Work From…Anywhere? Tips From Travellers Who Do ‘Workcations’ Right | Kanebridge News
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Work From…Anywhere? Tips From Travellers Who Do ‘Workcations’ Right

Want to make your time off go further? Take advantage of remote work to set up in a holiday location for a week, even a month. The risk: missing the point of travelling in the first place.

Fri, Sep 15, 2023 8:49amGrey Clock 3 min

ASHLEY SCHWARTAU escaped to a Mexican beach town just two weeks after starting a new job for a Chicago-based insurance company. It’s not that Schwartau, 38, is a late-blooming spring breaker. She and her husband both work remotely, so when winter arrived at home in Nashville, Tenn., the pair decided to clock in from a vacation rental with a pool in Playa del Carmen.

For the next four weeks, the couple took calls from their temporary home, while their 4-year-old son attended a bilingual preschool whose $350 monthly tuition would be implausible back in Nashville. After hours, the trio played at the nearby beach, lounged poolside or grazed at neighbourhood taco stands. Following a weeklong-vacation chaser at month’s end, they returned to Tennessee restored. “It’s hard for working parents to truly find moments of relaxation, and that was one of the most relaxing trips we’ve ever taken,” said Schwartau, who documented the trip on her blog to inspire others looking to expand their own definitions of remote work.

Unlike some full-time “digital nomads”—who skew young, male and child-free—Schwartau has no plans to permanently swap home life for stints in Lisbon or Bali. Instead, Schwartau used her hybrid “workcation” to capitalise on a remote-friendly job and temporarily set up shop away from home’s routines and responsibilities.

The trip also let her save some paid time off while still traveling, a strategy that appeals to workers in the U.S., where the average private-sector job affords just 11 days off after a year. With employers increasingly offering flexible work options, workcations seem to be a pandemic-accelerated trend with staying power. A 2023 study by Deloitte showed that one in five travellers planned to do some work on their primary summer trips, with many using flexible policies to eke out additional time away.

Still, obstacles abound. Jet lag can sap work output, sand will destroy your computer and dutifully clocking hours a block from a beach invites intense FOMO. It takes finesse to make workcations work—here’s how to pull one off.

Get in the (time) zone

Going too far afield—or heading in the wrong direction—can tug routines out of alignment. Dan Hammel of Benicia, Calif., works for a tech concern that follows Central time and offers staffers two annual work-from-anywhere weeks. Last fall, Hammel spent one off-kilter week working from the Italian city of Bologna. “My hours in Europe were probably about 4 p.m. to midnight,” he said of the need to align with his stateside colleagues’ workdays. After days spent touring nearby Modena and Parma with his wife, Hammel found the schedule challenging. “I like to be in bed around 10,” said Hammel, 45.

To avoid red-eye marathons, follow your natural sleep pattern to the optimal time zone. For Hammel, that meant Maui, where he worked remotely in May. “I would get up at 5 a.m. and would be done around noon,” he said. “We would have the whole rest of the day to nap, relax for a little bit after my workday, hit the beach, go to dinner.”

Make space

Remote work might conjure Instagram shots of laptops lolling on beach chairs, but such scenes don’t translate to meaningful productivity. Deloitte found that more than half of all travelers look for work-friendly spaces when booking accommodation. William DeSousa, 73, a public-relations professional from Osterville, Mass., craves more space than hotel rooms offer: He’s a villa guy.

For 16 years, he’s spent a month working from Greece with his husband and has learned that walls do wonders. “We both need to be on phones, or be on Zoom calls,” he said. “I think separate workspaces work best for couples.” This year, the pair will enjoy the beach-and-taverna circuit while clocking in from villas in Santorini and Crete.

Other travellers opt for hotels—such as Mama Shelter Shoreditch London and the Hoxton Chicago—with dedicated co-working areas and brisk internet. Whatever you decide, ask for bandwidth details before booking: The website Global Nomad Guide, which advises remote workers, recommends download speeds of at least 50 Mbps.

Log off

Many remote workers are loath to shut devices down, which can lead to post-workcation regrets. Commit in advance to logging off, said Jaime Kurtz, professor of psychology at James Madison University and author of “The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations.” Tell yourself, “‘I’m going to work this many hours a day, and then I will go out and take advantage of the place,’” Kurtz said. She suggested travellers seek experiences that sideline devices completely, such as riding a bike or joining a food tour.

And while remote work can help PTO go farther, don’t mistake working getaways for more truly replenishing vacations. That’s why many workcationers, including Schwartau and Hammel, follow remote stints with actual time off, using working trips as a launchpad for dedicated travel time.

Jessica de Bloom, a professor of psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who studies the blurring frontiers between work and leisure time, considers true disconnection essential to thriving. A request for comment for this story prompted an out-of-office message, suggesting de Bloom lives by her own findings. “I am currently enjoying a vacation,” the auto-response read. “I choose not to work and check my emails, because research showed that working during holidays can be detrimental for my health.”

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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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