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212: How To Travel 132 Days A Year And Stay Productive

Posted by Austin Brawner on August 13, 2019


Many business owners tell me one of the reasons they started their own company is to have the freedom to travel.

However, as their business grows, travel becomes stressful and they feel like they have less freedom, not more.

Today we’re helping you get that freedom to travel back by sharing our strategies for stress-free and productive traveling. We both have a lot of experience traveling and working, and we want to give you our tips for enjoying yourself, and getting stuff done, while on the road.


Episode Highlights

  • 5:08 The travel mindset and setting expectations.
  • 6:59 The pace of business travel vs. ongoing travel.
  • 7:59 A key thing to do on travel days that will help reduce stress.
  • 10:47 In order to keep the freedom to travel as your team grows, you need to protect each other’s time.
  • 13:42 The travel kit to put together to help you be more productive.
  • 15:24 Andrew’s addition to his travel kit that’s been a game changer for staying calm on the road.
  • 16:02 Tips for making the most out of long flights and drives.
  • 19:05 Andrew’s road trip recipe for success.
  • 21:50 What to do right away when you land in a new city to get grounded and ready to be productive.
  • 25:20 Some travel apps/access hacks.

Links And Resources

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. Today, we're talking about travel, aren't we?

Austin Brawner: Yes. We are talking about travel. It's something we've wanted to talk about for a while. It popped up as we were coming up with episode ideas because, well, I have a crazy travel schedule coming up. You have had a crazy travel schedule almost all winter. We were just talking about strategies that we have. We both have a lot of experience traveling and working, and we figured it'd be good to pull our collective brain ... just do a brain dump of all the stuff we've learned of a lot of travel over the last five years.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, exactly. This is basically how to stay productive while on the road. We each have our own little set of mastery tips that we'll go through. Would you like to start it off, Austin, and I can sprinkle mine in?

Austin Brawner: Yeah, but first before going into it, I just want to say I think that it's really interesting because as an entrepreneur, oftentimes people will start a business to create more freedom in their life. As you continue to grow your business, you can run into times when you're asking yourself, "why did I do this?" I used to be able to travel, or as you were maybe smaller, I used to be able to travel and now I can't. Or it's so stressful when I travel that I don't like traveling anymore.

I feel like that's something that our goal from this episode, if there's one thing to take away, it's that you can travel, be productive, make it stress-free, and these are some of the strategies we've found to help with that.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally. I just want to comment on that, and I'm glad that you brought that up. The thing that is common that you hear when you're an entrepreneur that does travel is, "Wow, that must be nice." I think, one, there's plenty of things that come with it. I always say to Gracie, people look at us like, "it must be nice." You're like, "Do you think this is an accident? No. We got here very intentionally."

The other thing is if you build it in as part of what you do and it's in the DNA of what you do, people will actually respect you more I found. They'll actually want to work with you more if travel is a big part of what you do so that when you're traveling while you're working, they're like, "Oh, okay, that's not an issue." They're not surprised by that.

Where it's interesting always is looking at travel from working with bigger companies. When you're traveling and they're sitting in a boardroom, they're always surprised, but there's just ways to deal with that too which we can get into. Yeah, I'm glad.

Austin Brawner: Why don't we kick it off with going into your mindset around travel because that's kind of what you're getting into there. Why don't you start with that, and we'll work into that.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. My mindset with it and our mindset, and really I say my, it's really Gracie and I, our mindset with travel is that it's part of the DNA of our business. That's one part of it.

The next thing I think that's important to think in the mindset of traveling is we believe that it is essential to travel to be able to have the insights that we have. In the economy that we live in, which is obviously doing client work, managing accounts, consulting, auditing and essentially having to think different than a lot of other people, it's not that travel is nice, it's actually now that it's entirely essential to making sure that our competitive edge stays strong. That's another big mindset piece.

