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It's not the endless Mediterranean summer, crystalline seas and buzzing coastal culture that brought Natasha Rose Gammell, 31, to Israel during lockdown. Well, not just that. “I get a head start because I begin work at seven or eight in the morning UK time but here it’s nine or 10 o’clock,” says Gammell, who usually works in the London office of environmental organisation Hubbub. Six months of lockdown, though, has allowed her to remotely work from Tel Aviv — or “at a fishing village an hour up the coast, where I discovered a co-working space on the beach, solar powered, with wifi and sea views”. Like many other opportunistic wanderlusters, Gammell has spent lockdown self-isolating on a workcation — also known as a “work from holiday” setup — remote working from a remote location, essentially. Think normal working hours, except out of the office entirely.
“A workcation means relocating yourself to a place where you’re free of everyday obligations so you have plenty of space to think,” says Alexis Grant, founder of business working group Retreat & Create. Grant began hosting woodland “working vacations” in the Appalachian mountains when her office job as a media executive began to feel too constricting. Although her concept predates 2020, the rapid sequence of lockdowns brought in around the world has driven a surge in managed retreats to exotic hotspots. The #Workcation hashtag on Instagram has topped 110,000 posts, a tapestry of sun-soaked locations and golden sands, gleaming laptops invariably perched in the foreground next to a twinkling, tall glass.
Fishing lines, kayak capers and Florida sunsets weren’t how Charlie Griffiths imagined his office nine-to-five at the start of this year. The London-based lawyer, 29, was meant to spend several months in his firm’s New York office notching gruelling city hours, round-the-clock business calls and commuting from a Manhattan studio apartment the size of a shoebox. “I’d only been there a month before Covid-cases started rising rapidly, a state-wide lockdown was being enforced and my employer had informed me that the office would be closed for the foreseeable future,” he says. “I had a six month working visa so my [American] girlfriend and I decided to make a break for it and drive three days straight to Florida where we found a three-bedroom house with a pool and a private dock for half the price of a Manhattan studio. I cleared it with work and we were free to escape.” It’s changed his philosophy altogether. “It was the first time I really started to question the draw of cities with high costs and lack of space.”Find a sense of balance: Charlie Griffiths, a lawyer, has escaped to Florida Luisa Savoia, 32, an artist relations manager at Mac Cosmetics, fled London with her boyfriend to work for three months in Spelonga, Italy. “It’s the Call Me By Your Name life I’ve always dreamed of. We basically wake up, open the balcony and the beach is there. I have a swim at the beach for my lunch break.” She has since returned but is hoping to find “a cabin in a pine forest” in the coming months. George Pike, a video producer at Hearst, who “went a bit nuts like everyone in lockdown”, rented a campervan in July and took his WFH setup on the road — out through Belgium, Czechia, then Austria and down through Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia. “The average day is spent waking up when the sun comes out and working five to six hours, then carrying my laptop around with me as I explore, in case anything urgent and work-related comes up,” he says. The only issues have been in hotter countries, when he’s had to shift his hours even earlier — before the van becomes too stifling to work in. “The technology is such that I could essentially do the same job regardless of my location so it made me consider whether my future did in fact lie in a major city”. He’s back in London now “but itching to leave again”. Instead of commuting, you can be swimming in the sea. It’s really good for the soul “Countryside wifi ain’t the same as the city,” observes Gemma Craven, a London expat-turned-flexpat who has moved from New York to Massachusetts. But for her the perks outweigh the headaches. “I love graffiti spotting in the city when I run but here my runs are on trails, in the woods and up steep hills. The hills are hard but hopefully I’ll have superhuman strength when I go back.” Luisa Savoia, an artist relationship manager, is working from Spelonga, Italy More than anything, workcations have been a salve for the relentlessness of 2020. “It’s been an amazing opportunity to experience new places and address my work-life balance,” agrees Gammell. “Instead of commuting, you can be swimming in the sea. It’s good for the soul.” More about: | Travel | Digital Nomads | WFH