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Interview With Interactive Designer, Writer & Travel Legend John O’Nolan

Welcome to the fifth of the weekly interview series where I will speak a wide range of people who have embraced the working remotely opportunity. We will speak to entrepreneurs, business owners, large organisation workers and freelancers about their trials and tribulations when delving into remote working.

The fifth interviewee is someone whose work I have admired for a number of years now. He’s another one I stumbled across when I used to pretend I was a web designer and I haven’t stopped following his work since. Starting out as an interactive designer John has gone from strength to strength adding writing, speaking at events and building of applications to his long list of accomplishments.

John has now branched out further and is the founder of the excellent travel blog Travelllll. He also took a huge step last year when he sold everything but his laptop and his camera and began travelling the world while working on all his online properties. John truly defines remote working. Even with his busy schedule John was available for interview to discuss his thoughts on remote working and the stereotypes attached to it.

Q:Hi John, tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, where do you live now?

Hi there! Thanks for having me. My name is John O’Nolan and I’m a designer, developer, entrepreneur and all-round trouble maker. I’m from… nowhere… and I live… well… nowhere. I grew up all over the world, so I don’t really associate any place as being “from” there – and I currently travel the world full-time whilst running my business, so I don’t “live” anywhere either.

Q: What company do you work for and what is your role within the organisation?

I do freelance interactive design via my personal brand, john.onolan.org – I also own and manage a travel news site called Travelllll.com.

Q: How do you deal with stereotypes from friends in regards to productivity when working from home?  i.e.: Sleep until midday, 2 hour lunch breaks etc.

These stereotypes become even worse when you travel for a living instead of living in one place, as I do. Rather than those listed above, I tend to get “so how’s your holiday going” and “when are you coming back?” – How do I deal with it? I don’t really. People either get it or they don’t – and most don’t, and won’t. Those who know me know how much I really work, those who don’t – well, I don’t really care what they think anyway. It’s just one of those things that will always be there, you can’t rely on other people for your own happiness.

Q: What is the most challenging part about working remotely and how do you overcome this?

For me it’s finding a good internet connection. Travelling the world means you occasionally end up in some pretty remote locations with less-than-ideal levels of connectivity. In fact as I type this I’m sitting in the mountains in Austria on a 3G dongle with a 3gb data limit *gulp*. Thankfully it’s a fast one – but being in Africa and South East Asia… I frequently struggle to find a connection that works at all, let alone a fast one.

How do I overcome it? I learned a lot about productivity pretty quickly. When I’m in a country with a limited connection I’m pretty careful to get as much done as I can offline and then make the most of the internet whenever I have access to it.

Q: What are the main positives around working from home?

I’ll change this to “working around the world” as I’m sure another answer of “freedom, spare time, and working in my underwear” wouldn’t elicit much excitement from your readers, who have doubtless heard this many times before. The main positives from working while travelling for me are the constant barrage of new things. I get bored easily, and I hate feeling like I’m in a rut. Moving to a new country and a new part of the world every couple of months is extremely challenging, and extremely exciting. New people, new experiences, new food, new activities. Every time I change place I’m thrown headfirst into the unknown. You know what happens in the unknown? You learn stuff. I like learning stuff.


Q: Do you have a dedicated office space and what is the importance of having this?

Nope. Right now my office is a comfy chair overlooking a large field in Austria, last week it was on a picnic table atop the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Next week it’ll be at a desk in my friend Rick Nunn’s house. Doing what I do, you learn to make an office wherever you are. As long as I have my Macbook and some earphones – I’m in my office, no matter where I am.

Q: Any pictures of your office space?

Sure, here’s my office in The Philippines: http://cl.ly/HZ12

Q: Do you have any productivity tools you use to keep yourself efficient which may help our readers?

I don’t go too crazy with this – because I’ve learned over the years that I’m productive when I’m productive, and I’m not when I’m not. I can’t force it, and trying doesn’t help much. Probably the only tools I use are Rescue Time (which I recommend to anyone who wants to see what they’re spending all their time on) and a simple to-do list (I don’t have a preference for any particular app).

Q: If you could give any advice to our readers before deciding whether remote working is for them then what would it be?

You need to accept that there are sacrifices as well as benefits to this lifestyle. You need to understand that the majority of people will never understand what you do. You need to understand that you are completely responsible for everything. If you can get past all that, you’ll be just fine.

Q: Do you believe more organisations should allow those with web based roles to work remotely? If so..how come?

I employ just shy of 20 people on an ongoing basis. 100% of them are remote. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About the author

Ryan Gibson

Hey! I'm a 28 year old digital marketing guy residing in Leeds, England. My skill is in search marketing and I have gathered over 6 years experience of working on large multilingual campaigns for a number of FTSE 250 Organisations. After accepting a role with a business based in Singapore I began questioning traditional business practice and employee retention. This blog GenerationY.com was therefore born with focus on Y in the workplace. A millennial child at heart I aim to provide a voice for the 'misunderstood' generation and my goal is simply to change perception and corporate mind set on work/life attitudes; inspiring companies and individuals to seek change.

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