Dateline: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I founded Nomad Capitalist almost a decade ago and have traveled the world while doing remote work long before that. For most people, the prospect of hitting the road to travel and work remotely is an exciting and novel proposal. For me, it’s an old hat.
Today, I will tell you not only how to travel and work around the world but also how to succeed at it long-term while expanding your business in the process. I’ll share the lessons I’ve learned over the years that will help you you avoid becoming just another number on the long list of people who gave up, burnt out, or failed in their endeavor to live the dream to travel and work remotely.
Lesson #1: Traveling Slow Keeps You Excited
A mistake that a lot of new travelers make is the same one a lot of people make when they go to a restaurant. They might have been waiting for the meal for so long and are so hungry that they eat the whole bread basket.
Then, by the time the actual food is served, the passion for the new and delicious meals has worn off.
The same happens with travel. Many people who start don’t know how to use their newfound freedom and begin booking frequent trips all over the place.
But this starts wearing you down over time. There are only so many times that you can get excited about going to a new location, and even less so when you consider the hassle of checking in and going through airport security.
I still love to travel and do remote work, but after over 2,000 nights in a hotel and having to see those failed diplomats and actors lie to me through their teeth about some mistake they made, the magic has disappeared.
So, the choice is yours, you can get the excitement over with at the start of your digital nomad lifestyle, or you can move slower and still remain thrilled for years to come.
Personally, I’d go with the second option. It’s far less stressful than trying to go through an arbitrary list as fast as possible.
But I might just be saying that because I have evolved from that initial buzz. Nowadays, rather than trying to visit every place on earth, I prefer to go with known quantities.
This works perfectly well with my Trifecta Strategy, which also eliminates the “perpetual traveler tax” by being smart about where I go. Not only that but when I control the environment, I can maximize my productivity, which brings me to the next point.
Lesson #2: Control Your Environments
Working from home has its pros and cons. Chief among the benefits is that you control your environment. Through this, you can ensure that everything is designed to optimize your wellbeing.
Everything from the wall art to the height of your desk has been chosen by you to improve your efficiency in your job. Remote work shouldn’t be any different.
Assuming you’ve gone down the Nomad Capitalist, Digital Nomad, or Perpetual Traveler route, then your primary purpose for traveling is to make money. Of course, you work AND travel, but work comes first.
That’s why you should know what the requirements are for a place that you will be treating as your office and ensure that these spaces will meet those requirements.
And this is why I’ve stopped using Airbnbs in the first place, as the crowdsourced nature of the thing means that you don’t get consistent offerings.
Sometimes, what you get is fantastic and better than anything you might get anywhere else. But it feels a bit too much like playing Russian Roulette for my taste, and I value my mental health more than I value a few dollars extra in my pocket.
Don’t be cheap when your work productivity is at risk, it’s not worth it.
As such, despite no longer being anywhere near as thrilled about 5-star hotels as I used to be, the good ones have focus-group-tested every item in the decor. It’s purposefully designed for ease and enjoyment, and that’s something I greatly appreciate.
So, yes, while a good portion of hotels still think it’s 1996 and excitedly offer you dialup internet speeds, the top branches will offer you quality, consistency, and quick solutions to your problems.
It will take some time and experimentation, but sooner or later, you will find places that work for you. Once you do find a work procedure and environment just right for you though, don’t change it for the sake of change.
Keep and appreciate the people, places, and settings that make your life better. A mistake that a lot of newer travelers make is just assuming that there is something even better on the horizon.
There might well be, but the number of bad choices often far outnumber the good ones. Hence, there are points in one’s journey where it’s sensible to cash in your chips and consider that you’re satisfied with the present circumstances.
Lesson #3: Nobody Will Understand
Ask most people in the West what remote work entails and they’ll probably have pictures of sandy beaches, a hammock, and a pina colada with a half-written email somewhere on a laptop nearby on their minds.
Quite simply, this is office porn. It’s a fantasy that people sell to each other with no real basis in reality.
Perhaps the fantastic and unbelievability of it is precisely what perpetuates and enlarges the myth in the collective culture. People think it’s an easy lifestyle with no downsides whatsoever.
But funnily enough, if you were to ask them why they don’t do it if it’s so easy, they’ll invent excuses.
It bears saying that this is the delusion of a supposedly sophisticated public in a first-world economy with some access to remote work in their day to day lives. If those types of people find it hard to understand your actual problems, imagine in less developed economies where office jobs are a rarity.
Picture that the internet goes out and you need to do important work. So, you go to the hotel reception or let your Airbnb host know of the problem.
At absolute best, you will get crocodile tears and they’ll apologize profusely. Then, they’ll say that it might be several hours at a minimum for the Wi-Fi to start working again.
When you explain that you can’t just have an afternoon without the internet, they’ll just shrug. Mainly because they think you were going to binge-watch a TV show instead of having important meetings with clients or work remotely.
Partially because of this lack of understanding, many expats end up going to countries like Thailand or Bali to form their little enclaves of like-minded people. This becomes an echo chamber – a bubble of people who think and act like each other.
I don’t want that, I want to be able to find new business opportunities and I can’t do that by going where everyone else goes to just get drunk with likeminded people.
This is partially how I ended up with a house in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia is off the beaten path and digital nomads are scared off by the price of alcohol there.
The state of affairs suits me just fine, as getting out of the bubble forces me to interact with new people and I’ve found plenty of opportunities in the booming economy of Malaysia.
If nobody is going to understand you, why not take advantage of it? Go somewhere different where you can meet people of diverse milieus that will help push your business to the next level.
Maintain Your Travel and Work Stamina
For over a decade, I have seen people come in and quickly leave the perpetual traveler scene. Many go into it expecting a permanent vacation and end up facing a much different reality.
If you go into it expecting a perpetual holiday, you won’t be able to control your environment to the extent that your business is optimized. The norm is for digital nomads to live off of their savings and then slowly bleed money until they go bankrupt and are forced to go back to a normal office job.
Don’t be like them.
There is certainly excitement to be found on the road, but your business ought to be your priority.
All the tourist traps will still be there by the time you arrive, even if you travel slower than others.
However, if you’re one of the serious seven- to eight-figure entrepreneurs that we help, then you know the importance of cutting down your distractions and taking direct control over your environment.
You cannot hope to do your best work in subpar locations, so you should take care that you’re not faced with those prospects.
At the end of the day, if you follow the Nomad Capitalist mindset, you are carving your own path. You’re the master of your own destiny and this carries with it benefits and responsibilities.
Don’t be controlled by the chattering crowds. Instead, follow your voice and principles to achieve your goals and dreams.