Combining Work and Travel with Meli Tatar

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Meli Tatar is a market researcher from Vienna. This June, she'll begin a year of working and travelling, taking her London office job with her around the world.

This post continues our series of profiles on entrepreneurs, remote workers and change-makers across the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m Meli, I’m a market researcher from Vienna, Austria. My background is a bit mixed, as I am Turkish but I was born in Macedonia, where most of my family still lives.

About four years ago I finally had a chance to move to London – something that I wanted to do for years. Initially, I came for my master’s degree and I had planned on staying only a year. Funnily enough, I was convinced that I’d move back to Vienna after 12 months, but all my friends kept saying “You’re not coming back to Vienna!” Well, so far, they were right. 

I work in market research, analysing advertising effectiveness for TV ads. This means, I spend a huge part of my time watching ads on YouTube. While this sounds terrible for some – and many people really dislike advertising, as my entire family does - I actually enjoy it.

"When I finally told [my manager] of my plans, he was really supportive – and I think even a bit jealous."

When did you decide to travel and what made you take the leap?

I actually thought about it for a long time, but it was always something that I “maybe will do one day”. Especially, since I’m not a backpacking-type but in my mind a real traveller was always a backpacker.

Then, early this year, a friend wanted to visit a co-working space in Lisbon and I decided to tag along. This somehow opened my eyes, and a few days after our trip I had already started planning my next escape – about a month after that, the plan had changed from travelling for only two weeks to being gone for a year or longer.

How did you approach your manager with the idea of working and travelling at the same time?

I was actually pretty optimistic when I approached my manager. Though, I have to add that I am already in a pretty unique (and lucky) position. My entire team is based in the US and I am a remote worker (have been for almost four years now) so my manager is used to me being in a different time zone. When I finally told him of my plans, he was really supportive – and I think even a bit jealous.

"I have read so many different travel blogs and I follow a lot of digital nomads on Facebook etc. and everyone has great insights and ideas. But in the end, that is what works for them and I have yet to figure out what works for me."

Is this something typical in your company?

Well, my company is quite flexible when it comes to remote working and they usually are pretty supportive when someone wants to work from home – or maybe from somewhere else - for a short amount of time. But I don’t think that anyone has ever taken their job and essentially decided to travel around the world.

How does your job allow you to lead a flexible lifestyle?

I work on a global project, with people from all over the world. We all do our work independently and just have to connect every now and then – so as long as I’m available for a few calls per week and answer my mails every day, everyone’s happy. It also helps a lot, that I’m on the research side of the business, so I don’t have any direct client contact and thus don’t have to be available all the time. I do oversee a small team in India, so I will have to make sure to be available for a few hours each day when they are in the office – but they too are used to working with me across different time zones, so it won’t be a huge change.

Tell us about your itinerary!

My itinerary keeps changing actually – I keep adding more and more countries. At the moment, I only have a one way ticket to Mauritius. After that, I’d love to go to South Africa for a while before visiting Asia, Australia, and maybe South America.

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Have you faced any challenges so far in the preparation of your trip?

I don’t think so – at least nothing big. Initially I was planning on getting a round-the-world ticket but in the end I decided against it to be more flexible. However, most countries require a proof that you’ll leave so I will always need to plan one country ahead.

I guess the biggest challenge I have faced so far is a personal one – making decisions. I have read so many different travel blogs and I follow a lot of digital nomads on Facebook etc and everyone has great insights and ideas. But in the end, that is what works for them and I have yet to figure out what works for me. With some things it’s easy – for example, I need to always make sure that I have a good internet connection wherever I go and that I’m able to work from every destination, so renting accommodation without internet or camping is definitely not an option. Other things, like travel arrangements, are a bit harder.

What tools/services are you using to prepare your trip?

Actually, I’m not using anything special. For flights I use google, Skyscanner, and - a more recent development - Matrix Airfair Search. The last one I read about in several blogs and friend suggested it too, so I gave it a try. And for accommodation, I’m planning on using AirBnb. 

Ultimately, I think the most important “tool” I’m using is google – to look up and find travel blogs. People have written about almost everything and you can learn so much from their experiences, even if it’s just about things you definitely don’t want to do.

"Isn’t this the point? Being terrified of something and still doing it because it’s so exciting at the same time!"

Where will you be staying during your travels?

I’ve been living in flat shares since I moved out for university, so I plan on getting my own place for a while. Ideally, a nice little studio somewhere central and/or close to the co-working places I plan on using. I may change my mind a few months in, or try some special co-working/co-living spaces that I read about for a while, but I’m not sure yet. That’s the beauty of not having a real plan – I guess I can just play it by ear.

Ideally, what resources will you have access to for productive work days?

I’m very lucky as I only need to have a good internet connection and my computer and I’m good to go. Though I have looked up shared workspaces for almost every destination, because I do enjoy working in an office environment – and to be honest, I am more productive in an office than working from home.

What are you most excited about?

I’m most excited about seeing the world. There is so much to discover, so many different places to see, so many fantastic people to meet. I can’t wait to start.

Any fears?

Many! But isn’t this the point? Being terrified of something and still doing it because it’s so exciting at the same time!

"[I read] you can't plan everything [...] 'unless you’re one of those people who has an Excel list for everything', which in that context was meant as a joke – but for me, that was a really great suggestion."

Do you have any anecdotes or stories from your preparations so far which you’d like to share?

I’m not sure if this is super exciting or relevant for anyone, but I remember reading a lot of travel stories and blogs at the very early stages of planning. I came across this one report – I don’t even remember what it was about in detail – but the writer was trying to make a point about how being a traveller meant to let things just happen because you can’t plan everything. And they wrote something like “unless you’re one of those people who has an Excel list for everything”, which in that context was meant as a joke – but for me, that was a really great suggestion.

I immediately started an Excel list for me to have a one page overview of everywhere I wanted to go. In about a day, I looked up information for about 10 to 15 countries, including addresses and phone numbers of embassy’s, doctors, lawyers, currencies, visa requirements, and - most importantly -  time zones with specified times when I could talk to my manager if we needed to have a call.

Since then, I have extended the list to include a sheet for my finances (expected vs real costs) as well as any other information I could find, i.e. places to visit in a country etc. I obviously haven’t planned out each day or so, but I having all these details in one place just gives me piece of mind. 

I guess this is just a perfect example of how different people are. While some people are completely comfortable taking one day at a time and having no plan whatsoever, I realised that I’m not one of those. So yes, I am – or will be - one of those Excel-list travellers :)


Meli, along with other remote workers, students and entrepreneurs, will be taking part in our pop-up coworking in Mauritius this June. You can find out more, including how to reserve your place here →

 

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