From a mindset standpoint too, it mirrors how we talk about transparency, so being very upfront about the travel, "Hey, we're going to be traveling at this time. Hey, we're going to be traveling in this range of time," and setting expectations, "We'll be online in the morning and later in the evenings. What that'll mean for you is, we'll be available during your timezone of between, basically, end of your day and then you'll wake up and there'll be messages from us probably."

Austin Brawner: The ping-pong, back and forth.

Andrew Foxwell: Exactly. That's the mindset that we try to instill in ourselves and in our clients in terms of setting some of those expectations.

Austin Brawner: For me, it's similar. One of the things that Carly and I do is we try to travel very slow. We're deliberate about where we're going. Actually, I'm going to first break it up in two separate times. There's business travel, which is not slow, and then there's ongoing travel where we go to different places, work from there.

I was in Santa Barbara for about three weeks this summer, and we were working from there. That was a slow trip in my mind where we planned it very deliberately to be able to work but also to be able to enjoy the outdoors, the beach and being somewhere else.

On the flip side, most of my trips where I go for work to go do a Private Intense in a different city, I'm in and I'm out. Totally different mindset to those, which I'll split up and go into how you can approach each of those differently.

One key thing though, regardless, I always overestimate how long it's going to take me to get from one place to another. That, massively overestimate because stress doesn't come from travel. Stress comes from underestimating the amount of time it's going to take you to get from one place to another. I try to cancel all my meetings on travel days if possible or at least give myself massive amounts of time to get to the airport or back.

What you were mentioning about transparency, 100% I try to communicate when I'm going to be out of the office and just overestimate so much that I'll move meetings to different days and say, "I just don't know if I'm going to make it. Let's move it to a different day."

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, and I've actually ... This is one of these things that's interesting. First of all, the cancel all days on travel days, we do that as well. We even have buffer days many times in between. If we're going from a different timezone, whatever, you're going to build that in.

Austin Brawner: Sure.

Andrew Foxwell: What's interesting is we've had situations where we're going to be going to, this spring we went to Germany and Italy and Switzerland. This now constitutes, I don't know, the fifth or sixth time where we're going to be doing a longer trip, and I want to be intentional about being there, so we don't take any new business during this time, which some people would say it's a dumb business decision. There's certainly money to be made if we were to take on things, but we just don't start new things when we travel, which I think is reasonable.

What's been funny is you feel like saying ... The first time I said it, I remember emailing people and being like, "You know what, I'm not going to be able to take this on until about a month and a half from now, but I'm super interested, and I want to follow back up." That separates the wheat from the chaff. It is nuts. I've had several clients that I've signed that have waited the 45 days that are totally fine with it because I know that even if the travel's only, let's say, two weeks, I know that it's going to take me another week to catch up, so I try to build that in too. Those people that have waited, end up being the best clients.

Austin Brawner: Sure.

Andrew Foxwell: And people I love working with. That feels weird but it actually works really, really well. We're very lucky to be able to do that. I just want to point that out that that's something that if you feel weird saying that, that's okay to say because I think ultimately it's going to deliver a better customer to you anyway.

Austin Brawner: Again, underestimating it, it's so, so ... overestimating how long it's going to take you to recover is super, super important.

Back to one thing you mentioned, which is about being in the DNA of your company, I think the main thing that needs to be done if you want to continue to travel as your team grows is you need to make sure that your team knows to protect each other and value travel.

Earlier this year, Rose, our project manager, was gone for about three and a half weeks. Took a trip, and completely off the grid going down to Central America. Spent some time down there. Came back super refreshed.

Part of our DNA as a company like yours is we value experiences, travel experiences, and value time being completely disconnected. We communicate to protect each other during that time. If someone's going to be gone, the other person covers for them with an expectation that when the time comes and that other person needs to go, their time is going to be protected as well.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally. Right. You have respect in that. That's something that we've done as well with Shane who edits this podcasts. Shout out to Shane.

Austin Brawner: Shout out, Shane.

Andrew Foxwell: He has two young boys, he and his partner, Kirsten. They want to travel with them and then we encourage that, "No problem. Just let us know. Do what you need to do, and do what you want to do." You have to be respectful of that as they are respectful of you. I think that's really important.

