Yesterday morning at 7am, I arrived in London after taking an 8.5-hour overnight flight. I had not slept on my flight over, which meant I’d been up for over 24 hours and sleep was knocking on the back of my eyelids. I finally made it to my friend’s place around 9:30am and after showering, quickly changed into my PJs and climbed into bed.
I slept for about 5 hours and then I forced myself to get up so that I could try to counteract jetlag and sleep later that night. I dressed and decided to go down to a nearby coffee shop for a late lunch and to work. It was around 4pm when I cracked open my laptop to start working. In a matter of two hours, I cranked out a few key emails and finalized an email newsletter for one of my larger clients that I’d been toiling over for days. When the coffee shop closed at 6, I went back to the apartment to work on some of my own business rebranding...something that I’ve been putting off in lieu of other client projects. I was shocked at how quickly I was able to make progress and come to conclusions on outstanding issues—like finalizing my value proposition. It wasn’t long before I looked up and noticed it was 8:30pm! I was meeting my friend at 9:00, so it was time to go into “London Fun” mode. I closed my laptop, amazed at how much I was able to accomplish in a few hours.
It got me thinking: Why was I able to get so much done with ease in such a short period of time? Not to mention my sleep deprived brain. This wasn’t the first time I experienced this phenomenon. It has occurred multiple times when I have traveled for pleasure and had to work. It has happened in coffee shops in Medellin, Colombia, beachside in the Netherlands and even after getting snowed in visiting a friend in Charleston, South Carolina.
My short answer is that new surroundings open the mind and prevent routine distractions from interrupting your flow. When I’m traveling, I’m not thinking about the indicator light going off in my car and if I should take it to the repair shop. Nor am I thinking about how I need to buy groceries or clean my apartment. Literally, the only thing on my mind is “Wow, I’m sitting here in this cool café in “X” country with these interesting people and I get to work on my laptop and get things done while eating these tasty bites and sipping on a delicious beverage.” How inspiring is that?
This epiphany got me so excited, I wanted to see if anyone else felt this way. I called up my fellow digital nomads and got their perspectives on it as well. Here’s what they had to say:
Diana L - “My first experience of working remotely was in Medellin, Colombia. First of all, the weather is amazing and it’s very green. That just gives you a sense of calm. I had to walk 4 blocks to my co-working space and each day I stopped at the best coffee shop. Walking to work without the stress of traffic was beautiful compared to my 40-minute driving commute back home. It was a completely different from what I was used to. I was excited to get to the co-working space because I was surrounded by people from around the world that were all working on their own stuff. Everyone was from other industries and we would help each other with ideas or ask for advice on a current project. It was inspiring to have people look up to me for my expertise and input and vice versa. I also prioritized my work to take advantage of the golden opportunity to experience the country I was visiting. I would get this extra boost of energy that allowed me to do things quicker and not even realize it. I found that when I was in the office back home, people would constantly interrupt my work flow. But working remotely, they don’t have as much access to me so they had to figure it out—and they did! Seeing it up close fueled me in a way that I couldn’t explain. I was like: This is real. This can actually be done.”
Dorine V. - “It’s all about meeting new people, having great connections and through that connection having great inspiration to be productive. Working abroad is the best way to get input for your creative thoughts. You are more productive because you’re less distracted. Travel enables an opportunity for me to create true connections.”
Melanie K. - “I find working from different cities fuels my entrepreneurial spirit. I have recently been extending personal weekend travel with a few work days and it has given me life! I enjoy exploring new co-working spots and cafes because it forces you to step outside of the box - mentally and physically. The status quo can sometimes breed complacency. One of my favorite spaces for creative inspiration is the Cleveland Museum of Art. I can enjoy art, wine, and of course, create great work.”
You might be asking yourself, isn’t that the time you’re supposed to relax?
To be clear, I’m not talking about working on your vacation. There are times when we should definitely unplug. But many of us associate the act of travel as one of two things: solely for pleasure or strictly business. Working while travelling is all about a mindset. In 2019 though, we have so many more options about where we travel, how we work, and what it means for our well-being. You need to know that you can do both. It’s possible to be productive, do inspiring work AND enjoy the place you’re visiting.
Changing the setting of your normal work routine has many positive benefits. I’ve jotted down a few here.
You can re-evaluate your previous routine. You may find that you’ve been doing tasks for the sake of doing them. What better motivation to get shit done than the opportunity to explore a new place? Having that type of flexibility positively contributes to job satisfaction. Working in new and different locations takes away your day-to-day distractions and allows for more fresh thoughts to come in, which makes you more creative and productive. Lastly, not only does it add value to your work, but travel also adds to your overall well-being. What business (even if it’s your own) can’t benefit from a happier, more creative, more productive staff?
“It doesn’t take a special personality to make this work. It’s all about mindset”. Diana L.
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