For some people, “work and travel” sounds like an echo from their student years or a sugar-coated trend. Yet, so many others discover the world as a part of their living. They work for companies, travel for months on the job, and can’t imagine limiting themselves to just 1 or 2 short fortnight vacations in a year.
Some companies do studies on their employees working remotely to define whether their motivation and performance drop. And you know what? Those metrics get even better.
It seems quite natural that people are more productive and motivated when their work is a part of their lives — not something that gets in the way of living. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows when you’re working in an unusual environment, and there are certain points to take into account before embarking on your first on-the-job trip. But, anyway, a change in the surrounding landscape is a good way to de-stress and restore.
So, what is it like? How can you overcome possible issues? How do you balance work and travel and get the most out of both? Meet two employees from the Django Stars software development company, one of those firms that supports its workers’ travel ambitions and lets them work remotely, even for long periods of time.
Living a Small Life at Every Destination — Anastasiia Marushevska
Job: Head of Communications, the brains of Django Stars brand, and mother of all content.
Remote work destinations: Mexico — 4 months; South-East Asia — 3 months; Italy (mostly Sicily) — 5 weeks. Travels solo, sometimes with friends met while traveling.
I started working remotely long before joining Django Stars as a freelance copywriter and communications specialist. I also had a small advertising agency, with the whole team working remotely. And then I became a part of the Django Stars company during one of my trips to South-East Asia. I have this sweet memory of one of our first Skype meetings, when I was working in a small room in the Beachhub on Ko Phangan island.
A view from the Beachhub, Ko Phangan, Thailand
Traveling became more of a bonus when I decided to freelance. I mean, I didn’t start freelancing intentionally for traveling, I discovered this possibility after I had already started, and it pulled me in. And now, with Django Stars, I can still work remotely from time to time, switch off and live as I wish — exploring the world.
Coworking vs Nature: Locations for Remote Work
I was working and traveling in Mexico for four months. Then there was a three-month trip around South-East Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Singapore, Bali) and 5 weeks in Italy (mostly Sicily).
Of all the places I lived in, Ko Phangan in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia turned out to be the greatest spots to travel while working remotely in terms of comfort. There are coworking spaces with high-speed internet, and all the infrastructure you need. They have a/c, water, power to charge your devices, and also meeting rooms if you need a quiet environment for a Skype call. They have practically everything you’d get in a home office — with the tropics as a bonus.
Dojo Bali coworking, for example, is a marvelous place where you can meet people from all around the world, fellow freelancers and remote workers. I even got to do a workshop about branding while I was there. And if I needed to chill from the rush of tourists, I could take a bike and ride off into the sunset.
But not all places in the world are equally suitable for working remotely. Take my trip to Holbox island in the Caribbean, for example. They had a storm for a week and, naturally, no internet when I landed. The locals didn’t even pay attention to that – they just kept living their usual lives and, as you may guess, these lives didn’t include the internet as an integral part. But for me as a remote worker with burning deadlines, it was painful.
I spent 3 months in the small town of Sayulita on the Pacific Coast. Even though it was a life-changing experience, working remotely from there wasn’t so easy. There were really hot and humid days, so a lot of times I needed to work at night. If you imagine a stock photo of a person working with a laptop on a beach drinking a cocktail with a small umbrella on the top, just forget it. You’d melt like ice cream. And probably fall asleep.
I try to experience a small life in each place I travel to and create a flexible routine that suits the new place. It’s what helps me stay productive and, at the same time, gain lots of new experiences. For example, in Ko Phangan, I would go swimming in the ocean first thing in the morning, have breakfast in a French cafe with my new friends, or spend an evening at a beach party.
Zen Beach, Ko Phangan, Thailand
For me, working remotely is not much different from working at home, or troublesome. The only significant thing is that you need to reassure other people (who haven’t had remote working experience) that you can communicate everything online and complete tasks as usual. On that note, Slack is one of the best remote working tools for teamwork.