As you grow, obviously, there's more complications to that, I think, but a lot of it comes down to self-reflection of where was the friction within this experience, looking back and saying, "What was it that made it really challenging?"

I remember two years ago, we were working with a client, and I was in the Milwaukee Airport, and they wanted to have a call. I was on a call boarding the flight. I got off the phone and I was like, "I never want to be that guy."

First of all, I'm not that important, one. Second of all, there's no reason that I need to be on that call at that moment in time. I just remember, I will not do that again. That canceling meetings thing on the travel days I think is really important.

Austin Brawner: It's impossible to be present at that moment.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally.

Austin Brawner: When you're in an airport, I totally understand. I've had a similar experience. I took a call in a subway in Hong Kong, on a Zoom call. Afterwards, I hung up and I'm like, "I don't even know what they said. I have no idea what we just talked about. That was the dumbest meeting I've ever taken," but I felt obligated to take it, so just trying to get away from any meetings taken from obligation.

I do want to shift gears a little bit though because I want to get into a little bit more of the nitty-gritty stuff about how to actually remove some of the friction. I want to go into first, a travel kit, which I've found over a period of time has helped me to become a lot more productive.

One of them if I'm going on a longer trip. Not a business trip, but one where going to live somewhere else and work, four things to bring: a roost, which is a little stand that can pop up my MacBook Air. Roost stand, excellent, excellent tool. I brought that all around the world. Headphones. Noise-canceling headphones, a mouse and an Apple keyboard. If I'm going to be anywhere for more than a week and a half, two weeks, I always bring those things because I find that hunching over, I feel terrible, and they make things a lot more productive. Combine that with earplugs and an eye mask if my flying, we'll put noise-canceling headphones over earplugs to be able to work on a plane. That's my little travel kit that has been very, very helpful.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I'm with you. My little travel kit is basically just my laptop, notepad, because I like to write down notes whenever I'm talking to people or doing different things. It allows me to think differently if I have to write it down, and then obviously the same thing, noise-canceling headphones are huge.

It's insane how one thing that's like $200, the noise-canceling headphones, if you get a really nice pair, and there is a relationship between price and quality, the nicer the pair that you get, it literally will change the game.

Austin Brawner: One hundred percent.

Andrew Foxwell: It totally cuts down on distractions, makes you feel more calm. Our other travel kit thing that we utilize is bringing along our Headspace app. We pay for that yearly subscription. Being able to unplug and just ... not unplug literally, literally unplug from the work and be able to take a deep breath and just calm down for a second. Listening to that on noise-canceling headphones, total game changer as part of the travel kit.

I think for me, another part of the travel kit does have to go with the time part of it too. Do you want to talk about that a little bit in terms of how you deal with time and scheduling when you go through it?

Austin Brawner: Sure. I'm going to talk mostly about flights because I do more flying than driving. Flights, a couple rules. Try to fly in the afternoon, so have a nice, calm morning and can do a little bit of work. Go fly in the afternoon, land somewhere and get going. I'm talking more for business trips here.

Andrew Foxwell: Sure.

Austin Brawner: Ideal world, get back on a Saturday versus a Sunday. Always try to get back on a Saturday versus a Sunday because I feel like my level of stress when I come back and land on a Saturday versus land on a Sunday is one-tenth. We've just made a rule. We're like, okay, we're doing that.

As far as flights, if it's over one hour, I pretty much always book economy plus or first class or business class because I've found that flying, I can get so much work done on a flight, but I can't do it if my arms are smashed in the back of a plane. The difference between the two of them, it's just a hard-fast rule when I'm going on a business trip over an hour and a half, economy plus or first class, no questions, because I can get so much more done on that. I don't rely on the internet, but I will plan to do as much deep work as possible on my flights because it's a great time to get some deep thinking done.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, definitely. I think in terms of the timing, for us, time blocking is a concept we've talked about on this podcast before, and making sure that these are the times you're available for working and this is what it looks like is really important.

