Have Laptop, Will Travel: Strategies For Writing On The Go
I’m sitting cross-legged on a cot surrounded by a mosquito net in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest. Outside, a howler monkey makes his throaty noise. Earlier in the day, I saw a family of five monkeys playing in a tree during a two-hour boat ride down the Tambopata River. The hut doesn’t have electricity, but my laptop still has 75% battery life, which is more than enough to finish up a blog post about the hottest fall fashion trends. I’ll send it in when I return to civilization, and WiFi, in two days.
When I started my writing career, the idea of flexibility and freedom spoke to my nomadic spirit. But, pretty soon I realized that the flip side of “I can work from anywhere” is “I have to work from everywhere.” Along the way I have perfected a few strategies for working on the go.
Know Where Your WiFi is Coming From
It’s early morning and I’m on the deck of a sailboat anchored off Catalina Island watching the sun come up and the fog lift. I want to check the order board but, while I’m all stocked up on scenery, I don’t have an Internet connection. I have two options – go ashore and use the WiFi at the coffee shop or use my phone as a hotspot.
Working away from home calls for knowing exactly where and when you will have Internet access. Before heading to a destination, or committing to any deadlines, check if your hotel, the local eateries, or libraries in the area offer connections. It’s also a good idea to know this for your local area in case you need to make a working pit stop during your normal routine of grocery shopping and school pickups.
You also need to have a backup plan, so consider traveling with a hotspot, either through your smartphone or a stand-alone device. Just watch out for the data limits; they sneak up quickly and overages are expensive.
Plan Your Itinerary
The lights are off in the coach cabin and the passenger in front of me is snoring. While my fellow travelers doze, I’m polishing an article on job search techniques. I’ll use the two-hour layover in Panama City to send the post to the client and email and message a few others before boarding the next flight to Lima.
Nomadic writing doesn’t leave a lot of room for spontaneity. Take a hard look at your itinerary and figure out when you can schedule time for work among the other activities. I devote much of my transportation time to working. I also plan to get up an hour or two earlier than the rest of my group. Also, I pencil in a mid-afternoon down time every day. This gives the rest of my party a chance to recharge before the evening and me the opportunity to squeeze in some more words.
Keep Communication Going
After leaving the World War II Memorial, I stop at a park bench overlooking the Reflecting Pool and the National Mall to message with a client about an upcoming project. We talk a bit about details and I give him my travel schedule, then I head towards the Lincoln Memorial.
Communication is everything when working while traveling. I start telling regular clients about my travel plans as early as a month in advance. This lets us work together to schedule deadlines. I also use the “Availability” settings on the Contact Information page of my WriterAccess account.
I make checking my email a priority and respond to client messages as soon as possible. This is especially important for handling a last-minute revision request. If I am transparent about my schedule and help clients meet their needs, I can keep everything running smoothly without losing work.
Make Peace With Sacrifices
Somewhere between Galveston and Cancun, I’m sitting on a cruise ship balcony, writing a how-to piece on decorative paint techniques. I’m a little bummed that I couldn’t join my gal pals at the spa for pedicures. But, tomorrow I will be climbing Mayan ruins, and that’s the kind of work-life balance I can live with.
The biggest obstacle to writing while traveling is making peace with tradeoffs. It’s not possible to be as productive as I am in my office at home, and I also don’t have a completely carefree and uninterrupted trip. But, thanks to part time jobs for writers, with a little planning and preparation, I can have the best of everything by earning an income and keeping clients happy while satisfying my travel bug.
Michelle S is a freelance writer specializing in fashion, home improvement, relationships and marketing. The blog posts and articles she writes just might come with their own passport stamp.