Like any tourist, Brooke Roberts was thrilled to be staying in an Airbnb in Athens that turned out to be just a few minutes walk to the Acropolis. She would have loved to have spent all day there, but she's not an ordinary tourist. She is a remote professional who has taken her work on the road traveling around the world. She calls it "location independent."
Brooke is an entrepreneur who loves to go places. She started her companies while living in Colorado and Kansas City but built them so she could manage them from anywhere. And that's what she does. Brooke has been traveling around the world seeing the places on her list while continuing to grow her businesses including Yoga Travel Tree, a platform to help yoga instructors plan and promote retreats, and an international education consulting and training company. She also co-founded and created TheStudy Abroad Journal, a physical journal and practical field-guide for savvy study abroad students.
How do you combine business and travel?
When I was living in Kansas City and Colorado, I was working remotely so I already knew how to manage my days. I had an apartment, and I used a co-working space. I had learned how to structure my schedule to get work done and still set boundaries, so it wasn't really a big stretch to take things on the road. Having traveled a lot and working for years in the study abroad industry, I learned how to get around and manage the logistics of being on the road. I basically decide where I want to go next and set it up.
How do you get work done when you're traveling?
I am very careful about planning my days. Currently, I'm traveling with a friend who also does remote work. The type of work I do can be done anytime, but she is more tied to the US Time zones, so we plan around that. We go out in the morning to have a bit of an adventure, often the typical tourist types of things, and then we'll find a place to work throughout the afternoon and early evening. During the designated work time, I focus on my key objectives -- the one, two or three things I can get done that will make me feel like I can move mountains. By being focused, I can get done what I need to in four to six hours. I think even when people put in an eight hour day in an office, they're not really getting more than four or five hours of quality work done. But, you have to really put the effort into making the work time productive.
How is working on the road different than working from a home base?
When I had a home base, I found that there were more interruptions from my family and friends. They would see me around and think I was available. You really need to educate the people in your life about what you do. Whereas working from the road, I have more interruptions that come from me and my desire to always be out there adventuring. That's why I'm so passionate about time blocking. When I'm adventuring, I'm completely offline from my businesses. When I'm working, I'm working. I don't care if I'm in a cute cafe or working from the sofa in my apartment. It's just about getting things done.
What's the hardest part about traveling and working?
Some people might point out the logistics and the hassles of being in a new place and not speaking the language or having to get around in a strange city. None of that bothers me. It's part of the adventure. There will be taxi strikes. Or you will get lost. But you just have to have the attitude that it's part of the experience. For me, the hard part is being away from my friends and family. My nephew graduated high school and I wasn't there. I couldn't take my dog with me, so he's staying with my parents. I try to balance it out with trips home, but you just can't be everywhere at once.
How do you balance touring and work?
I want to say yes to everything. I've chosen this lifestyle and I want to take full advantage of it. There are two challenges I have found, the YOLO and the FOMO. The first one is this internal source - You Only Live Once and so when a great opportunity comes along, you should grab it. But there are so many great opportunities when you're traveling and you're in these exotic, far away places. And the second is Fear of Missing Out. That's more of an external drive. Sometimes I have to have the talk with myself. I have to step back and look at how much time things will take and how much it will cost. Sometimes, it has to be next time. I tell myself it's not that I'm missing out, I'm just not doing it yet.
What's your advice to someone who wants to try travel and work?
If you have to desire, do it. It's definitely not for everyone and I don't think it has to be. But if you think it could be great for you, start thinking about the tasks and elements of your work that really don't require in-person interactions. Can you take meetings remotely, can you manage project via something like Asana, can you use slack for regular communication, and you create content anywhere? The key here is being honest with yourself about how you manage your own time. Self-discipline becomes critical when you're out in the world with so many amazing experiences pulling you in all different directions. And don't underestimate the power of mini work and travel experiences. Maybe you can't go remote full-time, but maybe you could for a month each year. Get creative with how you think about a location independent life and the opportunities are endless. It's all about making magic happen!
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