What Does it Look Like to Work and Travel?

Andy and I recently spent a week in Budapest. It’s been a few months since we returned from almost two months in Southeast Asia, and we don’t have any big travel plans until the fall, so I was itching to go somewhere. It was also a trial run of working and traveling at the same time. Though we’ve done this before, this was the first time Andy had a contract while we traveled.

Working and traveling at the same time - view of Budapest from above

Why this trip was different

Our trips through Europe last year and Southeast Asia earlier this year were working trips. We spent plenty of time on various projects, and Andy searched and applied for contracts while we were in Southeast Asia. But, other than a few freelance articles I had deadlines on, we didn’t have anything really pressing. The projects we were working on were our own, and even though they were important to us, they were easy enough to put aside when we wanted to.

This trip was different. Andy has a contract working 20 hours a week, including Skype calls, so he couldn’t just blow that off in favor of sightseeing. And even though most of my work is just as self-motivated as it has been in the past, I’m actually starting to make money from blogging now as well as taking on more freelance assignments, and so the urge to keep making progress is much more real. I didn’t want to let an entire week pass without chipping away at my to-do list.

So how did we do?

We arrived in Budapest Saturday night and spent Sunday sightseeing. We really should have remembered that sightseeing in 90F weather at noon is not a good idea. But we survived, and after dinner, we watched Germany win the World Cup. Yay!

Monday we went on a food tour, which was so much fun. Then we went to the grocery store to buy some food to make lunch for a few days. I also bought what I thought was yogurt and turned out to be pudding. This saved time since we knew we’d be working during the day. We spent the night in to recover from all the meat we ate on the tour and worked for a couple of hours.

Working and traveling at the same time - Budapest food tour

Working and traveling at the same time

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are Andy’s normal work days for his contract work, so he did the same while we were in Budapest. Meanwhile, I was working on a few things for Travel Made Simple. This meant we didn’t do any sightseeing before 5pm on those days.

Tuesday after work, we went to see another castle before dinner.

Wednesday we set out to do a boat tour on the Danube. Unfortunately it was drizzling so we opted for some amazing gelato and went to the top of St. Stephen’s Basilica before dinner.

Thursday we had the delicious gelato again, followed by pictures of the parliament building. Then we met our friends Dalene and Pete for dinner.

Working and traveling at the same time - Budapest Parliament Building

We worked Friday morning before going to find lunch. The original plan was to go to the baths after that, but we decided what we really needed was a few hours sitting in a square and talking. We have a few ideas brewing for the next year, and it was good to kick around some of the details. Then we thought about the boat trip again, and again we ditched the idea. After dinner we went wandering through a park, sat on a bench and watched a bunch of people walking laps with their adorable (and one ugly) dogs, despite the “no dogs” sign.

Saturday morning our Airbnb host emailed me to say we didn’t have to be out until 12:30 instead of 11am, so we went out for a leisurely breakfast. We were on the train by 3pm to start the long, torturous journey home.

Deciding what to skip

A week is almost never enough time to visit a city. I always want more. (Spending three months in Berlin was not enough.) Working and traveling at the same time gave us even less time to go sightseeing, sit in squares and cafes, wander through different neighborhoods and try a variety of restaurants. So some things had to go.

We found that it was more important to cut out some of the sightseeing in order to have time for the wandering, the sitting in cafes and squares, and the talking. We often get inspired, sprout new ideas, and hatch new plans while we travel. That relaxation time is also important. We didn’t want to miss all the sights, but travel for us is about so much more. Often our best memories are of our time spent together, having these talks and just enjoying being somewhere else.

In hindsight, we should’ve booked two weeks. We actually considered changing our train tickets weeks before the trip so we could stay longer, but we would’ve had to switch apartments and it didn’t seem worth it. We still would have had work to do, but being there for two weeks would’ve given us more time to do some of the things we skipped. Budapest felt like such a great city, but we didn’t get a chance to dig in as much as we normally do.

Working and traveling at the same time - Budapest book fountain

Seriously, how cool is this book fountain?

Our next big trip is starting in about a month (more on that soon) and we’re definitely approaching it differently. We’re still fine-tuning our non-traditional lifestyle and finding what works and what doesn’t. Working and traveling at the same time is a balancing act, but for us it’s well worth the effort. It will probably always be a work in progress, but then so is everything else in life!

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