4 Tips for Balancing Work with Play While Traveling

4-tips-balancing-work-and-play-travelingThings have been going very well over here in the Badlands. I’m making a lot friends, visiting exciting new places on my days off, and exploring the natural beauty of the park around work. Even work is going well. I help fellow travelers not so different from myself find the best place to take sunset photos (Pinnacles Overlook near the NW entrance, although really anywhere you go along the wall will grant breathtaking colors and shadows around sunset since it runs more or less east to west in this part of the park), point out on a map where the bison heard can be found (down Sage Creek Rim Road, it’s dirt and gravel but well maintained and traversable by about any vehicle as long as we haven’t just had a heavy rain), and of course help them pick out mementos to remember their trip by – which isn’t nearly as sleazy a proposition as at some gift shops, Cedar Pass Lodge has a lot of USA made and authentic Native American stuff.

In fact I’m having such a good time that I sometimes have a hard time keeping up with the work outside of work that still needs to be done.

I’m not talking about chores around the RV and laundry and things like that, but the more involved stuff like updating IO regularly, working on that eguide that I swear is still coming, and researching crafts that I might be able to make in my RV and sell for a bit of money as I travel. It’s work that pays off and makes me feel fulfilled in the long run, but isn’t as easy to do or enjoyable in the short term as going out hiking, or driving to town with friends to play mini golf.

It seems like this is a pretty common phenomenon. A friend of mine who started solo RVing maybe a month or so before I did and who earns her income entirely through online means told me that the hardest part for her when it came to the full-timing was finding the time and focus to get her work done. Travel days leave very little time and energy for working at all, and throw off any work rhythm you might have going. Then once you arrive at your destination it’s hard to focus on work when there’s so many new things to see and do.

There’s got to be a balance in here somewhere, between enjoying the things that made you want to get out on the road to begin with, and still having time to work on your other dreams and goals.

For me, the work that pays my bills (exclusively seasonal jobs for now) runs in a cyclical pattern that follows the seasons, I’ve written about this before. At Amazon I get as much overtime as I can and spend very little time sightseeing, it’s all about the money. Here it’s a mix of work and play: I get my 40 hours and squeeze in fun on the side. In the shoulder seasons when I’m relocating to the next spot I like to take some time to see things and stay in parks along the way, so it’s pretty much all fun and no work. But through all of that, I’d like to keep working on the Big Things, the goals that’ll free me from having to take seasonal jobs at all.

So I’m going to try a few things to get me back on track, and I’m sharing them here because maybe they’ll help someone else too.

1. Set your work, project, dream, whatever into a schedule, and don’t let yourself get out of it. Repetition will build it into habit, and while habits tend to get a bad rap among people like us who chose to pull away from the masses and march to the beat of our own drum, they can be so useful. Once it’s a habit, it won’t be as hard to keep up with it when temptation calls you to do other things.

If your free-spirited self is twitching at the idea of still having a schedule now that you’ve escaped the 9-5 grind (I sure do), here are a few ways to modify the idea of a schedule and still enjoy the spontaneity of full-time travel.

2. Plan the work, whatever it might be, during your most productive time of day. For me, and I think for most people, it’s in the morning shortly after I get up. By the afternoon my concentration and motivation are waning and especially if the work involves creativity (like writing) it’s hard to get going. So I’ve taken to writing blog posts and working on the eguide right after breakfast when I get up, before I let myself touch the internet or wander over to my neighbor’s cabin to see what’s going on.

Usually I’ll give myself a time limit, to keep the work from eating up all of my spare time around my job at the Lodge, because my goal here isn’t to be a slave to a schedule but to still make some progress every day. Sometimes if I expect a certain task to take a certain amount of time, I’ll make sure I get that one task completed. After the work is done, I’m free to do as I wish with no guilt. In the afternoon and evening when it’s harder to focus on work that requires mental effort I can still easily respond to e-mails, bum around on Facebook, or take a stroll through the Badlands.

3. Even on travel days, or days where you’re planning to focus on sightseeing or other travel related things, do one small thing to advance your project/work/dream, even if you only have 15 minutes to spare. That’ll keep it in the forefront of your mind and maintain it’s importance in your routine.

Some people are good at multitasking, and everyone else can learn to be at least proficient at it with some practice. If you have a bit of downtime say while you’re waiting for a tour to start, or for your food to arrive at a restaurant, or anything like that, it’s a moment that could be put to good use working on your project, which brings me to the last point.

4. Don’t just apply the idea of being spontaneous to travel. When inspiration for your project strikes while your out doing something else, take the hint and lean into it. For instance I always have my iphone on hand when I’m out hiking for taking pictures, but you’d be surprised how many blog ideas I’ve gotten while out in the middle of nowhere looking over a beautiful vista. Be prepared when those moments strike. If you don’t have a smart phone, carry a little notebook with you.

I’ll be writing more at some point about why doing this kind of work is so important to me when I’ve already shown that even just with work camping an a sensible approach to spending a person can make it as a full-time RVer, but that’ll come later.

In the meantime, what time of day are you at your best for getting creative work done? So far I’ve discovered that I like doing seasonal jobs in the cyclical fashion I wrote about before, a lot of work sometimes to be able to afford time with none later, but when it comes to the projects that will fund my future traveling I need to keep up with them every day to stay on track, have you found that to be the case as well or not?

