Even though I had always very much enjoyed my more or less steady job (which involved a lot of travelling, and definitely was no 9-5 job, but still…) and love living in Cali, Colombia, I felt it was time for a change. I decided to follow my two big dreams: setting up my own Communications for Development Agency and roaming around the Latin American and European continents for a bit, using different transportation modes. I had reached a point in my life when both the timing and the combination of my interests were perfect. However, many people did not agree with me. Questions (or remarks) I often got to hear were, ‘When starting up a company shouldn’t you be saving every dime, whereas travelling is very expensive?’ and ‘How can you be on vacation and work at the same time?’

These questions and a lot of unsolicited advice made me doubt my plans, even if it was for just for some moments. Eventually I decided to actually prove that it is possible: learn from the experience, take note of the things that I learnt and observed, and share with those that also want to make a life of work and travel possible!

Working while travelling might sound like a dream come true, but starting and running your own business on the road can be very challenging! What does is take?

I formally set up my company Sivin Communications on March 1, 2016 which means that I had finished the website, promotion material, business cards and social media engagement for this Communications for a Social Change Agency. And basically at the same time, during the months of March, April, May and June I travelled southern Colombia, Ecuador and Peru in my Lada Niva car from ’79. Then from mid July to mid September I travelled by bike from Morocco up to Spain and France. And, well, I am pretty sure the travelling will not be over for a long time.

While on the road, I kept on working for my own company, finishing and starting consultancies, engaging in social media, assisting virtual webinars and hang-outs, etc.

Now, after 6 months on the road I can say that, first of all, it is possible to start a company and travel at the same time; second of all, it requires quite some dedication, flexibility and creativity, high stress-levels and frustrations to do so; thirdly, you will meet so many inspiring people on the way who have made the same decisions as you have (or at least they are thinking about it). I am incredibly glad that I tried to ‘prove them all wrong’ or rather ‘to prove myself right’, and feel that now it is time to share some of the lessons I learnt along the way.

Working while travelling might sound like a dream come true, but starting and running your own business on the road can be very challenging! What does is take?

Dedication

There will be many times when there is so much more fun stuff going on in the places, hostels, beaches, cities, local family houses where you are, and it will seem that the whole universe is just conspiring to distract you from your work. I have always kept clear that my main priority is Sivin Communications (this might also mean that all of a sudden I have to abandon my travel plans and move to a different country for a little while). This helped me keep things straight.

However, if I felt that I got a travel opportunity that I would regret not seizing, I could still put off work to the next day. This flexibility with work and travel is perfectly fine, as long as you find a balance that works for you and your business.

Working while travelling might sound like a dream come true, but starting and running your own business on the road can be very challenging! What does is take?

Stay Connected

While you are traveling, make sure you remain visible in your working area. Using social media such as Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook/Instagram, I’m always posting updates, sharing information, engaging in discussions, etc. all related to my field of work. It keeps me up-to-date of what is going on, and makes sure that I remain present. Also, bookmark interesting webinars and virtual discussions you would like to follow. Find a quiet coffee place somewhere and join these discussions.

Invest in a local SIM card with data, so you can at least check your email and social media every couple of hours. When I see I have an email I will immediately reply with a short sentence thanking them for their email and I will be back with them later that day or the day after. I generally don’t like typing long emails on my phone, so I prefer to have a quiet place and Wi-Fi on my laptop. Also, for me, being on the road is a great place to think, so cycling just another 80km before I reply my client’s email will help me think through my answer.

I usually plan calls with interested potential clients, colleagues, etc. within a week in advance, so I know very well when I need to find myself in a smaller city where there’s a bigger chance of having Wi-Fi. Whenever I have a call, I find the more ‘business’ or ‘fancy’ areas around town and check out different Wi-Fi options: nothing worse than having a call with a bad connection. Basically my idea is ‘if the people inside the coffee shop look like they will not accept a crappy wifi network, it will be a good place’. Also, I always make sure I have the person’s cellphone number, in case Skype is playing up, I can use Skype to call their local phone numbers as well. However, all my precautions could not prevent me from having crappy calls and missed meetings. I am quite honest with my clients, and have noticed that in the creative communications/international development sector, my clients actually appreciate that I am making my own ‘working and living’ journey and they don’t usually mind that much when WiFi is not as great as hoped for. However, for my own peace, I try to avoid these situations.

