So recently I took a couple of months out from design to go travelling around South East Asia. Get me. I’d love to peg it as an adventure where I was searching for the lost city of whatever to find the hidden treasure of something something, but this was really just a straight up holiday.
I really don’t do holidays that often. I don’t really feel the need to – I love what I do for a living so why would I ever need a break? That being said, I’d had one too many big projects with tight deadlines in a row and even I was starting to feel like I was getting worn a little thin.
However after just maybe a week of exploring the Orient I genuinely started to pine for my wacom. I missed designing. I’d told myself that this was going to be a proper refresh for me, so I’d brought no laptop, no drawing pads, not even a pen! “Anyway”, I told myself “Bangkok really isn’t the kind of place you could sit down a get a really productive days work under your belt”, and so I tried to put it out of my mind.
So I meandered on, from country to country, collecting currencies and filling up my passport with oversized visas, until I got about halfway through Vietnam, to a little city called Hội An.
I spent the first couple of days in Hội An doing the tourist thing, I wandered around the temples, ate in the ‘secret’ restaurants, I even had a very nice suit made. Hội An is a remarkably beautiful city, and there’s a real European vibe that comes from all the colonial French architecture that lines the river running through the city. There’s none of the hustle and bustle that I’d found in some of the larger Asian cities and it was also one of the cheapest places that I’d visited so far (I’m talking a beer for $0.14 cheap).
After those first few days though I had a realisation – I’d had WiFi connection everywhere I’d been.
I’m not just talking bars and restaurants here (although each and every one of those has their own network), the whole of Hội An actually has a giant network that you can connect to, just to make sure you’re still able to send those tweets between cafes. One of the days I actually decided to rent a motorbike (which was all of $3 for the day) and see if I could find the coast. It took me maybe ten minuets to reach a stunning almost deserted beach and guess what I found? Free WiFi.
It was insane, I was in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, I couldn’t seem to actually spend my money everything was so cheap and I could genuinely have worked from the beach.
And this wasn’t the only place I stumbled on in my travels where I could have happily and easily set up shop; Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, the list goes on. All beautiful, all cheap to live (even in hotels), all with excellent WiFi and amenities.
The more I though about it, the more sense it made too. I’d put my entire business on hold to go on this trip, but there really wasn’t any need to. In fact I could probably have had the same number of free days and just stayed away for longer using the extra revenue from my work to pay my way.
I know I’ve stumbled onto nothing new here, Tim Ferris coined the phrase ‘geoarbitage’ long before my epiphany, but what was perhaps new to me was just how possible it really was. You always hear stories of people packing in their 9 to 5 and living the good life, sipping coconut milk on a beach, and it kinda goes to the same part of my brain that emails from wealthy African princes go; the ‘bullshit’ section.
No doubt you’re reading this and part of you is thinking just that. Bullshit. Trust me, it totally isn’t. It’s totally totally possible. The fact I feel like a total idiot for not doing it is testament to that.
It doesn’t even have to be that mega life changing event either. Ask yourself really, what’s stopping you from leaving for say six months? Even three months? Are your clients all going to abandon you because you want to do a few meetings over Skype? Can you really not work without an office filled with stuff? Is that second monitor absolutely critical?
I’m not talking about changing your nationality here, just give yourself some new scenery for a bit.
There’s an article by Tim Gregg that I read that recommends renting out your home whilst you’re away, and it makes a lot of sense. Some of these countries are so cheap to get by in, what you make in rent could probably cover your mortgage and your day to day living expenses. Add to that the fact that you’re working and earning, and there’s a very good chance you could come home with a bigger bank account than when you left.
There are tonnes of places you can do this too, Thailand, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, Argentina, Turkey, India, Indonesia, Romania, Uruguay, just loads. All with a very high quality of life and a very low cost of living.
So the next time you’re thinking of taking a holiday – be professional, take a sabbatical instead.