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Working from Habitat: Thoughts on Truly Remote Work

My last deep dive covered what we learned from homeschooling over our month-long journey on the road. This round, I wanted to tackle the adult POV when it came to maintaining a full-time position while traveling.

Although everyone may not share this sentiment, work is something I actually enjoy. I’ve spent years diving into understanding my own strengths, different personal productivity methods, and am constantly looking for ways to improve my output. Yes, I admit that it makes me sound a bit like a bit of a crazy person, but here we are. All that being said, working and keeping to my own personal standard was a challenge, to say the least.

Full disclosure here, my thoughts obviously are from those of a working mom who simultaneously shared homeschooling responsibilities with an also working spouse. If you’re a solo traveler, or maybe a couple without kiddos, this might not align with your experience. However, I think the base sentiments are valuable nonetheless.

CONNECTIVITY MIGHT NOT BE AS STANDARD AS YOU THINK

Do not, I repeat, do NOT be fooled by RV parks or campsites that advertise that they have Wifi. If you bank on that as a fail-proof option, you will most likely find yourself a frustrated and downright angry individual. I fully admit that both myself and my wife Alex fell trap to this.

We stayed at five different locations during our travels. When it came to the quality of internet offerings, two were awesome, one was reasonable, and two were unusable. For the latter, we each upgraded our personal hot-spots to cover our individual connectivity and let me tell you, that wasn’t enough. 

It was then we sought to buy an external hotspot, but luckily were working with a wonderful individual that told us if we were to go with one of their options, we would burn through the data quickly, and there was no further upgrade we could obtain. All that being said, we were naive, and it bit us in the butt. Your phone’s hotspot is a great option, but only if you primarily deal with email and maybe light-medium web applications. If you’ve got any substantial files to move/send/receive, you’re most likely going to burn through the data quickly.

Should you choose to purchase an external hotspot, please read the fine print as you may find yourself in an equally frustrating situation. Most major carriers tout “unlimited data” as an option, but you’ll find that the throttling is almost unbearable. Thankfully, there are more independent offerings like Skyroam and Unlimitedville that are geared toward the mobile traveler. However, still read the fine print. These unique offerings have random caveats you should definitely consider before committing.

What saved our bacon? Thankfully, one of those weeks at a useless Wifi location was in a great town where Starbucks opened in-store service at a limited capacity. Alex and I took shifts working at Starbucks to make sure we were both covered.

Note: The options above are only applicable to being in areas where you have service. Wireless signal boosters and satellite connectivity are completely different rabbit holes to travel down, so do your homework about where you’re going and the kind of signal you have access to before pulling the trigger.

KNOW YOURSELF

I’m going to try not to get too preachy here as this is a subject I dive into pretty deep with every team member I mentor, but in my opinion, this is one of the most important investments you can make. Be it for professional or personal reasons, it is imperative that you take the time to understand YOU. I don’t mean that in a hokey, philosophical way (although you should probably do that as well), but a practical and tactical manner.

  • How do you work the best?
  • What environment makes you most productive?
  • What tasks do you tackle most efficiently in the morning versus the afternoon, and vice versa?

At home, I have a desk set up that suits how I like to work best; a huge monitor, mechanical keyboard (yes, I like the clicking and clacking), and my nerdy gaming mouse are all accessories that get me in the zone. My home office allows me to focus and minimize distractions to get the most out of each meticulously structured day.

When it came to working on the road, I knew NONE of my peripherals were coming with me. I also knew that in a small space, minimizing distraction would be a challenge. My “ultimate” environment was not going to exist for just under 30 days, so I had to shift my thinking.

I needed to focus on a flexible mindset to emphasize that my “ideal setup” was not the only thing that made me productive. If I constantly reminded myself how much more I could be doing if I only were at home in my office, that would only increase my anxiety and thus kill my motivation entirely. Having a clear understanding of how I work best was the key to navigating working at my worst.

IF IT’S NOT WORKING, TRY SOMETHING ELSE

As you can see from everything I outlined above, I very much like to work in a specific way. On top of that, I’m a morning person. I typically get up really early to sneak in some quality focus time or, at the very least, leisurely plan out how to tackle what the day has in store. So surely I could keep that routine in-tact on the road, right? Wrong.

We traveled through three different time zones. My sleep pattern was a disaster. I could barely wake up in time for the workday to start, so keeping my 5:00 am call time and having a relaxing cup of coffee in solitude while reviewing my calendar for the day was the farthest thing from happening. Things that I usually knocked out in the morning were getting crammed into the afternoon. My nicely crafted calendar turned into a procrastination case study as items moved to multiple times on a single day or maybe even three days out. To sum it up, it was a personal nightmare. I think I had at least two or three internal freakouts focusing on the “fact” that I was a complete and utter failure. Once I decided to wind down the pity party and get in touch with myself again, it was time to formulate a plan.

The first thing I did was evaluate the current state of each work day. For example, my wife’s position requires her to be plugged into her team and actively engaged during business hours. On the other hand, my role is a mix of managing inbound communication, being a resource for team members, and focusing on larger-scale initiatives that have milestones that are dictated personally. Out of the two positions, mine technically is more flexible, so I knew that I needed to support her as much as possible during the day to set her up for success. In turn, I needed to shift my routine and train myself to work the opposite of how I usually do.

Early mornings faded into late rises, and daily priorities became focused on real-time needs and less on deep project productivity. The evenings evolved into a mecca of focus where I could get 3-5 hours of uninterrupted time to ensure I was pacing accordingly on my projects. This was literally the opposite of how I have EVER worked, but this temporary shift solved my mobile productivity challenges.


I found working on the road really only boiled down to a single practical challenge (connectivity), while the largest hurdles were much more personal. Productivity, regardless of how you work best, is fluid. Some days you feel like you’ve conquered the world, while others leave you feeling like you haven’t made a dent in your list. Like what we learned with homeschooling, you’ve got to go with the flow and do the best you can. Regardless of what bumps you may encounter along the way, don’t let potential challenges discourage you from exploring, because you’ll find that all the hurdles are more than worth it.

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