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Work and Travel

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Someone asked a good question in my post earlier this week about travel tips.  What do I do about work? Missed income? when I travel.  This is a key point as to why I travel and will continue to travel so I wanted to make sure it was clear thus this post rather than just my response in the comments…

As you know I am self employed and have been for going on 10 years now.  My income fluctuates but minimally unless I pick up new projects or work, and I have a pretty stable group of clients who I’ve been with for 5+ years.  With that being said, with my line of work, I can work from literally ANYWHERE and typically ANY TIME.  I appreciate this blessing EVERY SINGLE DAY as it’s key to making my lifestyle work.

This works because 1) the type of work I do; 2) the equipment and tools/technology available and 3) the way I have set up my business.

First, I am trained as a software engineer, which just a fancy way of saying I read and write computer speak relatively well.  So much of my work is either developing new code or troubleshooting old code, add to that I test out the products, document the products and teach people how to use the products of this work.  With this work I am able to work when and how I want to as long as I communicate with my clients and meet deadlines.  Without my education and experience, there is no way I could have made this change in my work after my kids were born.   In addition to this work, I am not afraid to get my hands dirty doing other things and in fact, love the variety as I do tend to get bored easily and love to multi-task, so rather than marketing myself as a software engineer, do so as a high tech virtual assistant.  This allows me much more access to work and different clients and I have found that my jobs have grown with my relationships with those clients so it’s the best of both worlds.  (I’ve writting more about what I do on my personal blog here and you can find my business site that has not been updated in forever here in case you are curious or in need of a good VA as I’m always looking for great clients and challenges projects!)

Second, thanks to technology such as laptops, smartphones and tablets, I can connect to any of my clients from anywhere.  My office line is a Skype line so I can use it as VoIP from my computer headset or from my phone when I’m on the road.  And my clients just have one number that will literally reach me anywhere.  When we travelled and will hopefully travel more often in the past, I had a subscription with my cell phone company for on the go internet access, but cut that cost a couple of years ago when we cut down significantly on travel.  I see that changing in the future but for now I rely on free wifi hot spots or staying places with free wifi.  I also have several software programs that I can 1) communicate my work schedule to clients without a lot of back and forth which can get time consuming and confusing and 2)helps me track work time and project deadlines so I can stay on task even if I’m moving around doing it.

Lastly, when I set up my business I knew that my priority was my kids, that was the reason I was leaving the corporate world; so from the very beginning I structured my work around their schedules and lives and needs.  It wasn’t easy and often feels like I am juggling 1/2 dozen balls at any given time (some of them on fire too,) but it’s so worth it and I feel that the benefits have been immeasurable in regards to my relationship with my kids and my ability to homeschool them.  I have been upfront with my clients and while it does sometimes take a while to gain their trust, I have found all of my clients have responded positively to my work arrangement, I don’t pull any punches, set realistic expectations and am very open and responsible with my communication.

I hope this clears up some of the questions regarding my ability to travel without losing any income and using my frugal tips and planning we are really able to not go too far over budget in most cases without some forethought.

*Note: The exception now is my new part time job; however, I told them upfront of my travel plans and have offered to make up hours if needed.  I hesitated to offer but felt I needed too, they have been fine with me not and since I have not added that additional income into my budget, it’s still icing on the cake as far as income goes.


VA to TN to GA – First Leg of Trip Done

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Bear in mind that I am writing this Saturday as I anticipate a busy couple of days so I’m predicting how this is going to go. I will update with exact details if I get a chance.

Updated Thursday morning with reality…initial post is in plain text with updates in italics below the different segments.

This evening we will arrive at one of my favorite places on earth…The Lakehouse. It’s a cabin owned by my extended family on Lake Hartwell in Georgia. It’s secluded and rustic, away from everything and absolutely glorious. We will have completed the first leg of our journey. And the best part, it’s FREE lodging for the remainder of our time away from home.

We actually got here Wednesday morning and our friends drove down with us to hang out for the day at the lake.  As I anticipated the water was still too cold to swim but the kids did jump in a couple of times before heading off to the beach to skip rocks or to the patio to play UNO.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the "beach" at the lakehouse.

My youngest at 2, sitting on the “beach” at the Lakehouse.

Here’s what we’ve done and spent thus far:

Sunday – Picked up Cadet (15 year old twin – eldest) from his mini boot camp weekend and got on the road towards TN. We needed to arrive by Monday afternoon to drop History Buff (15 year old twin.) My goal was to get to Knoxville to sleep but I’m not sure we will make it that far since we have a solid 9 hours of drive time once we have Cadet. Dinner in the car from food we brought from home.

Due to an unexpected LONG break at a gas station due to some medical issues (everyone is fine, it’s an ongoing thing for one of my kids,) we bought Subway sandwiches for dinner to allow the rest of us to sit in the air conditioning while we dealt with medical needs.  I hadn’t anticipate this cost, but it was worth it to keep the others occupied and not sweltering in the car. Cost $20

Monday – Spent the night somewhere between Richmond, VA and Knoxville, TN in a hotel. I made sure it had free continental breakfast I’m sure and today we will have had to fill up the gas tank as we can typically make about 7 hours of drive time on one tank in our giant beast of a car. Lunch was a picnic somewhere fun…rest area or touristy spot. History Buff is dropped off for his week long TeenPact camp. We drove on 2 more hours to arrive at my friend’s house in the Atlanta area. Not sure if we will have had another dinner in the car or wait to eat at my friends.

We did make it to Knoxville and made reservations about an hour out…I was surprised that all the prices were the same: Expedia, Hotel site, calling hotel, but we did get the free breakfast and a late check out since we were only a couple of hours from our drop off point for History Buff.  We enjoyed the indoor pool and sleeping in a bit.  My plan for a picnic lunch at a rest area failed miserably when the rest area was closed, so we continued on to our drop off point at ate a picnic on the local library lawn. It was a great family time and of course, I got emotional dropping off my child so far from home for a week, but I know he’s having a great time!

We hurried on to my friends house, checking to make sure it was okay if we arrived earlier than anticipated and she threw dinner in the crockpot with that warning.  However, not sure why, but I did arrive there are fumes, finishing up our second tank of guess much earlier than anticipated.

At this point only money spent aside from gas (on 2nd tank now) was a night in hotel between VA and TN.

Close, but we’ve now used two full tanks of gas, spent one night in a hotel and bought Subway sandwiches at a gas station.

Tuesday & Wednesday – We spent hanging with our friends. (Side note: They homeschool like us and are planning some exciting things so I’m sure it will be fun. And just for the record, this is the same friend I wrote about HERE, so she knows that spending any money isn’t really an option. It’s so nice to have been able to open up and be honest with someone without feeling judged.)

We actually experience the MARTA system in Atlanta (cost $20) and Legoland (payed for by friend as her son’s birthday party.) She did treat us out for two meals, against my protest, and I reciprocated, by my own desire, with desserts. It was a GREAT time and despite all our years of friendship this was actually the first time ever we visited their home, and we will definitely do it again when I am in a better financial place. 

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

Our kids at the Lakehouse last summer.

At this point, looking forward to Wednesday night when we will arrive at the Lakehouse, I believe the only money spent will be:

  • 1.5 tanks of gas since we left home – approx value $120
  • 1 night in a hotel – approx value $100

My parents will be meeting us at the Lakehouse this week, and in a couple of days I will have to drive by to TN to pick up History Buff and drop off Lil Gymnast. I will keep you posted, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the peace and quiet of the lake and get some work done!

We did our grocery shopping last night, spending less than $100 (more than 1/2 was a gift card I had been holding on to for just this occassion,) so all in all with the food we’ve brought from home and the use of the gift card, I spent $45 cash for the food that will last us at least a week here if not longer.  Yeah!