The Dark Side of Traveling and Working Remote

Working remote while traveling can be immensely rewarding, it can also be a great challenge.
From 2011 to 2016 I worked partially remote as a software developer. I worked from home 3 days a week and 2 in the office. I always felt that I didn’t get anything done when I was in the office because I’m a bit of a social butterfly. When I say a bit, I mean the letters home to my parents about me talking too much started in Kindergarten. I’m not even kidding. Working from home gave me an environment where I could focus and get work done. Unfortunately, that environment also had a lot of distractions. Yeah, I’m that “Ooohh! Shiny!” kind of person. While I am easily distracted, I am also deeply deadline oriented. I always get the job done, even if that means I wait until the absolute minute and bang it out. It’s stressful and I have worked on trying to combat this, but I’m a procrastinator. Working remote gives me that flexibility to be a little bit of a procrastinator, which isn’t always a good thing.
In 2015, my husband and I decided that we didn’t want to live in Florida anymore. We didn’t know where we wanted to go so we decided to sell everything we own and move into an RV. This decision prompted me to take my career fully remote. In 2017 we hit the road, fully remote and ready to adventure.  It has been a major learning experience for me and sometimes it has been really hard. It’s been 5 months since we launched and we have tried a variety of stay lengths, camping styles and work environment configurations. All of these different factors greatly influence my productivity.

I have a desk set up with 2 monitors, keyboard and mouse where I can dock my laptop. I also have a portable standing desk that I can use anywhere inside/outside the RV.
While we were moving every week, I never bothered to set up my desk. I worked right from the laptop in the front seat, the couch, the bed or outside.
Travel Style:
Over the last 5 months we have been in full hook up RV Parks, partial hook ups in rustic campgrounds, overnighted at breweries and boondocked in driveways. There was one day where I worked while we were going down the road. I don’t recommend working in transit, we only did so to avoid bad weather.  There were times we stayed for just one night, a few days, a week, 2 weeks and now we have been stationary for 2 months in Maine.
I honestly cannot say if the travel style itself affected my productivity on it’s own. When we were staying less than 2 weeks, I did not set up my desk and I felt that I was more productive when not sitting at my desk. This feeling could also be because we were only in an area a short time, so I was more apt to getting my work done during business hours so that I could get out and explore an area while we were there. Now that we have been stationary two months, I have found I spend more time being distracted or daydreaming when I am sitting inside at my proper desk.  At the time, while we were moving more often I felt working on just my laptop was less productive because I didn’t have my dual monitors.
Those first few months we were on the road, I felt super productive. I was getting ahead on my work, never felt stressed and I felt like I was successful with traveling and working remote full-time. However, there was a dark factor always nearby creeping into my mind.
The Unexpected Factor: 
The one factor I did not see coming…the guilt. Yes, I said it….THE GUILT. It was completely unexpected and it’s getting worse. It’s impacting my productivity and I’m not entirely sure how to get over it. I’ve even spoken with my superior about it, and it did not help.  The guilt is causing me to work longer hours and get less done. The fact that we are stationary and both working, has given me the extra time to let this sink in and take over. I started feeling the guilt right from the beginning, but as we moved quickly I had no choice but to get over it and push forward. I can’t even take a lunch without the immense guilt that I should be working. Yet, I can sit and stare at my screen for hours and do nothing, but then end up working into the midnight hours to get my work done.  It is taking a toll on both my  mental and physical health.  Work consumes my mind from the minute I wake up, until the minute I fall asleep. My job itself is not stressful, there really isn’t anything I do that requires long hours or is time sensitive. There is absolutely NO reason for me to sit at my desk for 16 hours straight. I love my company, I love my coworkers and I love what I do.
Quite frankly, it’s difficult to talk about. I wonder if anyone else has had this problem and what they did to get over it. You would think that traveling full-time and working remote 9 to 5 the productivity issue would come from shirking your responsibilities to go play, but I have such an immense sense of guilt that it makes it hard to enjoy the adventure.  I feel like because I am living and working on the road, somehow I need to prove that I work harder or get more done. The messed up part, is that I’m not getting more done. I’m getting LESS done because I’m stressed out and can’t focus. We aren’t even traveling right now, we are sitting in Bar Harbor, ME just like we would be living in a house. It’s hard for me to even enjoy activities on my off-hours because I feel like I should be working. I wanted to make this very clear, it is NOT the expectations of my employer to work their employees to death, this is 100% the product of my own guilt.
I have worked remote in some form for 6 years and have never felt this guilt. I’m not even joking, I feel guilty about using the bathroom while I’m working. I race back to my desk in hopes that no one sent an email or message that I didn’t immediately respond to. I feel guilty taking a lunch so I eat at my desk. It is absolutely absurd. The stress of it is making me sick and I’m not sure how to make this stop. In the beginning of our travels, I felt like it made me a better employee. I was focused, I enjoyed my work and it felt so amazing to finish up for the day and go explore a new place. Now I’m a miserable, grouchy, stressed out hot mess working myself to death for no logical reason.
If you’re made it this far, thank you. Any thoughts? Resources? Slap the shit out of me and tell me to stop being stupid? Anything will help!

7 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Traveling and Working Remote

  1. Jessica Meinhofer says:

    I completely understand!!!!! This is me too. Robert has to remind me to just take a break. When folks at work are making sure I am OK and lopped in…it makes the guilt worse.I have no words to help, only that you are not alone!

  2. Pam S. says:

    I was a school librarian which means my time was never my own. I always stopped what I was doing to assist whoever dropped by the library. I struggled with knowing that teachers, whose days are extremely structured, resented my flexible schedule. The result was eating lunch at my desk and never taking a break. I finally had to force myself to leave campus for a set lunch time and to confine my job to a set time period. Even if I wasn’t finished, I stopped working for the day. It was really hard at first and I struggled with guilt but it got easier after a month. Eventually, it trained me to shut off work during off time and allowed me to focus at work. I had to be really strict with myself until I learned to turn work off without the guilt kicking my butt. Hang in there!

    • Pookie says:

      Hi Pam! The guilt is real!!! It is so hard to turn off work. I’m terrible at relaxing, I rarely take days off and it is so hard for me to stay focused sometimes. I think I definitely have need to be more strict with my focus to be more efficient and and manage my time better.

  3. Daniel says:

    Hi there.. It’s fascinating, I’m experiencing exactly the same, but I would not blame travelling nor working remote. In my personal opinion it’s just as you work on your own. I mean, your wage is not based on time, but amount of work, you need to have done. Unfortunatelly I have no medicine for this except to have a “paid by hour” job again, which might be a bit tought to find when you want to work remote.
    Anyway, big thumbs up. I hope once I’ll get on the road with my laptop as well ?

    • Pookie says:

      Hi Daniel, sorry to hear you have been experiencing the same. I have been talking to a few other working nomads who have experienced the same thing. I think a between being a procrastinator, being remote and just having a large lifestyle change in general has been taking a toll on me. I think I need a vacation!

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