The day I make a dream come true finally becomes reality. My long planned work and vacation trip (short: workation) just began this week. As we all now, the Covid-19 pandemic brought home and remote work much faster into our life than expected. Especially for software engineers, who only needs their laptop for work, remote work is a very good opportunity to combine work and living in a different place.
And so will do I. For the next 3 month, I will move to Barcelona, will make a language course in Spanish and live and work there. But you may ask: why Barcelona? Well, when I was here the first time, I was fascinated by the city, the historic quarters, the sea, mountains and dozen of parks in between. Staying here, I was impressed by the creativity that this city exudes and I was constantly in a mood of being creative and productive. Just think about Picasso, Gaudi, The Park Güel, Casa Battlo and much more and you will know what I mean. Apart of that, Barcelona is a remote work friendly city, meaning that many places such as cafes, hotel lobys, co working spaces etc. are equipped for remote workers.
In this blog series, I want to summarise my experience living and working in Barcelona, share my thoughts and what I have encountered during a 3 month stay in the Catalan city. The first blog post will address preparation. What do you need to think about? what is necessary, (legally) required and what are boundaries. I will also create YouTube videos, but this will take a little bit. You can subscribe here to stay up to date.
Before I booked my tickets or a place to stay, I did some research about workation. Since I am self employed, I can decide on my own where I work and do not need to negotiate this. Luckily, the project I am working on does not limit me to stay in Germany or limits me otherwise. If you have a permanent role in a company, you should first talk to your supervisors and ask whether remote work is possible. You should also ask for a signed piece of paper ensuring you are allowed to work remotely.
After than you should choose a city to stay that attracts you. There is no bigger nightmare than staying at a place that for some reason does not suit your expectations. You should therefore do a deep dive into the city you want to travel to – for instance, you can research very basic things like how international the city is, whether crime is a problem or not and other things like air quality and of course whether life is cheap or expensive. Especially if you are looking for co-working spaces, you should research prices and overall conditions. For Barcelona, there is a great list summarising co-working places.
Legal status and being insured
After making sure you are allowed to work remotely and found the right city for yourself, you should research some “legal” things that may be relevant during the stay. From my perspective, there are no further rules to consider since I will stay within the EU. Nevertheless you should check whether your ID/passport is still valid, ask your health insurance how to behave in case of emergency and do some research who and where your first contact places are.
Not really a legal status, but kind of related are the different “Barcelona Cards” provided in Barcelona. You should check this for your city as well, sometimes there are great offers. For instance, there is a “Workation Card” which has some advantages. For me, they are a bit confusing and since I was in Barcelona and saw many of the sideseeing places, I decided against buying a card.
Flight and Luggage
The flight and the amount of things I take with me was very difficult. On the one hand, it is a 3 month stay and you should not forget anything that you may need there. On the other hand, the suitcase becomes full very quickly and you should not take too much stuff with you. You should therefore find a flight that allows you to add more luggage for non astronomic prices. Some carriers have made invoicing overweight luggage to a business model so you should keep an eye on this. From my personal experience, the cheapest is not automatically the best.
For the luggage, you should first place what is absolutely necessary. Think about stuff like medicine, towels, bed sheets and slippers (if not provided by your host). I would recommend to leave everything you can buy there (such as deodorants and shower gels) to have more space for everything else. Are your friends and family planning to visit you? Think about letting them bring you stuff and send others back you do not need.
The accomodation is the key point during the whole stay. It is the main cost point of the whole journey, has a significant influence on the overall experience and should therefore been choosed very wisely. Staying at a place that does not satisfy your expectations is therefore not an option so I recommend to not save money here. There was another requirement for me: being close to everything I need and “waste” less time with public transportation to moving from a to b at all. Therefore I booked a very central place which – of course – was a bit expensive.
For a software engineer, internet connection is critical for work. Further, the place you stay should ideally have a dedicated place to work – either an own room or just a desk with a desk chair. For the work equipment you can check whether the renters offer additional equipment such as external monitors, keyboards, etc. or just simply bring it with you. For instance, current iPad’s can be used to extend the MacBook by another screen.
You should also check reviews on different platforms like Google, AirBnb and booking.com to get an overview of what other people experienced. Of course, people tend to dramatise things sometimes or would not make reviews if they would be happy. So take the reviews as an orientation and do not make hard ties for you.
Spare Time and Language Courses
Depending on your actual and maybe-in-the-future hobbys, you should research what opportunities are given. For instance, I an regularly going to the gym and do not want to skip this for my stay in Barcelona. Therefore I looked for several gyms in Barcelona and contacted them by mail/Facebook/Instagram. You can explain your situation briefly and ask for temporary contracts. Most of the time they agree and apply a discount if you pay in upfront.
Visiting a country without having a basic understanding of the language would be a lost opportunity. Learning the basics and being able to say at least the very simple things like paying the bill at a restaurant should be the goal from the language point of view. Thus, I searched for a language course – ideally close to my place – where I can learn Spanish. You will ask: why Spanish, not Catalan? Well, very simple reason: I started Spanish once back in 2019 but had to stop. Even though it was not much, I just want to conclude Spanish before moving further to the next language.
Taking pictures with my DSL-R and compact cameras is another passion which I unfortunately can not do a lot. I will change this during my workation time and what city suits better than Barcelona? I forgot a lot about photography but will do my best 🙂
Of course, each city has much more to offer than this. Barcelona has a special website for activities for “internationals” in Barcelona.
Workation is here to stay
As I said in the beginning, the Covid-19 pandemic made remote work much more realistic than it would be today without it. If the kind of work allows to work from anywhere – of course mine allows – then, there is no obstacle to not do it. I will take the opportunity and travel around the world or at least Europe while I can work and make sure that I have a constant income.
What is about you? Does your profession allow you to travel arround and work? If you are interested in how I do in Barcelona, you can subscribe to my newsletter. This way you will not miss updates once I publish them.