In terms of driving in the ways that we go about it, that's what we try to do, time block and not try to have phone calls that are two hours of phone calls. More than that, it becomes way too much. You'll be able to have four 30-minute calls, which is usually more than enough to get things done. If it requires you to look at a laptop, you can set that up for another time.

In terms of the flying, I'm totally with you. That's also something that if you have the financial means, and even when we were on the cusp of not having the financial means to book economy plus, we usually did because of that reason. It's a comfort thing that is going to allow you to work.

I think you've talked to me a lot about not relying on the internet on flights. I also do that. I don't rely on it anymore. I put everything into offline mode on Google, and that's when I do a lot of the work on our presentations.

Austin Brawner: Great time.

Andrew Foxwell: That's something that's an easy way to get it done because you can't go anywhere else.

Austin Brawner: You can't.

Andrew Foxwell: It's easy to sit and just knock a bunch of stuff out.

Austin Brawner: You've done a lot of road trips. You've been around the country on road trips. How do you typically think about driving around, and do you have a limited number of hours you drive per day? How do you think about getting around while still being productive?

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. Our road trip recipe is going in the early morning doing the longer haul. If you wake up early, have a little breakfast, have a little coffee, and if you're on the road by 6:00 or 7:00 a.m., which sounds ludicrous to a lot of people, you can get so many places in six or seven hours in the United States.

From Wisconsin, you can get ... I always tell people, they're like, "I would love to go to Colorado." If you're willing to wake up early, drive all day, spend the night in South Dakota somewhere from Madison, Wisconsin, you can be, by lunchtime, in Denver the next day.

The early morning takes a lot of the pain out of it, so we usually max our drives as, I would say an average is something like six to eight hours. There have been days where if we're really ready to do it, we can just keep on going if we'll have that option of we haven't booked something, and if we feel good, to keep going. Especially on the first day of a road trip, do the longest haul you can.

As you get closer, do the shorter hauls, and that's going to make things a lot easier for you because then when you're in a place, you're there many times before dinner. It allows you to follow up on things you've seen through the day, answer emails, wake up early the next day, and continue to fire through some work and say, "Hey, I'll be back online this afternoon again, which most of the time you can deal with stuff that way. That's the recipe that we have.

Then once you get to a place, obviously enjoy it. I think a lot of times people do road trips and they try to do too many things. Our mantra is, look, if we're going to go somewhere, do about half of what we think we should do. That'll make the experience a ton better because then you're not having to rush, and you're able to say, "Oh, this is really great. Maybe we should check that out." Also, the nice thing about a road trip is if a place isn't really that interesting, you can bail and keep going.

Austin Brawner: Totally, totally agree about doing less. I feel like, I was looking at some travel stats. Last year, I think I was on the road for 125 days, which is a really, really long time. By spending that much time away, you just start to recognize that slowing it down, doing less makes everything a lot easier, less stressful and better.

When I land in a new city, there are things I do right away. One of them is I will look for a place to be able to have a good, productive workspace from. Now that could either be an Airbnb. We stay at a lot of Airbnbs. The Work Hard Anywhere app is really, really cool. Anywhere in the world, bring up this app. It'll rate coffee shops and public libraries and places to work from so you can immediately find a place that you might be able to get some work done. Really, I think people underestimate how much you can actually get done in four hours, a four-hour block. There's a lot you can get done in four hours.

Andrew Foxwell: Totally.

Austin Brawner: If you just take four hours of a day and go work from a coffee shop or a public library. Those are places I typically end up. If I get serious, and I really need to have a professional situation, a professional place, which is rare, something like LiquidSpace. I remember I had to do a podcast, and I was in New York City. LiquidSpace, went on there. Was able to book within 30 minutes an office that I could take a perfectly quiet podcast or meeting from. Same thing with Breather in big cities.

