How I project managed my way out of the office

How exactly did I manage to slip out of a 9 to 5 job to travel around the world?

Project Management skills, that's how.

Stakeholder Management

So I had this idea: that I would travel around the world and visit PMI chapters. However, there were a number of identified stakeholders who could have complicated my plans. So I tested the waters slowly. I brought up the idea of long-term travel to one person at a time in my office, identifying stakeholders and who among them would need more convincing. I sat down with each person individually and presented them with the initial plan. Getting their honest feedback in face-to-face sessions allowed me to put together a project plan that addressed different concerns, and helped identify elements to scrap, providing more focus to my final scope. 

Cost management plan

How I managed to save up enough to travel for almost a year is probably the question I get the most often. It was pretty simple, also pretty anti-social. I stopped going out to restaurants, brought my lunch every day, never walked into Sephora and sewed up holes in old clothes.

How did I find the time to watch 7 seasons of Buffy in just 3 weeks? Netflix was my summer vacation.

I made this trip my number one priority for over a year. I calculated how much I was going to need by assessing the potential costs through analogous estimating. I looked at how I spent money travelling in the past, the cost of living for different countries, and read travel blogs to evaluate the cost of activities and cheap accommodation. Based on this analysis, I calculated that a daily budget of 50$ was possible, which gave me 9 months of travel. 

RISK MANAGEMENT PLAN

Planning for success means being ready for anything, or at least most anything. A risk analysis matrix had to consider the chances of getting robbed, illnesses, and missed flights. I ranked them by occurrence versus impact. There are strong chances that I will get sick over the course of my trip, however the impact is variable. Is it a common cold or is it malaria? Given my penchance for street meats, we could call this a known risk. So I have to take appropriate steps for the worst case scenario because both the occurrence and impact are high. Mitigating many these risks means getting the appropriate vaccinations and purchasing travel insurance. When the action required to mitigate a known risk is as simple as that, it's common sense to add it to your action plan. 

Time Management

Timing is everything. Knowing when to launch the right project at the right time can make the difference between failure and success. For me, it timed perfectly with the return of one of my coworkers from her maternity leave and her replacement having a background in communications. This gave me 10 months to get everything in order.

Time management puts your actions in order and reduces the risk of needing to backtrack or change plans late in the game.  In my case, it meant creating a schedule that included when to apply for a new passport in time to book my visit to Manchu Picchu, setting a reminder to cancel my cell phone contract before getting charged for another month, and finding out that rabbies vaccination come in 3 rounds and requires 6 weeks. An accurate time management plan means asking questions and asking them early.

My trip planning excel spreadsheet has more than these 4 tabs in it, but these were the basis for securing the project and knowing that success/takeoff was possible. 

 Hammocks at my hostel in Caye Caulker, Belize on a sunny day.

Hammocks at my hostel in Caye Caulker, Belize on a sunny day.