October is Room of One’s Own month at Leap Little Frog. For this week’s installment, Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators shares ideas for creating effective, nourishing workspaces away from home.
When we’re traveling, it is often difficult to find good, creative workspaces.
In a hotel? Well, so are the beds, and the coffeemaker, and probably a lovely shower, and views from the window, and a new environment to explore outside the hotel…
Hopping from place to place for an extended period of time? That’s more difficult, although digital nomads make it look easy, with photos of their beach-side tables with laptops propped next to tropical drinks, or photos of themselves in a mountainous area, lying in a hammock with the laptop on (you guessed it) a lap.
For me, real life – and real travel, whether extended or not – doesn’t work like that. I’m not great at finding quiet coffeeshops, and I am definitely distracted in a hotel room, especially with my family (read: teen listening and bopping to music, sports on the tv for my husband, constant family chatter – which I love!).
1. Make sure you have your gear
Whether you work best on a computer or with a notebook and pen, be sure you have what you need to do your work. For a writer such as myself, this includes cords, mouse, attached keyboard, paper and pen, notes from projects or sources, etc. It also includes photos and documents I need on my laptop, or accessible via the cloud.
2. How do you work best at home, in your creative space
Emulate that here. For me, the best creative space for my writing includes a cup of coffee (and, later in the afternoon, tea) at hand, sitting on a yoga ball chair (this will not translate to working while traveling, but bear with me). I need quiet, and frequent stretch breaks.
When I travel and need to write, I make sure I have plenty of coffee, as comfortable a chair as possible, and a quiet environment. I take frequent breaks to stretch. See how I’ve taken my best working environment and moved it to wherever I am?
I also get inspired by art and nature. At home, I look out the window at a gorgeous green space. Inside, my walls are covered with global art and cherished photos. I can find places with art and/or places filled with nature, when I’m working while traveling.
I have worked in coffeeshops, and there’s always a problem when I have to go to the bathroom – do I leave the computer, etc. on the table with a hopefully trusty person to watch over it? Or do I pack it all up? That’s one problem with coffeeshops.
I have worked in hotel business centers, and this is a bit easier, because there is usually an attendant there. Just notify them that you’ll be right back, and your stuff will be safely taken care of. Note: just to be sure, I sign out of everything on my computer, and take my purse with me.
If you’ve found a great place to work outside, perhaps at a park, or on a sand dune overlooking the beach, then you should be careful of both belongings, and your personal safety. If you’re anything like me, when you’re creating, your mind is definitely not on your surroundings.
4. Noise level
I work best in silence, where my thoughts can bounce around. Sometimes when I travel, I can’t help but work at a coffee shop or restaurant. In this case, I try to find the quietest corner, away from all the action. I also wear earplugs, to dampen the noise.
If you work best by listening to music, be sure to take your ear buds with you, so that you can continue your creativity in the best audio environment for you.
I’ve also written in art galleries, art museums, hospital cafeterias and waiting rooms, university buildings galore, air bnbs, b&bs, lobbies at city offices and business buildings, clubhouses, bookstores, and more. My keys are comfort and quiet.
Here’s a bonus about hotels: often, late at night, their lobbies are very quiet – and have strong internet. The front desk people are often extremely helpful in terms of safety – and, occasionally, beverages. If you’re checking in at 2am and see a redhead over in the corner of the lobby, ensconced in a large chair, with a cup of coffee, working on her laptop? That’s me.
5. Other commitments
Maybe you have your family with you when you travel, or you have other commitments that preclude you working on your own things. This, to me, is the biggest challenge to finding space to write when I am on the road. Here’s how I’ve overcome these challenges:
I make sure to spend plenty of time with my family when I am not writing, so that we have a great time together, and that each person is satiated with interaction. This is helped by having an introverted kid – she definitely needs time to herself. And, at times, I’ve relied on videos or made plans with my husband to go do something with our daughter, when I need to write. Above all, be sure to make meal times family time, and extend those out a bit, so that you’re all full of great food, laughter, and joy.
Sometimes I am running a conference and have my family with me, and not much time to write. Of course, I have to take care of those commitments first. That means, however, that much of my writing time is early (not so often) or late (when I am tired and ready for sleeping). In this case, I try to plan for a bit of time alone in the middle of the afternoon, when I can steal away and write for a few moments, uninterrupted.
6. One more tip
If you can’t create a work space of your own while traveling, then this tip might help with your creative process – I keep a small moleskin notepad in my purse, and write down thoughts and outlines, to flesh out later, when I have time and space.
What do you do, to create your best work space while on the road? What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them
Jessie Voigts has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. She is passionate about international education, study abroad, smart travel, intercultural awareness, and travel with disabilities. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.
Be sure to visit her sites Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world, and Journey to Scotland, a travel site for her favorite place in the world. And her six books about travel and intercultural learning are inspirational resources for travelers of all ages.
A wonderful resource chock full of great ideas about how to be your best creative self! Like you Jessie, I too need silence to do my best work however, once I am in flow, I don’t care what happens around me as long as my hand keeps up with my brain. LOL!
Excellent tips, Jessie! I’ve used most of them, including that working in hotel lobbies in the middle of the night. I often cover music events and find that when the events are not going on but the venue is open — during the day when evening events are taking place, for example — lobbies of concert halls and other arts venues can also be good places to work.
I’d add, if you use earbuds/headphones with your computer, it’s often a good idea to take them with you or hide them when you leave for a short time. They can be a very attractive small item for passers by to snatch up.
Thank you for sharing Jessie’s tips, Shannon.
So you will leave the computer for a moment, Kerry? That’s my dilemma at the coffee shop or library. Good idea to carry the tempting headphones with you, but isn’t the whole set up tempting?