Last Summer, my adventurous pal Jo Fraser and I set off around Australia in a Mitsubishi van. What was our plan? Well honestly it was a little unplanned (being free spirits and all), but we were committed to travel for 4 months whilst keeping our freelance businesses as lush as our camera rolls. Like many people stuck in the 9-5 grind, you picture your ‘van-life’ adventure as a parked van set against white sand and turquoise washed beaches, palms swaying in the wind, a bird lands on your shoulder, whistles a tune whilst folding up your dirty clothes and cleaning your dirty dishes, all the while you relax inside your Swedish inspired van interior. You have little to no cares because you are the lucky ones that have escaped the pressures of society.
*record scratch sound* Fast forward to the reality of what Jo and I liked to call our daily fresh horrors... This is a reality where the birds that are supposed to present you with a pile of freshly pressed clothes get into your food supplies and then after digestion, leave a white trail of the remains over your van. Some of the daily challenges and the realities of van-life were sunburn blisters, dirty dishes, 2 mechanical break downs, no showers for 6 days, hitchhiking, sausage roll diet as apparently bakeries are the only food option in the outback. A few spicy discussions about whether we should have turned left or right two turns ago, and finally the night we spent sitting on the floor of a convenience store waiting for a flight home. I write these things in the hope that you will learn from my remote working mistakes to make your online work a seamless and joyful experience.
Let’s be realistic here - if you want to make some distance in your travels you are going to need to be driving a couple of hours a day, seeing all the sites, cooking breakfast lunch and dinner. Don’t forget the setup time when you arrive at a destination. In truth you’re not going to be able to pull off a 50-hour work week, and even if you could there’s not much point sight-seeing whilst your eyes are glued to your computer screen. Be realistic about how much time you have in your day and stagger your job deadlines accordingly.
I am going to say one word, communicate...and then communicate again. Over-communicate your schedule and potential change in deadlines (Especially if you come up against problems). Plan ahead, check the area you’re staying at that night has strong reception for finishing off your job and uploading to Dropbox. Be clear with your deadlines and overestimate the time it will take to complete projects. It’s always a pleasant surprise for a client when you deliver early on a deadline.
Working outside in nature is pretty inspiring in itself but having to hunch over because the van fit-out you built is just that teeny bit too close to the roof is less than ideal. This means making sure you have a comfy table and chair to perch on in an area that you won’t get server sunburn and a thousand mozzie bites. We had a cool fit-out where the bed turned into two booth seats and a table, this was ideal for working away in, and gave some protection from the harsh Australian elements.
Practical Tips to making your trip a success
1. Email auto-reply is your best friend when you’re going remote.
2. Invest in the best Internet provider in town (If you’re Aussie, Telstra has the most coverage) because you’re going to need to hot spot the life out of your phone.
3. Make sure you have access to power to recharge your computer! We chose to invest in a battery that allowed us to recharge our laptops on the move.
4. If I see one more ‘topping you up with 1GB notice.’ I think I’m gonna be broke. High data plans are your friend!
5. If you’re wanting to plan ahead on a road trip you need the Wiki camp app, it has WiFi, reception providers, toilet options, campsite details and everything you need to know to make a wise decision about where you buckle down for the night.
6. Websites such as Trello can help you keep track of your project to-do lists with ease.
All that to say this has been one of the most rewarding adventures of my little 25-year-old life. I have seen so much of this country I call home. Vast salt lakes, red dirt plains, world-class beaches and misty Alpine. It is everything you could imagine, the fun, the beautiful landscapes, the roadie sing-alongs, but it is still real life. The real-life where you can turn your dreams into a reality, but you need to work hard to keep your business a success and your clients smiling.