Clayton Cornell it's been traveling full-time since mid-2011 while building a business on his laptop, which currently focuses on accelerating the adoption rate of solar power. SpartanTraveler.com is his personal travel blog of uncommon travel adventures, logbook of travel hacks, and forum for thoughts on lifestyle design and working in the 21st century. You can learn more about his business at understandsolar.com and solarleadfactory.com.

Hola Clayton, This is not the first time you visited our island, I guess you like Fuerteventura as much as we do but, what, in your opinion, makes this piece of sand and sea such a great place for a digital nomad or location independent worker to visit?

I think the number one thing Fuerteventura has going for it is wilderness. Despite having decent tourist traffic you can still drive 2 minutes outside of Corralejo and be on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. It doesn't hurt that there's terrific scenery consisting of beaches and coastline, not to mention fantastic surfing.
So as someone who works online the appeal is in finding a place where I can effectively work but get out into the elements as quickly as possible, without all the hassle that's often included in living in a more populous place.

 
 

You are traveling with your girlfriend, who is also working online; how did you guys get to know each other and how long have you been traveling together?

I met my girlfriend in Hungary a year and a half ago and this was our first trip together. It was basically her first experience in working online and my first experience coaching someone (or more accurately sort of hands-off guiding) to do it.
It's definitely a big step to live with someone when you work at home and it can be quite intense since you generally don't have as much of a social scene in a new place and fewer opportunities to get some space if you need it. It helps to be with someone who is very, very calm and can roll with things pretty well.


Do you consider yourself a “Digital Nomad”?

Yes. I don't get hung up on the words as much as some people seem to, so call it what you will: digital nomad, location-independent entrepreneur, lifestyle business designer, whatever. Or just traveler and entrepreneur. It think people do the community a bit a of disservice by not highlighting the trend and underscoring the advantages of geo-arbitrage, a global workforce, and the mind-expanding experience of working from different places around the world.

Digital nomadism, a hype or the future of work?

Like anything else it will grow in momentum but I don't think it will become mainstream any time soon. Most offices will still want people in desks where they can see them. That said, I think the global opportunities for entrepreneurship are growing rapidly. The tools of not only the internet but also things like the availability of manufacturing (e.g. China), not to mention newer technologies like 3D printing are going to make it possible for ideas to scale rapidly, anywhere on earth. The opportunity is there if you are in Silicon Valley or Timbuktu.
That said, if you aren't using 'digital nomadism' as a business advantage but as a way to create a lifestyle business, or a way to avoid working, that space is only going to get more and more crowded.

Does working remotely improve your work in any way? and your life?

Working remotely greatly improves my life for a few reasons:

1. I'm a maker, not a manager. . That means for me to do good creative work I need large blocks of quiet uninterrupted time. This is what not only makes me feel the best (getting into flow), but also produces the best results. 
2. While there are advantages to working in the same room as others, it depends on the stage of the company (among other factors). Startups should be in the same room up until a point. But the downside of working in the same room is it encourages laziness in communication (ie asking a question that would be better answered in an internal wiki or by google) and process (not creating better standard operating procedures that anyone should be able to do).
3. I love to work, but I hate being told when and where to do it. That might be some kind of childhood issue but it's how I function. Better to embrace it and use that as a strength.

What is the biggest challenge for remote workers/digital nomads?

First, being effective. I don't really travel much anymore because creative results come from consistency. But even staying in one place the classic entrepreneurial dilemma is trying to figure out what to work on amidst the options, especially when the only human interaction you have is with a screen.

Second, staying motivated for some of the same reasons above.

Third, you are your biggest enemy. In uncharted territory it's not always clear what you're doing. You have to meticulously build your own frameworks around how much you should work, when you should work, how much money you need to make, and so forth, and this can be really really hard.

 
 

Where are you heading next?

After traveling for 3 weeks in the Canaries, Southern Spain, and Portugual, I'm heading back to Budapest to get some actual work done again

Why did you choose to become location independent?

The main reason was I wanted to travel, and I wanted more than 1 week a year off as is typical in the USA. So combining travel and entrepreneurship made a ton of sense.

Are you constantly traveling or rather doing trips from a long term base?

