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Travelogue: Living and working as a digital nomad

13 February 2023
working while travelling the world

When Talent Acquisition Specialist, Robin Botha decided to try her hand at taking a work-cation, she knew the biggest challenge would be efficient time management. Some days she was up early to present a workshop before a long bus trip, and other days she was tanning on a beach in the Algarve, while catching up on emails. Robin shares her experience and tips.

I’ve always been so enthralled by the idea of travelling the world, being taken out of your comfort zone and  experiencing different cultures. I have a never-ending list of places I’d like to travel to and hopefully 🤞🏻 I’ll get to experience them all: Greece, the Northern lights in Norway, Morocco, the Faroe islands, an Andes hiking tour, Egypt – you get the picture.

I certainly wouldn’t have classified myself as being well-traveled before I embarked on my work-cation at the end of 2022. I’m a Capetonian, born and bred, and my out of the country adventures before Portugal extend to: an Orange river trip on the border of Namibia and South Africa nearly 10 years ago, and more recently, a 10-day trip to Zanzibar.

A solo trip has been on my to do list for years and joining JUMO at the end of 2021 afforded me the opportunity. Aside from the incredible culture, impactful work and opportunities to challenge yourself and grow, JUMO has a remote-first and flexible working policy. This approach allows me to build a career, pay my bills and achieve my dream of travelling the world. With a little inspiration from a colleague’s blog post about sailing the Iberian peninsula whilst working remotely, I worked through the logistics with my team lead and planned to spend five weeks working and living in Portugal.

Portugal itinerary
36 days. 8 cities. Working. Living.

The planner in me could not contain herself.

This was going to be my first time in Europe, my first time traveling alone internationally and my first time living in another country for just over a month. In a nutshell, Portugal was a shock to the system, as well as a learning experience. I saw the most incredible ancient European architecture and have memories that will last me a lifetime, but I also missed home and my kitties. 

Travelling can be stressful, and living and working as a digital nomad requires resilience and taking ownership.

My first full day in Portugal was spent exploring Pena Palace and Park, and Sintra, a town just outside of Lisbon. I quickly had to settle into a new routine and adapt to my ‘new normal’. When things didn’t go as planned, I was able to maintain productivity by planning ahead and being flexible. I managed to collaborate with my team and execute projects from over 11 000 kilometers away, while still being able to explore a whole other country.

Robin Botha, JUMOnaut working remotely on a beach in Portugal
5 tips for working remotely
1. Connectivity

My go to’s were a pre-ordered mobile wifi hotspot + e-sim, a power bank and noise canceling headphones. This alleviated any anxiety I had about not being reliable while I was travelling. I wanted to be contactable and able to communicate with my colleagues whenever the need arose, not just when I was in free wifi range.

2. Communication

Fortunately, the last bit of my trip coincided with the festive holiday period, which meant that there were fewer meetings as we wound down for the year. That being said, there were still a number of projects I was working on that required regular communication and collaboration.

I used my calendar and Slack to indicate my availability status for more effective coordination with colleagues. I was also honest with my team when I was at capacity and took time off when I needed to.

3. Being flexible

Things go wrong when you’re travelling and you need to be solution-oriented. I contracted Covid in my first two weeks of travel and had to spend some down time recovering. I also managed to time my trip with the heavy rains and floods that swept Southern Portugal in December! I had to reschedule tours, hand over work to my team and reconfigure the route of my trip. There were moments where I just wanted to pack up my stuff and come home, but learning to be adaptable helped me embrace the highs and lows of my trip as one whole, incredible experience.

4. Time-batching

Although I have an affinity for being organised in general, my work-cation challenged me to be even more efficient with my time. I found that splitting my day up into ‘shifts’ helped me get the most out of my day. I created a weekly schedule ahead of my trip and agreed with my team on when I would be online versus offline. I also made sure I allocated focus time and meeting times during the work day.

I had to be creative with my planning. I made the most of my restaurant or coffee shop stops and worked on 9-hour bus trips across the country. I scheduled ‘no meeting’ days when I was traveling to the next city and when I was forced to stay inside during thunderstorms in the Algarve, I booked back-to-back meetings. Some days I was up early to present a workshop before a bus trip, and other days I was tanning on a beach while catching up on emails.

5. Maximise your offline hours

I planned my weekends to be full of activities and tours. During the week, I took extended lunch breaks to visit museums or monuments and walk around the cities I was staying in. I also planned to take leave that coincided with public holidays, which afforded me some long weekends. On warm evenings, I would walk through the lively streets and on cold evenings, I would work on the couch and listen to the buzzing city.

My solo trip working through Portugal was without a doubt one of the most eye opening experiences I have had in my 26 years of living. There were challenging moments where I felt lonely and completely out of my depth, but I wouldn’t trade those low days for the world. I returned to Cape Town with a fresh perspective, a better understanding of myself and a host of beautiful memories. So much so that I cannot wait to do it all over again, onto the next adventure!

My trip consisted of visiting Lisbon and surrounding towns, the Algarve (Vilamoura, Lagos and Faro), Northern Portugal (Porto, Coimbra, Braga and Guimaraes) and finally a week in Madeira (an autonomous region of Portugal off the coast of Africa).

Connect with Robin on Linkedin