Back in May, when I was working (from home) for IDEMIA, I filed a vacation request with my boss (and with his boss). Airfares were low due to COVID, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to book a low-cost flight and visit family in Alabama in October. I got all the approvals and bought the ticket.
After I became a free agent, I considered rescheduling the trip for a better time, but couldn’t figure out what the better time would be. So I decided that if I did accept full-time employment before October, I’d explain to my new company that I would need the time off in early October, even if it were unpaid (since it takes time to qualify for vacation/PTO days with a new company).
By September, I realized that I wouldn’t have the “problem” of explaining to my new employer that I’d need time off in early October. But I knew that my vacation was going to be a working vacation, since I didn’t want to stop (a) applying for and interviewing for new jobs, (b) continuing to network, or (c) running my consulting business Bredemarket.
So, laptop and smartphone in hand, I boarded the plane for my working vacation.
An aside on COVID travel: I’ve seen some recent posts that claim that air travel is still down, and the airports are still ghost towns. While travel numbers have started to creep back up since the spring, they are still less than half of pre-COVID levels. But ghost town? For the most part, this was NOT my experience. While the flights to and from Dallas to Huntsville had empty seats, my flights to and from Ontario (California) to Dallas were completely full. And while some businesses in the DFW were closed (most notably many of the Starbucks locations), there were still a number of businesses open, and a number of people in all three airports that I visited. The biggest change (other than the mask requirements) is that American Airlines did not use the food carts on the planes, in an effort to minimize interactions between flight crew and passengers. But considering that 21st century plane food carts are nothing like they were (at some better airlines) in the 1980s, this is no big loss.
So I arrived in Alabama, set up a temporary “office” in a spare bedroom, and spent some of my early mornings and late evenings working. Productively.
- Job applications are all filed online anyway, so there was no material difference between applying for jobs from Alabama and applying from California.
- Any interviews or phone conversations could be conducted just as easily in Alabama; my business number is a Google Voice number, so I could take and receive calls from my laptop or my smartphone as needed.
- And networking obviously proceeded as usual, via video conference; the only difference was that October’s 6:00 pm meeting of the Orange County Freelancers Union SPARK group actually took place at 8:00 pm Alabama time. I also attended a virtual meeting for Youth for Understanding (YFU) USA volunteers, and was the recipient of the message “John Bredehoft, you’re NOT on mute.” (The barking dog gave me away.)
- Luckily for me and my clients, Bredemarket was able to continue to function. I accepted and finished (and was paid for) multiple short contracts during my vacation, although due to my work schedule and time differences I was sometimes sending work emails at 6:00 am California time.
Obviously I wasn’t completely productive, because after all I was on vacation. When I received a business email while standing at my father’s gravesite in an Alabama cemetery, I chose to hold my reply for another time.
But for the most part I was able to maintain my online presence throughout my working vacation, and have been able to pick things right back up after arriving home.
And I don’t have to deal with a barking dog any more.