Traveling from a base. I love staying in one place for a few months and exploring from there. All the advantages of consistency with the travel part built in too.

Traveling from a base. I love staying in one place for a few months and exploring from there. All the advantages of consistency with the travel part built in too.

Do you have any routines on your travels?

It depends on the type of trip I'm on.
With a sort of binge travel trip it all goes out the window, but I still try to eat, sleep, exercise well, and still get a few hours of work in each day.
For longer trips the ticket for me is working until midday then traveling or exploring. I like to get plenty of exercise so I usually block off part of the afternoon on MWF to hit the gym

Do you find it difficult to be productive when you’re on the road without any structure to your days?

It's much harder than being at the base of operations but it's totally doable. I'm actually writing this on a high-speed train from Lagos to Lisbon in Portugal. It helps to have noise-cancelling earphones.

What working environment do you prefer - coworking places, coffeeshops or rather rented flats?

They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Personally I prefer to work out of my own place because I can wake up and immediately go to work. Plus there's plenty of healthy food available and I don't have to travel or do anything to keep being productive. That said it's nice to break things up and work from a coffee shop or coworking space.

Do you usually work from a coworking space? how do you see the movement now? Where do you think is going to be in 5 years?

Coworking is blowing up and is a huge business. I see this growing dramatically as more people start to work remotely and I think there is a ton of potential here. The best coworking spaces are pretty amazing community spaces where a lot of sharing and invention happens.

You are a very heavy surfer,  Did you go surfing in Fuerteventura? Tell us a bit about your experience in our waves.

The surfing in Fuerte was both fantastic and difficult. I've described it as 'pretty full on' in that you are more or less at war with the elements: wind, sun, waves, lava, dirt roads, tide, etc. When you score you score big - I had some incredible days of surfing with no one out. But it can be a long wait between days like that. In some ways this makes it an ideal surf/work destination. It isn't always good so you only have to worry about the surf you might miss when it is. Overall I was really happy with the surfing and I'm looking forward to coming back.

What is your most favorite location for living and working remotely from those you have visited?

Sorry I will list a few here:

 
 
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Fuerteventura, Canaries
  • Mallorca, Spain
  • Santa Cruz, California

How do you see the future of work?

Well, as the tools of production are more and more available to anyone it's really about who is going to step up and take advantage of the opportunity. It's not going to be restricted to Stanford dropouts or big established companies, so really I think we're living in one of the most amazing times to be alive. I hope there is an ongoing shift toward results-only-work-environments (ROWE) and less focus on time. More of a focus on quality and less of a focus on money. And I also hope there is more of a focus on the triple bottom line--products that make the world a quantifiably better place.

What would be your advice for people who are looking for a remote job?

The first thing I told my girlfriend who wanted to work online was to 'take her job search global.' First stop: Upwork. Start looking for remote jobs there (there are many more websites now as well). Get some work and as soon as you can move off the platform and start your own website and productized service.
I always tell people to read the 4 hour workweek, as well as listen to the entire back catalogue of the TropicalMBA podcast.
Finally, consider as well the 'apprentice' model: go work for a cool cutting edge tech company for a year or two to get the experience to start your own thing, which you can build from anywhere.

Were you able to work during the stay? would you say that working this way, with all this activities, the sun, the sea, and all of those  “distractions” helps increasing your productivity or creativity?

I definitely worked less than usual from Corralejo. After tracking my time with the app toggl I found that I was working more about 20-25 hours per week vs a 'normal' 30+ back in Budapest. But I also improved my surfing a lot and that's always worth something.

Let's make it useful for the next people visiting Corralejo:
Could you tell me 3 places they can't absolutely miss (bars, ice cream shop, restaurants)?

Best restaurant is Citrus

3 activities they shouldn't miss

Surfing + try to get a carving board skate lesson too

Check out Lobos (I didn't get a chance to)

Go hike to the top of the volcanoes it's worth it.

3 locations to visit

Cotillo is surprisingly cool to hang out in + the beach on the N. side of town.

Sotavento in the South is really cool.

The whole N. Shore

3 things or places to avoid

Don't ride a motorbike.

Don't kitesurf at flag beach or Majanicho at low tide!

Thanks a lot Clayton. It's been a pleasure to host you here. Hope to see you back for the next surf season