Remote Work While Traveling by Motorcycle
How We Run a Business and Create Content While Riding Around the World
We work remotely while traveling to run an ethical outdoor dog gear brand while riding around the world by motorcycle – with a 75lb German shepherd on the back!
Being successful at this unconventional remote work setup requires having the right technology and establishing effective practices.
What We Do for Remote Work
We are business owners and content creators.
We created the Los Angeles-based ethical outdoor dog gear brand RUFFLY. We work with indigenous artisans, tailors, and craftspeople to design and produce top-quality dog gear. Our craftspeople work from small, sustainable home workshops in the Guatemalan highlands. By combining traditional techniques with modern styles and materials, RUFFLY ethical outdoor dog gear does good, goes everywhere, and looks amazing.
While we manage the business and oversee operations remotely, our operations manager handles daily coordination, administration, and logistics out of our Panajachel office in Guatemala.
One of RUFFLY’s most exciting products is the K9 Moto Cockpit, which is a custom-built motorcycle dog carrier to suit the rider, the dog, and the vehicle. We developed an easy, online remote design process so that our builders receive the measurements they need without the motorcycle or accessories physically present in our Panajachel metal workshop. Once the Cockpit frame and mounting is built, we transfer it to our upholstery workshop high in the mountain village of Totonicapán.
Managing this kind of multi-step operation with workshops and artisans distributed across rural mountain villages requires simple, effective processes; good communication and technology; and loads of trust.
As content creators…
We are brand ambassadors for RUFFLY ethical outdoor dog gear and advocates for the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up initiative.
To do this, we launched the GoRUFFLY Around the World fundraiser adventure on March 5, 2023 from our RUFFLY office in Panajachel, Guatemala.
We are riding around the world with our 75lb German shepherd Moxie in the K9 Moto Cockpit on the back of our founder Jess Stone’s motorcycle – not in a sidecar or trailer.
The GoRUFFLY adventure is a $100K fundraiser for the global nonprofit Girl Up, which provides training and resources to enable girls to advocate and educate for the change they want to achieve in their communities.
Stay up to date on the world adventure events, episodes, and giveaways.
Remote Work While Traveling Around the World
To juggle our competing roles as business owners and content creators, we travel four days and then we stop to work for the other three days of the week. This work-travel balance is the key to being effective in both roles, avoiding burnout, and doing it with love and joy.
Four days traveling…
During the four days of travel, we spend as much time as possible off-road and beyond cell coverage, preferring to wild camp, picnic, and bathe in rivers. Naturally, we spend a fair amount of time documenting the journey through photos, videos, and recording ourselves narrating the events in realtime.
So, even while we’re traveling the world, getting lost, repairing breakdowns, and experiencing the aventure of a lifetime, this journey is not the type of carefree vacation where you save up your money and then quit your job and sell all your possessions.
The days spent without cell coverage and with only a tent flap separating you from nature are allow us to throw ourselves all-in on traveling the world by motorcycle – with a big dog – and telling a compelling, engaging story while doing it.
When we ride back into cell coverage, the social media notifications, reminders, customer emails, and WhatsApp messages from our RUFFLY team explode onto the phone screen like a blizzard.
Three days remote working…
At the end of the four days of traveling, we check into a pet friendly hotel or AirBnB to work for three days. Sometimes we do this on the fly and other times we book the reservation in advance. Only a couple times have we run into trouble due to an extra-difficult road or a breakdown.
After four days of adventuring, we’re usually desperate for a hot shower, a comfy bed, and someplace to do a load of laundry.
We also have loads of video to organize, social comments than need responses, and a whole new episode to create for the weekly GoRUFFLY Around the World series on YouTube.
In addition, we respond to RUFFLY customers, supervise our Guatemala team, and manage the RUFFLY social channels.
We use these days to promote the adventure and RUFFLY gear by appearing on podcasts, writing articles, and reaching out to press.
Oh yeah, and we also take some time to plan the next week’s route!
It’s a wonderful and grueling schedule but it works well. By alternating between work and travel this way, we keep both activities fresh, enjoyable, and something to look forward to.
Resources, Technology, and Effective Practices for Remote Work
We adjust the four-days traveling and three-days working schedule when have more work to catch up on or when a travel stretch takes long than expected. But that schedule is one of the key ingredients to our remote work success on GoRUFFLY Around the World.
We discovered this schedule and the other resources, technologies, and practices that we use by repeatedly testing them out over a couple years. Our first travel and remote work trips lasted a week or two, then several, then over a month.
We’re always testing, learning, and adjusting as we go but there are some important lessons that are critical to our success.
Remote work resources…
Reading articles and videos like this one are a great way to get started. Most remote working travelers have RVs or vans, not motorcycles, which means they can pack a whole lot more gear, equipment, and luxury items than we can.
This is important because, to a certain extent, the more comfort you have, the more effective and productive you can be wherever you are. For example, it’s quite hard to get thoughtful work done semi-prone in a tent during a rainstorm compared to sitting at a fold-out table in a camper van!
That’s why staying in a modestly comfortable hotel or AirBnB with strong WiFi is essential for us. We’ve worked from campgrounds, RV parks, and hostels. So it is possible, but it’s far from effective and productive.
