Previously we talked about the things you need for telecommuting on the road, now we’re going to expand on that a bit by talking about Road Warriors.
When most people hear the phrase Road Warrior the first thing that tends to come to mind is Mad Max. Whilst telecommuting road warriors don’t have to contend with the same hazards that he did, such as roving bands of scavengers and psychotic biker gangs (though the way this economy is going…) there are still plenty of obstacles to overcome.
Not everyone has what it takes to be a road warrior. Some people are better travellers than others, they find it easier to organize, plan and pack what they need in advance, and adapt to conditions as they go.
It’s not easy going from one city to the next and one meeting to the next, living out of a suitcase, away from home for days or even weeks at a time and bringing only that which is essential – for many people it’s just too much, too stressful, too exhausting, and, often times, too lonely.
There’s also a lot of driving involved, and I mean a lot of it.
Keep on Truckin’
In fact for many people it isn’t the logistics or the loneliness, or even the stress, but rather the travelling itself that they find disagreeable. Maybe they’re not the best drivers, maybe they get sore from sitting in the same position all day long, or maybe they just find driving for hours on end interminably boring. Whatever the reasons might be, if you’re not a big fan of driving long distance then you’re never going to be true road warrior material.
Then again, some people have no problem with the driving part of it, it’s when you have to stop that’s the problem. And it’s also the part where I have the most problems. See, I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times, I find it hard to shut my brain off at night and I also wake easily. Whenever I stay hotels I find it even more difficult getting to sleep. Firstly the way they tuck the sheets always makes me feel like I’m pinned down and secondly I find the contrived, synthetic atmosphere of hotels are not conducive to a good night’s sleep.
I mean, the hotel itself could be of the best quality but it doesn’t make a difference to me. I’ve stayed at some pretty swanky hotels in my time, five stars, excellent service, elegant decór, delicious food in the restaurant, full amenities – everything I could ever ask for except a good night’s sleep. I can stay with family or at a friend’s house and sleep no problem, but somehow when I stay in a hotel I might as well be staying in a hospital ward. Lying in a strange bed, in a strange place, with strange noises, I just end up drifting in and out of a weary delirium, nothing that could ever really be called sleep. As a result I usually end the previous day tired, but not fatigued, only to start the following day utterly exhausted.
After a few days of this, it tends to catch up on me quite quickly. Which is why I never stay on the road longer than a week. Still, no matter how much sleep you have the night before, and how much coffee you drink the following morning, eventually your motor’s gonna conk out unless you put proper fuel in it.
In a decent hotels you’ll be able to get an a la carte breakfast, whereas in motels you often only have self-serving buffets where quality and freshness aren’t always the best. Your other options are either store-bought sandwiches (yuk!), the drive thru or the roadside diner. None of these options are particularly healthy or nutritious, and can often be quite expensive too. So, unless you fancy being a little lighter in the pocket area and heavier around the mid-section, you’ll need to plan and prepare your meals in advance.
Here’s a couple of tricks I’ve found. First, bring basic utensils with you; a knife, fork and spoon, plus a bowl for eating out of. You can then rinse them out in the hotel each night. I always bring two Thermos flasks with me. All I have to do is fill them both up each morning with hot water and I’m ready to go. Most hotels have at least got a kettle in the room and if not I just ask a staff member to fill them for me. In my bag I’ve already pre-packed some tea bags, instant coffee, instant soup packets and instant noodles. The noodles are a great hunger-buster and excellent brain food, full of carbohydrates to help me concentrate – very important when combining work with long-distance driving. I also bring plenty of apples, which are great for munching on when you get low on energy, and are full of vitamins.
Another tip; never buy sandwiches on the road, they’re not fresh and they either taste dreadful or don’t have any flavor at all. Either way they always cost way too much. Take some time in the evening to run into a nearby supermarket where, for the price of one plastic wrapped sandwich, you can enough bread, cheese and fillings to make over a week’s worth of sandwiches instead. You should also use your quick trip to the supermarket to stock up on bottled water. Instead of paying through the nose for a 500ml bottle of Evian or Volvic at a roadside store, you can buy pack of six, one litre bottles of generic water for the same price or less.
In fact, you can never have enough water, especially in summer and particularly if you’re tired and have been chugging coffee all morning. When driving long distances it’s vital not to get dehydrated as you might get headaches, dizziness or feel otherwise sick and uncomfortable. You might also find yourself feeling light-headed, which is the last thing you want to be when you’re driving long distances. So bring lots of water and drink it regularly to keep your body in top condition.
Between the apples, noodles, soup, sandwiches and all the water you’re drinking, you’ll be nice and full which means, when you do finally get to your hotel room you won’t have that urge to nibble on something from the minibar or call room service.
A couple of years back people would have thought I was a bit eccentric going to all this trouble instead of taking the more convenient route, but those days are long gone. Frugality is all the rage these days, thanks to the recession. When it’s your own company frugality is self-serving. Even if you are able to claim many items as expenses, there’s a huge difference between business expenses and unnecessary business expenses. So be sure to look through your receipts carefully and use them to try find ways to cut down on your travelling costs.
Even if you don’t have a business of your own, and instead have a job where the company pays your travelling expenses, it still does no harm for you to cut down on your travelling expenses. That way whenever the topic of savings comes up you can show them receipts to prove you’re doing your bit for the company.
Coming up next, communication.
It’s all well and good going on the road from one place to the next but how do you keep in touch with people whilst in transit? What are the options available, what specialized equipment, if any, should you bring with you and how can you charge all those devices and use them properly whilst still driving safely? All will be revealed in Part Two.