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Sandal in Paradise - Itacare

(Itacaré, Brazil – 2010)

There is nothing more daunting while traveling the world than checking in to find a full email inbox.  The same goes for Facebook and Twitter communications!  The following are 8 tips I’ve found to help minimize trivialities and keep from feeling overwhelmed when I get online for the first time after (for example) two weeks on the beach in Brazil:

I.  Use proxy email addresses

I have 3 levels of email addresses:

  1. Spam – the one that I know will get spammed – I use this one for surveys and forms that I know will spam me.  I don’t even check this email.  The only reason I have it is because it has helped me get a free sandwich here and there.
  2. Mid-level – the one that could get spammed – I use this email address for newsletters that I “might” be interested in.  I give this email address away whenever I don’t trust something completely.  This email forwards to my main email portal on Gmail (the only one I check).  I can turn this one off by simply turning off email forwarding.
  3. Exclusive – the one for people I trust – My friends, family, and business colleagues get this email address.  I never put this email address into online forms, including credit card and online banking accounts, which tend to make it very difficult to unsubscribe from their “important” email.

II.  Rigorously Unsubscribe

Before you leave, spend 2 weeks rigorously unsubscribing from daily/weekly email campaigns that you haven’t looked at in a while (don’t just “archive”).  If you haven’t yet looked at that newsletter that you thought might be interesting, the chances are very slim that you are going to read them while soaking in the different cultures of the world.

III.  Turn off your Mid-level Proxy Email Address(es)

Turn off your mid-level proxy email mentioned above.  Before I leave, I stop the forwarding from my mid-level proxy email address.  This keeps a huge amount of unwanted email from getting to my email inbox.

IV.  Prune Facebook

  • Leave Facebook groups that spam your Facebook inbox or send too many event requests.
  • Defriend people who send you the same spam as above directly.  If you have a friend who has “sold-out” their facebook account to send promotional messages and group events every week, chances are that their feelings won’t be hurt when you leave their friend list.  Otherwise, start by sending them a message kindly asking that they remove you from their list.  I have some good friends who are promoters and DJs.  The only problem is that these people send me the most junk.  I eventually had to call two of them and personally ask them to remove me from their promotional messages.

V.  Move to the Cloud

If you are collaborating on a project and you are still sending Word documents or Excel spreadsheets as attachments on your email, you are living in the past.  Encourage group collaboration through cloud solutions like Google documents.  If you are part of a group email thread where people communicate regularly by hitting “reply to all”, push to move the communication over to a google document.  This turns a mountain of back and forth emails into a forum outside of your email inbox.  Because it is slightly harder to add commentary to a google document than to hit “reply to all”, people are less likely to jump on the pedestal unless it is really important.

VI.  Take care of Twitter

  • First, obviously let your Twitter followers know that you are traveling.  It is fun to post about the places you are visiting (especially when it is another country, not just another coffee shop or restaurant in your home city).  If someone sees that you are sending a tweet from 15,000 feet in the Andes, they are going to understand when you didn’t respond to their @reply right away.
  • If you have a Twitter following that expects regular updates from you, ease the burden a little bit by planning some tweets in advance.  You can used to schedule tweets into the future.  If you are looking for interesting content to post in the future, I’ve found to be a great resource.  On top of that, if there is a blog with content that you really trust, you can set up TwitterFeed to automatically post content from this blog to your Twitter stream.

VII.  Blogomate

The same thing goes for your blog, if you have one.  Put together some content in advance to ease the burden of posting while you are gone.  Create some draft posts or even schedule them to post automatically in the future (this is easy with WordPress).  In all likelihood, once you hit the road you are going to have so many ideas for blog content that this probably won’t even be a problem.  In general, I have always found it nice to have some back up content.

Even if you stop writing in your blog all together, it is not the end of the world.  Call it a “leave of absence” or “tenure” if you need to.  I took a break from my blog and things turned out fine.  It might take a little bit more hustle when you start up again but that hustle is well worth experiencing whatever you are experiencing in that exotic part of the world.

VIII.  Make Active Projects Less Active

This is the hardest one.  What should you do about projects that are in full swing?  The best solution I’ve found is to let everyone you are working with know that you are leaving well in advance.  Tell them that you are still planning on collaborating, but that email response time will drop off a bit.  I won’t go into email autoresponders here, but you should definitely put one up.  Obviously, the most important thing to put in your autoresponder is that you “will not be checking email regularly”.

Finally, if you don’t have one already, grab yourself an online phone number.  I use Skype, but Google Voice can serve the same use.  This gives people piece of mind that they can reach you via a phone number, even if it is just going to your online voicemail box that you only check when you check email.  If you are in a place long enough to buy a cell phone, you can forward this number to your cell phone so someone who calls your US based number can reach you wherever you are.

I’m never in one place for very long.  When I am traveling the world I continue to make a good living doing it.  These techniques are a large part of my recipe for success.

  • peny@medical scrubs

    “These techniques are a large part of my recipe for success.”
    I follow your technique with regards to the three different kinds of emails; the spam, the midlevel and the exclusive. I found out that this is very practical and a secured way. Thanks a lot for this tip, eh.

  • Rashaa Al Ajlouny

    Time for more enlightenment & Acknowledgment.
    Salaam.Rashaa VancouverCa.