Remote work helps me see the world, contribute more to our products and lets me enjoy life to the fullest. From the stereotypical Thai Beach office to escaping open space, it’s a clear benefit for my employer and me.
But what gets me most excited about remote work is the environmental impact. If people don’t have to move to big cities, they can stay in their home towns, close to friends and family. Outside of metropolis, it is possible to consume locally grown food, eradicating the need for transport and packaging of perishables. With a smaller density, the housing can be cheaper, and living conditions improve considerably. People working remotely from areas like Kentucky, Idaho or Ukraine can spend their fat tech salaries locally, raising the living standards for the entire community, providing new jobs and example for future generations. According to WWF, the commuters in the USA alone are generating 1786 metric tonnes of CO2. That is 26% of all US emissions that remote work can help curb.
But of course – there is an element of hypocrisy in that grand vision of remote work saving the environment.
I fly a few times a year to meet my coworkers in person, and air travel is a contributor to greenhouse emissions.
Haunted by this fact, I decided to count how much harm did I do. I added up my flights for each year:
2016: 4.4 tonnes
2017: 8.11 tonnes
2018: 5.51 tonnes
That makes a total of 18.02metric tonnes of CO2 emitted due to me flying over the past three years. I do not feel happy about this, but I found a way to ease the impact of lugging my ass all over the world.
CarbonFootprint.com lets you contribute to carbon offsetting projects around the globe. Their air travel calculator will help you figure out how much harm did you do while getting these Instagram photos:
I decided to fund tree planting in Kenya since it will both plant trees and provide work for the local community. I happily shelled out 280 EUR to buy the land, plant trees and help them grow. The trees should consume 20 tonnes of CO2 caused by my air travel, helping me sleep better.
Carbon emissions due to flying is a downside of working for a globally distributed company, but I still can do something about it.
I also believe that long-term remote work can be the answer to the climate crisis we are experiencing right now.
For the past 3 years, my fiancée kept on telling me how amazing South Africa is. We’ve had an amazing road trip in western Canada together, spent a month jumping into Yucatan cenotes, and worked from the beaches of Thailand like proper remote employees, so I felt a little bit insulted. While we were enjoying these amazing places, she extolled the virtues of a city that has both the ocean and mountains, and teased me with waterfalls, wineyardsand the perfect steak.
Fortunately, the opportunity has come to say “I call”.
Maria’s team had to gather in April for some on-site R&R in Cape Town. This is a traditional practice for remote employees. Since you see your coworkers only on Slack or Zoom calls – its good to remind yourself that these are real human beings that like to eat and have fun. And that was the plan for that trip – I would sit tight and work from fabulous Cape Town coffee shops and Maria would eat, drink and have fun with her coworkers.
Afterwards, we would go for a 6-day road trip.
We picked an 800 km long route on the coast, west of Cape Town. Known as the “Garden Route”, it is home to multiple national parks and charming coastal cities. This is where Atlantic and Indian oceans meet and nature decides to show us the good stuff.
Addo Main Camp is located close to a waterhole, which you can observe from an underground hide. And… oh boy! That came in handy when a Lion (I had no intention of seeing a lion, but he showed up regardless) killed a Kudu antelope right next to the hide. We could all see him resting for a while before he dragged the prey away from our prying eyes.
I managed to record a video before he vanished:
The park itself is a DIY safari. You take your car and drive around, spotting different animals and enjoying life. Safari was #128 on my personal bucketlist and I can proudly cross it off having seen:
Wild Pig AKA Pumba
Dung beetle. Lots of them! The biggest challenge in the park was not to crush them when they were crossing the road. I guess this is how elephants feel about us humans.
And the aforementioned Lion
2 ⛰ Storms River Mouth / Tsitsikamma
My sneaky fiancée lured me to this country promising waterfalls. I am kind of a Waterfall afficionado junkie, so visiting Storms River was a must.
Unfortunately, on the day both the weather turned bad and I started having ankle problems, so we gave up on waterfall hike (3-4 hrs) :(. We will have to do it another time.
3 🌊 Nature’s Valley
Even though you can sleep in the park itself (Storms River has cottages), we spent 2 nights in the nearby town called Nature’s Valley. The Otter Trail connects it to Storms River and apparently we are the only 2 people in the world that have not heard about The Otter Trail. Everything in Nature’s Valley is named after an Otter, and I mean EVERYTHING. We stayed at a placed called Kamma Otter and I counted at least 5 other B&Bs named after an Otter (and this city has only 50 houses). If you see how many times I used the word “Otter” in the last paragraph, you’ll start to get a feel of Nature’s Valley.
Believe it or not, an Otter-based naming scheme is not the only charming thing about the lovely town. It is located between the lagoon and the ocean, has 1 restaurant, 1 shop and a very tight-knit community of bird lovers.
I think they throw you out if you don’t love birds.
4 🥪 Knysna
Do you see the white building just on the edge of the left “head”? This is Easthead Cafe. We had breakfast there. You should too.
5 🚀 Map of Africa paragliding spot
On the way back to Cape Town, we decided to check out the spot called “Map of Africa”. It’s a piece of land shaped like an African continent, surrounded by river.