That's my initial thing and then get a place to workout from as well. If I'm going on business, no question I'll book a hotel that has a gym in it. For me, that makes the difference between being able to get productive work done and not over a short period of time.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah, the Airbnb is obviously incredible in that regard because you're comfortable, and it allows you to have a nice workspace. I don't need a lot of space. I just need a comfortable place to sit. Many times just an Airbnb couch is super easy for me. In terms of when we get to a new city, one of the things I do right away is check in with really my biggest travel hack which is Shane, also who we talk about on this podcast who's also editing this podcast.

Shane is a huge part of it for us. He's on all the Slack channels, which is another big tip that we utilize for communication. He's on all the Slack channels on everything. Clients that he's not leading on, they'll know that they can email him and ask questions. He knows that I'll be driving that day.

Get to a new city, I always check in with him what's going on, what's the deal. He's like, "No, good here, good here." That enables a ton of it because he knows exactly ... we've been working together now four years. He knows exactly the things I'm thinking about, what we need to be taking care of, and if things need to be tasked to him, we can do that when I land.

That's really my land-in-a-new-city-thing. Check the WiFi, get to talk to Shane and then set expectations with him of what we need to take care of. If that's done, then it allows the whole experience to be way better because he understands the schedule, what's going on, what we have that we're going to be doing and when he can expect to hear from us or to be annoyed by us and when he's going to be able to have deep work time, which is super helpful.

Austin Brawner: Sure. For me, just quick as we wrap up here, quick travel hacks, things that I've found that have been helpful, LoungeBuddy. If you're running a business and you have some sort of points credit cards, LoungeBuddy, you can put in your credit cards into it and it'll let you know whenever you land what lounges you're going to have access to.

The American Express Platinum card. You get the American Express Platinum business card, you have access to a bunch of lounges, centurion lounges. You get access to WeWork anywhere in the world. If you ever need to stop in and work, you can always stop at a WeWork. Way more helpful in large cities than small cities. We're going to Mexico City, pop into a WeWork if I need to. You also get Global Entry. Super worthwhile if you have any desire to travel, travel long-term. Pre-check Global Entry; both things that make a huge, huge, huge difference.

I think more important than any of this though is, if you're asking yourself, you're like, "I want to travel more," or reminiscing about a time when you felt like you had more freedom to travel because your business was smaller, go back and think really about why you started your business, what it was that brings you joy, and work your way. You 100% can work your way into more freedom. It's just about being deliberate. It's just about being consistent and not thinking about travel as something you do where you escape from everything, as more just something that's integrated within your life.

Andrew Foxwell: Yeah. I completely, completely agree with that. Hopefully, this is some interesting thoughts for you as you go through this. I think a lot of it comes down to designing it, as you said, back into who you really wanted to be and designing it into your calendar and into your life and being intentional with it. If you lead with that and make sure that the expectations are set, you will be able to travel when you work and it'll actually be more productive. Some of the most productive things that I've ever done have been when I've been traveling because I know I have only a certain amount of time to do it.

Anyway, hopefully you find help in this episode and some helpful tips. If you have other things you want to share, always feel free to email us and let us know what works for you.

Austin Brawner: Or even better would be on Twitter. Hit us up on Twitter. I would love to hear your travel tips, things that you've done to be able to make travel less stressful, better and ways you've stayed productive while on the road at Andrew Foxwell, right?

Andrew Foxwell: @AndrewFoxwell.

Austin Brawner: @a_brawn for me. Thank you guys for listening. Talk to you guys soon.

Austin Brawner: Hey there, it's Austin again, and I have a quick message for you. If you enjoyed this podcast, I have something really exciting for you. For the last year and a half, I've been coaching ecommerce business owners and marketers inside a group called The Coalition. You might have even heard me talking about it on this podcast. We have a lot of members who come on and actually share their story.

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Austin Brawner: What's up everybody? Welcome to another episode of the Ecommerce Influence Podcast. My name is Austin Brawner.

Andrew Foxwell: And I'm Andrew Foxwell. Today, we're talking about travel, aren't we?

Austin Brawner: Yes. We are talking about travel. It...

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