Trying to explain what I do is not always easy. For people who haven’t known me the last few years, it can be confusing and normally comes with a lot of follow up questions. Actually, this has been the norm since I was in college. I meet a lot of people with misconceptions about what an interior designer actually does, especially on the commercial side of the profession. Throw E-design, blogging, and travel into the mix and I get a lot of blank stares. I’ve got quite a few layers in my life.
I don’t want to get into what I do, as much as how I do it, without an office and while traveling. I think there is a shift happening in the workplace and more employers will start to offer the option to work remotely, at least part of the time. I think it’s a benefit that will produce happier workers and in turn a better product. I may be still working for a design firm if this would have been an option a few years ago. I could have traveled more while still getting my work done.
There are a lot of reasons people choose to work outside of a typical office environment, but mine was always for more flexibility and the freedom to travel. Currently I’m working from home, because traveling isn’t conducive to producing artwork. I’m not against renting an apartment for 1-3 months just to work and experience a city a little deeper, but for now it’s easier to stay put. As soon as the bulk of my projects are complete I will be hitting the road again, and I’ll be bringing my laptop to stay up to date with my work.
What does working remotely entail? I did a full post on my electronic gear, but besides hardware it just takes motivation and organization. I spend at least 4 days in a place, but usually more. It allows me to see the same amount of things as a normal tourist and gives me time to work. I like to commit full days to working instead of breaking them up with different activities. So alternating days out and workdays are helpful for me. I’ve also decided that have a set itinerary before I leave for a new place is important. I’ve tried the plan-as-I-go method, but I usually spend too much time planning my trip and not enough time getting stuff done. So I like to have the big things like lodging, flights, and transport figured out beforehand.
Selecting the perfect lodging is an important part of creating a nice working environment. I’ve stayed in a lot of places with varying degrees of comfort, and I’ve narrowed down my needs. Great Wi-Fi, good lighting, and air conditioning are essentials and a mini-fridge/coffee station is a big plus. I avoid shared accommodation because I like to spread out and I need my privacy. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and most of the time it’s fine for a short period, but if I have my choice I go with small guesthouses and AirBNBs.
If you want to be successful at working while traveling you have to figure out a routine or you won’t get anything done. I’ve tried lots of different schedules and I find the following works best for me. A workday usually begins with breakfast at my guesthouse, either offered by the place or I buy simple groceries to make my own. This is where the mini-fridge comes in handy. I usually spend mornings working in bed. These are my most productive hours so getting started right away is important. I go out for lunch to a nearby café for lunch, and then usually get a coffee and continue to work there until 3 or 4. I either pick up dinner on my way home and work until bed or I get in as much as I can until I go out for dinner. It’s all about consistency and being as productive as possible on days I allocate to work. That way I can have a guilt-free day of fun, without worrying about things that need to get accomplished.
I’ve sometimes been really great at keeping up with my to-do list, and other times not so much. I have a hard time taking advantage of long travel days to work. For some reason I just can’t motivate myself to do anything more than read a book. I love getting lost in thought and staring out the window. Instead of fighting this tendency, I use these days to zone out and allocate more time at my destination for work.
The hardest part is figuring out what works for you and sticking with it. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out and spending too much time behind my computer, but it still beats the alternative. I love to work and I need to travel, so I try to create a balance of the two.