There is nothing nicer than downing tools, shutting up shop and jetting off for a well-earned break. The combination of sunshine and blue skies is the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of our everyday working lives.
Of course, holidays have to come to an end and sometimes it seems as though we’ve only just begun to unwind before we’re back at our desks wistfully reminiscing about walking barefoot on the beach or lounging by the pool and wondering when we will be able to escape again.
Having fun in the sun is a welcome break for us all, but some people get to do it all year round. Here, three Irish people who threw caution to the wind (or gentle summer breeze) and decided to take their work to a far-flung destination where they could enjoy a more relaxed vibe while continuing to earn a crust, tell us what it is like and how easy the transition has been.
Aoife O’Brien, who runs Happier at Work, helping organisations to create better environments, is also no stranger to working abroad.
Having lived in London, Perth and Sydney, she is taking a working break in Lanzarote — and saw out the worst of the winter in Tenerife, while she worked in the sunshine before heading back to Ireland as the weather improved.
This, she believes is the ideal solution to work-life balance.
“I see a huge trend towards remote working and opportunities for working abroad being offered to employees at my client companies, so I wanted to experience this first-hand in order to understand the challenges. It was a great opportunity to get away from the cold, wet, dark winter months in Ireland to a warm and sunny place.”
O’Brien created a morning routine where she would get up, do some yoga, brain training and language training, then have breakfast and start work. She would work for a few hours in the morning, before going to the pool for a few hours, and returning to work in the late afternoon.
“I tried to treat it as if I was living there, so only went out on weekends. I definitely had a better work-life balance, as being somewhere warm and sunny during the Irish winter, I wanted to be outside, and enjoy myself as much as possible. Through prioritisation and focusing on what really needed to be done, I was able to achieve a better balance.”
The cost of living in the Canaries is much lower than in Ireland, says O’Brien, and although she paid €1,400 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, “it was on the expensive side compared to most other local listings”.
An advantage for O’Brien was that the Canaries has the benefit of being in the same time zone as Ireland, is in the EU, and has all-year-round sunny and warm weather without the spikes in temperature that other places experience.
“Working abroad is not for everyone, some people may struggle with motivation, or experience a culture shock they weren’t expecting, or simply miss friends and family back home. My advice to anyone considering it would be to outline the reasons for wanting to work abroad and focus on them. Accessing wifi has never been an issue, and usually, Ireland is only a flight away if you have any problems — so what’s stopping you?”
Nothing is stopping O’Brien it seems — she’s heading back to Tenerife in July for 2½ months.
Darragh Everard from Meath has been living in Barbados since June 2021 and is the managing director of two international recruitment firms, Eirkoo and Cantillon — A Life Less Taxing.
He moved to the tropical paradise to set up the firm, which specialises in placing people in tax-free jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda, Dubai and Gibraltar. His goal is to find jobs for people to pay little or no tax and live in the sun.
“My life here is totally different. We don’t pay tax on a digital nomad visa so living tax-free allows for a lot more disposable income and being in the Caribbean means that you have more things to spend it on. The weather means that the majority of my spare time is spent outdoors, playing golf, swimming in the sea, playing football or boxing — and once it gets dark, that’s when we hit the beach bars.”
For Everard, finding accommodation was “easy”, thanks to the helpful ex-pat community and local real estate agents.
Rent for a two-bedroom apartment is about $1,500 to $2,000 a month (€1,402-€1,870) says Everard, adding that the cost of living can vary a lot.
“It can be expensive or cheap, depending on your taste. So you could pay $1 for a beer and go down the road and pay $10 for the same beer. But it is easier to save, and there are many people [here] taking this opportunity to save up for a house deposit while experiencing a high quality of life.”
It’s not all cocktails by the sea for Everard.
“Work-life balance isn’t the main priority when setting up a new business, but having daily sunshine means that you are more intent on getting your work done quickly to allow you to take advantage of it,” he says.
He plans to spend most of the next five years on the island growing his business and exploring all of the different islands while travelling home intermittently.
“Once people realise how they can live [in the Caribbean] they will see what a positive and healthy impact it has on life,” he says.
Living like a local in Barcelona
Moving abroad to live and work doesn’t have to be for the long term.
Public relations consultant Sally Leadbetter has just returned to Kilkenny after living and working for a two-month stint in Barcelona.
Realising how effective remote working could be during the Covid-19 lockdowns spurred the move.
“At the PR agency where I worked, we’d always thought it was essential to work side by side in an office environment, to bounce ideas off each other and have that creative dialogue. But we discovered through the lockdown that this is not true, and I found that working from home forced me to be more independent and rely on my judgment. As a result, my confidence soared.”
So, having wanted to “live like a local” in Barcelona for years, Leadbetter availed of the opportunity presented by Covid to move to the city. Initially, she was concerned about finding accommodation in the Spanish city, which is home to its own housing crisis.
“Luckily it was a breeze and there is a lot on offer, costing anything from €2,000 [sleeping four people] per month to €9,000 for a penthouse with a pool. After doing some research, everything else just fell into place and we found a place near El Raval. I booked Ryanair flights and packed enough clothes for just one week knowing that we had a washing machine in our Airbnb. A local couple agreed to take care of our house and pets. And off we went.”
Both Leadbetter and her husband divided their time between working on their respective careers, looking after their two sons — Tiger (11) and Omar (5) — who were taken out of school for the duration of their stay, and enjoying life in the sunny Catalan city.
“In the mornings, I scheduled meetings via zoom with clients, colleagues, TV researchers and spokespeople — so not much changed from a work perspective. Then in the afternoons, we planned our excursions to museums, parks, the beach, the aquarium or the zoo and tried to balance fun activities with cultural experiences.”
Trying out the local cuisine, hanging out in the neighbourhood, and practising their Catalan phrases with the local shopkeepers and hospitality staff were also on the agenda. In the evenings, Leadbetter says the children joined in the games at the local park.
Leadbetter moved on from her staff job to working as a freelancer this year but stayed strict with how she worked.
“Of course, I wanted to make the most of being in Barcelona and immerse myself in the culture, so I was strict with my time. My job is important to me and I want to do it well. Ultimately it’s up to me to manage my workload, the clients and the projects that I take on — and I am very fortunate to be in that position and have that freedom.”