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Furry Gnome on November 6, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Becky, a lot of this applies to retirement too, especially the first one. When you don’t have any necessary structure in your life, you can get very lazy very quickly! I’ve found a routine really helps me keep active and engaged.

    • Becky on November 7, 2013 at 2:56 pm

      Good point, thanks for sharing!

  2. Pleinguy on July 25, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    Very good suggestions Becky. I’m yet to get into that mode. Still on the family and friends tour. But, the time will soon come to get into the balancing act.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Frozen Head & Roan MountainMy Profile

    • Becky on July 27, 2013 at 12:10 pm

      Well the family and friends tour is definitely worth the distraction. Enjoy!

  3. John of Sinbad and I on the Loose on July 24, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    You helping people with getting the best sunset photos reminds me of when I pulled up to the kiosk booth for Big Bend NP in Texas. The booth is situated in the middle of nothing. The ranger lady was really friendly and handed me a self-made printout of her own doing – Julie’s Photo Tips for Big Bend, or something like that. She had noted the best places to be and at what time for sunrise and sunset photo opportunities within the park. Each one had a accompanying photo she had taken although the reproduction wasn’t all that great. I think Julie needed a better printer but I thought that pretty cool of her to do on her own. Great post Becky, fortunately I don’t have to work anymore.
    John of Sinbad and I on the Loose recently posted..Birthplace of the Blues?My Profile

    • k&p Catalano on July 24, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Hello John, Great story about the ranger lady and I totally agree that Becky is alot like that. (I peeked at your blog…AMAZING PHOTOS!!!!!! You are breath-takingly talented!!!!)
      k&p Catalano recently posted..My Apologies On The Delay of Part 2My Profile

    • Becky on July 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Glad you liked it John! Sounds like that ranger took it a step further than I did.

  4. Barb L. on July 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    We’re avid crafters in our 3rd year fulltime. Still seeking that balance. One of our more effective tricks is to set the kitchen timer for 15 min. & start in on whatever project is a priority. Once you get started, you may just keep going. If not, those little bits of time will add up to progress more quickly than you would expect. Along with that, keeping your project organized so that it is easy to start & stop is key. As travelers, keeping clutter controlled is always an issue.

    BTW, we’re in Custer now & will be in Spearfish volunteering at the Hatchery all of Aug/Sept. Haven’t been over your way yet, but plan to head over once the Sturgis traffic clears a bit.

    • Becky on July 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      I agree Barb, sometimes getting started is the hardest part. I often found that to be the case when jogging. Getting out the and started was a pain, and I’d tell myself if i just did 10 minutes it was better than nothing. But once I got started more often than not I’d do the full half hour.

      I’d love a visit after Sturgis clears, at this point it definitely pays to wait until after the 12th. If you could just give me a heads up on the date and time when you know more details that would be great.

      • Barb L. on July 27, 2013 at 9:46 pm

        I’m really, really bad about exercise, but most successful if I just jump out of bed throw on clothes & a hat and head out the door. By the time I wake up enough to know what I’m doing, I’m half way through.

        Will definitely check in with you before we head your way. We won’t know what our schedules are for a while anyway.

        Sure do enjoy your blog….

  5. dennis smith on July 24, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Rember to never let work get in the way of life

    • Becky on July 24, 2013 at 12:20 pm

      Well, you need some work to be able to afford to do the things in life you love, but I prefer a balance that favors life more than work, agreed. πŸ˜›

  6. k&p Catalano on July 24, 2013 at 4:25 am

    This is really a super list Becky. And a topic that I think about on an almost daily basis. Less than 1 month into this blogging about our quest and I wonder how we will manage the ‘time management’ aspect of this whole venture. It seems a little overwhelming at times. And we don’t even have that many followers of the blog. I guess with anything new it will take time to find our rythm. I get so much joy out of responding to those that have taken their valuable time to read and comment on what we’ve ‘put out there’.

    You continue to be such an inspiration! Thank You Becky!
    k&p Catalano recently posted..My Apologies On The Delay of Part 2My Profile

    • Becky on July 24, 2013 at 11:56 am

      It does take a while to get into a rhythm. When I first started I stuck to a Monday and Thursday updating schedule to make a habit of it – no excuses. It was hard at first because I hadn’t done writing on a regular basis before I started blogging, so it took me longer to write up a post. The longer I did it the easier it got. Have faith, you’ll come to a schedule that works well for you. πŸ™‚

  7. Kim on July 23, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Excellent tips! One must be so disciplined. It’s difficult but (usually) pays off.
    Kim recently posted..The Home-Away-From-Home OfficeMy Profile

    • Becky on July 24, 2013 at 11:53 am

      And usually the thought of strong discipline makes me cringe, but this is discipline for a higher cause, one that’ll lead to more fun in the future, so it’ll be worth it. πŸ™‚

  8. Jill Hagen on July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Well done Becky. I will never do the things you’re doing, but I respect your choices. Your writing is excellent, and I look forward to each of your posts. Very interesting and again well done. Stay safe.

    • Becky on July 24, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Thank you Jill, glad you’re enjoying them. Hope all is going well up in Wisconsin!

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