Balancing Work and Play in Bruges

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 29th, 2009

brugges brusselsColin Farrell in the movie In Bruges said that to like Bruges, you must either be a farmer or a retard. To him, Bruges was hell. But I disagree. For me, Bruges was very beautiful and very boring. I’ve wanted to see Bruges for a while, and that movie only increased that desire. But Bruges, as beautiful as it is, is like Venice. Or Siena. Or Bordeaux. It’s seen best with someone, not solo.

But I found the city beautiful, nonetheless. The medieval architecture was great, but I got a little bored quickly. A romantic canal cruise isn’t the same when you are by yourself. Much like Venice, I will return again when I’m with people. Deciding that my time was best spent the next time around, I decided to do some work. After traveling with people for a few weeks, I was behind. Blogs needed to be written, emails answered, advertising deals to be made, and miscellaneous things to be done.

Lots of travelers today want to have a travel blog on their trip. People even put in a lot of effort before they leave getting it up and running and getting the bugs out of it. However, running a blog on the road isn’t easy, and it is a constant battle to balance work and play. Even trying to post and upload pictures to update your friends and family can be a task that keeps you spending hours in an Internet cafe.

If you want to do more, then you spend even more time. If you want to run a business, then, you’ll spend a lot of time.

balancing work and playBalancing work and play becomes a major issue on the road. I still haven’t found a great balance, but I found that taking breaks from travel to work usually keeps me up to speed. It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, I fall behind. But cities like Bruges offer a good opportunity to catch up. In fact, all quiet cities offer everyone that chance because there is no wild night life to draw you out. Just the tranquility of the town.

But that still doesn’t solve the work/life balance. It is a daily struggle, but here are some good tips and practices to help you develop that balance:

  • Write on trains, planes, and buses. Even if you don’t have a laptop, a pen and paper is still a good way to write out a draft. You’ll probably catch more mistakes when you rewrite later, leading to better written posts.
  • Set aside one day to do all your major work. By giving yourself a day to focus, work becomes the only task and not a distracting task or a burden.
  • Set a time limit. Twitter, Facebook, the news- all are great and all wonderfully distracting. I’ve wasted many hours on them. Give yourself a work time limit and stick to it. If you only want to be on the computer for 2 hours, then you’ll “force” yourself to concentrate.
  • Create a to do list. By creating a to do list you can know where to focus your energies on the tasks at hand.
  • Know your rhythm. I always do work in the morning because that is when I am most productive. Know when you’re the most productive, and always do work then.
  • Wake up early. Waking up at 8 and being done with work at 10 still gives you the whole day!
  • Get a smart phone. The iPhone has really come in handy for me. With the ability to check emails while waiting for planes or trains, I can kill time and get some work done.

These tips have helped me become better at managing my time so that work doesn’t completely take over my life. Hopefully, these tips will help you manage the balance a little on the road.

comments 24 Comments

Did you get your iPhone bill yet? I’m terrified to so much as turn mine on abroad after a $600 fiasco in Toronto…

I did. Mine was $300 BUT i have a huge data package and I am making calls from it.

A Soldier here just got an 18,000 Euro iPhone bill. Seems he forgot to turn off data roaming when he went for a 3 week jaunt across the continent. *shudder*

NomadicMatt

I keep my phone off 90% of the time.

Cristina

I’m a US based tour guide but I work a lot in Europe. I take my blackberry storm with me to stay connected with the world and it only cost me an extra $1.50 per day with Verizon to have an international data roaming package. I also carry a unlocked phone that I bought on craigslist for $50 and I use that one for making or receiving calls. I can usually find a SIM card for 10-15 euros in any country that I go to that allows free incoming calls.

I fell in love with Bruges when I was ther and I did it alone. It’s all a matter of taste, I guess. Because i thought it was the most romantic city and I actaully said, I can see how people become inspired to write poetry or compose music here.

Thanks for the good tips Matt! It’s easy to run my blog from home but I am somewhat nervous how things will do once I get out on the road…

NomadicMatt

i have faith you can do it!

Andrew

I saw an interview with Colin Farrell and he really hates that city. But I really want to visit Bruges and was close to making a trip to it back in early 08, but nixed it due to time constraints.

As usual great tips for travelers on the go. However I just can not write on the go. I am so weird when it comes to writing, I need complete silence and sometimes having even one person in the room bugs or distracts me.

I definitely set a time limit with all the social networking sites. I try not to tweet that much when on the road, but sometimes that damn iphone becomes such an addiction while on the road. Still trying to curb my time on twitter, facebook etc. Usually use them the most when I am about to go to sleep and I am alone in my hotel room bored.

