The Perfect Schedule (No Camel Required)

Shielding my eyes against the glare, I look at a distant peak, so far in the distance it’s just a shimmer of purple, a suggestion of a mountain rather than a solid and substantial mass of rock.

But that’s where I want to be. Over there on that mountain. A digital nomad. Possibly wrapped in Bedouin robes astride a camel, with a string of pack mules and porters at my back, patiently awaiting my signal. But probably not. Forget the romanticising, this is business, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a tricky business getting from this full-time-employee mountain to the top of that digital nomad mountain over there.

Glasshous mountains, Sunshine Coast

So I’ve hired a guide. A team of guides, actually. I don’t know whether they’re any good. They’ve got a good sales patter, that’s for sure. I’m really hoping with their help I can make my way down this mountain, traverse the tundra and start climbing that now-distant mountain, skipping nimbly over crevasses, slashing effortlessly (and unsweatily) through the jungle, evading the thorns and blithely slapping away any annoying stinging insects. I hope they know where I can get the camel, too. For my posed victory photo on the summit.

My Digital Nomad Tools

The only things I have in my Indiana Jones-style save-the-world satchel is a laptop, a modem, a love of tall tales and a brain. It’s not much, is it?

My guides are a trio of young digital entrepreneurs who have set up an online “university”, the Digital Nomad Academy. I am one of the founding class, known as the first 50. Although there’s 60 of us, apparently.

So now I have homework and conference calls added to my crazy schedule of working, commuting and baby-chasing.

I’m already behind. I think it’s the end of week two and I’m only just looking at the first homework exercise — creating my “perfect schedule”.

It sounds easy, doesn’t it? I thought it would take a few minutes. But it’s proving to be much harder than I thought. Partly because as much as I try, I just can’t schedule the baby.

Lifestyle Design In Action

I once worked with a sports reporter who never took holidays because he loved his job so much. I could not get my head around it. I worked alongside him and I definitely didn’t enjoy my job. I found it very stressful, with the constant deadlines, sleep deprivation from shiftwork, the almost overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, the worry that I wasn’t doing enough to get that next pay rise and the fear I wasn’t getting paid enough to dress for success and meet the rent.

It seems I worked with  a pioneer of lifestyle design. This guy, the venerable Ticker, had a passion for golf and football. He spent his days watching golf and football, writing about golf and football and hanging round with other sports reporters talking about golf and football. “Why would I take a holiday?” he used to ask. “I have the perfect life.”

My inspiration is now to live like Ticker, like 4-Hour Work Week author Tim Ferriss who travels the world learning to tango and speak Chinese, like those cubical dwellers who claim to have killed their jobs and set off on fabulous adventures, funded by obscure online activities.

The Perfect Schedule

I rein in my imagination and try to focus on the first step. The  perfect schedule.  I don’t really know where to start. I see the day begins at 7am on this Excel spreadsheet schedule. I type in “sleep” across the whole week. From 7am-8am. Then I go back across the row and type “sleep” in  between 8am-9am.  Because sleep is a major issue for me now.

After getting the right amount of sleep to stay sane, what else do I want? Food. I type in meal times across the whole week.

I really can’t think of what I want to do. I think about what I complain about — not enough time to exercise. I fill some hours in with “exercise”.

I ponder my current schedule. My overwhelming desire is not to have to waste 11.5 hours on my job – getting ready, getting there, being there and then getting home. But the reality is I need to generate some income. So I block out five afternoons with “income generation”. That’s not perfect, it’s reality.

Inspired, I fill up some more squares with blocks of “writing”. I book Wednesday as “date night”. I fill in Saturday night with “socializing”. I think about the things I miss from my old carefree life in Vietnam, when I was a true dropout. I type “coffee and park dates with Miss M” into Thursday morning, “baby swimming classes” into Saturday morning. I type in random blocks of “family time”. My week is filling up.

The course presenter advised us to create a balanced schedule, with enough down time and exercise built in. I leave Sunday blank with a vague “exploring” slotted in mid-morning.

And suddenly I see the problem. I haven’t thought about where we are going to be following this perfect schedule, which still depends on Darling Man being the primary caregiver and me being the breadwinner. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to afford to stay in Singapore with its ridiculous rents. We’ve discussed setting up in Chiang Mai in Thailand for six or 12 months so I can build up a business that can finance our travels. If we’re living in Chiang Mai, I don’t want to be stuck inside all day at the computer!

Rethinking The Work Week

I scrub out some blocks of “writing” and replace it with “exploring”. I replace some meal times with “street food”. I look at the new schedule and slap myself. Why on earth have I put all the work time on weekdays and left the weekends free? We won’t have to do that anymore, hopefully. And surely crowds are thinner on weekdays, wherever we are in the world? I switch my weekend activities to the middle of the week.

I think about the exhortations of the lifestyle design gurus to “follow your passions”. Um. My passion is not to have to go to work. In the past I’ve enjoyed swimming and cycling. But I could take care of those in the “exercise” parts of the schedule. Should I whack in a Friday afternoon hang-gliding session in? Just so I seem adventurous enough? But I’m so tired I can’t imagine learning another new skill, especially an adrenaline-charged energetic one. I’d rather have an afternoon nap. I consider putting scuba diving into my schedule. It’s a long lost love. Then I mentally slap myself again. My passion is my little family and travel. I need to find a new baby-friendly passion. But I guess that’s part of my “exploring” schedule … exploring what we enjoy doing together.

I haven’t put in cleaning, cooking, shopping or washing into the schedule. Those things usually get fitted around everything else. We may even get a maid. It seems to be the done thing in some parts of Asia.