Of course, when you travel and work remotely, a drastic time difference is something to work out with your colleagues. Finding a time of day that’s appropriate to answer questions that require verbal communication can be quite difficult because you’re in different time zones. But you’re all set up. While in Asia, I started at noon, so I had the whole morning to myself and worked until around 7 PM. If necessary, I would work a couple more hours in the evening, after sunset. Once I did a webinar at two in the morning. It may feel strange at first, but it’s all about practice.
And Come Back with Anecdotes…
And aside from work, life happens. Once in Mexico, I was planning to meet with a friend in Zacatecas city. I was coming here from another city on a transfer and a night bus. My friend had to book a place and tell me the location, but he disappeared. Just stopped calling me and answering my calls.
So, I arrived in Zacatecas. It was 7 a.m., I had no place to stay, I had never been to this city before, I was tired after a long trip, and in addition to that, I’d caught a fever during the ride. All that was supporting me at that moment was a pack with two sandwiches in my bag, so at least I wasn’t hungry.
Zacatecas is not a touristy place, so finding a hostel was hard, especially at that early time. The only place I found had a check-in time no sooner than 12 PM, so I ate my sandwiches while observing the empty streets of the city.
I worked only for a few hours and slept for the rest of the day. My friend did call me later with a fun story, and we met up a couple of days later in another city, Guanajuato.
And you know what? I had an incredible adventure. Stories like this are what you will remember for life — unlike yet another day in the office. Moreover, things like that happen all the time, whether you’re abroad or in your home town.
Smile at People
It’s one thing when you plan your day or week in your home country, but it might be much trickier when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings. So plan ahead.
Don’t be a hero, and use your resources wisely. I mean, your physical and mental resources. A cheap night flight is not the best start to a working day in a country you’ve never been to before. Think back to that time after a holiday or vacation when you came back home and felt like you needed more rest before starting a mental activity. Here it works the same way.
Inle Lake, Myanmar
Sometimes you may feel like you’re missing out on something. It’s probably all those touristy must-sees. Try to forget about being a tourist and get the most of living in a different culture with a different skyline.
As a solo traveler, no matter how much of an introvert you are, try to make friends with locals or people who work remotely like you do. They will keep you company for all the local trips, evenings at the beach, or simple meals together. Co-working spaces are also great for that, making new connections.
Services I’d Recommend for Organizing Trips
- Kiwi — for monitoring flights, since it shows prices for all dates, and you can create complex routes and view destinations.
- Airbnb — for booking accommodations and discovering cool places. Once, Anastasiia rented a house in a forest somewhere in Toscana, a marvelous location you need a bus and a car to get to.
- Trainline — for finding and booking train tickets.
- TripAdvisor — for finding cafes and dining spots.
- Hostelworld — for finding hostels. Hostels are great for making new friends.
- Moovit — for information on public transport, like bus arrivals or service alerts.
And here’s a few other tips for a better remote-work experience:
- If you want to save money, opt for accommodations with a kitchen.
- Take advice from people who’s traveled where you’re heading to. It might save you some trouble — and also give you new bright ideas.
- If you don’t know what’s on your plate and it’s moving, better hold off on eating it.
- Always have a first-aid kit with you. And never forget about travel insurance.
- Drink a lot of water and carry around snacks.
- And smile! It will help you meet amazing people, trust me.
Vitamin Sea and Tranquility — Gleb Pushkov
Job: Senior Software Engineer, Team Lead.
Remote work destinations: Malta — 2 weeks solo.
The motivation to work remotely came from a lot of changes happening at once. Django Stars had just moved into a new office, a cool space but less convenient for me to reach. The light days were becoming shorter, promising a moody winter coming soon. I needed a change of scenery, but my morality wouldn’t let me ask for a vacation since we were approaching a deadline on a project.
Taking a couple of weeks to work remotely was the most fitting option for all parties, but at the same time, I couldn’t go too far away. There was a necessity for close communication with both the team and the customer. So I started looking for sunny destinations nearby. Malta jumped out to me, as did a nice Ryanair plane fare. After getting the green light from Django Stars, I bought the ticket and went on booking a place to stay.
