Timo Malzbender (known to us as malzi.) is a German-based UI & UX designer with a passion for travel. He regularly explores scenic locales around the world for weeks at a time, while working remotely on web and app interfaces for his clients.
For him, the frequent escapes into nature energize his work and offer an ideal work/life balance that most 9-to-5ers would be envious of. But does this on-and-off remote lifestyle really work? A quick look at his glowing client reviews and stylish portfolio prove this approach is paying off.
We chatted with malzi. about his jet setter lifestyle, why digital detox is important for creativity and his tips for building a remote design career.
Name: Timo Malzbender
99designs handle: malzi.
Specialty: UI & UX design
Tell us a little about your background
My name is Timo. I’m a 32-year-old UI & UX designer from Aachen, Germany. I travel a lot, play football and (of course) I love to create cool interfaces for my clients.
What made you become a designer?
I took my first steps as graphic designer when I was a teenager. I created free graphics for a football computer game.
After school, I joined a television company as a trainee for digital and print media design and finished my study of graphic design and media art in 2006.
You’re a big traveler. What do you usually do on vacation?
I like to combine work and vacation. I spend the day in nature, which gives me new energy for my clients’ projects in the evening. It works out really great for me.
On average, I travel every six weeks—usually between seven and 21 days, depending on the price of flights and hotels.
How has being a designer enabled you to combine work and travel?
It’s just a perfect combination. I only need my laptop and an internet connection to interact with my clients. It’s a privilege to work from anywhere and I’m enjoying every second of this lifestyle.
What’s the most important thing to consider when planning a working-vacation?
If you intend to book a hotel or apartment, make sure that there’s a reasonable internet connection. In Calabria, the Wi-Fi in the rooms was so bad, that I had to ask the receptionist to transfer my winning design from their office computer to 99designs. Curiously, it was a web design for a hotel.
Ever since that experience I make sure that the internet is acceptable beforehand by reading a lot of reviews of the selected hotel on Tripadvisor.
Why did you decide to join 99designs?
I liked the idea of competing with other designers worldwide. Additionally, I was able to participate in web design competitions, which I rarely work on at my job but totally enjoy doing.
How has 99designs helped you travel while working?
Of course I fund a good portion of my travel expenses through 99designs, which I am very grateful for. But I also don’t need to worry about client acquisition, so I can concentrate completely on the projects at hand.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages you find with remote work?
When you are in beautiful places, you are much more creative. I’m more motivated and the work goes faster when I travel at regular intervals.
I see absolutely no disadvantages to working remotely.
Are there any big things to avoid when working while traveling?
No deadlines on travel days. You can always be delayed and those two days are already very stressful. If a client is waiting for updates, you’re not able to upload files without an internet connection.
Therefore, I always organize my deadlines so that they never match with arrival and departures dates.
Even if there’s a lot of work to do, you should take some time for yourself—especially when traveling. An empty mind cannot be creative.
Where are some of your favorite places to travel to?
I was in South Africa two years ago. It’s a great country with so many friendly, open-minded people. I liked it so much that I wanted to explore the continent even more. However I don’t like long-haul flights, so I mostly limit myself to European destinations.
I prefer 18+ hotels or a house in the middle of nowhere in Mallorca, Spain. I always make sure that the places I stay at are located in quiet areas where there is no mass tourism—I don´t like crowded beaches. I really enjoy working in nature, rather than a public space.
Every summer I spend a few weeks on a finca, which is fantastically located on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. You only hear the crickets—it’s ideal to disconnect from stressful city life. Working under olive trees with a great view is always very special for me.
What’s your best advice for people interested in working remotely?
Even if there’s a lot of work to do, you should take some time for yourself—especially when traveling.
Coordinate your working hours and give your body some time away from digital stress. An empty mind cannot be creative.