I didn’t take a gap year when I finished high school 10 years ago, and it’s something I wish I had done. I went from school, to uni, to full-time work with no breathing room, always thinking that I’d have the chance to travel when I was a little bit older, more settled in my job, and when I was able to take full advantage of annual leave. Then 2020 happened.
About six months into the Covid-19 pandemic, a particularly depressing thought struck me. I – like millions of others – felt like I was losing the precious years of my late 20s being confined to my home. With seemingly no end to lockdowns in sight and borders still closed, I was missing the chance to travel the world.
Like a lot of us, I was missing my family, particularly those living overseas who I hadn’t seen in about eight years. I decided I needed to make visiting them a priority, but didn’t know how I would juggle the short amount of time I planned to spend over there.
In a late-night chat with a friend about my trip, she suggested: “Why don’t you ask work if you can stay longer and just work from over there?”
I’ll admit I thought she was a bit crazy, but I quickly realised that I could make working from home work for me, because “home” could be anywhere: flexibility was my friend! What was the difference if I was in Sydney, in Rio, in Oslo, or in Athens? I’m also not the only one who started to think that way, with research conducted by Airbnb finding that 68 per cent of respondents in Australia said they had come to expect more flexibility from their employers.
So I took the question to my boss.
I was nervous to ask – this was a huge request, and something that I hadn’t ever thought could happen – but if you don’t ask for something, the answer is always “no”.
After explaining the logistics – that I was planning on getting an Airbnb in Athens to have as my home base, that there was a full workspace, fast internet and it would be just like the way I worked from home during the pandemic – she said yes.
Working remotely completely forced me out of my comfort zone. On the one hand, I was lucky to have been raised speaking Greek. I’m very proud to be the granddaughter of immigrants who taught me about my family background. On the other, I’ve never stayed in another country – even if it’s just for a few months. It made me face my anxiety head-on, taught me to trust myself and helped me strengthen bonds with my family.
For seven weeks, I woke up each morning in my apartment with a view out over the old town of central Athens, and with a view of the Acropolis from my balcony. It’s something that helped me experience the richness of a city that I feel more connected to than ever.
After 10 weeks spent in Europe, three weeks on holidays, and seven weeks spent living in my Athens Airbnb I’m home, but the opportunity to live over there, become a local for a short time, improve my language skills, and share countless dinners with family and friends, was the most precious thing I could have imagined doing.
Top tips for organising your working holiday with Airbnb
Check the Wi-Fi situation
This was the most crucial part of my plan to work remotely overseas. It used to be nearly impossible to judge whether a place had Wi-Fi strong enough to support Zoom calls and the much heavier load of an eight-hour workday than your regular holiday Netflix viewing and Instagram uploads, but Airbnb now verifies the connection speed in a listing with a speed test, so you’ll be confident that you can stay connected.
Hopping from place to place while you’re on holiday can be great fun, but if you’re working and not in a rush to get home, staying a little longer to get to know your new neighbourhood is something I highly recommend. Staying in my Athens Airbnb for seven weeks not only meant I was settled in and felt like I was living there, but it also meant a pretty substantial long-stay discount. Not every home will offer this, but if you dig around you can find some pretty great deals.
Keep in touch with your host
If you’re sticking around a place for a substantial amount of time, don’t forget that your host is there to give you a hand with whatever you need. Using their knowledge of local spots can help you avoid falling into any tourist traps, and can make your stay feel a lot more authentic than pottering around with throngs of other tourists.
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