How to Travel and Combine Work, Life, Vacation

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how to travel and work

Maybe you like to travel?

  • 10-hour flights
  • Jet lag
  • Wasted time at the airports

I do like to travel despite all of that.

I usually want my travels to have more meaning than just laying on the beach or racing through the checklist of sights to see. Here’s a great post from Ryan Holiday published on Tim Ferriss’s How to Travel: 21 Contrarian Rules

All this got me thinking about what I want out of travel and my life in general. What follows are notes of my planning session where I try to figure out how to combine work, life, and vacation. I want to travel the world and get paid. Well, I already do that, but how to optimize the process.

My take may be most useful for speakers and coaches, but others can also find some ideas in there.

Before I go on a few words of caution:

travel Seneca quote

When a person spends all his time in foreign travel, he ends by having many acquaintances, but no friends. — Seneca

There is nothing inherently valuable in travel

No matter how hard the true believers try to convince us. […] saving your money, plotting your time off work or school, diligently tracking your frequent flyer miles and taking a hostel tour of Europe or Asia on budget may be the wrong way to think about it. ~~Ryan Holiday

Travel should not be an escape

It should be part of your life, no better or no worse than the rest of your life. If you are so dissatisfied with what you do or where you live that you spend weeks and months figuring out how to get a few days away from either, that should be a wake-up call. There’s a big difference between *wanting* a change in scenery and *needing* to run away from a prison of your own making. ~~Tim Ferriss

How to travel combining work, life

My routine breaks when I’m traveling. But I like traveling.

Broken routine means that many of the tasks that happen seamlessly during the day when I’m at home get disrupted. As a result, my efficiency drops considerably. What to do about it?

Another challenge is the long-term travel issue. When you want to travel for months then skipping work is usually not an option.

You have to find answers to these two questions, and then you can embark on long-term travel. The third question is for people who have kids, as I do, how to take care of the children.

What to do about work?

One of the key ideas to make travel more productive is to set the workdays in advance. You have to assume the mindset of work travel, not just fun and games. To get this mindset going then maybe let’s flip the whole idea on its head. When traveling focus on working as much as you can and see if you can squeeze in some entertainment.

The working days need to be planned and set in the calendar. When you get really good at work travel mindset, then you may slowly start putting more leisure time into your days. In the end, you should have a schedule that is similar to the one at home. Maybe just a little bit less work.

Here’s how the time can be split up:

  • 8h of sleep
  • 7h of work
  • 7h of free time
  • 2h for commuting and other mundane activities.

Effective time management means that one criterion for selecting hotels is the checkout time. Is it possible to get free late checkout later than noon? Also, my experience shows that you should stay in one location and hotel for several days. If you move every day, you will lose a lot of time to nitty-gritty and commute.

Full work days happen when there’s at least one more day left at the hotel.

Conference travel

The problem with conferences is that if you want to get the content, then your time is full from 10 to 16 or even 17. Focusing on the talks means that you have time only before the start in the morning or after the event in the evening.

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Another option is working through the conference and participating only in networking sessions. However, not listening to the talks will make networking and approaching speakers more difficult.

That’s why it may be a good idea to avoid conferences. You spend money, you lose work, and you don’t get much in return. So, attending the conferences is meaningful only for the following reasons:

  • You are the speaker
  • You are the organizer
  • You have a clear networking agenda
  • You are trying to skip work at the employer’s expense

Say yes to conferences if any of the above is true. In all other cases say no to conferences.

Working on the airplane

Work on the plane! The most productive work you can do on the plane is

  • Reading and taking notes
  • Writing
  • Listening to audiobooks or watching downloaded videos for learning
  • Having a workshop with a fellow traveler (if flying with a colleague)

You need a computer that can play videos for at least 5 hours to make this work on intercontinental flights. Or business class with power outlets. Business class also adds a possibility to use the network. However, flights are an environment where you have enough isolation to do deep work.

There may be some distractions on the plane when traveling with companions, but you can manage this with minimal loss of productive time.


When I am on vacation, then I’m with a companion.

I usually work in the morning and try to get my website updated and write my daily 500 words. The morning routine takes me about 2 hours. All that time I’m anxious about the expectations of my companions. That anxiousness deteriorates my productivity.

I understand that working for more than 3 hours a day during your vacation time is insane for most people. But I have a problem with that. If I don’t work for several days in a row, then it’s incredibly hard for me to get going again.

It’s a habit like running or going to the gym. When you skip a week, your fitness level drops, and it’s really hard to get going again.

On vacation, I usually share a room with someone. That someone is making noises, moving around the room, asking when we will get going. All this amounts to lower performance and slower pace.