I am happy with my strange “perfect” schedule. I’m happy that I spend some time thinking about it. I don’t really mind if we never stick to this exact schedule but we now have more of an idea of what we’re working towards. And suddenly I seem to have slightly more time, now I’ve worked out how I want to spend it. I take the baby to the pool. I pick up a flyer for a nearby yoga class.  The perfect schedule seems possible. It’s only my job that’s getting in the way.

What would your perfect schedule look like? What’s missing from your life at the moment? And what would your posed victory photo look like. Would you need a camel as a prop, like me?

9 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dropoutdiaries, dropoutdiaries. dropoutdiaries said: Is this the 1st step towards digital nomadism? The Perfect Schedule (No Camel Required) […]

  2. This was a fabulous read, incredible writing!
    For my perfect schedule I’d love to fill all the slots with street food dining, however, there’s more to be done than that – yet I all too often stray far far from the itinerary. I’m pretty happy with my schedule, knowing that getting enough done, suits me fine!
    Migrationology recently posted..Tanzanian Cultural Messages on Wall Murals in Dar Es Salaam

  3. Adam says:

    Love your thinking. Like you, I had trouble with this as well. After filling it all in, I realized that what I really wanted was not to have such a regimented schedule and have the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted to do it.

    So instead I took the number of hours of the week and started slotting how many hours a week I wanted to devote to each activity. Sleeping, eating, and working took up a lot, but then I added exercise, reading, hanging out with friends, learning time, watching TV, dicking around on the internet, “me” time, and it started to get better and easier.

    I love what you did here, and I’m eager to keep working with you at DNA. I’m guessing you haven’t logged your time yet? That is an interesting exercise to see where your time really goes. Although with a young one and a “real” job, I’m guessing you already know where most of your time goes.
    Adam recently posted..Making the Decision- Why We Went on a RTW Trip

  4. Kelly says:

    Ahh, is there such a thing as a “perfect schedule?” I love the idea of making a schedule, because as of now I sort of fly by the seat of my pants, and I can guarantee you that mine would not include Cleaning, Dishes or Cooking! UGH. I’d rather sleep more, thanks!
    Kelly recently posted..Bug Bytes- Living The Chic Life in Beirut!

  5. Jillian says:

    I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed reading this piece. Love your stuff and always enjoy seeing new posts in my reader!

  6. Rease says:

    I like the breakdown of the process, haha. Creating a perfect schedule is no easy task! I hope yours works out.
    Rease recently posted..How to Not Be an Asshole American

  7. Nancie says:

    After reading this, I went Eureka! I have the perfect schedule, unfortunately it’s in the wrong country. That’s my problem….

    If I could take my current teaching job (9 hours a week), vacation 5 months a year, and a salary which allows me to travel and save, move it to Chiang Mai…………NIRVANA.

    This is a great post, and I’m sure you will figure what it is that will make you money and give you that lifestyle that you’re longing for.

  8. robin says:

    Yeah I would go for the nine hours as well. I do way more and am not saving – this was an interesting post for anyone who, as I am, is trying to redesign their life.
    robin recently posted..Fuera

  9. i’m trying to get there! i’m pairing down my life to include less maintenance items so i’ll hopefully have more time for my passions! we’ll see how that works out- ha ha. love the process here- really demonstrates how complicated figuring all of this out is! looking forward to seeing what comes next 🙂
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..Eureka! An Off-Beat Dream Leads to a Road Trip There

  10. Theodora says:

    I guess the big question is how compliant one’s spawn will be with a schedule. I’ve been wiped out with a bug lately too and everything has slipped quite drastically…
    Theodora recently posted..All Dollars Are Not Created Equal

    • The Dropout says:

      I hear you Theodora! I’ve been sick, the baby’s been sick (snot worms and vomit everywhere), Darling Man’s been sick. All of us are completely miserable and our schedule is shot. I hope we all feel better soon.

  11. Andrea says:

    Great post! I wish I knew just exactly what I wanted to do when I “grow up.” That would be a first good step. I probably spend too much time wishing for more time. I tried the exercise of breaking out things into time slots to make sure I got everything done last year and it didn’t work for me. I felt too regimented and rebelled immediately. I don’t have any real answers to your question but enjoyed this post a lot! =)
    Andrea recently posted..New Zealand ps – Rotorua- Wai-O-Tapu pretty smelly!

  12. Great post. I can really relate to what you are going through. And good for you for taking on the Digital Academy.

    Craig and I are thinking of moving to Chaing Mai ourselves to work on our business. Lots of street food and exploring will be incorporated into our weekday weekends
    Caz Makepeace recently posted..Packing List Tips for your Backpacking Travels

    • The Dropout says:

      Yeah Caz, I finally came to realise I took on a bit too much here in Singapore. Our next adventure will be much more balanced. For starters, I’m going to have the best boss in the world. (That’s me, if that was too obscure for you)

  13. inka says:

    Wonderful post and great writing. I love your way with language. For once, I’m very happy to be a glamour granny which means no schedule at all, just drifitng where the wind and my fancy blow me.
    inka recently posted..The flight of the angel- a Venice carnival highlight

  14. Krista says:

    I really enjoyed reading this today and had to smile to myself thinking how perfectly timed it all is. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, your struggle to focus, your forging through the brain freezes. I’m going to spend time on thinking about these things this weekend too. Thanks for the inspiration!!

  15. Your prose captivates my attention and I can relate. Discovered you on twitter and now I am hooked! I am also a “dropout”. Keep churning out the wit and wisdom. Love it!

  16. […] still haven’t perfected our work-life balance or attained that perfect schedule I dreamt up nearly two years ago. But life is great, so much more enjoyable than our Singapore life […]

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