What about Couch Surfing, Bunk-a-Biker, and other shared accommodations? These can be wonderful ways to meet locals and share meaningful interactions, but they are not good options for getting work done.
Even if you’re not an introvert like we are, you need to be 110% focused and free from distractions to squeeze a 5-day work week (7-day work week if you own a business) into 3 days.
On the other hand, even if we could lock ourselves away in a bedroom and ignore our host for a 12-hour work day, what kind person does that? The generous individual is hosting us to enjoy our company and share in the adventure, not to be the ‘supporting cast and crew’ in our story!
Remote work technology…
We use pretty much all the same technology that we did before transitioning to remote work, only now it’s smaller.
We use Wrike to help manage our team remotely, assign tacks, share content and feedback, and ensure accountability.
A cloud storage and collaboration tool is essential. Dropbox, Google Drive, and iCloud are good examples and we use each of these and more because every vender, collaborator, and partner has a different preference in how they share content. The important point is that nothing should exist solely on a physical drive or laptop that can be lost, damaged, or stolen.
And yet, when you produce hours of 4K footage each week, you face two huge obstacles:
- What cloud storage provide offers terabytes of storage for a reasonable price?
- How fast does the WiFi need to be to upload that much data in just a few days?
We haven’t found a cost-effective solution to this problem and so we carry several physical drives for content storage and backup. Ideally, at least, try to store everything on solid state drives since they are more durable – and much more expensive too.
WhatsApp is the go-to messaging tool in Guatemala so that’s what we use for daily communication with our RUFFLY team, artisans, and vendors.
There are other options but we go with what’s easiest for everyone and it works fine. Just make sure you have a proper collaboration app like Write or Slack for assigning tasks and follow up. Otherwise, it’s easy to miss an important message or to-do when you come ride back into cell coverage and get bombarded by 150 messages all at once!
What once might have seemed like a luxury or frivolity, a tablet is an important part of our remote work kit. The iPad is an excellent tool for performing small work tasks at the campsite or during rest stops. When we stop for our three-day work periods, the iPad is a second monitor for video, photo, and website editing.
If you maintain a website, many website builders allow you to format your site for users on tablets. That means you need a tablet to be sure it looks the way it’s supposed to.
Oh yeah, and if you enjoy watching an episode of 1883, Walking Dead, or Severance in the tent before bed, an iPad is a great way to save your laptop battery!
Remote work practices…
Our four days traveling and three days working is the big ‘practice’ and key ingredient to our special sauce. But we’re not a one-trick poney either!
Working at a café
Working in a café is never a substitute for a quiet comfortable AirBnB or a hotel room where you don’t have to ask someone to watch your laptop when you go to the bathroom.
If you’re traveling with a dog, working from a café is even less productive. Although Moxie is generally exhausted and catching up on sleep during non-travel days, she is naturally hyper alert and gets cranky when tired and overstimulated.
So, by all means enjoy a café for a couple hours while you respond to emails or social comments, but don’t plan to edit video footage or manage your distributed team while glasses clink, people gab, and the espresso machine blares in the background.
Meetings and brainstorming
Avoid holding video meetings at cafés. Nobody wants to listen to it and nobody appreciates the spectacle. More importantly, it’s hard to show your non-traveling team the focus, attention, and respect they deserve when the server is delivering your triple cream chai latte and vegan spinach wrap at a beachside café while tanned surfers walk past.
Just like team meetings, brainstorming and strategizing are important parts of the ‘remote work’. But they don’t always have to be done in the quiet and comfort of the AirBnB home office. We save the heavy stuff like discussions about finance and HR issues for ‘at home’ but for everything else we brainstorm as we travel.
On easy off-road and tarmac, we strategize about marketing, sales, etc. over our helmet communicators. Often an effective brainstorming session occurs as we sip whiskey at the campsite and watch the sun go down. Then during workdays, we discuss pressing topics while stretching our legs and giving Moxie her morning and afternoon walk.
Evenings, transitions, and extended stays
Whenever possible, give yourself time in the evenings to decompress and binge a TV show in the comfort of your hotel room. Days off and afternoon naps are rarely a luxury we can indulge but a few hours each evening are golden moments for checking out.
The hardest moments can be transitioning between work and travel. For example, if you arrive late to the AirBnB where you will be working for the next three days, you are likely to feel sluggish the next morning and lose valuable time doing chores.
But if you arrive in the afternoon, you have an extra few productive hours to air out gear, wash clothes (and yourself), set up your workstation, and decompress from the hard traveling. The impact on your productivity the next day is enormous.
Lastly, don’t leave your packing to the morning of your departure because you will leave the AirBnB already stressed and exhausted. Don’t do it late the night before either because you’ll wake up tired and run down. So always organize, repair, and repack your gear as a break during your workday the day before your depature.
Remote Work While Traveling: It’s Not for Everyone
It’s difficult, often uncomfortable, and most jobs can’t be done remotely anyway. If you’re fortunate like us to have a business, skill set, or employer that allows for remote work while traveling, don’t leap into it too quickly.
Try it for short stretches and don’t go all-in until you’re sure it’s right for you. We hope you’ve found these tips and insights from our experience helpful and maybe even inspiring.
If you’re considering if and how to try remote work while traveling, feel free to reach out to us with any questions!