Work and the open road


Whenever anyone finds out that a couple of young whippersnappers are taking their work on the road in a vintage travel trailer for several weeks (with their three-year-old in tow), a question inevitably emerges.

“How do you manage that?”

I will admit that I don’t always understand it myself. But a combination of business principles, technological advances, and a serious contemplation of life’s priorities has managed to breathe life into a seemingly impossible idea. The goal of this post is to walk you through some of these ideas, and the hope is that you too will find ways to coax your own epic adventure into reality.

I am a graphic artist who, until recently, was glued to an office, a desktop computer, and an oversized Apple cinema display. I realized that if I ever wanted the freedom to work from the road, the aforementioned three had to go. So I ditched the tower in favor of a Macbook Pro, and though it is considered large, I chose the 17 inch model to provide as much real estate as possible for working with graphics programs. Though a laptop screen will never be as good as a desktop monitor, screen advancements give me tighter control over color calibration. The smaller workspace size required two full weeks to make the adjustment, but now I am thrilled I invested the time.

The next challenge is staying tethered to the internet. A solid connection is imperative for my work, and admittedly this requires a bit of creativity. To start, we use a 4G LTE MIFI device from Verizon, which, while not cheap, offers amazing speed and connectivity along virtually every highway — and most byways — in America. In addition, free wifi is available at almost every McDonalds and Starbucks in the USA, and many RV parks and campgrounds now offer free wifi. Between these options, I am able to link up almost anywhere and at any moment.

For the longest time, I thought this adventure was an impossibility because my work was a veritable smoothie of emails, customer service, graphic design, and vendor communications. Once I realized that I could tidily separate the design time from the other three, the possibility of making this trip came into focus. During the afternoon (as we travel from the road), I check and answer emails, make calls, and stay in touch, while I limit my productive design time to the mornings and the nights. I am ready by the phone and email almost as much as I would be at home, and my clients do not even know that I have departed.

At my home office, distractions abound. From that second cup of coffee, to bringing the trash down to the curb, and even the frequent bathroom brakes, there is plenty to do around the office that isn’t work. I have been delighted to realize that with the removal of these distractions comes a wealth of productivity — I estimate that my work takes 40-50% less time when I chip away at the tasks from the trailer.

Working through this adventure is not free from challenges, but the extra effort is yielding a winding road of adventure, precious time and countless new experiences with my wife and young son, and the abiding sense that I am journeying through the thrill of a lifetime.

My family is currently traveling around the USA in a 10 foot Shasta Compact travel trailer from 1969. We are currently camped in Austin, TX and headed toward Dallas / Ft. Worth. Keep it right here for tales from the journey, and please also join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Nothing keeps us motivated more than the encouragement of hearing from our readers, so please keep in touch by commenting below. Thanks!

12 thoughts on “Work and the open road

  1. All this talk of graphic design has got me thinking — you should map out your route as you go. It would be so cool to see a visualization of your journey across the USA.

  2. I have a strong desire to write my way through all sorts of adventures in the near future. Following this trip has been a huge inspiration to me. And I think Tim’s idea is awesome.

  3. Here’s a thought if you want to extend your screen real estate… I recently saw a small (14-16″?) flat screen monitor in a Goodwill store for a song (like $15 or so)—looked in great shape and they had it on to show the screen looked bright crisp and good. A real find (but I didn’t get it). Something like that could store fairly well, come out and sit on the dinette when you need it and get put away afterwards. Keep an eye out in Goodwill stores and you never know what you’ll find!

  4. I’d love to do what you’re doing myself, and I have a couple of follow up questions: Are you working freelance for yourself, or remotely for a company? If you’re freelance, did you already have number of stable clients when started traveling? Or are you working on winning business while you’re on the road?

    • Hi Travel Bug. I work for myself, and yes, I already had a lineup of steady clients before I left. I have been working this way for eight years, and though I probably could have tried a trip like this sooner, it didn’t really feel like I could. I think crazy ideas like this are much more attainable than they may initially seem. Committing to an idea is half the battle, and the other half is getting out there and figuring it out as you roll along. Cheers!

  5. That’s really useful. Freelancing while traveling is a long term and I feel like I would need to have a pretty solid client base way before making that jump. I’m sure your business was solid after eight years.

  6. I think that is awesome that you are still able to work whilst on the road. In the past it used to be “I wanna travel the country and do fruit picking and odd jobs along the way” but now, with the internet and a laptop, you can keep your job and still have the life you dream of!!!! It’s just awesome. Who knows. You might even sell the Shasta and upgrade and stay on the road for a long time to come. 🙂 I read a story about an older couple who lived on a boat. That sounded just amazing. Keep those stories coming in!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s