Our Life and Our Work

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Italy almost broke me, and we hadn’t even gotten there yet.

And it made me realize, for a short hot minute, that there are some things about our lifestyle that can be awfully frustrating.


In our first year of travel, we were as carefree as we could be. Our time was entirely our own – we spent mere minutes updating our blog every few days, with little care as to the straightness of our photos or scheduling updates to Twitter. We just did it to give our family and friends a little taste of our travels and to let them know we were ok.

Of course, we knew that this time of pure freedom was precious and finite. At least, our bank account said so, and once we knew that we wanted to continue to live our life cubicle-free and location independent, things had to change.

And that brings us to the frustrating part. And to Italy.

Spello Countryside

“Why is this so impossible?” I hammered on my laptop keys.

From our house-sit in France, I scoured several websites that listed apartment rentals in Italy. We had few requirements but two non-starters hung us up every-time – we needed it to be non-smoking, and with wi-fi. Each apartment in our price range seemed to have only one or the other.

It seemed impossible that earlier this summer we went from the fastest wi-fi we’d ever had (in Romania, no less) to wondering if Italy was somehow stuck in the 1990s. A few years ago, a couple of weeks without it wouldn’t have been a problem. Nowadays, the mere thought of being unconnected causes panic.

I really hate that our travels are dictated by internet availability. A couple-of-month romp through the African wilderness? Yes please. Island hopping in the Philippines? Would love to.

Practical? Not really. Not right now.

Which is okay, I guess. We’re building, and we’ve come really far in the last few years and we now see our future so very clearly. Business is booming with fantastic clients, and the best part is that it is work that we really enjoy. It takes the pressure off of this blog as being our sole money-maker, and lets us continue to treat it as we’ve always wanted to: a labour of pure love. We finally feel like we’ve successfully figured out how to travel long term.

Pete Finding WifiBut business requires us to be connected, and explains this photo of Pete sitting precisely in a corner by the door of our apartment that we eventually found in Spello, Italy. It was the only spot in the super-cute apartment that it actually worked, and yes, they moved us to a better one when we explained how vital good wi-fi was.

Panic subsided, we settled in for two weeks. And even though the wifi-enabled-and-non-smoking-apartment was the only reason we landed in Spello in the first place, we quickly fell in love with the hillside town and luscious Umbrian countryside around us. We worked long hours for one day so that we could explore the next, and juggled time zones for conference calls with our North American clients. We cooked dinner some evenings and lingered on restaurant patios for most others. People we meet on the road are often quite perplexed by our interminable stays in one place, but it does take us at least twice as long to explore one location than the average tourist. Any one who spends a few days with us understands quickly that this nomadic lifestyle is far from a vacation.

It’s our life. Our glorious, frustrating, beautiful, wi-fi-dependent (for now), life.

Where We Stayed

So, the wi-fi wasn’t the greatest, but the original apartment we booked was CUTE. And the owner also has two apartments upstairs that aren’t quite as nice, but sleep more people and have a better internet connection.

Haven’t tried Airbnb yet? Sign up through this link and you’ll receive a $25 credit (and we’ll get a little something as well, thanks for helping!) 🙂

24 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • October 23 2014

    It must be something in the air, because I just wrote almost the exactly same post…and guess where we are?


    Beautiful country, but the fact that I only get internet if I sit in one corner on the bed and that it’s taken me literally 4, yes 4, days to upload a file to dropbox is killer.
    Trav recently posted..A Day in the Life…

    • October 25 2014

      Cursed Italy! So beautiful and so tasty! But with such slow internet! I suppose there must be one flaw…

  • October 23 2014

    I went on a week road trip and camping trip through Ontario, Canada a couple of months ago. The moment we passed over the bridge I was without internet access for a week except for a few stops at Tim Horton’s and coffee shops where Wi-fi was available. I expect that when in the wilderness, but not in a country so similar to ours in culture and technology. I take for granted how nice it is to have a data plan where I am tuned in all the time. Although I loved my time in Canada, I was happy the moment we got over the bridge and my phone chirped with twitter, Instagram, email, and Facebook alerts.

    • October 25 2014

      Just over a year ago we went offline for over a week in Greenland. I have to say that when we got back into internet-land, I dreaded turning it back on. But then, we were able to plan for it.

      I think it’s time for another digital detox. Maybe a similar camping trip in Ontario is called for! (Although, we’d be waiting a few months now…)

  • October 23 2014

    I felt the same way about going through Italy. The crowds were horrendous and accommodation was non existent; if so then super expensive. Still had fun though 🙂
    Jimmy Dau recently posted..The best of Italy – Photos.

    • October 25 2014

      It is still one of our favourite countries – can’t deny that!

  • October 23 2014

    Italy is awesome that way isn’t it? We stayed in one place where the innkeeper made us use wifi in one room only and only for 1 hour at a time because he was convinced the government were monitoring his connection. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were true and it made for interesting conversation 🙂
    A Cook Not Mad (Nat) recently posted..365 Project 2014 – week 42

    • October 25 2014

      Haha! Would have loved to hear that conversation!

