Written by Ruth Boggs
Reprinted with gracious permission of the author and “interaktiv” the newsletter of the German Language Division
Have you ever thought about leaving the confines of your home office and setting up shop at some exotic locale without being afraid of missing out on lucrative projects? It’s doable! If you like to travel, as I do, there’s always that nagging feeling of missing out on jobs if you’re away from home for too long. I have no qualms about turning down small stuff to enjoy a vacation, but if I get an offer too good to pass up while I’m away – and this has happened more than once – I don’t like to say no. That’s one reason why I never travel without my laptop.
When I started out in this business almost 20 years ago, I even brought along some of my basic dictionaries – Bunjes, Romain, Dietl-Lorenz and Ernst, in both language directions – in hardback! It made for some heavy lifting. Technology has come a long way in the past two decades, and now traveling and working at the same time is a breeze. No more lugging hardback dictionaries. Nowadays, all I need is an electrical outlet and an Internet connection at my destination. I still bring along the CD-ROM dictionaries, just in case, but they don’t take up much space in my backpack. When I go on the road, an indispensable tool is a high-volume thumb drive with all my files backed up on it, and Dropbox of course.
I always bring a multiple-outlet adapter plug, because many hotel rooms don’t have enough outlets for my gadgets, and if I go overseas, an adapter set for the country I’m going to. And then I hope for WiFi at my destination (unless an Internet stick works). But even that hurdle has be-come much lower in recent years. If in need, Starbucks is your friend. Not only for a Grande Soy Latte but also for free WiFi. As are many other places. During my recent pre-Christmas trip to Germany and the Frankfurt Wei-hnachtsmarkt, I dashed into the Apple store on Fressgasse and tapped into their WiFi to send off an urgent file to a client. Another decidedly not frivolous ex-pense is the annual membership fee for the United Air-lines Red Carpet Club. I’ve recouped it many times over by being able to retreat there and work during layovers. With my traveling routine honed over the years, I’ve worked from some pretty interesting locations recently.
A couple of years ago, I spent time on the Greek Island of Kythera, the home of Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty and sexuality. According to Greek mythology, she emerged from the foams of the Aegean at Paleopolis beach after Cronus cut off Uranus’ genitals and cast them into the sea. Sigh. I arrived in a less dramatic fashion, on the one daily commuter flight from Athens, Greece.
Kythera (pop. 3,000) is about 50 miles long and 35 miles wide and mostly undeveloped. From the air, it’s all volcanic rock terrain and olive groves. Narrow two-lane roads snake all over the island. There are no chain hotels, shopping centers, fast-food restaurants, or highways. The airport is about half the size of a Wal-Mart or Costco. Life happens primarily al fresco, in the town squares and on the side streets, where brightly painted tables and chairs are set up in front of every building and shop. That’s where the locals sit for hours and drink coffee, play backgammon, or simply talk to each other in the most unhurried fashion.
My temporary office was al fresco as well: The sun-kissed patio of an apartment located only a two-minute walk from the scenic beach in Capsali. That’s where every day started under palm, fig and pomegranate trees, with strong Greek coffee, delicious yoghurt that came in big earthenware pots, and fresh fruit and sweet rolls. Lunch was often whatever Panagiotis, the fisherman who lived next door, hauled in that morning.
Mornings were spent at the beach (armed with iPhone and iPad) or sightseeing. Shopping on Kythera was an experience reminiscent of a different era. The local general store seemed right out of an old Western movie, with merchandise stacked to the ceiling, an earthy smell, and two sales clerks behind sturdy wooden counters, note pads in hand, ready to wait on customers.
The island soon became a kaleidoscope of colors, tastes and fragrances: Sweet smelling fennel, hardy rosemary and thyme, and soothing chamomile, all growing wild and giving off their alluring aromas. The fig and olive trees were laden with fruit ripe enough to be pulled off, and people did so freely. Mouth-watering scents wafted from bakeries, with owners readily offering samples of almond cookies and lemon squares fresh out of the oven. A sales clerk in a souvenir shop insisted on giving me a small gift, some fennel seeds wrapped in gauze and tied with a pretty ribbon, which required some explaining to the customs agents at Dulles Airport (“Really, they’re just fennel seeds!”).
I hadn’t planned for the trip to be a working vacation, but couldn’t resist when a huge job fell into my lap. So huge, in fact, that it paid for my entire vacation and then some. The time difference was an advantage –by the time clients in the U.S. started their day, it was afternoon in Greece and I’d already been to the beach and back. I liked the Greece working vacation so much that I’ve repeated it several times since.
Last May, I spent time in Costa Rica, meeting up with a friend and colleague from Munich. We worked part of the day from a comfy B&B in Escazu, and explored the island, local cuisine and nightlife at night and on the weekends.
In late August, I spent a week in Wyoming – another unplanned working vacation. I’d gone there for a writer’s workshop and to visit a friend when a big job arrived. So big that it again more than paid for the vacation. I simply couldn’t say no. This time, my workplace was even more scenic: A quaint log cabin in Wilson, WY (pop. 214), way out in the country (17 miles to the closest supermarket), where I set up my makeshift workstation on a rustic wrap-around porch that has a history: It’s where the Walton’s congregated in the evenings on the famous Seventies’ TV show. Now my friend Nanci, a writer, lives there with her horse Dallas and dog Story.
Working from her porch the beauty of the scenery took my breath away: Munger Mountain, covered with wild rosemary and sagebrush, and vast wide-open spaces everywhere. No TV, no city noises like squealing brakes or sirens, and breathtaking starry nights. Granted, it was a bit tedious having to walk out into the pasture to get reception on the iPhone, but the heavenly silence, broken only by an occasional chain saw, elk’s bugle or barking dog, was well worth it. Again, I alternated working and sightseeing during the day, and played at night – I even learned to dance the Texas Two-Step at the famous Cowboy Bar in Jackson, WY (I hope my dance partners’ toes have recovered by now!).
Traveling and working at the same time is not doable for everyone. It was not an option for me when I still had a husband and kids living at home, or taught ESL at night. But now, it definitely is an option, and one I like to exercise as often as possible. My motto is: Work hard, play hard!
My first trip of the New Year will be to Snow Shoe, West Virginia. Needless to say, I’ve already made sure that there’s high-speed Internet at our cabin :). On the road again …