Clickbait title: how I had 9 mini-vacations and still work in a very ambitious start-up with crazy working hours

Working at an ambitious start-up is not aaalways the best for your health and mentality. We work 60-70 hours a week – with 80 hour week exceptions. And we’re not talking “American “biography book” work weeks” – we’re talking actual hours at the office working.

This has a lot of obvious challenges (especially regarding general health), but also a lot of side-benefits I haven’t thought about before:

  • You start to become more narrow-minded
  • You loose friends / you don’t get to meet so many new people
  • You don’t get to cultivate many other interests

To conquer this you need crazy discipline.
Recently I started running at 6am, I sign myself up for half-marathons every 3 months, I force myself to listen to audiobooks whenever I’m in transit or do sports, I time block “meet friends” in my calendar and fill it out every week with new people.
The whole point is: you need to make a real effort to get basic things to work.

However… The real challenge for me has been fitting in vacations with this lifestyle. I’m a traveller. I want to see the WHOLE world! I’m an adventurer at heart.

Being a traveller and adventurer while working 60-70 hours a week at a start-up is not very compatible. However, I have some thoughts on this matter and how I solve it… Which I’d like to share.

How to combine travel with working in an ambitious start-up

Now, starting off, I’ve realised I cannot treat all travel and vacations the same. I’ve come to the conclusion there are three obvious ways to travel:

  • Actual vacation where you take actual time off
  • Weekend vacations
  • Workations where you work 12+ hour days from a co-working space

This obviously sounds very simple. The devil is in the details and how to ACTUALLY fitting this in. I want to show what I’ve done as I believe this can be a big inspiration for those who don’t think it’s possible.

Lets take a look at my last 12 months:

  • August 2017 (Berlin,Germany, weekend vacation from late Thursday to Sunday – 1 work day spent)
  • July 2017 (Costa Rica, 2.5 weeks of “real” vacation – used weekends so only 10 work days spent)
  • June 2017 (Malaga, 1 week of workation combined with a weekend vacation from friday – 0 work days spent)
  • April 2017 (Malaga, workation – 0 work days spent)
  • April 2017 (Stavanger, weekend vacation, done in easter so 0 work days spent)
  • February 2017 (Stockholm, workation – 0 work days spent)
  • December 2016 (Thailand, 1 week or “real vacation” in the Christmas – 3 work days spent)
  • October 2016 (Tinglev, Denmark, weekend vacation – 0 work days spent)
  • October 2016 (Berlin, Germany, workation – 0 work days spent)

In total I spent 14 work days (less than 3 weeks) on having 9 awesome vacations. I managed to do all this and MUCH more:

Beach in Malaga:

La Paz in Costa Rica:

Preikestolen in Stavanger:

Rooftop pool in Bangkok:

Hiking in Hua Hin: 

Additional thoughts

Being able to do this has really helped me be able to maintain working in a start-up. It’s crazy hard and I love it every day, but sometimes, you just need to disconnect and charge the batteries. This is a way to do it.

Now, I understand if some people say: But dude, how the **** do you afford this when working in a start-up (which usually don’t earn a lot of money)?

Well. It’s no secret I don’t get a decent salary… But my answer is threefold:

  1. I’ve had some good savings from my previous company I could use to pay myself a salary
  2. Travelling isn’t that expensive IF you follow best-practices in cost-effective travelling (my total travel budget has been less than 6.500 USD the last 12 months)
  3. Include work activities related to your business, so you can deduct tax in some cases

My total budget last 12 months has been around 6.500 USD. Now, this is also quite extravagant for most people, but take in mind that 50% of this was from Costa Rica and I’ve absolutely not followed the rules about staying cheap. I could easily have cut my budget down to 50% by replacing Costa Rica with something shorter and closer to my home and using more hostels instead of pretty damn good hotels.
It is possible to do this these things on a budget. 


So my own conclusion is: You can actually get to travel a lot while building a crazy ambitious start-up! Now, I’ll go plan my next trip! ,)