We’re one month into location independence! We realize this means we’re just whippersnappers when compared with the likes of the Woodwards of Location Independent, or Almost Fearless, Nomadic Matt, and Uncornered Market, who have been doing this for years. But we’re happy to be where we are and excited for what lies ahead.
We’ve learned quite a bit about this kind of journey over the last four weeks. Over that time period, we’ve spent exactly 2½ days at home. Many location independents don’t keep a home base whatsoever, preferring to do a series of extended stays in different places. We decided to keep our place in Minnesota for a variety of reasons, most having to do with family. Not being sure how we’d take to this lifestyle, we thought we would do a series of road trips throughout the summer and see how things went.
Happily, things are working out just great! We’re no spring chickens and so we’re traveling in our comfortable car and staying at hotels and motels. These haven’t been particularly fancy, but they’ve been comfortable, which is what we need at our age. Also, being foodies, we’ve sought to be adventurous rather than predictable most of the time. We’ve eaten some terrific meals and met some wonderful folks who are doing great things with food in places where you might least expect!
We did think of several things that might be helpful for extended road trippers and/or aspiring location independents to consider so we thought we’d share them in this post. Here goes!
1. Even though you might explain what your work-life integration circumstances are,people may still not be able to wrap their heads around the concept of location independence. Most of those who can’t seem to think we’ve retired, or that we inherited a lot of money so that Pete could quit his job, that we’re on vacation, etc. Sometimes it clicks after an extended conversation, but it can be tedious having to go over the same ground again and again. After several weeks of this, when someone asks now we just say we have internet businesses and we can work from anywhere.
2. Transporting the office. A mobile office requires some thought. You won’t really know what your work preferences are when frequently changing locations until you actually do it for a while. So there’s a learning curve. We’ve decided that rather than pack individual briefcases with our laptops and other files and supplies, we’re going to invest in a rolling unit that will hold everything. Less schlepping makes for happier husband. This type of unit can be as inexpensive as $50 or more than $400, depending upon what you choose. We haven’t selected anything specific and will more than likely muddle through on this trip, but will let you know what we decide on.
3. Technical items and gadgetry. We’re both Apple users now – iPhone, iPod, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air. The cool thing about Apple is the power and charger cords work interchangeably, so there’s no need to duplicate. We haven’t both needed to use the chargers at the same time. The same thing goes for our NookColor e-readers. One charging cord. Simplicity. And this would be my responsibility, where there is an unchanging place for them, so they won’t get left behind.
4. Paper organization systems. I received beautiful and functional solutions from friends who are in the travel business with us for organizing within my briefcase. I use a vinyl-impregnated zipper envelope for my passport and boarding pass when I’m flying. I have a fabric zipper envelope that I keep charging cords and extra batteries in. Separate little cases inside one larger case is an organization system that works for me.
The item I’m turning to most frequently is a moleskine-like heavy cardboard mini-file for paper receipts that closes with an elastic band. Inside is another elastic loop for a pen, a writing pad and accordion pockets, perfect for tickets, swatches, or other small keepsakes. It’s really a nifty design.
I’m filing all receipts in this, even though our Quickbooks Online sweeps our business account on a daily basis and automatically categorizes our expenses and payments within our business accounting system. (I KNOW!) The fact that my friend chose a travel-related design for this item and gifted it to our entire group shows that she knows this system works beautifully.
5. Rolling duffle. Okay, so everyone uses a rolling duffle at some point or another. I even bought a metal contraption with wheels to bungee my Vera Bradley large duffle and weekender into a rollable unit. I didn’t bring the metal trolley on this trip, but I’m using both bags. These are a major schlep. Sorry, Vera, but it’s true! Pete has a rolling duffle for himself. I’ve got another roll-up for cosmetics and toiletries. To de-schlep-ify the situation in the future, we may decide to share a very large roller duffle. This will keep baggage check fees to one (as we’ll do our own carry-ons). We’ll just have to make sure we’ve kept the weight below the minimums. On an auto trip, the advantage is all in the schlep reduction.
On this trip we’ve brought several smaller bags. One large bag and a couple medium bags would be a better deal – easier to load, unload and keep track of.
6. Cloud-based file storage and applications. Even though we’re bringing our own computers with us, there are still ways in which a cloud-based application can be a big assist. We’ve had to print a couple of items, rather than save them to PDF. Using a hotel Business Center computer and printer is much easier than copying something to a memory stick and then importing on equipment you’re not familiar with. I’ve been using Dropbox for about a year and really like it. When I needed to print a confirmation, all I needed to do was hit the hotel Business Center, log into my gmail account from their computer/printer workstation, access the file from Dropbox and print away.
Slowly we’ve realized that a confirming email on the iPhone is enough for most check-ins. If you can give them your confirmation number, they should have you in their system. No need to print! I’ve already mentioned how great Quickbooks Online is. It just keeps working, automatically downloading our business account transactions and allocating them. With minimal effort, I can balance our books over several months when we return.
We have looked at portable printer/scanner units, but have deferred their purchase in favor of seeing whether we really needed to print stuff. The longer we go on this trip, the easier it is to just save the item to PDF.
7. Voice activated apps. I really liked my Android GPS/driving directions because they were voice activated. I’ve not yet figured out which iPhone app has the same functionality. The one I downloaded requires that you key the info in. I will be looking for one that I can just speak the destination into.
I downloaded a Beta plug-in for use in Google Chrome called VoicePress that enables you to dictate your blog posts. Unfortunately, it isn’t ready for prime time with my system, although others are reporting success. I did use it and it did a great job with few edits. But then, it disabled my ability to upload photos into individual posts. So, we’ll keep you posted on the developer’s progress in ironing out the kinks.
The iPhone has a voice-recognition memo system that I have yet to try, but I’m thinking it would be helpful during conversation in the car as ideas come up.
8. Non-slip dashboard pad for phones, glasses and other items. We have a sample-size one that is working great. It would be nice to have a larger one. If you’re using these, take care not to overheat your phone when the sun beats through the windshield on it.
9. Learn how to plan and resolve on the fly. Using PassingThru Travel’s reservation system has been a snap. We did need assistance in re-booking a stay to a hotel that was pet-friendly in the Custer State Park area, however. The online chat feature was a godsend, with a very competent agent on the other end canceling our first commitment with no penalty, and rerouting us to a property that would accept pets in Hot Springs, SD. Serendipity: Hot Springs is a lovely little town, much more charming than our original choice.
[Note: as of 2012, we are redirecting PassingThru Travel to our friend’s travel site: Intentional Travel.]
Preferred customers also have free concierge service. If things hadn’t worked out in computer chat with our temporary dilemma, I would have called the concierge and had them get things done for us. With every trip that you book as a preferred customer, you get 30 minutes of concierge service from the beginning to the end of your trip. Having this personal service just a phone call away makes for a very pampered, secure feeling in unfamiliar circumstances.
We’ve also observed a few things about organizing travel information and traveling with pets that we’ll cover in subsequent posts, so stay tuned! If you’ve got a trick or tip, please share it in the comments! As always, thanks for being along on the journey!