How To Write And Travel

Can you write while traveling?

the traveling writer

The traveling writer faces many obstacles.

Yes.

Does it suck?

Yes.

After two weeks of traveling (for about a week to Indiana and an unexpected one week escapade of moving to a new home in Chicago) I have concluded one thing:

Writing while traveling takes an extreme amount of self-control.

It’s interesting, because most sites and books that talk about taking control of your life and working from where ever you want are missing a little something.

Although sitting on the beach or whipping out your computer wherever you want sounds romantic and exciting, it is actually more difficult than waking up and sitting at a desk with a set routine.

I recently traveled to Bloomington, Indiana (where Indiana University is) and every year they have a bike race called the Little 500. Little 500 is a huge event, so popular that they made an Academy Award winning film called Breaking Away to show the dedication and raw work ethic that these bikers put into their preparation, while following a group of “townies” who break barriers to become the first non-student team to join and win the race.

After that, I planned to move from my apartment in Lincoln Park to Wrigleyville, to join some old grade-school friends in experiencing a true tradition of Chicago: Wrigleyville.

My plan was to write throughout the entire trip. Unfortunately, this was the first time since I tried writing while travleing, and needless to say it was difficult.

Why?

When I arrived in Bloomington, my friends wanted to go to the bar. No writing. When I woke up they wanted to go out for breakfast or lunch or dinner. They would turn on a game or sit in my bedroom (their living room) and laugh and talk about what game was on TV.

During my move I told myself it would be a quick transaction and then I would get straight to writing. Unfortunately, that was almost impossible, since moving is the worst thing in the world and it will consume at least 24 hours minimum. It ended up taking about 5 days of my writing time.

Why?

  • Day 1: Packing and talking to my old roommate about what things each of us would take, while cleaning up our apartment
  • Day 2: Moving
  • Day 3: Spending time with the people who helped me move
  • Day 4: Organizing my things and setting up necessities such as cable and internet (Comcast customer support for about three hours)
  • Day 5: Ok, I finally wrote on this day, but it wasn’t very productive (I’ll call this my recovery day)

Overall, it was a mess. I understand that people do this everyday, but for those who haven’t written while traveling or have encountered problems while doing so here are some things I learned:

Prepare for minimal internet

Yes, writing can be done offline, but when it comes to freelancing and posting on a blog you need to eventually send your work via email or publish a blog post. In this case you need to prepare for a lack of internet. Finding a coffee shop is often a viable option, however I have trouble concentrating with all the people walking around.

Also, when traveling, you are often in a car or not near a Starbucks. In this case, purchase a wireless internet card or application on your phone to maintain constant connection. I purchased an application called FoxFi that helped me send out some emails on the tail end of my trip. You can use a certain bandwidth for free and then you must purchase the full app for around $7. It works great and allows a writer to at least connect for sending emails.

Tell your friends or family you need to work

This was difficult for me because I wanted to take advantage of every moment I was spending with my friends down in Bloomington. Not to mention, they pushed me to come with them whenever I said no. The only time I had a chance to write some freelance blog posts was when I told them that I needed to work to make money. I think my exact words were, “When YOU take a vacation your company still pays you. When I take a vacation I don’t make anything.”

It’s an inconvenient truth, but freelance writers need to work even when they are on vacation. After I said this, they went to play a round of golf and left me alone for about five hours.

Lose sleep

Writers might be the only professionals who need to lose sleep on vacation. During my second day of moving I squeezed out a couple hours of writing late at night. Yes I was tired. Yes my body was sore from moving unnaturally large objects, but I wish I had done that every other day of my trip.

The next day I woke up a little sore and tired, but I also felt great about myself. I had completed the work that I love and did it while facing adversity.

Writing is about facing adversity, and this adversity often comes disguised as comfort.

How have you managed to write while traveling? Let me know in the comments.

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About Joe Warnimont

I am a writer, marketing expert and adventure seeker. I help people write, market their writing, live truthfully and embrace their lives through creativity. You can find me riding my bike around the streets of Chicago. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Comments

  1. One of the reasons I decided to become a freelance editor was to be able to travel more. I have a MacBook Air with Windows Office, so have computer, will travel. It fits in my purse, and I can easily take it to a coffee shop or a park or a meeting, and it’s small enough to use on an airplane (which is a feat on some airlines that have minimal leg room). I don’t have a problem focusing on work when I’m working, but I agree that friends can be an almost insurmountable distraction: who wants to work when there’s fun happening all around you? I’ve found that, like everything else about the writing life, I have to schedule my work and my play, and it’s always a challenge.

    • Totally agree with you (Change It Up Editing): buying a MacBook Air was one of the best things I did to increase my writing productivity. Yes, it is always tough to give up on some fun when you are traveling with family or friends, but having my light computer in my shoulder bag – and a small notebook and pens – has allowed me to keep up with my projects.
      And once in a while, it is good to forget about writing to be with people we like. Writing benefits from discipline but also from laid-back time.

  2. great ideas, well written

  3. Joe, I couldn’t agree with you more! I find that writing, blogging, and working for yourself in general is infinitely harder than going to an office and working with an externally imposed schedule. I love my freedom and value it too much to relinquish it, but I am finding it very difficult to impose self discipline and deadlines to get work done with all the other distractions- life just gets in the way! This effect is multiplied exponentially when traveling! Holy moly- can I tell you how hard it was to try to blog from a remote island in Indonesia where the Internet was spotty and turtle-slow. Uploading photos just wasn’t going to happen. Parts of Africa are equally as difficult. I found most of Southeast Asia to be fairly blogger-friendly in that Internet was often available, fast and sometimes FREE! (specifically in Laos). I think going forward, I will try to investigate Internet access and speed in advance of traveling and work on pre-scheduling posts for places with little to no Internet connection. After starting my blog while traveling last fall, I completely have a whole new respect for travel bloggers and writers! It’s hard work!! Enjoyable, but difficult. The frustrating bit is explaining that difficulty to folks who think “wow, what an easy life/job.” Not necessarily, I say! Great post!

