Travel Dreams of A Virtual Assistant Part 2

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We’re following Sarah Banks as she follows her dreams of travel with her family and business in tow:

As I start to write this blog, I am sitting at a café on the beach in Koh Samui whilst my children are drawing and playing around me. We are now just over 2 weeks into our trip and have taken 3 flights, a sleeper train and stayed in 6 different places!

I took the first week of our trip as holiday and that feeling of relaxation hit me as soon as I logged off on the Friday evening before flew out. I had briefed my team; all my clients knew what was happening and I had finished off quite a lot of short term projects I had been working on. My to-do list for August was looking a lot shorter.

Working near the beach

 

Our first week ended with a two day trip to Elephant Nature Park and when we returned at 6pm on the Monday, I sat down to work in our hotel whilst my family went out to get food. I had a feeling of apprehension as I logged on – what if my VPN didn’t work? what if I had lots of urgent enquiries? – could I really do this?

Feeding an elephant before work

Everything worked perfectly, my clients had managed fine without me and I managed two hours work to get myself on top of things and to plan my work for the week ahead.

Power cuts in Koh Samui

The next day we flew out to Koh Samui where we were going to be based for 10 nights, giving us a chance to not only slow down and relax but also for me to get back into work.

Once we arrived out our villa – a short drive from Maenam Beach on the north of the Island, I logged on and made sure the WIFI was working – I was actually really impressed the WIFI speeds here were 4 times what I got at home in Derbyshire – however the Thai lifestyle was catching up with me and I certainly wasn’t four times as productive!!!

On our third day, however, we had a power cut – I had heard these could be common in Thailand but having not experienced one so far, I had thought it would be fine. Typically, it happened during my ‘work’ time and so I was quite stressed at not being able to do anything. I went for a swim and after about half an hour the power was back on and I was able to get online again. Phew!

We had one further power cut but this one was in the morning in our second week, however this one lasted around 2 hours so again I was a bit worried about not being able to work!

View from my desk in Koh Samui
View from my desk in Koh Samui

 

Prospective client consultation

On our second day in Bangkok, I received a WhatsApp from one of my associates letting me know we had an enquiry from a potential new client. So, whilst sat by the pool I called her and we agreed some possible dates for us to have a video call consultation with the prospect. The great thing about Thailand is that it is 6 hours ahead of the UK and so if you work from 4pm – 7pm you can easily be around for much of the morning in the UK.

The call was scheduled for 10.30am UK time (4.30pm Thai time) the following week and I was able to continue to relax and enjoy the rest of my weeks holiday.

Prior to the call I was quite nervous in a way I’ve never been before; my main concerns were ensuring the WIFI stayed connected and that the client was ok with me being the other side of the world. I didn’t need to worry though – my associate joined me on the call and I made her the host just in case of problems and we had a fantastic consult which we followed up with a full proposal.

Staying connected with clients

During the last few weeks, I have stayed connected with clients via email where the messages weren’t urgent and used Facebook Messenger/WhatsApp to get in contact with people quickly if necessary. This has worked well and I’ve been timing my messages to arrive with them between 8am and 12pm UK time.

I have done quite a bit of work in the early morning here – my children have been getting up with the sun at 6am most days! However, by saving my emails as drafts (my delayed send feature isn’t currently working on Outlook), I can then send them later in the day when the UK is awake!

Scheduling Social Media

One of my challenges so far has been working out the right time to schedule posts to social media – I know we are 6 hours ahead of the UK, however, initially I hadn’t updated the timezone on my laptop (my error) and therefore Facebook was a little confused between Thai/UK time. Once I rectified this, Facebook was picking up Thai time and I have used the insights on my clients Facebook pages to help me work out the best times for posting (something I do in the UK anyway) as well as this website which allows me to compare timezones – https://www.worldtimebuddy.com/

VPN Issues in Malaysia

By the time you read this I will have been through Malaysia and will be in Australia. I had a moment of panic when we arrived in Malaysia as I couldn’t connect to the internet at all via my VPN. (For those that don’t know the term a VPN is a Virtual Private Network, and this ensures security when connecting via public WIFI). Without my VPN I wouldn’t have been able to work, but thankfully after a chat with my VPN provider I was able to get sorted by using something called obfuscated servers to get around the restrictions in place in Malaysia!

Overall, my first three weeks working and travelling have gone well. I’m sure the next phase will bring about its own challenges as we will be driving around Tasmania and New Zealand and won’t have such easy WIFI connections but I know I will be able to make this work!

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