‘Finding reliable internet can be difficult’: Linktree’s CTO has spent 18 months working and travelling in a caravan – here’s how he did it

The caravan life. Image, Getty
  • Linktree CTO Mitch Malone and his wife have been travelling and working from a caravan for the past 18 months.
  • Malone had been a remote worker for around nine years before deciding to work from a caravan in 2018.
  • He told Business Insider Australia the pros and cons of the approach.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Linktree CTO Mitch Malone has been working from his caravan for the past 18 months.

Linktree is the Aussie company that allows users to collate all their content – whether that’s a blog, website or online store – under one link. You can often see LinkTree links in Instagram bios.

Malone told Business Insider Australia he had been a remote worker for around nine years, both in Australia and internationally, before making the decision to work from a caravan.

“My wife and I just decided that we wanted a bit of a different adventure,” he explained. “So we sold everything – we packed what few personal belongings we had leftover into a storage shed and then just took off.”

It was an opportunity for them to work while also getting the chance to do something they’d been talking about doing more of: travel.

The couple travelled through most of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania during their 18-month stint, which kicked off at the end of 2018. While they work the standard 40-hour week, they’ve also had the chance to do other outdoor activities like rock climbing, hiking and heading to the beach.

“We’re at our desks just like anybody else does, it’s just that when I finish work for the day at five o’clock or six o’clock I can just step out and go to the beach or I get to go rock climbing in Launceston or disappear up a mountain somewhere,” Malone said.

Linktree CTO Mitch Malone

Malone joined Linktree earlier this year after his planned sabbatical in Europe was cut short. Five days into what was meant to be an 18 month-long trip, the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“We were up a mountain in Croatia having a really great time,” Malone said. “We were on a rock climbing trip with friends and there was no service. “[When] we started coming back in the evening to our Airbnb, our phones would just light up like Christmas trees with warnings about COVID and it was pretty clear that we needed to come back to Australia.”

When Malone landed back in Australia, he wasn’t sure of what his next step would be. And it was only days later that he got an opportunity to join the team at Linktree.

He got a call from a Linktree internal recruiter, who explained how serious the company was about building a remote workforce.

“To be so lost and confused and then having these conversations with Australia’s fastest-growing startup – it was just awesome,” Malone said. “It was absolutely the jackpot.”

And he joined Linktree when it had hired around eight engineers and it has hired another half a dozen since then.

“Over half the company have been on board and have never really met face to face,” Malone added.

The pros and cons of working from a caravan

Having sold their house in order to travel, Malone said he and his wife were able to get “quite a nice” caravan. “I really describe it to people as a hotel room on wheels,” he said.

Malone describes it as a modern caravan with a single room complete with a full ensuite. There’s internet access, cooking appliances, heating accessibility and “all of the conveniences that you would expect in a really small house.” The only thing it’s missing is an oven.

The couple tows the caravan with a utility vehicle. They have a rather minimalist lifestyle, with the caravan filled mainly with work equipment, camera equipment and outdoor and hiking essentials.

Going on adventures

“We don’t really have a lot of personal belongings, everything’s really purpose focused for being on the road either in a working or in an adventure capacity.”

One of the main advantages of working in a caravan, according to Malone, is being able to disconnect and unwind when you need to.

“It’s very easy as a remote worker to just sit at your desk [and] hustle 50, 60 hours a week because sometimes you’ve got that nagging voice [questioning] whether you’re doing enough because you remote,” he said.

Another advantage? You can go on an adventure when you want to.

But, as with all things, working from a caravan does have its drawbacks, especially you’re a chief technology officer and your work relies on a stable internet connection.

“Finding reliable internet can sometimes be difficult, which obviously is very important when you’re a knowledge worker who works in technology,” Malone said. “You need not only a good internet but generally fast internet.”

And of course, the issue of communication comes into play.

“Like any remote role, when you’re not next to people, communication can sometimes be difficult,” Malone added.

“I talk a lot about the need to over-communicate. If you need to say it once in person, you probably need to say it three times when you’re remote. So you do end up spending a lot of your time really communicating and recommunicating a lot of what needs to be done.”

Mitch Malone

Should you work from a caravan?

Malone said he would recommend travelling and working from a caravan to anyone. “My wife and I have learned a lot about each other over the last 18 months,” he said. “We’ve certainly had more time together during that time than we’ve ever had before.”

But Malone did warn that it tests your relationship, especially spending nearly all week within two or three metres of his wife.

Nonetheless he hopes to see more remote lifestyles happening as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. He mentioned a whole culture around digital nomadism – essentially the idea of ‘grey nomads’ but among people who work in technology.

“One of the things that I really hope that comes out of the pandemic is that remote working lifestyles do open up for more people,” he said. “I think businesses in general are realising, ‘Hey, we didn’t need ‘Sally’ or ‘Kevin’ to sit next to us in order to actually know they’re working.”

While the border restrictions are still tight in Australia, Malone still has plans to travel in the future. While the couple is “taking a moment to catch our breath” in their hometown of Dubbo, New South Wales, once the borders open up, they’ll look to travel around the rest of the country.

“I don’t see us stopping travelling anytime soon,” Malone said. “In fact, I think once the border restrictions are released we’ll either head back down to Tasmania for a little while longer – because it’s just such a beautiful and very different part of Australia – or we’ll go to the rest of the states and really make our way around the rest of the country and experience that entire lap as they call it.”