Work Life Balance in Valencia

Category: Design by Travel

The port city of Valencia lies on Spain’s southeastern coast, where the Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea. It’s known for its City of Arts and Sciences, with futuristic structures including a planetarium, an oceanarium and an interactive museum.

Valencia also has several beaches, including some within nearby Albufera Park, a wetlands reserve with a lake and walking trails. I stayed in El Carmen, a historic barrio known for its street art and social scene of locally owned bars, restaurants and shops. At this point I am in my fourth location for working remotely, and so I think I’ve got this down to a science. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way of running a design studio remotely while exploring a new international city.

Setting Boundaries And Sticking To Them

One of the awesome benefits of working remotely from a European destination is that you are 6 hours ahead of east coast time USA. When you wake up it’s quiet and there are no emails flooding your inbox. You can work this one of two ways. You can get an early afternoon start on your day (leaving your morning for things like exploring, breakfast and reading at a cafe, taking walks, working out, me time, etc). Of course, this can make your evenings run a bit long, and thanks to things like siestas, you’ll have to manage when you get hungry and when dinner is actually served in the city. Or, you can get a mid-morning start on your day, and cut out early. But, with this you’ll have to set expectations with your clients and team members about when you’re available to take calls. Nonetheless, working at a time when the inbox is open and there’s nothing coming in, is a very productive time to be getting things done. I chose a combination of the two, but largely leaned towards the latter to allow for more facetime with team members and clients.

Still even with this plan in place, I encountered a couple rough nights of not realizing it was 10PM in Valencia, carrying on while it’s on 4PM on the east coast. It’s a complicated game. It’s important to give yourself boundaries around work (so you’re still enjoying whatever city you’re end), but also not be so hard on yourself while you try to find your rhythm.

FOMO and JOMO. Both Are Real Things

Every place you travel comes with a power list of awesome things to do, from history tours to hikes to street art to wine tastings and cooking classes. How on earth do you fit it all in? There are two things I have experienced while working remotely. The first is FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). This happens when there are a ton of great options and I see people going out and having fun and I’m on my laptop cranking out a work project or meeting a deadline. But I love my work, and you likely love what you do too. We shouldn’t resent having to choose work over adventure sometimes, as it is literally one that fuels the other. In this case it’s worth it to do a little leg work and maybe map out the top 5 (or whatever number you choose) priorities of things you absolutely want to do while you’re in a new city. And then have a second list for “would be cool if I could also do….”, where you list some secondary items that you’d love to do but won’t be in a funk if they don’t happen.

I’ve realized from experience that I can’t do everything and I’m very okay with that. I just started thinking to myself that if I was really loving a location, then there’s a very high chance that I’d be there again to check some other things off my list. Another thing I noticed was JOMO (Joy of Missing Out), which is when I see all the things to choose from for the evening and instead I am in my pajamas watching Netflix with a hot meal and a glass of wine, or I’m just watching the sunset from somewhere and enjoying a much more chill vibe for my evening. If you don’t go out every night at home, there’s no reason for you to exhaust yourself by going out every night while you’re traveling and working remotely. A night in, whether planned or by chance, is the perfect space for you to reset, relax, and just have a moment of gratitude for being exactly where you are.

Grant Yourself the Same Patience You Grant Others

So, when pursuing a dream of working remotely, you’re going to make mistakes. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve screwed up a meeting time because of miscalculating time zones, or when I’ve set a deadline for a project milestone that totally didn’t factor in travel time, jet lag and other factors of transitioning from one location to the next. It’s brutal, but I think these are good problems to have and worth your time to solve them, especially if this is something you want to incorporate into your life for the long haul. I remember apologizing to a client for missing a planned meeting (due to my Google calendar not updating to reflect a new time zone), and she said hey don’t worry about it, I understand. And that allowed my shoulders to fall back down to a normal distance from my ears and for me to cut myself a break. Because embarking into new territory is going to come with some hiccups. It’s important to be communicative with your clients about that, to manage expectations, and don’t carry the frustration of a simple mistake longer than you have to.

In Conclusion

I don’t have all the answers to juggling working remotely while traveling abroad. I think it’s a worthy endeavor that I would like to consider more intently, especially as an option for skipping winter in the east coast USA, where it’s so cold I cannot ride my bike and loathe even walking to get to our office downtown.