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  • Jasmine Heesaker

Are "workcations" actually productive?

Updated: Oct 16, 2019


If you have never heard the term "workcation" before, it can simply be described as a vacation that one spends getting work done/working. This trend is becoming increasingly popular among freelance workers. Being a travel junkie myself I decided to give it a shot! My husband and I planned a 3-week trip to Ireland to visit family and friends and I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to try and find that balance between vacationing and working (if it even exists).

Prep: The week before we left, I emailed various clients and agencies that I work with letting them know that I would have limited availability during the 3 weeks I was away. However, I explicitly let them know I was still keen on taking jobs if they came up. By "limited availability" I meant that I wasn't eager to take on a 10,000-word job on cognitive biases but would be more than happy to translate a 1000-word blog post. And not to forget the time change...that would also be something to contend with. I normally work in Central Standard Time (and so do most of my clients) and I was going to have to cope with working in Irish Standard Time. The time difference was 6 hours, which worked out to 6 AM CST becoming 12 PM IST.

Week 1: We arrived in Ireland and immediately went to find a SIM card. My theory was that if I was going to continue working for the 3 weeks we were abroad, I was going to need data. In the event, we couldn't find free Wi-fi, I could tether my laptop to my phone and poof, translating would be possible ANYWHERE. 20 euros later and we scored 20 GB of data on weekdays and unlimited GB's on weekends for the entirety of our trip. Easy! And so, I was thrown into the lion's den. Almost immediately after acquiring the precious data, I received a translation request through email. I was excited and a little nervous to take on a translation so quickly after arriving, but I felt confident that I could handle it. I knew I would have a comfortable place to go to every evening to carve out a few hours to while away translating. We were staying with family and friends, but also at the odd hostel or Airbnb. The time change wasn't actually too bad to contend with and kind of worked in my favour. As I was just finishing up day-time adventures in Ireland, the day had just began back in Canada. In my first week, I took on 5 new projects. Not bad if I do say so myself! I managed to maintain part-time hours all while enjoying a new country.

Week 2: Things were sailing along at this point. I had gotten into a kind of groove and knew where, when and how I worked best. One slightly annoying thing about trying to accept translation jobs on the go is that I often felt ill-equipped (time-wise) to allow myself to accept jobs that exceeded 1500-2000 words. I just felt that I wouldn't be able to scrape out enough time every evening to do a really good job and feel confident in what I had translated. That left me with many small, but interesting jobs sprinkled throughout my 3 weeks. I think that is one of the main things I learned about myself when doing this little experiment. I learned just exactly how quickly and efficiently I can work when being continuously tossed into new environments. I am someone who loves routine and stability and I think that workcationing tested my ability to adapt to different working conditions and situations. In my second week, I added 5 more jobs to the "done and dusted" pile.

Week 3: I was honestly getting a little tired by week 3... but that didn't get me down. The awesome thing about freelancing is that YOU get to CHOOSE your own hours. So, I just took on less jobs. As for using data and Wi-fi... I only ended up having to use data for translating a handful of times when we were staying outside of a town area. I am however, happy to report that it worked smashingly (better than a lot of the Wi-fi I had to use). By the end of week 3, I was looking forward to getting back to my home office. I love what I do and was even more excited to get back to a more stable work environment so I could take on bigger and better jobs. In my third week, I only managed to take on 2 new jobs.

My thoughts...? I truly think that it's possible to be productive during a workcation. Let me caveat that with, depending on how you like to "vacation". Personally, when travelling, I like getting up early and seeing the sights during the day and then taking time to recharge and relax in the evenings. Let's be honest, the only places that are open past 6 PM in the UK are pubs and convenience stores. Once we were done exploring, hiking or wandering around, we would meander back to our cozy abode for the evenings where I could put up my feet and jump on my laptop. My husband and I were also pinching pennies a bit and cooked our own suppers or had suppers cooked for us most evenings. I let my husband do the cooking and I focused on translating. Of course we DID go out to pubs, live music shows and enjoyed a night out a handful of times, but that was only because I was able to strike a balance between the work that I took on and the time that I had off. For me, the hardest part was actually having to turn down work orders and projects that I would have normally pounced on. It pained me a little to let some of them slip through my fingers, being the translation nerd that I am. I am also really luck to be able to work with really great clients and agencies that allow me some flexibility when it comes to turnaround times. And, because they knew I was "limiting" my availability were more than accommodating.

It was a really fun and interesting experiment for me, but I don't think that it's for everyone. I hate to admit it, but workcationg isn't just sitting with your laptop on the beach or sipping cocktails on a rooftop terrasse (like the picture above might suggest). It can be a bit stressful and even a bit of a bummer sometimes to have to limit yourself when abroad. I also don't think that every vacation should be consumed by work. However, if you want to go on a trip somewhere, maybe you've been there 3 times, maybe you are visiting family and friends, or maybe you are going for the first time, why not try it out and see if it can work for you? There really is no harm in trying!

Have you ever tried workcationg? Did it work? Did it not work? Is a workaction something you would try?

Let me know in the comments!

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