Three Reasons to Schedule Your Work-Cation and Why it Matters
· When I navigate unfamiliar settings and situations while traveling, I realize unexpected growth, even as a seasoned traveler.
· Learning about other cultures while experiencing them always results in increased self-awareness, empathy, and curiosity. I consider these key competencies for embracing diversity.
· The autonomy to choose where I work enhanced my sense of freedom, psychological safety, and fulfillment.
I nervously tiptoed into a conversation with my leader the Monday morning after I booked a seven-day trip to Belize. Fully remote work was a promised perk of the job, but I had been skeptical it was reality. I knew this was a test of our company’s policy on remote work, which boasted – “Work from anywhere in the world!” Accepting a position with a company allowing travel and the freedom to work from anywhere was my dream. Many years of corporate experience made me familiar with promising messages. The reality never completely aligned. This was a moment of truth conversation for me.
My leader nearly yelled, “You’re actually doing it! This is what I’ve been trying to tell people they could do for years! I’m so jealous and excited for you. I can’t wait to see photos.” I was speechless and hopeful at the same time. Not only were they supportive, they were excited. I was excited! This might actually be true.
Two weeks later as I sat working from the patio of my San Pedro, Belize condominium, overlooking the Caribbean’s pristine blue green water, palm trees gently swaying in the breeze, I knew my dream had come true. With my team in the Eastern time zone and Belize in the Central time zone, my days ended around 3:30 in the afternoon. This was the perfect time to meander down to the beach and soak up the afternoon sun. After relaxing with my feet in the sand, the Bluewater Grill was a few feet away, the perfect spot for a delicious cocktail and an early dinner, watching the sun set.
Very few challenges presented themselves over the course of the 14 days I spent in Belize (yes, I extended the trip by a week!). One day I dealt with some internet instability due to weather, forcing me to take most of my calls on my cell phone versus my laptop (inconvenient!). The few meetings I had to miss because of flights were easily covered by my very competent team. I trusted them to handle any issues that arose. Having supported a dozen locations across the US in my last role, I was practiced at creating an office space wherever I went and adopting it as my home base. Business as usual. Belize was no different. My work first, play later attitude ensured my team didn’t know I was lounging in a tropical paradise (except for the pictures I shared with them).
So, why travel to work? Staying and working from a destination allowed me to explore the culture, get to know the people, and not feel rushed to pack every day with activity. I didn’t feel bad about the time I spent working or the time I spent exploring. When you love what you do every day, the addition of being somewhere exciting and new only adds to your overall fulfilment. And that’s exactly how I felt, fulfilled. And don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t ALL work.
Having refined my time management skills over my career, I was able to fit in adventure and relaxation frequently. For example, I scheduled flights to the mainland for excursions during blocks of open time in my calendar. I planned day long excursions on the weekend, seeing Mayan ruins, Howler Monkeys, and tubing through caves decorated with Mayan art and sculptures. I took advantage of light afternoons to snorkel the barrier reef and swim with nurse sharks.
When time allowed, I enjoyed the pool deck and soaked up the warm Caribbean sun. On my last day in San Pedro, Belize I took a half day off and I hired a dive master for a private ‘explore and learn’ snorkeling experience at Mexico rocks. Mexico rocks is a vibrant coral reef field teeming with colorful fish swimming in and out of corals of all shapes and colors. The highlights, spotting a huge puffer fish hiding in the coral fans, rays hiding in sand, and a lionfish! This type of remote experience was exactly what I hoped it would be! A combination of learning, work, relaxation, and adventure.
What’s even more important is the growth I experienced while traveling. I met guides who answered questions about culture, history, and the impact of the pandemic on their country. I tasted new cuisines. I participated in local traditions. I discovered a strength inside myself I didn’t know I had. I learned I could travel to a country I had never visited before, alone, and connect with countless people along the way. I didn’t once feel lonely. I challenged myself, a timid swimmer, to take off my lifejacket and explore in the sea as I never had before. What I didn’t realize is how taking off that life jacket would become a metaphor for me in 2022.
Why this matters: Your employees take as much direction from what you say as what you do. When you push yourself out of your comfort zone, even if mistakes are made, they feel safe to do the same. And that means growth.
What does 2022 hold for you? For me, it holds a two-month work-cation in South Africa. Already booked and paid for.