If you’d happened to peek through the second floor window of a hostel in Via Cavour (Florence) one Saturday evening last February, you’d have seen a girl hunched over a laptop on her lower bunk bed, sifting through Pubmed abstracts and typing furiously, hoping her boss wouldn’t decide that, actually, come to think of it, they didn’t really need her.
That girl was me, as you might have guessed, and I was then on Day 7 of my short mid-February break from ordinary life. For that reason, I was also on Day 7 of not having done even a minute’s worth of work — no, make that Day 10 because I’d spent the few days immediately before my trip doing last minute printing, packing, repacking, the works. It would have been fine if I’d told my bosses that I was going on vacation but I hadn’t. I’d figured I could always work on the road — at the airport, on the plane, on the train, evenings — and, well, you know what they say about good intentions.
The thing that not too many people realize about having the kind of work you can take with you on vacation is that you actually do take the work with you on vacation.
Once, in Tokyo, I was chatting with a friend on Facebook and he asked, “Why are you still in your room? Why aren’t you out there enjoying the city?”
“I have work I need to finish today 🙁 ,” I said.
On the day tour I took to Bath, Stonehenge, and the Cotswolds the other year, I spent a lot of my time on the tour bus tapping away on my laptop, finishing an article, which I then emailed to my boss at the Edinburgh stop of our sleeper train from London to Inverness. I’ve been asked, “Where are we going today?” and answered, “The British Library” because I thought it was win-win: my companions could check out their collection and I could get some work in. Friends, on another day, went inside the Natural History Museum while I stayed outside on a bench with my computer because there was something I really, really needed to hand in that day.
And yes: this year, I spent Saturday evening in Florence alone in my hostel room, working.
I’m not complaining at all and it usually works out great. I love my work and I love my bosses. It’s just something to keep in mind: a reminder, for people wishing for work they can do anywhere, that it’s work they will have to do anywhere.