I write 98.9% of my work between 10pm-2am. I go to sleep very late (2am-3am) and wake up early too (8am-9am). I try to take an hour power nap in the middle of the day after getting back from touring around a city for the day before going back out for dinner and drinks.

Andy

For me I find that writing posts and taking photographs doesn’t take much time and can be done at any spare moment without too much of an impact on the fun of the day. It’s uploading the photographs and formatting them in the blog that is a real time drain. Especially with the slow internet connections that you find on the road. I’ve recently heard of a free tool called Windows Live Writer … it supposedly lets you write posts and add and format photos offline and then just upload the whole lot to WordPress with a single click of the mouse. I’m hoping this will work out to be more time efficient.

I’m sorry to hear you found Bruges boring. I’ll try not to be offended ;-) but it is one of our most famous tourist attractions in Belgium. Maybe you’re right and you have to see it together with someone, could be… Did you at least try some chocolates? Did you like Brussels better? Just curious! It’s like Marina said in one of the comments: It’s all a matter of taste :)
Well, I can only hope you come back one day, with company!
Thanks for the good ‘balancing-time’ tips.

Pre-writing on planes, buses, etc. I find has really helped improve my writing for a number of posts and having a good to-do list makes it that much easier to feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Bobby Richard

I had a great time in Bruges, I really love the beer culture of Belgium.

Bruges is delightful and has managed to keep it’s character throughout the years at the cost of the wow factor I guess. It’s one of those places that you don’t have to go frantically wild with your sightseeing, where you can easily chill for a few days like you did. I think there is an annual chocolate festival held in Bruges but don’t know when.

I agree with all of these tips. And that it’s tough to balance work and play when traveling. Knowing my rhythm helped a lot. Once I realized I just didn’t write well at night, I stopped beating myself up for not writing at night. Know your limits and accept them.

I think these are great tips for staying focused & organized whether on the road or at home! It’s so easy to let the amount of work you have to do fill up the amount of time that’s available – take a break here, get distracted there, & pretty soon you’ve spent a whole day doing what should have been done in an hour or two. Thanx for the reminder!

Great tips and warnings in this post. I travel a lot for work including to the US and bought a mini computer with WiFi capacity, and also bought an internet key here in France to use when traveling around the country doing my videos. But I find that it’s far more expensive than I expected because I don’t understand how they do the calculations – it sure isn’t the 2 euros per hour or 8 euros per day they told me it would cost! Thanks again for a great post. Cynthia

I take groups to Paris which is a tremendous amount of work. At 9:30 a.m. everyone is in the lobby and ready to go. But two hours before that, I am up writing my blog. I grab a cup of coffee (it’s gotta be Starbucks, the only place where I can get coffee in a paper cup to go), go back to my room and start blogging.

I think it is good not only to set time aside, but to make it “quiet time” where you are pretty sure you are not going to get a lot of interruptions or distractions.

These are tips. They also require one to be disciplined. I am not always so disciplined and am very likely to find myself off taking photos of camel toe (there’s a great abundance of it here in Salta) or jumping to a new idea.

So perhaps for me that’s the mantra. Remain focused. Remain focused.

And yes, I also loved Bruges and have some really wonderful memories and friends there. So Colin Farrell, feh.

Hey Matt!

Thanks so much for everything you do. I bought your e-book a while ago and it has been really helpful to me! I love your site, it’s wonderful! Now that I’m on the road (in Rio de Janeiro, at the moment, for Carnaval) this post really hit home with me. It is hard to combine work and travel, but for most of us, these two go hand-in-hand. I know I had to work for ages to be able to travel, and now that I am traveling, I have to work to keep going! But it’s worth it! The world is a beautiful place!

Thanks again for the great posts!

I’ve been to Brugges and the only thing I remember is that we had to leave town right BEFORE the most amazing bar we had ever seen was about to open (had around 400 Belgian beers available). That made me SAD.

Besides that, I remember being ridiculously calm, almost deserted.

NomadicMatt

Garrett, that makes me sad just reading about that.

I find writing while on buses and trains particularly useful. If I’m anywhere with a wifi connection I constantly find myself distracted… but on transport you’ve got nothing you can do but write or look out the window (I try for a healthy dose of both!)

For me, Bruges is still the city from the weird movie with Colin Farrell… I can’t wait to see it for myself. It seems like a good place to get work done though, not too busy ;-)

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