How to make the world your office

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to over 50 countries, trips which have run the gamut from sleeping on a freezing cold bench in Narvik, Norway, to visiting totalitarian North Korea, to experiencing sunrise in Varanasi, India. I never lose the thrill of discovering new places and meeting new people.

Next weekend I will start a five-month trip around the Pacific Rim, taking in Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, the US, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Laos. While I hope to have many awesome experiences on my trip, it’s a working trip as I’ll be working throughout for ReignDesign (where I am a partner) on our apps like Pig Rush and Gigzoo, as well as working with our many clients.

When you are running a small business, it can seem impossible to take a lengthy trip away from your base. So, how can it work? Here are my thoughts, pre-departure.

1. Live in the cloud

From a small business perspective, will it be possible to work effectively as part of a team in Shanghai while being physically apart?

One advantage is that ReignDesign already run must of our internal processes in the cloud. Code is stored in Github, documents in Google Docs, files in Dropbox, project management via Basecamp, leads in Highrise, communication via Skype. We’re used to working from multiple machines and locations.

2. Pack smart

One of my favorite travel maxims is: “Before you travel, lay out all the stuff you will pack, and all the money. Then, take half the stuff and double the money.” You need to strike a balance between being equipped for every situation, versus travelling light. I have a packing list based on many previous trips which means I don’t leave anything important behind.

As I’m a software developer, technology of course adds to my luggage 🙂 My new Macbook Air and iPhone 4 will be coming with me. Two items which I think should be on every traveller’s list: a global electrical adaptor, and noise-reduction headphones (which are an absolute godsend for flights). Items which technology have eliminated the need to carry: guidebooks, maps and phrasebooks (iPhone apps), cash and travellers cheques (cards).

3. Travel through time

One thing you can’t easily change is timezones. Anyone who has managed a global team knows that scheduling meetings and arranging work can be very challenging across continents ( is a great resource for planning). That’s why I’m planning to spend the bulk of my time zero to 5 timezones ahead of Shanghai. That allows me to shift my working day, so for example if I’m 4 hours ahead of Shanghai, I will work 2pm – 11pm (10am – 7pm Shanghai). That way, I can be online and accessible at predictable and convenient hours for my colleagues.

Watch this space

While I travel the globe I’ll be blogging regularly on the ReignDesign blog about my experiences working remotely. I’d be delighted to meet up with anyone interested in our apps and mobile services. I’ve posted my summarised plan below, and I’ll also be updating via @matthewmayer on Twitter.

If you have any thoughts or tips on working remotely, please do share in the comments!

Matt Mayer

Matt Mayer is a founder at ReignDesign. Matt is from the UK and was based in Shanghai for ten years. He is now living in Bangkok, Thailand.

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