By Dorie Clark
OVERWORKED professionals have always dreamed of escaping to a quiet beach. But, instead of sipping tiki drinks and sunbathing, the new dream is to work.
Becoming location independent and traveling the world is more possible than ever. With the Internet and a laptop, scores of professions that were once desk bound are now free to conduct business from around the globe.
But the location-independent lifestyle is perfect for some professionals and completely wrong for others. Here are some strategies and questions to help you determine if it suits you.
• Understand how you work best. On the road, no one is going to be looking over your shoulder and keeping you on task. “If you’re good at managing your own time, and you’re productive and have discipline, you’ll be able to do [work] from anywhere,” says Natalie Sisson, author of The Suitcase Entrepreneur.
• Try a travel pilot. You don’t have to immediately sell all your belongings and hit the road. Jenny Blake, author of Pivot, recommends piloting both your overall enjoyment of travel and the particular location you’re thinking about. “You don’t have to move there for a year, cold turkey,” she says. “Maybe you take a couple of trips in the next year.”
• Get your business ready. If you’re planning to work part-time or full time during your travels and you’re in a location with easy Internet access, this may not be an issue. But if Wi-fi is patchy, or you’re planning to unplug completely for a stint, you’ll want to make sure your clients and colleagues are prepared.
• Adjust your expectations. One reason your productivity might falter on the road is a need for structure. But another is the expectations you come in with. If you want your time abroad to be transformative—and lucrative—rather than just a vacation in disguise, it’s important to level with yourself up front.
• Embrace flexibility. For better or for worse, travel is unpredictable. Inevitably, you’ll face canceled flights, hotel reservations gone awry, spotty Wi-fi and more. Sometimes that can lead to great adventures, but only if you aren’t so frustrated and resentful that you can’t get past it.
Working from the beach is never going to be the optimal lifestyle choice for most professionals. But even for those who are enthusiastic about the possibilities, it’s worth thinking carefully about the questions above.
Dorie Clark teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.