My fiancée had dreamt of paragliding for few years now (this trip is all about the stuff she wants to do, isn’t it?). Every time we noticed people in the air, she would point them out and make sure I knew she is up for it 🙂
And there they were, running from the cliff and soaring in the air!
So how does this work?
You drive to the “Map of Africa” viewpoint, expecting to see something vaguely resembling African continent,
A random guy walks up to you, offering to strap you onto a contraption that puts you a hundred meters in the air. No reservation was necessary,
Naturally, you say yes to the random dude,
You pay 800 ZAR per person,
This is a tandem flight so you are actually tied to an instructor who hopefully knows what he is doing,
You run awkwardly a few steps,
You start soaring like a sack of potatoes,
You fly for about 15-20 minutes having the best time ever,
If the instructor catches a wind current, you land where you started, with smooth grass and sheep to soften your fall. If not, he will drop you in the ocean land on the beach and they’ll pick you up in a car.
6 🌉 Kaaimans Bridge
While paragliding, you can get a glimpse of this decommissioned railway bridge. If you are not paragliding, you can stop at “The Dolphins Viewpoint” to have a look:
7 🐐 The Oude Post
This is a gas station and a sandwich shop. Which has Mini Goats, a turtle and the most delicious sandwiches imaginable. They serve traditional Roosterkoeken – a sandwich/pastry that is baked on the barbecue during traditional Braai.
Braai is to South Africa what Barbecue is to Texas. A human right.
8 🐳 Hermanus
Our trip had an end right on the airport, where we would return the car. But since we had extra few hours, we stopped in Hermanus.
Hermanus is a coastal city that is famous for one thing: Whales.
The season is from July till November, so a whale watching trip in April was a bit of a gamble, but it paid of tremendously! A whale was doing whale things in the bay and standing on Gearings Point, we could see the back and tail popping up from the water here and there.
I tried to take drone photos, but birds attacked my drone, so I had to count on the return-to-home feature.
Here are all these spots – and more on the map:
I have to admit that now I understand why my fiancée wanted to share immense beauty of South Africa with me. I will definitely come back here. I the meantime – you can check out Job’s post with much better photos. Or subscribe to my newsletter!
YES. You can swim with Seals (not the Navy kind) in Cape Town, South Africa. These gracious creatures are very playful, and they don’t hesitate to swim up close, say Hi or maybe do a high five (fin).
A Bit of Backstory:
In April 2019, my Fiancee (who also works remotely) had to go for a business trip to Cape Town. Since we all work in different places, our company flies the whole team to one place for a week, so we can get together and dose up on some in-person interaction. Since 3 of Maria’s teammates live in Cape Town, I was hoping that someday she would have to go there and finally they decided to do so. Being shameless opportunists that we are, we jumped at the chance to spend some time in South Africa. Nature is fantastic here, people friendly and ocean cold. Real cold. Maria was spending days with her coworkers, and I was working from the city’s amazing coffee shops and researching what could we do after her business was over. During that research, I stumbled upon a Casey Neistat’s video where he went swimming with sharks seals.
This is the best stuff ever!
I know, right? Who does not want to swim with sea dogs?!
Since famous bloggers think alike, I went with the same company Casey did – the Animal Ocean. They run an environmentally conscious operation, and they make sure the seals are fairly treated and allowed to unionize.
So here is roughly what happpens:
You book your trip like 5 days in advance. They sell out fast
You arrive on time to Houts Bay. We were scheduled at 11:30
Park your car there, they are looking after it
Sign paperwork, check out amazing shark socks
You squeeze into wetsuit, you get a vest and one-piece suit with vest
You put on wetsuit again since you confused the sides. ZIPPER AT THE FRONT!!
You can rent a gopro if that’s your jam
Leave all other stuff at their shop
You go to the bay in a SealMobile!
Ride in a speedboat to Duniker island
Now you get gloves and masks
You play with seals which is the best experience of your entire life
After about 1 hour, you are so cold that you really want to go back on the boat (and life)
They pour hot water inside your suit to make you less cold
They give you hot chocolate – guess why .
Speedboat and sealmobile back to the shop!
You wear a cute seal hoodie while you get warm. Also probably a shower.
Want to know more about the seals?
These particular seals are known as “Cape Fur” seals. They hang out in Duniker island in Houts bay because:
Island is not connected to the land, so humans are not bothering them too much
There is plenty of food. They like Mantis Shrimp
They ocean has good temperature
Sharks (pretty common predator in South Africa) stay away from Houts Bay.
In February I found myself in Zurich. You know, the go-to destination for cheap travel.
One of the advantages of remote work is that I don’t need to take time off to enjoy another part of the world. I can work somewhere and just take in the local culture, food and experience the change of scenery. I can pick a cheap flight at an unpopular hour and have a regular workday without skipping a beat.
My Fiancee was in Costa Rica at this time, so I decided to visit my friends in Switzerland. Not that I needed an excuse – Switzerland is a gorgeous country that has the things I love the most: mountains, forests, lakes, and waterfalls.