A Soft Landing: Arriving at Malta
Malta turned out to be a fantastic place to escape the sullen autumn weather so typical of Kyiv. With its peaceful, warm atmosphere, the country welcomed many tourists eager to rest, learn English or have a temporary gig. Everyone was open to conversation.
It was the off-season, so I could enjoy the half-empty streets of Malta’s small cities, sweet quiet bars, and reasonable prices (at least, I believe so).
I went for a room in a shared apartment, 20 euro per night. It was a cheaper alternative to booking a hotel room, and certainly cheaper than renting even a small one-bedroom apartment. It was also a good opportunity for me to meet new people, have a nice dinner with the neighbors, or hit a bar with them, while still preserving some of the privacy that a hostel can’t offer.
Once I was searching for local activities on Facebook, something fun to spend the evening on, and stumbled on a “Speak English & make friends” event at a bar. I didn’t expect anything more than a small chamber event, but as I neared the open door, the noise grew and grew… Well, it appeared there were at least about 70 people, all with glasses of wine, chatting animatedly. An administrator rang a bell every 3 minutes and people changed places to get acquainted with new companions, sort of like speed dating.
It was only 2 euro, and the atmosphere felt nice, so I took the proffered sangria and dived into the party. And you know what? I met many amazing people: a philosophy professor from Colombia, several Japanese med students directed to Malta by their government to improve their English in the run-up to the upcoming Olympics 2020 in Tokyo, a Ministry of Defense employee from the Czech Republic, students from South Korea, a nurse from Berlin… After the event, everyone went to the local pubs to finish the evening and continue getting to know each other. That was a fantastic experience.
I did work quite a lot during this two-week stay because of the upcoming release. My typical working day started with some work assignments in the rented room, from morning till noon, and continued in a cafe for a few more hours, if there were no meetings with the product development team or other tasks that required silence. The workday ended in my room in the evening.
Communication wasn’t an issue. The time difference with my team was only an hour. Plus, the client was in the same time zone as me. So, all the communication was online, and there were no significant difficulties — basically, it’s a similar experience when I just stay working from home from time to time.
The only real issue was focusing solely on work when it was so nice and sunny outside. Meetings and tasks that required complete silence couldn’t be done outdoors, so I needed to stay home quite often. On those days, I’d really only catch a few rays at sunset. Which is not much different from when it’s spring in Kyiv and you’re sitting in the office, admiring all that beauty through the window. But you know what? When I had a break or an evening walk, there was Malta all around, and it was amazing.
Services that Helped Me Organize the Trip
- Tickets.ua and Skyscanner are the go-tos for booking plane tickets.
- Booking and Airbnb — for booking accommodations.
- TripAdvisor and Google Maps — to find bars and cafes.
And a few outtakes from my remote experience that would help a newcomer remote worker to have a nicer experience:
- Take a couple of work-free days to get comfortable with your new surroundings and explore the most interesting spots. It’s going to be a lot easier to focus on working when you know that you won’t miss too much and you have already done some sightseeing.
- Find a place where you can work seriously. Cafes are enough for daily routine tasks, but you may need to find a place where you can really concentrate and focus on more complex tasks so your productivity doesn’t drop.
Meet people. Don’t be afraid to speak, even if your knowledge of the language is very basic. You’ll meet many interesting people and make new connections that may last for years.
There are many jobs that allow you to work remotely and don’t necessarily need your constant live presence. They might be in the fields of IT, marketing, sales, design, customer support, and many others — and this way is pretty well worn.
You just need to work on organizing your routine and communications with the team:
- Talk to your team beforehand, and make sure they understand that you’ll still be on the line with them, even if you’re not physically present.
- Plan your trip ahead of time, and make sure you have time to relax after the flight and explore places near your rental.
- But leave some space for creativity — you can meet people along the way who will change your plan a bit, and this may be the beginning of an amazing adventure.
- If you want to save money, go for accommodations with a kitchen and use public transport. There are apps that can help you navigate around different countries.
- Do some research. Coworking spaces are best for working when you work remotely and travel. See whether the city you’re traveling to has something like that.
- Try to live a little life anywhere you go and absorb new experiences.
And watch our blog for more stories and advice on how to organize your travels while working remotely!