No time for deep work

Deep work needs hours on uninterrupted time. Uninterrupted time is hard to achieve on vacation. What could be the solution to these problems?

Going early to bed and waking up early to work when others sleep. Rising early can give up to 3 hours of time. I can spend these 3 hours on website updates, writing, email, and one more thing. But the one more thing is not deep work. Maybe an hour left after daily must-do tasks.

One day of just staying in the hotel every few days. Staying in the hotel is not possible when you are responsible for transportation. Even if it’s possible with another driver, then your companions will not understand. Possible situations and solutions for staying in for a day:

  • With a companion on checkout days: Wake up early and work 2 hours before checkout. Plus 2 hours for running and breakfast. This means 6am wakeup call and 10pm sleep time and no alcohol. You can work 3 hours in this case if there’s no running or other exercise.
  • With a companion on extended stays: Wake up Sleep at 12am. Work for 3 hours, run or exercise and breakfast for 2 hours. Total 5 hours and get out of the hotel at 1pm.
  • With a companion full work day: wake up at 9am run and breakfast for 2 hours. Work from 11am to 5pm. Go out to town.

These options are only possible when we travel as a couple. When there are children involved, then the full day option is mostly not possible, but the first 2 are. These options also work with a larger group when you are not essential for commuting of the group.

It doesn’t work in situations when traveling with a smaller group where being in the group is the key. These trips need to be short, maybe 5 to 7 days. All of these days need at least 2 hours of work to keep the momentum going.

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How many hours a week should you work?

The most important question is how many hours should you work per week? When I have live talks, then the hours tend to stretch to 50h per week. Although I like that, it’s not sustainable.

The goal is to work 32 hours per week. During that week you need to make enough money to sustain your desired lifestyle and save something for a rainy day. The hourly rate would be you X divided by 32 per hour. If that is a reasonable hourly rate, then you are good to go. The working hours should break down as follows:

Schedule for weeks without live talks:

  • Saturday: writing, email, updating the website. Total 2 hours
  • Sunday: writing, email, updating the website. Total 2 hours in the morning if possible
  • Weekdays: writing, email, updating the website in 2 hours as usual + 3 hours of deep work and 1 hour of something completely different. Total 6 hours per day and 30 hours per workweek.

All this sums up to an acceptable 34 hours per week.  At least 25 to 30 percent less than I am doing now.

Additionally, there are days with live talks on seminars and conferences. There are usually three types of events short talk, full day and half day. The time budget for a full day event is 10 hours.

  • Writing, updating, and email 2 hours
  • Live event 7 hours
  • Other stuff 1 hour

As I have experienced in the past, 10 hour days are somewhat tiring. You can’t sustain it for extended periods. The longest stretches have been 6 days. The problem is that other work piles up and starts to cause problems.

The half-day event time budget is simpler to manage

  • Writing, updating, and email 2 hours
  • Live event 4 hours
  • Other stuff 2 hour

The total of 8 hours is easy to maintain and leaves room for other tasks. If you can charge enough for such a day, then the total for a week of events would take your income to a comfortable level. You probably have other income sources then this might be one of the best ideas to spend your live event time.

How much do I want to travel?

Here’s a list of events I would like to squeeze in for a year:

  • Snowboarding in January with my companions and February with the kids ads up to about 3
  • One trip with kids to somewhere fun for 1
  • 2 additional trips with my companions for a week each adds 2 weeks of vacation time.
  • Add 2 weeks for random breaks and short trips this will come to 8 weeks of vacation time per year.

On the flip side, I don’t want to travel every few days. The best option would be to go to a location and spend several weeks up to a month in one place. Extended stay minimizes the friction cost of traveling from place to place. Possible scenarios in this travel format are:

  • January to March in the Alps. Driving to the location from my home country in my own car. Changing locations in the Alps every two or 3 weeks.
  • Fly to Florida in March and spend 2 months in Key West. March, April or May.
  • Now the time is ready for summer in Northern Europe June, July, and maybe August are great months to spend in here.
  • In September there should be skiing possible on the southern hemisphere. Chile, New Zeland might be options for summer snow fun. The possible timeframe is 2 August and September.
  • After that head to South Pacific. Fiji, Tahiti, and other Polynesian islands. Spend 2 months in this location. Pacific session ending at the end of November.
  • Now the time is ripe for December in at home for Christmas and New Year’s.

All this has 2 conditions to make it possible:

  1. Kids are independent and leave home.
  2. Income level that sustains this lifestyle + growing investment portfolio.

What do these 2 conditions mean for me? I have about 5 years to increase my income levels. That’s when the kids leave the house.

Image credit: Passengers by Dani Sardà i Lizaran

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