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Today we're chatting with Susan Shain of The Travel Junkette about her location independent lifestyle.
Hi Susan! Tell us a bit about your business and how you keep it location independent.
In a nutshell, I'm a travel blogger and digital content creator. I don't make much money off my travel blog, but it's my passion project, and it serves as a platform for me to get other jobs. I've also recently begun travel coaching.
As a content creator, I help several small businesses with writing, editing, and social media marketing. My clients are all virtual, and I've only met a few of them. Our communication is mostly over email, with occasional phone or Skype calls.
What does an average month/year look like in terms of your location (we assume there's no average day!)?
Well, being a travel blogger, I travel a lot. That's why I love this career; I can travel all of the time if I want to! But these days, I prefer to spend significant chunks of time in one place. That way, I can get work done during the week, while also going on some weekend trips. (But of course, I still have to sprinkle a few multi-week trips in here and there!).
In 2013, for example, I spent the first three months volunteering in Nicaragua, the summer in Alaska, the fall traveling in Europe, and the winter in California (with a trip to Japan for new year's!).
How do you handle the logistics of working while traveling (finding reliable internet, being available, time differences, etc)?
When traveling in the States, it's pretty easy. I have a smartphone, wifi is widely available, and all of my clients are based here.
Traveling abroad, however, can be difficult. Most importantly, I let my clients know that I'll be traveling abroad and won't respond to emails as quickly. Since most of my work can be done ahead of time, time differences haven't been a real issue for me yet -- but finding internet can be quite frustrating, especially in developing countries. I just try to do as much work as possible without internet (writing, editing, etc), and treat a good internet connection like a precious resource!
How do you balance making the most of travel while still staying on track with your business?
It's a tough balance that I definitely haven't mastered yet -- and am not sure I ever will. I think it's easier when I'm spending a few weeks or months in a place; I can explore a little at a time, while keeping up with my work.
If I'm moving every day, however, I just try to set aside solid chunks of work time. Maybe it's a few hours each morning, or maybe it's one day for every two days of travel. Since I enjoy my work, it's sometimes tough to pull myself away -- but once I'm outside enjoying a new place, I remember why I chose this career in the first place!
I also remember that I don't have to see everything. Just being immersed in a different city or country, visiting coffee shops or chatting with shopkeepers, is often a fascinating cultural experience in and of itself.
Any location independent myths you want to bust?
I'm sure I won't be alone here, but I'd have to say the myth that location independent workers are "on vacation" all the time, or that we are just "playing on our computer." Yes, it's amazing to have such freedom in our work -- but it's still work!
What are your business/travel must haves?
Macbook, Beats wireless headphones, Kindle, notebook + pen, B12 tablets, pocketknife (with corkscrew!)
What are some of your favorite resource sites for affordable travel and/or location independent business?
For travel: HotelTonight, airbnb, Travelpony, and Couchsurfing for accommodation; ITA software, momondo, and GetGoing for flights; and HappyCow for veg-friendly restaurants. (Here's a full list of my favorite travel resources).
For business: Google Calendar for organizing my brain, Freshbooks for invoicing/time tracking, GetPocket for saving articles, Todoist for task management, Mint for finances, Buffer for social media updates, and Smugmug and Backblaze for backing up. (Here's a full list of my favorite productivity tools.)
What do you think the future holds for you (staying in one place, periods of travel, being a full-time nomad, etc)?
I'm so happy with what I'm doing right now: finding places to live for several months, then taking a few big trips each year. I don't think I will ever be a full-time nomad -- though I admire those who can do it, I cherish my routines and relationships too much for that!
Questions for Susan? Ask them in the comments!
Latest posts by Susan Shain (see all)
- Digital Nomad Profile: Susan Shain of The Travel Junkette - May 29, 2014