be travelling. Who knows what countries I’ll see that year or where I’ll end up 🙂
How do you handle the logistics of working while traveling (finding reliable internet, being available, time differences, etc)?
Be really flexible. There are days in Cambodia, or Africa, or wherever you may be where the power goes out and you’ve got nothing. When there’s no Wifi, I spend my time in Photoshop and answering emails (and this is why I love Outlook!) whilst generally being ridiculously productive.
When the battery runs out I’ll sketch up new projects, jot down all my ideas and to-do lists or head into the local community and see what I can do. I have a workflow set on my Alfred App for world times and it’s my lifesaver for all those time changes and summertime/wintertime changed (they drive me crazy!). World Time Buddy is super useful for scheduling time zones that work. I also use a scheduler for all clients which automatically converts to their time zone to book consults.
If I’m on the opposite side of the world to the US (where a lot of my clients are based) that means some late nights or early mornings for Skype consults but generally otherwise I find everything to be easy to navigate in terms of availability. I don’t need to – and am not – on my email 24/7 or work would never be completed! I also often jump on a few blogs in the location I’m at to see if there’s any recommendations for great places to work from. This has been super helpful in some spots!
How do you balance making the most of travel while still staying on track with your business?
These days, “slow travelling” works better with business. I.e at least staying put in a place for a few weeks. If I’m only somewhere for a short time though, letting go of the need to see everything immediately. I remember when I used to travel before my own business, and my days would be jam packed with sightseeing and exploring.
These days it’s much better to set up a little structure such as get up early, work for 6 hours and then go explore with the ability to relax and not stress about that impending deadlines. Some days can be allocated as work only days and you push out 14 hours and others as just doing the travel thing.
Any location independent myths you want to bust?
That it’s easy working from cafes and that you won’t miss a bit of routine and water-cooler-chats. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely ADORE working from quirky cafes but it can be frustrating too. Depending on what part of the world you’re in, sometimes you’ll barely find a power outlet, you’ve got to check the wifi and it’s good café etiquette to drink and eat which means those days in cafes can get pretty damn expensive quick (especially if you’re in Australia).
Some days you’ll crave a creative office space where you can just plunk down your computer, bring your own lunch, chat to people doing similar things in a language you understand and not worry about your battery dying! And uh…that whole image of sitting on the beach working? Sun glare equals a screen you can’t see! 🙂
What are your business/travel must haves?
A water bottle (I never leave without one), 2 power charges, an extension cord, a power converter for all the main types, a Mac Air (you just can’t beat the lightness for travel), a super quality suitcase because you’ll be dragging it around the globe…and for me, a flight escape plan in my mind every time I get on a plane (I’m terrified of flying!).
What are some of your favorite resource sites for affordable travel and/or location independent business?
Even though I’m an experienced flight booker (ha!) flightfox.com has saved me thousands. Who knew at that time it was cheaper to book a return to Spain from Miami just to get to Miami from London? They do!
I’ve actually created a site for finding independent cafes with wifi at laptopcafes.com which is relaunching shortly as a full directory site 🙂
What do you think the future holds for you (staying in one place, periods of travel, being a full-time nomad, etc)?
At the moment I’m actually settling for a few months! I’ve had quite a full on last ten years and have travelled through over 50 countries and lived on multiple continents so I’ve just hired a studio space in Brisbane, Australia to be in for a little while and really knuckle down. Until July…there’s a flight booked to America and what will probably be a detour through London and Cambodia 🙂 I think there will be periods of travel mixed with periods of routine and structure. Maybe it’s time to set up my own airline?!
Questions for Lis? Ask them in the comments!
Latest posts by Lis Dingjan (see all)
- Digital Nomad Profile: Lis Dingjan of The Identity – May 26, 2014