A couple of months ago, I wrote part one of a post that talked about some of the fails I experienced when traveling and working remotely. We got a lot of positive feedback for keeping it real. I’m sharing a couple more lessons here that are solid whether you are trying to do a little work while traveling, taking an extended vacation, or doing a weekend getaway.
Lesson Three: A Tough Day is A Tough Day
Shakespeare says a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This line is from his play Romeo & Juliet. I would like to add to this that a tough, difficult or challenging day is going to be the same whether you are at home or on the other side of the world. More often than not, being a digital nomad has become fantasizable, in a way that nothing can go wrong. Everyone is jumping off cliffs into turquoise blue waters, right? Everyone is joyriding on the coast through lush vegetation right? We’re all staying out late and partying, right? There’s another familiar saying that you can’t outrun your problems. You can’t outrun yourself either. If you face challenges at home (whether they be depression, obstacles at work, etc), you will likely face similar challenges abroad during long term travel.
When you’re traveling in this way, you’re not necessarily running from your life (or maybe in some ways we all are, no judgment), you are living in a way that grants you access to new experiences, people, and views, while still having ties to a routine that provides you with the income and resources to live. Something I noticed while traveling is how much I work. The busy season for Points North does not pass over me when I’m not physically in our office in Baltimore. In fact, it smacks me head-on, coupled with the space-time-continuum of time zones, and usually leaves me devastated when I have to make difficult decisions about work and play.
There are plenty of reasons why you might be having a difficult day. We are in the present moment but we carry our past with us, complete with memories and stories that we re-tell ourselves even when we don’t mean to. I’m willing to bet that none of your bad days show up on your Instagram feed. Travel gives me a sense of awareness and clarity and I don’t always get when I’m home. Self-awareness is the key, and if you for whatever reason need a down-day to process or deal with something, then I think you should take it. Isn’t that also a reason why you engage in long-term travel, to not have your days so packed with things, to not feel as if you’re missing out by taking yourself out?
LESSON: Traveling is not a ticket to leaving your life, because you’re literally bringing along the one constant fro your life – yourself. You may have changed your circumstances, but you can still have a day where things aren’t going right, where you’re just not feeling it, or where you have to make some difficult decisions. Take these days when they come. Learn how to grow from them, and then embrace your good days even more.
Lesson Four: FOMO vs. JOMO
If you are working while traveling, there are a couple of things you should consider:
TIMEZONES: Forgive yourself for screwing up time zones and get a world clock app to help you with the math. Here’s a list of vetted apps that you can choose from if you’re in need.
WORK HOURS: You might have to work late hours to keep up with the projects/demands on the other side of the globe. For everyone this is different. I try to overlap at least half of my working hours when our office is open back in Baltimore. Because I’m working later, I start my mornings off slow and usually reserve them for exploring, walks, hikes, tours, etc.
YOU’RE ON VACATION BUT NOT REALLY: You’re working but you’re traveling, and you may have to set some boundaries between the two or else things will get messy. You’re likely not going to be able to do everything that someone on vacation would do, or at least not at the same rapid speed. You have to be okay with this. Don’t end up resenting the work that affords you the ability to travel, simply because you have to take breaks from travel to do your work.
FOMO vs. JOMO: FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out, and JOMO is the Joy Of Missing Out. You will experience both, and that’s all part of the game of travel and working remotely.
For me, the fear of missing out came when learning about cool activities or events in any location that clashed with my work schedule. Of course, I would rather take a day trip to explore a beach, but I am locked into two video conference calls that require the highspeed internet of a coworking office (and I’m not sure if I could downplay ocean waves crashing into shore as background noise). It really hits hard if I know others who got to enjoy those activities and see their stunning photos online. I’ve been very adamant that I want to love the work that I do and love the life I live, so I also had to be diligent in not blaming one for a lack in the other.
And the joy of missing out came from seeing that there was some larger event happening, and choosing to stay in and relax, or choosing something more low key or more small group for my own sanity and need to recharge. Choosing myself, and not feeling some kind of way about the other options available, is a bliss like no other.
LESSON: FOMO and JOMO can and likely will happen when you’re engaged in long term travel, especially if you’re synced up with a group or just connecting with people you see often. What’s important to know is that both are normal and you shouldn’t drive yourself crazy trying to overcompensate for either.
Lesson Five: Not everything will meet your expectations.
Some moments are going to take your breath away and that’s really part of the beauty of travel. But there will also be moments where things fall apart, and how you deal with those moments, is also (believe it or not) also part of the beauty of travel.
When I arrived in Marrakech, I had all these visions of grandeur about how lavish my accommodations would be. I’ve seen countless photos of the guesthouses that are hidden in the maze that is the Marrakech medina. I thought a beautiful door would open the way to colorful tiles and ornate fixtures and the delicate balance of light and shadows. But I arrived to a salmon-colored apartment building, with decor filled with mismatched patterns and furniture patterned in deep reds and greens (folks, it was like old-time Christmas up in there, and not in a nostalgic way. I want to be clear that my basic needs were absolutely met, but my fellow designers and creatives will understand how our living space can affect our everything).
The traditional seating in Morocco is a sofa that wraps around the wall of a room on 3 sides. Sometimes it’s structure is built into the wall and there are cushions placed on top for seating. This seating is very social, and often where meals and entertainment take place. Many Americans know of the blissful moment when you lift off your feet, allowing gravity to take hold of you as you succumb to the sweet comfort that is your sofa. You sink into those delightful cousins and they form to your shape, melting the stresses of your day. This act, this blending of body and cotton is muscle memory. It’s magic.
I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally plopped onto a Moroccan sofa, only to have my body be jolted by a hard, harsh landing. By comparison, it felt like sitting on a board, even though throughout the country they are described as very nice and comfortable.
The layout of the apartment was very dim, and truth be told I slept with the bathroom light on for the first couple of days. Again, basic needs were absolutely met, so no complaints here. It was just that I struggled to make that place feel like home, to really own it. It was an easy lesson that not everything will meet your standards, and that’s okay. When people asked how my accommodations were in Morocco, to cope with the comforts that my body was missing, I would just tell them the apartment was very… Moroccan.
LESSON: Not everything will meet your expectations. Be thankful that your basic needs are covered, and don’t let a glitch in the matrix negatively impact the experience of your trip.
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