How to make slow travel work for you
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As a freelancer, you often have the freedom to work from wherever you choose — be it your home office, the local park, or your favorite cafe. In fact, you could be in a different country each week, if you wanted to.
While the "digital nomadism" trend is definitely on the rise — with new remote workers more likely to work from a foreign country than those who’ve been remote for longer — the numbers are still relatively small, at just 9%.
So why aren’t more freelancers taking advantage of this? Traveling while you work is not an easy route, but it's an inspiring one. That's especially true if you take your time. Here's why you should consider taking your freelance career on the road, slowly.
What is slow travel?
Slow travel urges people to step away from sightseeing to-do lists and Instagram-worthy photo opps, and instead settle down somewhere. Just like the "slow food" movement, it's about connection. By embracing what a community has to offer rather than location-hopping, you can control costs, prevent burnout, and take it easier on the environment. Here are some of the benefits.
Staying in one location for at least a month will make your budget stretch further in all areas. Swapping your lease in expensive city for a monthly Airbnb in Thailand or Mexico, for example, will dramatically lower your expenses, and many places offer long-term discounts. If you choose accommodation with a kitchen, you can save on eating out and experience the local produce. And of course, staying for a while will get you more bang for your buck on airfares.
Staying in one place for a significant period means that you won't have to spend all your time planning your next move. Instead, you'll have more time to enjoy the simple pleasures of really living in another place — rather than just travelling through.
If you’re one of the 30% of remote workers who cite lack of community as the number one challenge to their happiness, consider a work and travel program like Remote Year or Unsettled. These are designed for digital nomads and location-independent freelancers, and provide the benefits of a community away from home.
When you visit somewhere for a short time, how often do you get a local SIM card or shop at the local supermarket? Slow travel allows you to take part in the more mundane activities of that place. While this may not sound as exciting as visiting the local tourist hotspots, it’s by living like the locals that you'll truly learn about their living experiences, and interact with them too. You may even pick up on some of the local language.
Before you pack up your laptop, remember the 70-20-10 rule: 70% research, 20% planning and 10% improvisation.
Are you able to maintain value for your clients without being physically present? Internet connectivity and time zones are two of the biggest
challenges you’ll have to factor in. So ask yourself: will your clients in the US expect you to attend Skype meetings while it’s 4am in Bali? Or can your hours be flexible? Did your Airbnb have excellent reviews, but failed to mention the daily power cuts? Make sure you always double-check internet connectivity for prospective accomodation and have a Plan B in case issues should arise.
Think about whether it’s financially viable to have any outstanding expenses back home, or whether you should cut those off before you leave. Until you get used to surprise expenses, and maintaining financial commitments at home, you might want to consider a cheaper country with a lower cost of living.
They say you can only pick two: comfort, lifestyle or cost. At the end of the day, you’ll have to make compromises that work for you.
How good are you at staying focused when there are distractions around you? The potential for distraction will be at an all-time high when you’re in a new place, and surrounded by new people. It’s essential that you’re able to motivate yourself to stay on task.
Ready to hit the slow-travel road?
Once you've done your research, don’t wait around too long to take the leap. No amount of reading will teach you everything, so be prepared to learn on the road and recallibrate.
Finally, beware: once you join the slow-travel community, you may never turn back.