  • October 23 2014

    I’m a fairly new blogger myself, but I can already tell that blogging is time-consuming if you intend to take it seriously. That said, we’re blessed to actually have the means to travel – and for you guys to make a living out of it, even luckier!

    Enjoy it 🙂
    Desiree’ recently posted..Tuesday Travel Inspiration

  • Ali
    October 23 2014

    I totally understand about the necessity of wifi and how much longer it takes to see a place when you’re working at the same time. That week we saw you guys in Budapest we realized that a week wasn’t long enough to really explore the city and work. Now we’re in Italy for a month, and basically we’re working during the week as if we were home, and going on day trips on Saturdays, plus a few evenings here and there exploring Pisa. I’m kind of glad we’re in a small city because there’s less to tackle, but I do miss being in a bigger city. Our problem always seems to be budget. We had a really hard time finding a decent apartment within our budget, and we looked in Tuscany, Emilia Romagna and Umbria. This place in Pisa was the best we could find that met our requirements. I think it’s all a balancing act, trying to figure out how all the little details work and what we can compromise on and what we can’t.
    Ali recently posted..Taking Your First Solo Trip

    • October 25 2014

      It is a BIG balancing act, and I know you guys are well versed in that for sure! There are worse things in life though…then fretting over wi-fi in Italy! 🙂 Enjoy Pisa!

  • October 23 2014

    Amen, sister! This reminds of Croatia. The internet worked best in the doorway for the first day or two. It’s definitely awkward to try and get work done (let alone calls) when lashed into a doorway (or a corner).

  • October 23 2014

    Ahhh, wifi in Europe. We live in Ubud, Bali, and often times complain about the internet slowness, but it was nothing to our three weeks in Barcelona and then Italy – mostly at apartment rentals. I love living in an apartment, and much prefer them to a hotel, but the wifi is soooo spotty.

    Even at our hotel in Modena, which had moderately speedy wifi, it kept cutting out and we had to re-enter a password all the time. When it became unusable, I had a minor meltdown at the front desk. She said “you are the only one with problems.” I replied “everyone else in this hotel on a Saturday are probably on vacation – this is our job!”

    How many times over the last few weeks have I wished for our Bali wifi?? And, how awful it is that it stresses me out to be without wifi even for a night…..so, yeah, I understand.

    PS, love the new site!
    Amber recently posted..Why We Spent Two Weeks Touring Emilia Romagna

  • October 24 2014

    It’s true, balancing business with the carefree lifestyle inspired by a traveler’s life is tough and we’ve all lived through the anxiety of it… But, in the end, it beats the alternative by a long shot 🙂

    Try doing some research into a portable WiFi data plan that you’d find accessible. They usually have good coverage, they connect up to 5 devices at a time, they’re pretty much weightless and they offer good price deals too!
    Cata recently posted..Traveling Europe Off the Beaten Path

    • October 25 2014

      Actually, that is what our apartment had was a portable device. The problem was that there were stone walls (like many of the buildings there) which made connection near impossible when inside.

  • Franca
    October 24 2014

    I guess that is another beauty of Italy, isn’t it? I know how frustrating it can be, it happened to us too and in Spain as well when we were housesitting in a tiny village not far from Alicante. It’s crazy how our priorities have changed, reliable WiFi is a must now!

    • October 25 2014

      It’s crazy and frustrating, but I still wouldn’t change it for anything.

  • Jane
    October 24 2014

    That is funny you mention Romania having fast internet as there is an ad on Australian TV promoting an internet company and making a statement about how we are slower than Romania here! My connection is fine… it is really quite funny when we step back and look at how so many of us get the jitters at the thought of no or little internet connection nowadays!

    • October 25 2014

      I would say that 90% of the world is probably slower than Romania! We have only had faster wi-fi in one other country: Colombia. 🙂

  • October 24 2014

    Oh I feel your pain. It seems only yesterday that I published my very first blog post. With high hopes and much determination I had dreamed of one day making it big as a blogger. Now that day is still in the distance and I’m chained to my laptop still working away to realise my dream. While I know that my nomadic existence is only possible because of the freedom I have to work wherever I can find WIFI, it is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow when it restricts the locations I can visit or amount of time I can dedicate to explore. Sigh, still it beats a 9 to 5 in the city 😉
    Charli recently posted..7 EPIC Aussie Outback Experiences

    • October 25 2014

      Agreed! I don’t even want to think about the alternative. 😉

  • October 24 2014

    Italy is way too expensive, plus nice collection of pictures!

  • October 24 2014

    Ha! I wrote a piece a few months ago about work/life balance and how i almost break out into hives if my wifi signal doesn’t work (or isn’t even strong!). I totally get you!
    Jade recently posted..An Open Letter to the Travel Channel

  • October 26 2014

    Oh, slow internet … bane of my life too. Here in Australia there’s a lot of controversy over how slow our internet is and why the government hasn’t done more to fix it and one big service provider keeps running ads about all the countries that have faster internet than Australia. Which is pretty much everywhere – but they often use Slovakia as an example. Reminded me when you mentioned Romania! Oh for the day when the whole world has super-fast internet wherever you are …
    Amanda Kendle recently posted..German books for toddlers: Our favourite children’s books auf deutsch for age two and three

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