Working while travelling might sound like a dream come true, but starting and running your own business on the road can be very challenging! What does is take?

Make use of quiet times

No one will be responding to emails or requesting Skype calls during the weekends, so I use these days to be fully on the road. Also, around July/August and December/January, worldwide people are out of the office and/or on vacation. So these are the months in which I can travel to more remote places, where I won´t be needing great Wi-Fi every other day.

Network on the way

I never expected to find so many like-minded people on the road. While travelling in Latin America I found many other freelancers, especially in the creative sector. This way we have been able to exchange experiences, contacts, thoughts, ideas, brainstorming sessions, etc. All in all, very inspiring meetings that motivated me even more to continue the way I’m going.

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Budget

I told myself that as long as my life on the road would be the same or less expensive as paying rent and living in one place, I could continue. However, to keep this budget I have some small recommendations as well:

  • Sublet your own apartment, and instead of renting a flat abroad go camping, CouchSurfing, volunteering in hostels, or for cyclists: Warmshowers. I have also just stayed in hostels every once in a while, in Europe however, this can be more expensive. Staying with local people not only saves on your accommodation budget but it’s also such a fun way to meet local people, get the best advice on where to go, share meals with them, etc.
  • Especially in Europe, look for a supermarket around lunch and dinner time and always carry a plate, knife and cup. There are always parks and/or benches near, the food is good and cheap. Also, look out for ‘daily special menus’ as they are delicious and usually quite cheap! When camping or staying in hostels, gather a group to cook together. It makes dinner more fun and cheaper if you do bigger grocery shopping trips.
  • Use as much free WiFi as you can. Know where to find the free spots: municipality parks, supermarkets, bus stations, train stations – they all have free Wi-Fi.
  • When you stay in one area for a bit longer, make friends with the owners of the local coffee places. By coming back to the same coffee place to work every day, I have received many free coffees, juices, little snacks, etc. Often, owners are happy that there are people… after all, a coffee place with people inside will attract more people, so they will do everything possible to make you stay.
  • Swap what you can: books, clothes, shoes… other travelers might be happy with my old stuff whereas I will be happy with theirs. No need to get new things.
  • Propose exchanging services: renting kitesurfing gear in exchange for translating some of their promotional material to English, preparing dinner in exchange for somebody who helped repair my car. It’s so much nicer to make use of each others’ services, and much cheaper as well.

Working while travelling might sound like a dream come true, but starting and running your own business on the road can be very challenging! What does is take?

Challenges

  • This is not a holiday: this is a way of life! So, yes – there will be times in which you will get frustrated with poor internet connections, you have to miss travel opportunities you would have liked, you have to return earlier from that beautiful remote but disconnected paradise island. Always remember, this is not vacation, it’s your new lifestyle.
  • You will get many comments from people, saying you are living the luxury life, that you don’t have to work so hard. Try to avoid listening to them – you know how hard you have worked to live this life.
  • After a long day of cycling, the very last thing you want to do is work a couple more hours. However, this is the consequence of travelling and working, you are trying to live two lives at once. Suck it up and do it, you’ll see that once you get into working-mode, these couple of emails you had to write weren’t that bad.
  • Living on the road can get a bit exhausting. Moving from place to place, meeting new people, experiencing new places. If you feel like it’s becoming too much, stay for a little while in one place. I also do this when I feel I am getting a bit behind on work. Staying put in one place will calm me down, and also lead to getting much more work done.

Working while travelling might sound like a dream come true, but starting and running your own business on the road can be very challenging! What does is take?

So, these are the lessons I’ve learnt from running my own business while traveling. However, I am extremely curious to hear what your experiences are like! Who has been (or still is) in the same position? What where your challenges? Of course new travel tips and/or destinations are always more than welcome as well!

Finally, if you would like to know more about Sivin Communications, or have a plan to work together somehow, I am all ears! Write me at sivincommunications@gmail.com, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

This is a guest post by Manon Koningstein.