  4. Thanks for the warnings.
    This is something I’ve been wanting to try for a while. I did write about a day-trip I went on with my school’s Biology Club to Governor Dodge State Park; though that was only for a day and not a whole week or weekend. Alas, I am but a broke college student with little to no way of traveling. I guess it’s something that will have to wait.

  5. Sitting on the beach or whipping out your computer may indeed sound romantic, but the last time I tried to write out in the sun, my graphics card overheaded and my display went wonky until I went back inside. I agree – writing on vacation is really hard. I’ve never actually succeeded in doing so to date. You have some good tips here I’ll have to try

  6. I’m not a freelance writer. I’m an old novelist and a new blogger! In 2008, when we were already in our sixties and with health problems, my hubby and I did a 1000 mile road trip. He cycled and I was his backup team in the car. We travelled the diagonal length of the British mainland, from John o’Groats to Land’s End.
    To keep our family up to date, I wrote a blog and the idea was that I would put up a post each day so they could follow the trip. YEAH! Easier said than done! Like you, one problem was locating Internet access. I became a haunter of every McDonald’s I came across! Well…that’s how it felt anyway.
    Another problem for me was that I was also responsible for finding accommodation each night, food for the day and doing chores like laundry, packing and unpacking etc. so time was not always easy to find either.
    It was the first time I had done anything remotely like a blog and I was terribly proud of it. So proud, in fact, that I have been reposting it on my new, improved blog site.
    You can find it on cicampbellblog.wordpress.com under the ‘Cycling’ heading on the menu bar, if you’d like to see how I got on writing as I travelled.

    • Christine! You are inspirational. I was just about to say that maybe being 60 made it easier for me than for a youngster like Joe. I know for a fact that I didn’t have the self-discipline in my 30s that I do now. But then I wondered if I could keep it up into my coming years….Your comment, and what I found following the link to your blog are encouraging. Very happy to have met you!

      • Thank you, Susan. You are very kind. I am just about to post Day 13 of our trip. We’d managed 600 miles by the end of that day. It may not sound much in these days of international travel, but we were proud of ourselves. Only another 400miles to go!
        I shall look in on your blog too once I’ve posted the page on mine. Busy, busy!
        I think you’re right in what you said in your other comment, about getting up early to get the writing done…and having better discipline in later years. Also more time, I find, now that our five children are all grown up and married.

  7. I can only write while traveling if I’m writing about the travel and coax myself to get it down while it’s hot. On two trips to Congo last year I managed to write quite a bit and post when I had Internet access. I was pleasantly surprised that I could do either–though internet access was only occasional. The first trip worked well because I was in Kinshasa only and wrote on my MacBook Pro. But it was too heavy to carry on the second so I tried an iPad. Couldn’t get used to the onscreen keyboard. Next time I’m taking the iPad with a separate keyboard.

  8. Great article! Try being a long-distance runner and a writer while traveling and things get even more complex. Friends, family and co-workers can understand (loosely) a need to write. But running 15-20 miles in the morning? Not so easy to schedule. You have to be firm, and you have to be willing to disappoint others’ expectations. Usually I run in the mornings and stay up late at night to write. This means very little sleep; I come home from most trips exhausted, but I fit everything in. Barely.
    Thanks for another thought provoking read.

  9. Great post. I’m pretty up front about the fact that I’m a writer, and I need time to work. Maybe that’s self-discipline, but it feels more like love. I find it interesting that your friends were cool with finding something to do without you (bet you would have enjoyed the golf round, though) when you finally communicated your intentions. I’ve found it helpful to wake up before everyone else, and write then. When I’m needed later in the day, and I’m still writing — for deadline, for example — I just let them know when I’ll be done, and to count me in after that. I love my family, and cherish the time I spend with them. But I trust them to love me enough to let me spend time doing what I need to do.

  10. I’m planning to travel to Switzerland and Italy this summer, and won’t be article writing or copywriting at all. My aim is to blog two or three times during the course of the trip (I won’t assume that I’ll find good internet connections everywhere I go in both countries), then write more when I return in mid-July. I would like to enjoy my travel and not have to worry about an assignment hanging over my head.

  11. I tried writing while in Las Vegas, but that just didn’t work at all. I did get some writing done in Barbados, and St Marteen. For me, getting writing done while travelling is related to how much activities are available to do for fun. Caribbean islands tend to have less to do, the major activities being beautiful beaches and great food, so it’s definitely more possible there.

  12. Joe.

    Thanks for dropping by my blog. I love this post and love your site. Very insightful. Writing when travelling is very difficult and not everyone understands how much time it takes to post a couple of paragraphs. Like you I have given up on sleep awake til the small hours of the morning writing. I recently switched to an ‘app’ for my journal rather than a paper book which significantly helps me blog. I don’t often manage it but the blogging I do when in these ‘exciting’ locations rather than reflecting back hours later is usually better – I found my inspiration on the beach last week and actually took my tablet out my bag (always carrying it or a means to note down any inspired writings seems to help) though i did worry about the sand! ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy writing ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. So true!! When you’re traveling, you just want to enjoy the experience and the last thing you may wanna do (or have time for) is sitting down to write/blog about it.
    Now when you return and reminisce and get all nostalgic… that’s when it all comes out! =)