The three of us met while attending Emily Carr University’s Communication Design program and started working with Lemonly shortly after graduating. We work remotely full-time from Vancouver, and we’ve always wanted to try out travelling while working to see what it would be like, also known as a “workation.”
This summer, we decided to go for it.
We thought that for our first work/travel trip, we should try to ease into it and avoid travelling internationally, as there are usually more logistics that need to be worked out. Dafne and I had never visited the eastern side of Canada, and while Lan had visited several cities before, she was up for exploring more.
So we settled on two cities we wanted to visit: Toronto and Montreal, with the potential of taking day trips to other cities in the area.
Here’s our travelogue. 🙂
July 29 – August 5: Toronto
We left Vancouver late Friday evening on a red-eye flight and landed in Toronto early the following morning. We transferred on an express train into downtown, and rushed to find our train heading to Niagara Falls.
Two hours later, we dropped our bags at the station and took a shuttle into the main attractions area, where we boarded a cruise that would take us right up to the falls. We excitedly put on our protective gear (i.e. red hooded plastic bag) and admired the amazing natural scenery around us. As we got closer and closer to the falls, a gentle mist suddenly turned into a heavy pouring and there was no doubt about it – we were totally soaked! We were all screaming and laughing, and it was incredibly fun – mission accomplished!
Wrapping our time up at the falls, we took the train back to downtown Toronto and settled into our Airbnb where we would stay for the next week.
During work days, we would get up, do a quick workout (well, most days), make breakfast, and eat as we started up our laptops and got ready. We would either work at the kitchen island, sitting on high chairs or standing, or sit on the couch with a coffee table propped in front. We took turns cooking meals for each other and would eat our lunches while enjoying the view from our Airbnb apartment. When our work day was done, we would head out and explore the city.
Our time in Toronto was filled with fun bike rides around the city, finding hidden gems (like a post-apocalyptic-styled restaurant), and exploring neighbourhoods as we tried local food spots (even sushi burritos!) and indulged in desserts. We also met up with friends and visited Toronto Island, which is just a short ferry ride away. We explored the area on a quadracycle and admired the quaint houses and cabins.
August 6 – August 14: Montreal
On Saturday morning, we took a five-hour train heading to our next destination, Montreal. After settling into our apartment, we spent the weekend exploring Old Montreal, Old Port, and biking around neighbourhoods like Mile End (lots of cute cafes and vintage stores) while taking time to admire the Notre-Dame Basilica, try out sushi tacos (yes, it exists!), and Montreal’s famous bagels.
On Monday, we took the day off to head to quaint and charming Quebec City (about three hours one-way by bus from Montreal). We took a tour at the Citadelle of Quebec, wandered down many streets, and took a ferry to nearby Lévis, located opposite Quebec City.
After our long weekend, we began our work week on Tuesday morning. We worked mostly from our apartment, but spent an afternoon working at a cafe in our neighborhood. We were located in Montreal’s relaxed and artsy Plateau neighborhood, and spent lots of time throughout the week stopping by the boutiques and stores, and trying many restaurants in the area.
Our evenings were spent catching up with friends in Montreal, trying out Montreal’s famous poutines and smoked meat sandwiches, dropping by the contemporary art museum, and stumbling upon the Pride Parade and various shows. On the weekend, we stopped by the Biodome and Planetarium, before finding a charming restaurant in Little Italy for our last dinner in the city.
Q & A
What was your favorite part of the trip?
- Lan: I don’t have a specific favorite in mind, but I really enjoyed returning to Montreal and revisiting a lot of my favorite spots. Our neighbourhood, the Plateau, had a very unique, and laid-back atmosphere. After finishing work, it’s always something I looked forward to.
- Dafne: Montreal, by far. Big with small-town vibe. Very eclectic.
- Cheryl: Visiting Niagara Falls, riding the quadricycle on Toronto Island, and eating all the desserts. Having something fun and new to do everyday.
Was working remotely while travelling what you imagined it to be? Why/why not?
- Lan: The work and travel balance was not what I expected. Working from home, I have the impression I have more spare time after a workday, but once we were in a new city, I found I had less energy to go out after. Especially since we only had a week in each city, it felt like taking a night off would mean missing out on so much! On the other hand, I imagined travelling with two good friends would be awesome. And it was. They were more than I could ever ask for: Cheryl always made amazing meals for us, and Dafne’s always ready to try something new. The chemistry in our group was great.
- Dafne: Yes! Having the flexibility to travel and work has been a goal of mine. I feel very fortunate to be able to do so.
- Cheryl: I was a little worried that it would be very tiring but surprisingly I was always excited and ready to explore after a day of work – it ended up being a TON of fun. The time difference didn’t cause any problems (we were only 1 hour ahead of HQ), and I was able to work pretty normally to how I do back home.
Was there anything that went more smoothly than expected?
- Lan: Before reserving, we made sure the listing had “laptop-friendly workspace” checked off through Airbnb’s checklist, and this ensured we were set to work every morning without any problems.
- Dafne: Getting around each city… I was fortunate to have Cheryl and Lan, they are expert travellers!
- Cheryl: Work days went smoothly and we had no problems with our wifi connection and staying in touch with the team. Dafne and Lan are really easy going and we have similar interests so it was easy to decide on what we’d see and do each day.
Was there anything challenging about working remotely while travelling?
- Lan: Nothing particular comes to mind. But I think one major factor we all kept in mind during this trip is that finishing work comes before travel plans. A night out in a new city still meant getting enough sleep to work the next day, and sometimes working longer hours meant cutting short some activities.
- Dafne: The time difference, so it’s important to plan your work day each morning, or the day before, so you’re able to meet any upcoming deadlines.
- Cheryl: Running into unexpected travel problems can be stressful if you’ve got a day of work ahead, and it’s often hard to eat healthy and get enough rest while you’re on the road because you just want to try and see everything. Your work setup will be different and maybe not as comfortable as what you have back home.
Would you want to work remotely while travelling again? If so, where would you want to travel to?
- Lan: I would definitely do this again! Being in the same country was a lot easier in terms of language and cultural barriers, so I think going down to the U.S. would be really fun and doable.
- Dafne: Definitely. I’d love to go to Basque country in Spain and of course, Berlin!
- Cheryl: Definitely! It was so much fun! I think it’s most practical for me to travel within Canada (I would like to go farther east as well as north and visit all of our provinces and territories) and the United States (San Francisco, Portland, New York… the list goes on…) because there won’t be a huge time zone difference between the team at HQ.
Tips for working remotely while travelling
- Wifi and working areas: Ensure that your accommodation has reliable wifi as well as working areas/chairs for each member of the team.
- Communication: Over communication with your coworkers at HQ never hurts. Let them know ahead of time about your travel destination, if you will be working in a different time zone, and if they can expect any changes in the way you will be working. Be sure to inform them if any issues come up during the trip that would affect your productivity or work hours.
- Travel pace: Travel can take its toll on your energy level. If you travel slowly, you have the opportunity to travel at a more relaxing pace. Add a couple extra days to the number of days you think you’d like to spend in a city.
With all being said and done, having the chance to work while travelling is such an amazing opportunity and we are so glad we could all have this experience together. Travelling to different cities and having a limited amount of time in each encouraged us to take advantage of what each city had to offer, and try to see as much of the city as we could. The trip was filled with so many fun and spontaneous moments, and we can’t wait to do it again.
The trip was filled with so many fun and spontaneous moments, and we can’t wait to do it again.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about workations, be sure to read about project manager Becca’s family’s experience visiting California here.