A new kind of Hybrid, Remote Work-Life Balance

One year ago, on June 6th, 2021, I landed in Athens, Greece for my first adventure in working remotely – and completely transformed the way I balance work and life, forever.

This trip was the culmination of years of dreaming.  A traveler at heart, I’d long struggled with the perception that my “day job” was keeping me anchored in Canada while I wanted to be free to roam the world.  As an owner and an integral part of the leadership team of Northern Edge Algonquin, my family business, I feel a unique love and responsibility for my work — perhaps others in similar positions can relate.  It’s not a job that I’d easily leave for another opportunity – even as I kept an eye on available hotel management positions in Greece.

I’d long-imagined remote work as a possibility, but I had a perception that kept me from this goal.  I work in tourism.  We bring people here — how can I do that, and maintain our quality of service, from somewhere else?  How can I be present and accountable, if I’m not physically here?  How can I make a case for working from another country, when this is still a relatively unknown way of working, and when I manage our team?

The pandemic changed the world in many ways.  One way was certainly our relationship to work.  During the initial lockdowns, there were days I stayed home working from my laptop, and there were days I went in to work from our empty office.  I went in on occasion to get out of the house, water the office plants, receive packages . . . These were the days that I truly stopped striving to work 9-5, and discovered I do better with deep work.  What I accomplished in 2-3 hours of deep office time was more than some of the full days I used to spend.

I began to shift.  I had discovered a hybrid office model and the concept of deep work, and I was accomplishing as much as before, with a lot more time for my health, balance, and social needs . . . but in the pandemic in Ontario it felt impossible to meet those other needs even with that extra time.

My mental health wasn’t great – and with each gym re-closure it got worse.  I’ve had a special calling to the mediterranean, and Greece in particular, for a very long time.  This calling grew stronger and stronger – and when I finally received my first dose of Pfiser and the weather started to turn nice, it felt like it was screaming at me rather than just calling.  I needed to be in the sun, by the sea, drinking freddo espresso and eating a mediterranean diet.  I received some advice – that this calling had been there for so long, and so consistently for the same place, that I needed to just do it.

Like many life-changing decisions and transformational experiences, it came with ease and difficulty.  I worried that things might change in my absence – at work and with my family.  I had a particularly teary goodbye with my 7-year-old nephew.  I had bought a flexible ticket to be away for 60 days, or just under 90 days if I decided to adjust my return date (I did).  Unfortunately, it would be during our busy season at the Edge – and during one of our busiest seasons to date now that there was a bigger thirst for nature, wellness, and small-group experiences.

My first couple days in Athens were strange.  After a harrowing journey to my new flat, I remembered that I never was a city person.  I berated myself for not choosing to settle on an island right away – but since I couldn’t decide which one, I had opted to stay in what was, to me, a massive city – with very few connections.  I felt regret and worry, I felt unsettled, but after two days I remembered my calling to the sea and I braved the transit system to get to the beach.  That night, I went on a date.  Suddenly, everything fell into place, and I fell into a new pace.

Each day, I had a choice.  I could work hours that were regular to me, and get much done with few interruptions (being several hours ahead of my team), or I could spend the day how I liked, returning to my flat in the late afternoon/early evening, and work similar hours to the rest of the team.  I enjoyed a mix of these two kinds of days.  Each weekend, I had another choice . . . I could stay in the city, work a bit, explore, and meet new friends – or I could travel to an island or somewhere new on the mainland, explore, and meet new friends.  I enjoyed a mix of these weekends.

I joined an amazing and inspiring gym & calisthenics community that was extremely welcoming, and on my walk home I’d stop by the laiki (farmer’s market) to stock up on fresh eggs, vegetables, cherries and other fruit.  I experienced tourist things and local things, I met other remote workers and regained the social life that had been missing for some time.

A view of my primary remote-work station, my flat just off Leof. Alexandras in Athens.

By early September, I was in the best shape of my life, I was socially fulfilled, I had seen more of Greece than most Greeks I knew, and my knowledge of the language was blossoming.  I had proven to myself that I could do my work from a distance.  I returned home, knowing that this was just the beginning.

By becoming a digital nomad, I stumbled into a new way to see and discover places.  Slow travel.  While many of the travellers I encountered over my summer were on their one stop in Greece during a journey to see much of Europe, or hit up 30 countries before 30, my goal was to deepen my relationship with this one country, to live that mediterranean lifestyle and experience life in Greece.  Coincidentally, I turned 30 in September with that goal complete.

In my sister’s documentary film, To the Orcas, With Love, scientist and environmentalist Alexandra Morton shares that she is anchored in learning about and loving one specific place, a different version of discovery than charging forward to uncharted territories.  I know that I’m not alone, as I’ve heard it said in many different ways “Once you’ve been to Greece, you start going back every year.”

Funny enough, Greece has just centred this idea as part of a Greek tourism promotion:


Next year, I don’t just plan to go – I plan to host and lead my own small-group active tour of this place I love – introducing friends and new friends alike to a few of my favourite adventures.

I’ve now embraced a new kind of work-life balance, a new kind of hybrid remote work.  I work sometimes on-site at the Edge, sometimes in our office, and I want to take regular remote work journeys to explore slow travel in different places – and spend at least May or June living & working in Greece each summer.  A two-week vacation isn’t enough for me.  And since returning to Canada?  I’ve already been to Mexico, back to Greece, and even to Egypt.  I’ve spoken with a friend about co-working and living together for a month in Rome in the Fall.

I recently had a thought that resolved something I wrestled with over the summer.  Yes, I work in tourism and my job means living, working, and inviting people to beautiful Algonquin Park.  At the Edge, however, our mission isn’t about connecting people to our location and bringing them to the park.  Our mission is to rediscover ourselves, empower one another, reconnect with nature, and learn to follow our dreams.  By following my calling to work in Greece, I was fully in alignment with that mission.

I’m pleased to see that others on my team are following similar journeys.  My good friend Court Outdoors has recently tuned into her work from her home in addition to a trip in the UK (in between leading dual SUP adventures in Italy) and various locations across Canada.  I recognize it is a huge privilege we both have, to do work that is largely internet-based, and there are many jobs that simply require that in-person touch. (Mine does do!  Which is why I still spend time at home.) Still, I believe we can create the lives we are dreaming of.

Some guiding questions that might help you to find your own version of work-life balance:

  • What strong inner callings am I ready to answer?
  • How do I work best?  How do I live best?
  • How can I evolve my current working conditions to be more flexible, hybrid, or balanced?
  • In my ideal life, what does work look like?

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