A few months into the lockdown, people were saying ‘being locked at home sucks!’ but try being locked on a tiny island with virtually no flights out when you’re a travel nut!
Now, before you start with the ‘but spending your lockdown in Malta, surrounded by the Mediterranean sounds like the perfect place to be, you’re so lucky!’:I know.
Trust me, I am very lucky, but let me give you some context.
I left my home country, Lithuania, in 2012. I lived in the UK, Malta, UK (again), Cambodia, Malta (again) and traveled all the time in between. Since we caught our travel bug, my boyfriend and I just can’t seem to be able to settle down in one place for more than 3 years. We’ve pretty much always had some new trip booked to look forward to.
We’re hooked. Addicted to the excitement, and looking forward to getting our next fix of culture, new experiences, and amazing food.
And then, you know what happened.
Malta Airport got shut down; our only way out to far-away lands – closed!
Okay, I’m being very dramatic here, but my point is that even though we were super lucky to be locked down in beautiful Malta, the inability to board a plane and escape to a new place hit us much harder mentally than being isolated in our flat and working from home for months.
Later on, with new restriction developments and the airport being reopened, we were looking for ways to get away to some country or other. Even somewhere near. Somewhere where the numbers of COVID cases were low and restrictions permitted some international travel. And last October, a friend of ours asked to cat-sit for her in a remote seaside town in Spain. Perfect! To say that we jumped at the opportunity would be an understatement.
Even though I had been successfully working from home for months on end, I felt that I should still get a go-ahead from the team for a couple of weeks of remote work from Spain. Which, as expected, was taken super well by the team.
Well, except for our CEO Rik, maybe, who said he’d rather cat-sit in Spain himself, instead of me.
The two weeks of cat-sitting combined with Switch work passed quite uneventfully. Apart from a new location, not much had changed.
Well, maybe the fact that the air did not consist of 50% construction dust, which is so characteristic of Malta. That was a great relief for my allergies.
Work stayed the same. We had virtual meetings, content plans were made, ad campaigns were launched, reports were delivered to clients, and so on. Same as it did at the Switch office in 2019, or from my sofa for most of 2020. Business as usual.
When we went back to Malta, we kept looking for a change of scenery, in any shape or form. We started looking for a new flat, in an area with less active construction sites, and more nature (my allergies were really weighing on me at that point). One evening, my boyfriend came over and said, ‘Ernesta, I was looking for a new flat in Malta, but I think I might have gotten carried away… shall we move to Valencia instead?’
Now, if you know Vilius, coming up with life-changing ideas out of nowhere is kind of his thing.
And if you know me – I don’t need much convincing.
But before we went ahead with speaking to our landlord and selling the car, the work conversation had to happen.
My teams’ reply was, something like ‘took you long enough, we’ve been expecting this for a while.’ Needless to say, the Switch management team was super supportive, and apart from a couple of days off here and there, the move to Valencia was pretty seamless.
After our workdays were over, we were buzzing with excitement to discover a new area of the city or to have caña and some tapas before our 8pm curfew. Just like many, we were still limited by safety restrictions and curfews, and our Airbnb apartment for the most part. But our minds were open, and our hearts excited! We had newness to our days again. Our oxygen supply was restored.
Once the initial excitement wore off, it hit us that being location independent had always been a distant dream of ours, but the possibility just seemed way too far in the future.
But look at us now! We’re living a dream that we’ve been subconsciously working towards for the whole of our professional lives. It’s cool, and we don’t take it for granted.
I’d like to end with a few takeaways for any that might relate to my situation.
- If there’s something that you really want to do, a thing to try, or a move to make: do it! There is always a way to make things happen, so don’t stop looking for opportunities. With all of the negative things that COVID did bring upon us, it also brought a global realisation that not all of us need to be at the office 8:30 to 5:30, five days a week. Heck, some of us don’t really need to be there at all to be able to do what we do. And here it was, my opportunity to do what I want to do.
- Working remotely is still hard work. You still have a team that relies on you to respond, show up to virtual meetings, and meet the deadlines. The Switch team respects my need to wander the globe, and I repay that respect by delivering my work as if I was sitting at my desk in the office. Being responsible and considerate is key.
- Try and develop somewhat of a routine. Routines have been one of the key things keeping people away from pulling their hair out while isolating at home. But since we moved, and keep moving around, we’ve realised that the benefits of routines still apply. Create some time in your day to exercise. Try to sneak in at least one healthy meal a day, if you’re like me and just can’t resist the tapas after work. And catch up on sleep when you can. After all, traveling and working full time are basically two full-time jobs, and you need to feel the best to be your best.
- Finally, find a thing that grounds you. I realised this during one of the team calls recently, thanks to Ed who was talking about the key brand values of the Scandinavian countries – people there are very individualistic, but they also have a very strong sense of community, which keeps them grounded (or something like that, but through a captivating story, you know, as only Ed does). And it clicked! Switch is part of my community. It keeps me connected to what I know, while my individualistic side drives me to all these foreign experiences. So whether it’s a group of people, a hobby, or an activity, find something familiar that keeps you grounded.
I am writing this as we plan our next move. It’s funny, because the meaning of the word plan has become so much more flexible since the pandemic hit. In all of our personal lives, work lives, and the industry itself. All we can do is adapt our plans to whatever might hit us next.