But since we spent last winter in Thailand and India, my main focus was to get a chance to practice my amazing snowboarding skills.
By amazing I mean perfectly average.
During the weekend I would ski, and on the workdays, I would roam around the city, have a nice walk and work from their home, maybe a coffee shop. Or a fondue parlor, since what you really need on your keyboard is not crumbs nor spilled coffee, but melted cheese.
OH MY GOD, THERE IS SO MUCH CHEESE HERE.
🧀 Ok, enough about cheese.
There are plenty of ski areas nearby, so we decided on the closest one.
Flumserberg is the easiest one to get to. The train from Zurich HB takes 1 hour to get there, and the lift starts 20 meters from the train station. Swiss locals come into the train wearing their ski boots and with the gear on. It is perfect for a 1-day or a weekend trip.
It is also gorgeous. The city of Unterterzen is by the lake, surrounded by almost vertical walls of Fjord-like peaks
We came here with a 7am train, arriving at 8am and returned on Sunday at 5pm and were at Zurich HB at 6PM.
💳 Ski Passes
Swiss rail runs a special promo that gives you:
10% reduction on the 1-, 2- or 6-day ski pass for the entire Flumserberg region.
Free baggage transport for the outward and return journeys worth CHF 12 each.
15% reduction at Intersport Rent.
You cannot purchase it online though. You have to use a machine at the station. Here are the details
I paid 156,80 for a 2-day ski pass and transport to Flumserberg and back. Once you arrive in Flums, you have to exchange the coupon from SBB into the actual ski pass at the counter.
🏨 Juhui Flumserberg:
Theoretically, on these 2-day tickets, we could have gone back to our place in Zurich on Saturday evening and return Sunday morning. But since Switzerland is such a cheap country, we decided to live like kings and splurge on accommodation. Which means that we got the cheapest option available on Booking and we stayed overnight. And what a fantastic decision it was! We got to sleep in a 120-year old wooden hotel.
Don’t get me wrong, restrooms were not in the room, and it was very cramped, but we passed out almost immediately anyway. We got sheets, towels and a big breakfast with fantastic views. We were happy. We paid 149 CHF (including beers) for 2 people in a 4-person room. I would be very surprised if in 4 people would indeed fit there comfortably. But it was 74 CHF after splitting between 2 people.
I had my Snowboard boots with me, but I had to rent the Snowboard and a helmet. The passes from SBB should have given us a 15% discount on Intersport rental. But because of a misunderstanding with our friends, we rented in a place just by the gondola. I paid 101 CHF for a helmet and a snowboard for 2 days. My friend paid 65 for skis + boots etc., for 1 day.
I have Star Alliance Gold status, which entitles me to a piece of free luggage on all star alliance flights except „light” tariffs on Lufthansa and Swiss. But I found a cheap ticket on LOT (PL national airline, Star Alliance), also in the „light” pricing. But because of my Star Alliance status – I got luggage for my snowboard shoes and drone for free. Zurich is a peculiar place. It is a place of employment many expats, and they want to fly home for the weekend. Which means that if you come here FOR the weekend, you pay less. I arrived Saturday morning and flew back Sunday. I paid about 55 CHF for all of that.
If you want to read some tips on how to get to Star Alliance Gold cheaper and faster – do sign up! 👇
So there you have it. I paid 331 CHF for the whole trip. If you want to include the flight to Zurich, that is an additional 55 CHF. So for 380 CHF, you can enjoy a weekend of skiing in Swiss Alps. But then again, if you want it to be cheaper, then you probably should not choose Switzerland. 🙂
And here is Michał who organized all of this. Thanks Michał!
Fortunately, Thailand has more to offer than those menacing sandy beaches and annoying gentle waves.
It has some great diving. In fact, the diving is so great that we practiced in 2C ( 35.6 F ) water in Poland just to finish our scuba certifications before coming here. This is a story for another post, but I will mention this while I have a chance: DO NOT DIVE IN 2C ( 35.6 F ) WATER.
For our Thai diving, we were interested in Ko Tao. This is a whole island famous for quick & cheap diving certifications located on the bay side of peninsula. But it turns out, that the best diving spots are on the Andaman sea! Places like:
Hin Daeng and Hin Muang
Famous Ko Phi Phi featured in the movie “The Beach” (with that title it’s rightly a Thriller if you ask me)
And Richelieu Rock
Richelieu Rock is considered a #8 best diving spot in the world. It is a vertical limestone pinnacle just barely touching the surface. It looks very unassuming, but under the water… It’s a magnificent experience.
He also brought our attention to the debate regarding the naming.
Richelieu Rock was discovered by Jacques Cousteau – a relentless oceanographer. Some say that the purple reefs reminded him of the colors of Cardinal Richelieu’s robes. Matt says that the name comes from General Richeliu, a Danish officer who became an admiral of Royal Thai Navy.
Regardless of etymology, Richelieu Rock is worth a visit. Khao Lak is a good home base, but Phuket has ships coming to Richelieu Rock as well.
Thailand is not only Bangkok, beaches and booze. It’s Barracudas as well.