Expats for a Week

For those who have followed us on social media throughout the week, you’ll know that Maria [Rizzo] and I just returned from vacationing in Positano. However, you may not know that this is the first vacation we’ve attempted to take in a little over a year and a half.

Admittedly, I was pretty high-strung going into it. When I thought of all the emails I receive on a daily basis, the thought of it just seemed nauseating.

What would happen to my business?

What if my clients needed me and I couldn’t answer?

Have we even “earned” a vacation?

These questions floated in and around my head on a daily basis leading up to our trip. Adding to all of that, we’re on the cusp of launching a major digital marketing initiative that we’ve been working on since May, and it’s just about enough to make anyone second-guess taking time off.

But when it came time to leave our apartment, truth be told, I was completely set free. No work talk. No thinking about next moves for our company. No worrying.

Here’s my relaxation beer, just to prove it.

Here’s my relaxation beer, just to prove it.

But that didn’t mean I turned away work completely, which put me in the unique position of living life as an expat for a week. To get through that week without putting business to a screeching halt required a good amount of preparation.

Check Your Data

Back in 2016, Maria and I traveled to Guatemala on vacation. Rizzo Young Marketing was yet to be formed and we both had corporate jobs. However, that didn’t mean we never wanted to use our phones.

In that experience, we learned two lessons the hard way: Make sure your AirBNB has quality Wi-Fi, or, failing that, ensure that your phone carrier has a solid international data plan.

While the place we were staying at did have Wi-Fi, it was about as entry-level as it gets. To make matters worse, we were sharing the AirBNB with another couple (who were actual expats). The entire time we were there, they “needed” the already limited Wi-Fi for their travel blog.

If I had a great mobile carrier this wouldn’t have been as bad. However, the second I went overseas, I lost all coverage, not just data. This include calling and texting, too.

Prior to booking our trip to Italy, we made absolute sure that our AirBNB had Wi-Fi. Without Wi-Fi it would have been much more challenging (not impossible) to accomplish anything work-related.

Fortunately, it worked really well with the only limitation occurring when posting data-intensive posts, such as an Instagram post with multiple videos and images.

For item two, I switched over to T-Mobile (not being paid by them) about a year ago. And I have to say, their default unlimited plan is pretty incredible. With access to 115 countries, I had no issue using my apps normally. At one point, I was literally responding to an email on the beach.

However, for calling and texting, I recommend going with WhatsApp, which allowed me to seamlessly communicate with my travel agent and clients while we were gone.

Be Mindful of International Rules

This one wasn’t as big of a deal for us because we gave all our clients ample notice that we’d be out of the country. However, those who are attempting something like this last-minute or those who actually are interested in becoming a full-time expat should be aware of how things change internationally.

The most obvious one is the time zone difference. Positano is seven hours ahead of Chicago, meaning that most people here are just waking up when we were already in our late afternoon. I didn’t have any scheduled calls during this period, but if I had, all of them would’ve been in the early evening Positano time.

Next, for those who have ever called an international number with an American phone, you may notice that the call doesn’t go through if you just type in the international number. That’s because as an American, you have to dial our exit code (011) first. Without doing that, you’ll have a hard time reaching someone, even if you’re in the same country as them.

Lastly, while many people in many countries speak some sort of English, many others don’t. If the trip to Guatemala didn’t make us realize this enough, the trip to Positano definitely hammered it home: Learn some of the language.

Language is the foundation of all communication. I’m not saying that you have to know it fluently but being able to get by is vital to having an enjoyable experience. Aside from “hello” and “good-bye”, even if you “don’t have time” to learn some of the basics, just learn one phrase in the native tongue: “How do you say blank in language?”

Preparation is Key

Our trip has been planned several months in advance, so we had time to set up everything that we needed to foster a smooth transitional period.

This included scheduling social media posts, emails, newsletters, paid ads, etc. There are simply an abundance of tools nowadays that are designed for the sole purpose of making a marketer’s job more efficient. And, frankly, we did a great job of that.

For social media posting, we went with Buffer and had a seamless experience. Just in case, our intern was around as a safe guard to guarantee that nothing went out late.

When sending emails, I relied on Google Chrome’s Boomerang tool to schedule emails as I pleased. Even when not traveling, Boomerang has been a regular godsend for our business.

Regarding newsletters and paid ads, each platform has their own variation of a scheduling system built-in, so there was no need to integrate a third-party tool.

This experience has made me realize more than ever before that employees, contractors, etc. are capable of working remotely if they want it to succeed. All in all, my experience couldn’t have gone any more flawlessly.

To kick-start your digital marketing initiative, send us a message at RizzoYoungMarketing.com.