Work From…Anywhere? Tips From Travellers Who Do ‘Workcations’ Right - Kanebridge News
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Work From…Anywhere? Tips From Travellers Who Do ‘Workcations’ Right

Want to make your time off go further? Take advantage of remote work to set up in a holiday location for a week, even a month. The risk: missing the point of traveling in the first place.

By JEN ROSE SMITH
Fri, Sep 15, 2023 8:54amGrey Clock 3 min

ASHLEY SCHWARTAU escaped to a Mexican beach town just two weeks after starting a new job for a Chicago-based insurance company. It’s not that Schwartau, 38, is a late-blooming spring breaker. She and her husband both work remotely, so when winter arrived at home in Nashville, Tenn., the pair decided to clock in from a vacation rental with a pool in Playa del Carmen.

For the next four weeks, the couple took calls from their temporary home, while their 4-year-old son attended a bilingual preschool whose $350 monthly tuition would be implausible back in Nashville. After hours, the trio played at the nearby beach, lounged poolside or grazed at neighbourhood taco stands. Following a weeklong-vacation chaser at month’s end, they returned to Tennessee restored. “It’s hard for working parents to truly find moments of relaxation, and that was one of the most relaxing trips we’ve ever taken,” said Schwartau, who documented the trip on her blog to inspire others looking to expand their own definitions of remote work.

Unlike some full-time “digital nomads”—who skew young, male and child-free—Schwartau has no plans to permanently swap home life for stints in Lisbon or Bali. Instead, Schwartau used her hybrid “workcation” to capitalise on a remote-friendly job and temporarily set up shop away from home’s routines and responsibilities.

The trip also let her save some paid time off while still traveling, a strategy that appeals to workers in the U.S., where the average private-sector job affords just 11 days off after a year. With employers increasingly offering flexible work options, workcations seem to be a pandemic-accelerated trend with staying power. A 2023 study by Deloitte showed that one in five travelers planned to do some work on their primary summer trips, with many using flexible policies to eke out additional time away.

Still, obstacles abound. Jet lag can sap work output, sand will destroy your computer and dutifully clocking hours a block from a beach invites intense FOMO. It takes finesse to make workcations work—here’s how to pull one off.

Get in the (time) zone

Going too far afield—or heading in the wrong direction—can tug routines out of alignment. Dan Hammel of Benicia, Calif., works for a tech concern that follows Central time and offers staffers two annual work-from-anywhere weeks. Last fall, Hammel spent one off-kilter week working from the Italian city of Bologna. “My hours in Europe were probably about 4 p.m. to midnight,” he said of the need to align with his stateside colleagues’ workdays. After days spent touring nearby Modena and Parma with his wife, Hammel found the schedule challenging. “I like to be in bed around 10,” said Hammel, 45.

To avoid red-eye marathons, follow your natural sleep pattern to the optimal time zone. For Hammel, that meant Maui, where he worked remotely in May. “I would get up at 5 a.m. and would be done around noon,” he said. “We would have the whole rest of the day to nap, relax for a little bit after my workday, hit the beach, go to dinner.”

Make space

Remote work might conjure Instagram shots of laptops lolling on beach chairs, but such scenes don’t translate to meaningful productivity. Deloitte found that more than half of all travellers look for work-friendly spaces when booking accommodation. William DeSousa, 73, a public-relations professional from Osterville, Mass., craves more space than hotel rooms offer: He’s a villa guy.

For 16 years, he’s spent a month working from Greece with his husband and has learned that walls do wonders. “We both need to be on phones, or be on Zoom calls,” he said. “I think separate workspaces work best for couples.” This year, the pair will enjoy the beach-and-taverna circuit while clocking in from villas in Santorini and Crete.

Other travelers opt for hotels—such as Mama Shelter Shoreditch London and the Hoxton Chicago—with dedicated co-working areas and brisk internet. Whatever you decide, ask for bandwidth details before booking: The website Global Nomad Guide, which advises remote workers, recommends download speeds of at least 50 Mbps.

Log off

Many remote workers are loath to shut devices down, which can lead to post-workcation regrets. Commit in advance to logging off, said Jaime Kurtz, professor of psychology at James Madison University and author of “The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations.” Tell yourself, “‘I’m going to work this many hours a day, and then I will go out and take advantage of the place,’” Kurtz said. She suggested travelers seek experiences that sideline devices completely, such as riding a bike or joining a food tour.

And while remote work can help PTO go farther, don’t mistake working getaways for more truly replenishing vacations. That’s why many workcationers, including Schwartau and Hammel, follow remote stints with actual time off, using working trips as a launchpad for dedicated travel time.

Jessica de Bloom, a professor of psychology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, who studies the blurring frontiers between work and leisure time, considers true disconnection essential to thriving. A request for comment for this story prompted an out-of-office message, suggesting de Bloom lives by her own findings. “I am currently enjoying a vacation,” the auto-response read. “I choose not to work and check my emails, because research showed that working during holidays can be detrimental for my health.”

The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers frequently are not the sole retail outlets.



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”