When you live and work in various tropical locations around the world as a nomadic location independent professional, it can become a regular occurrence to receive visitors. In our experience, these visitors fall into two categories…
- Close friends and family who want to see you between your visits to your home country.
- More distant friends and acquaintances who don’t travel so often and take the opportunity to go to a destination in the knowledge that someone they know is already there, can help with accommodation, activities and company, while providing a general sense of comfort and safety.
Whilst it is great to have visitors, you can easily fall into travel agent mode and your regular routine can become lost in space as you entertain your guests and fall into the same “holiday” mentality that drives them on a daily basis.
When you are trying to maintain your daily work routine AND entertain the visitors, it can become emotionally, physically and financially exhausting.
Currently on the lead up to an entire month with a continuous string of visitors, we have come up with a few strategies to ensure we stay on track with our personal goals and enjoy our time with friends and family, without ending up feeling as though we’ve run a marathon!
#1 From the moment someone mentions visiting make it clear that you are working and explain what your work commitments are.
Quite often people automatically assume that because you are living in a tropical location, you are permanently on holiday. We know this is not the case. While the majority of people passing through are drinking at the bars until the early hours, sleeping in, chilling on the beach or taking part in holiday activities, there is no way you can maintain this lifestyle on an ongoing basis.
If you’re anything like us – a) You can’t afford it and b) You don’t have the energy. Make it clear that you will need to have some reasonably early nights and you won’t be able to accompany them on every activity available.
#2 Build a reference base for visitors to refer to for information relating to accommodation, activities and transport.
As you become familiar with the resorts, prices, transport arrangements and activities available at your destination, write notes in a computerised format. Then, every time someone mentions the possibility of visiting – send them the notes and let them decide where to stay.
We have relayed the same information countless times to people who are considering visiting. We would have saved so much time if we had written everything down at the start and given the information to everyone who asked.
Alternatively, if you know a good website that contains all of the information or a good local travel agent who can deal with all of their arrangements for you, put your guests in touch with those sources. You may even be able to strike a deal with a local agent whereby they provide a discount for any bookings you put their way.
#3 Plan how much time you will take off and when – create a visitor-based routine.
You will want to spend some days with your visitors, so plan how many days you can take off from work and let your guests know at the beginning of their stay what those days are. The important thing to realise is that you probably won’t be able to continue with your usual routine, so plan a new one that takes your visitors into account.
#4 Decide which “holiday” activities you want to take part in.
Consider which local activities you want to explore with friends and family and plan them for your days off – don’t feel obliged to take part in things you’ve already done with new visitors, unless you really want to. Recommend them, point your guests in the right direction, and let them get on with that while you get on with some work.
#5 Make a budget (and stick to it).
People who are on holiday are likely to want to eat at some of the best local restaurants and visit some of the best local attractions. The best of everything usually means the most expensive of everything – so plan what you can afford.
You will probably want to join them at some of the nice restaurants – so make sure you have the finances to deal with it. You could make up the money by cooking at home some nights and inviting your friends around, which we often find much cheaper than eating out.
In Thailand for example, you can buy a huge fresh fish from the market for next to nothing. You could feed a party of six for almost the same price as two people eating out. So – treat your friends, who knows, maybe they’ll treat you to that fancy meal in return for your hospitality!
#6 Establish a base camp.
Usually a base camp will develop quite naturally as the holiday progresses. However it is surprising how much more comfortable and self-organising guests can become once they themselves have settled into a routine. Suggest a regular meeting place and meeting time from day one.
Take them to one of your local haunts on the first day and introduce them to people there. Arrange to meet there at a suitable time each day. This could be breakfast, lunch, an early drink before dinner or all three.
By having a meeting place away from your home, you are able to maintain some kind of routine within your own territory, without visitors turning up randomly throughout the day. By subtly creating this scenario at the beginning of the holiday, you are setting some clear boundaries, and should be able to maintain some kind of privacy and home life throughout their stay.
#7 Avoid letting people stay in your own home.
For us this is quite an easy task. We have one room with one bed in it – no room at the inn with us. Everyone who visits has to take accommodation somewhere else nearby. Still we find their visits exhausting – I can’t imagine what it would be like if we entertained them in our own home. Certainly, you would need to send them out in the morning, or take yourself out to work every morning if you wanted to get anything done while they were around.
If you want to have friends stay in your home when visiting, then I highly recommend building a list of guest rules and jesterly take them through it when they first start making plans to visit.
#8 Get yourself prepared in advance of their visit.
Unless your guests are very low maintenance you will need extra time, extra money and extra energy when they around. As we approach a month of visitors, we’ve decided to spend a few weeks working extra hours, getting early nights and being as industrious as possible.
That way even though we still need to continue to work while our guests are here, we are ahead of the game before they arrive – a much better position to start from than being tired, low on funds and busy with work from day one of their arrival.
#9 Encourage friends to coordinate visits.
If you have two friends planning to visit separately – why not put them in touch with each other and encourage them to come out together? That way they will have each other for company, cut the time you have visitors in half – and will be far more easily entertained when you are busy working. If you have two groups coming out – it could be great fun to join them together in one holiday and you’ll have a bulk of visitors out of the way in one sweep.
#10 Remember that they are adults!
When someone visits a foreign land for the first time, they can often feel very insecure and unsure of their surroundings. When you are there as a fountain of local knowledge some people can slip naturally and easily into an almost childlike state, with you as the parent.
If this happens – make sure you don’t play the role. If you do, you are in danger of spending the entire time arranging everything for them. Gently give them enough information to make them feel comfortable and safe, highlight the joy of exploration and discovery and hand them back the responsibility of enjoying their own holiday.
FINALLY – remember that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity with this particular set of friends and family. How many times in your life are you likely to be in such a beautiful location together?
Make the most of your time together by being prepared for the pitfalls and setting some clear boundaries. We’re fortunate to be in a position to a) have friends and family who want to visit, and b) be in a beautiful location. Let’s make sure we all get the most of out it!