If at least one good thing emerged from the pandemic 2020/21, it must have been remote working and the latest travel trend in combination with that: Workationing. A workation allows you to shake up your environment and potentially gather inspiration from being in a new place. Especially for people being in the creative space or knowledge-based professions, this could help seeing problems in new ways and inspire new out-of-the-box approaches, benefiting your work and ultimately your career.
The idea behind workation is what the word literally means: working + vacation. A working vacation that blends productive time and leisure time. This can be done on an individual basis, be it if you are a freelancer or simply if you are able to move your ‘home office’ to any location in the world (formerly known as digital nomads). The concept, however, can also be applied by employers who sent a group of employees away to allow a mixture of personal free time, group experiences (like yoga, hiking etc) and workshops, training etc.
This goes hand-in-hand with the term #slowtravel which is the idea of not just rushing through a destination, but taking it all in, spending more time there, blending in with daily life and experiencing a deeper connection to local life.
An Idea is born..
In my case, we currently don’t have an office in Cape Town. We are working fully remotely at home. Besides having a team in Cape Town, we also have offices in other parts of the world, like Tel Aviv and Lisbon. As you can imagine, any cooperation on projects with the colleagues from other locations is done via video calls, emails, slack etc.
I also don’t have kids that are bound to a school or a place. So, I asked myself the question: would it make a difference to my work output where my home office is? All I need is a laptop, a stable internet connection and a quiet place to work from. And that, I can get basically anywhere I want to be.
So, the decision was made to skip winter in Cape Town and to spend 3-4 months in the northern hemisphere. My first stop was Germany where I had to quarantine for 14 days – this must have been the best time for my employer, because there was zero distraction. I didn’t even go out for grocery shopping. As nice as Germany is and as homely as it feels, it is a good base to have but it is not the place I wanted to spend my workation at. Italy had been on my mind for a while and I even took Italian language lessons back at varsity, so why not refresh those once acquired skills?
You get your usual tourist hot spots in Italy, but that’s not where I wanted to go to. I wanted something small, not yet too well known, a little bit off the beaten path. Yet, still big enough to not get bored after a week, slightly touristy so that you have a good choice of places to eat out and where perhaps the one or the other restaurant offers a menu in English or German. Thanks to friends who went to such a place two years ago, the idea of going to Monopoli was born. Booking platforms as in the likes of Airbnb and others offer amazing long-term deals these days, so I rented a cute little apartment in Monopoli for a month and made my way into the south of Italy to work remotely from there.
Impressions of Monopoli
Expectations of my Workation
My expectations were simple: a change of scenery from my daily life. My routine stayed the same. I was working my standard hours, my colleagues saw a different background when in video calls, but other than that, they shouldn’t have experienced anything different.
I wanted to get to know my neighbourhood, shop in the closest super market, buy fresh fruits and veg from the veggie store next door, get a take-away coffee in the local coffee shop, find a yoga studio (even better, I found a private teacher on a roof top). In short: I wanted to live like a local, I wanted the real ‘home’ office experience just in a different place I could call home for a while.
What to do in Monopoli
Monopoli is a quaint typical Apulian town. Life is still slower there. Shops and restaurants are closed between 13h30 and 17h00. Just make sure, you get your lunch shopping done in time, because if your fridge is empty and your meeting runs over.. well, bad luck..
Go for Ice Cream! It’s a must. You will find amazing ice cream shops all around town, most of them offer vegan, gluten-free or dairy-free options. That was my daily walk after work, to clear my head and fill my tummy..
Visit Baldovino Winebar – not only is it a great location, in the middle of the Centro Storico, partly using the steps of an old church, but also has it the cutest, most knowledgable owner. He indeed impressed me, when he still knew a few days after my first visit what I had to drink my first time there. I would be flattered to believe that I left an impression 🙃
Eat raw seafood. You have probably done the sushi and poke bowl hype, so now it is time to take it a step further. A regional speciality is raw seafood as a starter. It might sound weird at the beginning, but I actually quite enjoyed it. Mussels, squid, shrimps, octopus and the list goes on and on and on. A good place to east amazing local food with a great view and a true holiday feeling is at Carlo Quinto.
Did you know that half of Italy’s beaches are managed by private lidos? Monopoli is no exception. There are quite a few free stretched of beaches, but if you want to get the true Italian feeling and a little bit of more comfort, visit one of the private lidos. You will pay a small fee but you will also get an umbrella and a deckchair with it. I didn’t have a car while I was there, however, there are the most amazing beaches in walking distance.
Take a stroll through the old town, the Centro Storico, get lost in the smallest little streets, discover unique corners everywhere you turn and take lots of photographs!
It was the best thing I could’ve done! The timing was perfect, proper summer had just started, yet it wasn’t overfilled with (domestic) tourists (yet), as the main holiday time in Italy is usually August. The change of scenery was good for my general productivity as well as for my creative thinking. It almost felt like taking a step back and looking at the situation from the outside with a fresh pair of eyes. Europe in summer has the exact same time zone as South Africa, so there was no issue with meetings etc.
The only thing that is a negative is that now, I want to do that every year.. and instead of 1 month, I want to do it for 3… So, let’s see how the working environment in general develops and if perhaps this becomes the norm.. Surely it can’t go back to what it used to be? That productivity is falsely associated with time spend in an office. #Justsaying