That Travel+Work+Life Balance

I’ve been living as a digital nomad for about a year and a half now, going back and forth with a lot of stuff related to plane tickets, working from cafes or even living and traveling with a partner when both are working from home, so I believe it would be better to start this article by saying: there’s no way to find balance. 

Just kidding. Sometimes there is, but not always.

Let’s start by saying that if you don’t have the discipline to work by yourself at the city you’re currently in, there’s no place in the world that will fix that for you. Don’t travel to escape things you’re going through, because those things will be on your mind, and a beautiful trip with your laptop to London will be just a shitty (and super expensive) trip to London with your laptop because your mind needs adjustments at that time.

After I created a routine for myself with some non-negotiable tasks like meditation, reading time for with my Kindle and starting the day just watching some happy or at least a non-negative video while having a cup of tea, everything else got easier to manage. When working from home, it’s super important to understand which period of the day you’re most productive, so you focus your highest energy on things that require a lot of your brain - in my case, sketching or writing (like this article being written at 11 am) in the mornings, and vector work and project managing stuff in the afternoon. BUT as my routine also involves travel, when I really need to focus during the afternoon on something that’s being postponed a lot, I usually go to a cafeteria and my productivity raises like this:

Not exactly 18 cups of cappuccino like Barney, because with just one my whole body is shaking for the entire afternoon. 

It’s harder to set a routine when already traveling, but you need to understand how you like to work the most, and you need to be flexible on taking a day off in the middle of the week to visit what you want because the weather outside is sunny. Being a nomad is mostly about working when everyone else is having fun and having fun when everyone else is working. It’s not about going to the beach with your laptop, because well, it’s gonna be full of sand, but understanding that maybe a part of the city you wanted to see might be full of tourists on the weekend, so you might wanna take time off in the middle of the week to see that instead, or to visit that expensive museum that has free entrance on a Tuesday and a huge queue over the weekends.


Ok, but what about your relationship?

The main thing is: both of you will be on your own A LOT, so before moving in together AND travel together, go one step at a time. Move in together first, so you can see - without spending a huge amount of money to start traveling - if you’re going to grab each other by the neck or not. In my case, I moved in together first after 4 years in a relationship (both working from home), and we didn’t work in the same room, so we both had our alone time. It was hard because I never lived away from my parents’ house before, but we managed. 

When we started our travels (January 2017), we had this restriction that we wouldn’t work on the same table - difficult, because most Airbnbs only have one table, and we needed two. But when we were choosing our home in Prague (October), we noticed that the houses with two tables were too expensive for our budget, so we took the challenge of working on the same place, in front of each other, and it worked so well that in the following month (Vienna, December 2017) we chose a house with two tables but decided to share the bigger one. It’s all about talking with each other and making what its best for BOTH, with flexibility.

Now, being together 24/7 is not easy. I’ve seen couples that after spending so much time together felt they had lost their individuality, and didn’t know where one’s personality started and the other’s finished, ending after years in a relationship. I’ve also seen a couple that spends a month per year in separated cities to be with themselves for a while, and its been working out really well. In my case, we do a lot of stuff together, but we also have our private time. Doing therapy helps A LOT to understand what makes you you, and how your personality can add on the other, but with his/her way of being. And when it comes to work, I leave him on his bubble when he needs it, as he also respects me when I’m on mine.

Traveling while working isn’t easy AT ALL, we need a lot of planning, money management, and it isn’t exciting all of the time. It’s painful to be out of your country for 1 year and when you come back, you see that your dad gained some additional white hair, your grandmas are older, your cousin will have a baby and you probably won’t be there when he or she arrives. But it’s a choice you make, and at least for me, it won’t last forever, so I compensate inviting all my relatives and close friends to visit me in the city I’m currently at, and also taking technology as an advantage, with messages and video calls.

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro

About Having More Discipline

Versão em Português:

A few years ago, still in college and in the midst of a long-distance relationship, I began to study about organization and time management. What I didn’t know at that time is that I was going to enjoy getting organized this much. And five years afterward I'm still studying a lot about it - so why not share all these years of study with you?

The most important thing is to have a goal. But not an “I want to be happy” type goal, have a very specific one instead. What do you want to achieve in a year? Or 5 years? Even in 10 years? What kind of life that you want? You really need to have this in mind, and it must be something that you really want, or you won’t be putting all your efforts towards it.

Break your goal into small tasks

If your goal is to be a successful illustrator, try to break that goal into small tasks. For example: What are you studying to become an illustrator? How many hours do you study each day? Try to add specific subjects that you need to study and do them in order to achieve that larger goal.

Main goal: 

  • To be a successful illustrator (be more specific: work at Pixar as a character designer in 3 years)

Small tasks:

  • Make anatomy studies

  • Study flowers

  • Study leaves

  • Study composition

  • Share your work every day

When you see only the big picture, sometimes it can look like a twelve-legged monster, but break it into small tasks and I promise the monster will be at least fluffier and it may even give you a smile. The monster can be nice, and it can also not look like a monster at all. It all depends on your point of view.

Be as specific as you can

If you only make the first and second steps, there’s a big chance nothing is going to happen for you. You need to choose a deadline for your small tasks - how many times a day will I study this? What kind of anatomy will I study on that day - heads, arms, expressions, bones, muscles or gestures? What’s the minimum number of heads I will draw within an hour?

In order to make this easier for you do complete that, you need to be super specific so your brain will only see the task and you can start doing it. Procrastinating is SUPER easy, but completing a very specific task can be easier. It can be hard at the beginning but put your brain to work harder the first time, so on the second and third ones, it will be easier for you.

Use action verbs

Try to write your goals using as many action verbs as you can - like to draw, to write, to do, to send. "To search" is not an action verb, because it can make you look anywhere, but "to save” something you’re looking for can be easier to complete.

Know the best time to work

I have more energy in the morning, organize yourself to wake up early and use that in your favor. Always put your work that requires more thinking when you have more energy, and your mechanical work when your energy is not that high, so you can be more productive.

Create a to-do list

There are a lot of to-do lists and calendar apps, but if you don’t break your goal into small tasks, there will be no app that can help you. 

Save at least one day a week to organize all the tasks you need, and if you prefer, put some time for those. It’s ok if you don’t complete them in that exact time, but try to complete some of them in a period of time, for example, tasks A through F until lunchtime, and from G through J until 6 pm. 

Always be realistic to yourself, and don’t try to do all tasks in the world and push yourself - it will only cause you stress and frustration for not being a superhero(ine). And guess what? You’re not.

Can’t focus? Write it down

It’s completely normal if sometimes while we're doing something with our heads on the other side of the world, but when you must your mind back to that task, one thing that can help you is to write your worries into a notepad. Be informal, write it only for you, so after finishing your stuff, you can direct your attention to those notes, whenever you solve them or not.

In the most extreme cases, disconnect yourself

Even if writing your worries separately doesn’t help, turn off every single app you’re not using at the moment, put your phone on airplane mode, turn on some music and go. Just do your work and only allow yourself to stop when it’s finished.

To be more organized and have discipline doesn’t happen overnight, it requires persistence, change of habits and patience. It took me years to learn that, but after all those years, making a lot of wrong decisions on how to organize myself helped me think about all of this in a much quicker way.

Be kind to yourself, but also be persistent, and everything will be alright. :)

Text Revision: Mari Pinheiro