Welcome to guest writer, Sinead Mac Manus:
I just got back from five weeks living, working and playing in Lisbon, Portugal. If you have never been I recommend a visit especially in the winter when day time temperatures rarely dip below 17 degrees and it’s bright and sunny everyday. Add to that the low cost of living, a beautiful city, friendly people and the best custard tarts in the world, it’s the perfect escape from grey London.
So how did I manage this as a freelancer?
Welcome to my world of part-time location independence.
The location independence movement was started by Lea Woodward and her husband Jonathan in 2007 when, fed up with their corporate lifestyles with plenty of money but little time, they packed it all in to work and travel around the world. Reading about Lea’s adventures in lifestyle design led me to quit my job in 2008 and go live for a year in the south of Spain while still consulting in the UK and building my first online business StartaTheatreCompany.com.
A year in Spain was fun but I found I missed the action of London, so part-time location independent lifestyle is where I am at now. Getting out of London and living and working in different countries at different times of the year is a core part of my vision for my work and life and I would heartily recommend that everyone gives it a go. All you need is a laptop, internet connection and a place to work.
Here are some thoughts on the benefits of taking your computer and going working abroad:
1. It gives you the physical and head space to work on a big project.
My project that I tackled in Amsterdam was researching material around mindfulness at work. This year I am writing my new book The Business Yogi: How the Science of Yoga Can Help You Be More Productive, Happy and Healthy at Work, which takes ideas around the practice and philosophy of yoga and applies them to modern business and the workplace. I actually had allocated time in August last year (another quiet period) to write the book but for whatever reason, I couldn’t summon the creative juices then. In Lisbon the words just flowed. Getting your of your normal routine can do wonders for your creativity!
2. You are working but not really available.
When you are away you can’t have meetings, the request for random coffees stop, and your email inbox slows to a trickle. Without all these interruptions and calls on your time, you can get an enormous amount of work done.
3. You can work more according to your energy patterns and feelings instead of pre-planning your time.
Being a bit of a productivity geek, in London I tend to plan and prioritise my time quite strictly. When I am away I tend to kill the to-do list and instead work on what I feel like working on that hour or day.
4. You can foster new collaborations and opportunities.
Being in a coworking space means that I have access to a whole new set of people and businesses and I have made great collaborations with people in Amsterdam (2010′s trip) and Lisbon too.
5. It’s good personal development stuff.
Seth Godin says “seek out habits that help you overcome fear or inertia”. Going to live and work in a new country, even if only for a short time, is scary stuff. You leave the comfort of your family, your friends and your language for somewhere new. Yes, it’s scary and you have to really put yourself out there and try to make friends. Sunday afternoons are always the worst as everyone seems to be with others except for you. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and a little bit of loneliness now and again makes you grateful for what you have back home. You also find yourself really looking forward to going to work on Monday morning!
6. You can see how other cultures work and play.
I find this a fascinating part of working in another country. In the Netherlands, people tend to start work early at 8 or 9am but down tools bang on 5pm as they head home. In Lisbon, they start later around 10 or 11am but work through until 6 or 7pm. Lunch at The Hub was taken communally round the kitchen table. Lunch in Lisbon is an hour and a half affair at a local cafe or restaurant. I was taken to task for eating lunch at my desk – very unusual in Lisbon! The Dutch spend time with family and friends with an early dinner and early bed. Lisbon workers head home to get changed and then might have dinner around 10 or 11pm before hitting the bars until 2am. And that’s on a school night!
Fancy giving this working abroad thing a go? Here are some top tips for making it an easier and enjoyable experience:
- Book yourself a desk at a coworking space. I know first hand how lonely it can be working from home so find a space where you can go to work everyday and meet new people. Pedro Santos, one of the members here at Coworking Lisboa, has developed a new platform called All Desk where you can search for a spare desk in cities around the world.
- Get involved in the space. If there are lunches or social occasions, go along. Offer to run a workshop or talk for the space members. If there is a space mailing list, introduce yourself and say what kind of people you would like to meet.
- Use AirBnB.com to find a room for your stay. Don’t stay in a soulless hotel, stay with a local so you get a real feel for how the locals live. I stayed in this gorgeous place in the Barrio Alto, one of the coolest places in Lisbon. Use AirBnB to also rent out your home while you are gone to cover your costs.
- Don’t make it all about work. Make the most of your stay in a new place. Spend evenings trying out local cuisine and entertainment and use the weekends to go exploring. Bunk off the odd afternoon to go for a trip out of town. Build some non-work time in as well (we went to the Algarve for five days between Christmas and New Year).
- If you can, invite your partner along for part of your trip. I am lucky that Alex also works for himself and he was able to join me in Amsterdam and also Lisbon for part of my trip.
- Make the most of Skype. Unlike in London, when I am away I am logged in to Skype all the time. When I see a friend online, I jump on for a chat. Keeping in contact with others back home can stop you getting lonely.
Have a think about your own work. How can you start to make it more ‘location independent’? I would love to hear your ideas.
About the Author
Sinead Mac Manus is founder of 8fold, a digital wellbeing company that helps busy people work better and design their business. Sinead will be launching a new programme in 2012 helping other entrepreneurs build successful location independent businesses. If you want to be the first to hear about the Lifestyle Business 101 class, do sign up to her mailing list.