Max and I returned from a trip to the Netherlands and France recently which served the dual purpose of letting us attend WordCamp Europe (a WordPress conference) and take some time to explore Amsterdam and Paris. We also wanted to take the time to see if we enjoyed working while traveling. While attending a WordCamp and meeting all of the great people we’ve been working with at WooThemes was an awesome experience, the other lessons we learned might have been more important.
While the travel experience was exciting and we love visiting new places, trying to work while we were away was an interesting lesson. First, dedicating time to work was more difficult that I’d imagined. Even though we planned the trip so that we knew we’d spend about half of the day sight-seeing in Paris and half of the time working, having that experience planned didn’t really help us get into “work mode”. Trying to get back to a schedule when we’re on a pretty flexible system at home was difficult. I’ve learned that sometimes I work best at 1am, and when you’re planning on being at Versailles at 9am the next day, you don’t want to start working that late (the time difference doesn’t really help much either).
I also found that thinking about work distracted me from enjoying the city, and that the fact that I was in a new and exciting place distracted me while trying to work. The result was that I was half in to whatever I was doing at the time, and if you know me personally, you know I’m not the kind of person that likes being half into anything. Max was the same way, and so I think we’ve established that we like working while we’re working, and we like enjoying new places when we’re in new places. If you’re going to try to be nomadic, staying for more than a couple weeks in a given place is definitely a must. Maybe this would have helped if we knew we were going to be there long enough to visit one thing at a time or only do some touristy stuff on weekends and could have been more productive.
We also found that we didn’t like being away from our dedicated work spaces at home. I never thought I’d miss my monitor as much as I did while I was working on my 13″ MBA. Our studio apartment also forced us to use part of the “living space” for work, which didn’t help us mentally transition from vacation time to work time. If you’re considering a nomadic lifestyle, I’d encourage you to make sure you’ll have a large enough living space that you can have a “work area”, as I think that would have made a big difference for us.
Another thing that we learned was that Max wasn’t too comfortable with the language barrier in France. I was okay since I speak enough French to get around and understand the gist of what someone’s saying, but we noticed how much we relaxed we were when we went to a Canadian bar (which was awesome by the way and I thoroughly enjoyed my chicken poutine) and everyone spoke English. I think the discomfort might have been a good thing for the short term and helps conquer the fear of not being able to understand someone or be understood. However, I don’t think I’d want to live somewhere long term unless I knew enough to communicate effectively; you’d be surprised at how lonely it can make you feel.
The final note is that no matter where I go, nobody seems to be able to do this right and it’s the best part of coming home: