Flickr Photo Credit: Re-ality
One of the most frequent questions David and I have received is, “How are you doing this? What have you done to ensure this trip was even possible?”
Obviously, everyone starts this type of journey from a different place. For us, it meant downsizing by weeding out extra belongings and outdated files, selling our current house and picking up another one to eliminate a mortgage, finding a sitter for our two dogs, transitioning from the military and getting two vehicles and a utility cart from the southwest corner of the country to the northeast one. Others may face either a more or less extensive process, depending on where they are at in their lives.
Additionally, David and I have a couple of major issues that need to be addressed. First, we will be running our web site, thelessonmachine.com, from the road. Second, we will be doing this for an extensive amount of time while maintaining most of our responsibilities back here in the States. A decade or so ago, taking off for parts unknown (at least for us) involved just throwing everything in a storage unit, selling a vehicle, moving out of a rental and cancelling all recurring bills. Times have changed.
In addition to getting together product releases and newsletters for about 15 months in advance (we need to consider transition time after the trip as well), we have come up (so far) with six basic categories of data management issues that will need to be addressed to keep us “plugged in” to our life back here while on the road.
First, scanned copies of important personal documents to avoid high international fax fees and unreliable quality with the end product. We recommend emailing these to yourself on a secure, web-based email account that can easily be accessed at various internet cafes and hotel / hostel computer centers around the world. Here’s our working list of these documents:
- military ID card(s)
- birth certificate(s)
- marriage certificate
- resume(s) - helpful if you are keeping employment options open while on the road
- professional certification(s)
- diplomas / transcripts
- job reference documents
- personal medical prescriptions
- pet medical prescriptions
- international driver’s license(s)
- notarized authorization for your pet sitter to make emergency decisions
Next, certain personal items will need to be carried along to facilitate the logistics of the actual trip. Following is our current working list of those items:
- international driver’s licence(s)
- military ID card(s)
- credit card(s)
- debit card(s)
- reasonable set of visa photos
- travelers’ checks
Third, there are at least a few professional electronic items that will be necessary for us to document the trip, maintain necessary contact and continue to keep the business running efficiently. We are still making decisions on some of these items, and other people may feel differently, particularly with regards to taking a laptop or not. Here’s the current list:
- voice recorder
- dvd recorder / digital camera combination (the smallest one possible)
- international cell phone
- solar charger (the jury’s still out on this one)
- electronic adapters
- roll up keyboard for the backpack
- palm computer
Additionally, there is the business data that we will need access to, just as anyone else would who is trying to function professionally from the road. So far, it’s looking like most of this data can be accessed the same way the scanned personal documents can – through secure web based email. By combining secure server access with the use of internet based corporate email and services such as pc anywhere, minimal luggage space will need to be devoted to paperwork and the information will remain as secure as possible. Below, you’ll find the various pieces of information we’ve decided to give ourselves web based access to. Hopefully, this will be of help to the rest of you who are considering a similar transition.
- all contact names, phone numbers and addresses
- link and log in info for mailing list management, including the newsletter
- link and log in info for the back end administration software for the web site.
- access information for corporate email
- link and log in info for all relevant business accounts
- timetable for annual, monthly, weekly and daily business “housekeeping” duties
Similar types of information are also necessary for handling personal business while away from home for long periods of time. Again, having access to this information via secure web based email is critical. Here’s what David and I have determined as the top items of importance:
- necessary financial web sites and log in codes
- links and log in codes for regular accounts to be paid, such as various insurances, cellphone, bank fees, utilities, doggie room and board, etc.
- location of important items such as the safety deposit box, specific files, etc.
- procedural info for wire transfer when necessary (our bank does it for free)
- appropriate pin codes for banking and credit cards
The last area of information we’ve listed is items that will need to be addressed on a weekly or semi-weekly bases. This is particularly important when you are traveling long term, as opposed to a brief vacation. Most likely, this list will lengthen at some point, but here’s the current working version:
- checkbook balancing
- email (probably more often than weekly)
- mail forwarding as appropriate (we have all mail being sent to our attorney)
- check voice mail
- use of free wire transfer for those accounts not payable online
So there you have it, our current working template for how we are “making it happen”. However, we are obviously still in process and will be making adjustments as necessary. David and I will both do our best to keep everyone posted and chronicle the behind the scenes information as best we can.