I recently spent 4 days (Thurs through to Monday)in Southern Spain. It was a random trip – I’d booked to go to a Greek Island earlier in June but wasn’t well enough, so Easy Jet could only do a rebooking rather than a refund. It was a busy time at work to be going away so I thought I’d do remote working and mix some time in the wild at the top of the mountain with some time on my laptop.
This kind of set up works well for me. I’m one of those people who mostly loves what I do. It’s often intellectually engaging but more importantly, the work I do is connected to my principles and what gives me meaning. I’m on the border of an INFP and INFJ so am strongly guided by an inner compass that needs to be linked to a wider purpose. Therefore, often the things I might be doing for “work” are things I’d choose to be doing anyway.
At the age of 41 I’ve become quite good at knowing the things that give me energy or give me nourishment. I love spending time with my nieces and family, seeing my friends and partner, I also love being alone in the most remote places possible, being by the sea, being in or on water, and sometimes riding a horse.
Over those 4 days I woke at sunrise, ate breakfast looking out over the mountains toward the sea. I sat at my laptop from 8–12 clearing my inbox and then writing some proposals. After lunch I lay in the sun or went for a walk then from 4–7 I’d go back to my laptop. Dinner around 7 and after watching the sky turn to dusk from a hammock I’d go back to my laptop or write in my notebook and stick post it’s all over the hut walls. One morning I was up at 7am for a horse ride through the mountains. On my last day I stopped working at lunchtime to spend the afternoon wandering around Granada.
The internet has meant that I can be away like this yet still be in touch with my colleagues. I’m not a digital nomad that wants to spend my whole life in an individualistic silo, with no roots anywhere, but I do love being able to make use of the freedom that my privilege and life circumstance have afforded me (which could have all kinds of consequences in later life). It’s also a way that I take care of my needs and links to this article about Werner Herzog’s A Guide For The Perplexed, which I was reminded of by this Facebook memory this morning.
I get quite ground down by the way our culture still silos “work” and “life”.. whilst I have to be empathic to those that need separation between the two because they don’t like their work or they suffer from stress and anxiety (I’m sure there are many other reasons too).. those that demand I switch off or roll their eyes at me for being on my laptop whilst on “holiday” seem to miss the point for me. I need and want to be doing those things, as much as they need not to be. I’ve had friends tut at me for being on my laptop yet when I look over, they are reading Grazia magazine. I left the fashion industry 13 years ago for a reason - because I wanted to do something more fulfilling with my time. It was such a joy to recently have an afternoon on holiday in Crete with Sophia Parker where after reading Utopia For Realists we talked about ideas for a whole afternoon in the pool. It’s rare to have time to freely be imaginative and talk about new ideas, to stretch our minds, and yet the fact we had read a non-fiction book was deemed not the right kind of reading for a “holiday.”
The idea of a separation between work and life also privileges the idea of “life” as being one with children, a partner, a home and garden to tend to, an allotment to look after. All things that might be what the majority of people have or strive for but maybe things that hold a lot less importance for some of us.
Why am I telling you this?
It sometimes feels like accommodating people’s needs only goes one way. I get that people around me don’t only want work / life separation and holidays, they need it. I would like those same people to understand that I might need the exact opposite.
There are campaigns for 4 day working weeks, more flexible working to accommodate childcare or parental care, and other calls for revising how we do holiday time (even making it mandatory in some instances). What’s clear is that one-size-fits-all doesn’t work. We should celebrate and accommodate different working patterns and approaches to work, whilst acknowledging the freedom of tech and knowledge work isn’t available to all (often people don’t have choice, which they don’t in these kinds of contexts), because ultimately they are all helping to shift the status quo and stop us reducing the solution to fit old structures and patterns.