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.
Let me tell you about quite typical situation in my life.
I’m sitting at a bar with my friends. A few people I’ve just met overheard me telling some travel story and they want to know more about remote work. So I start to explain the reality of it – that our company has no office, we talk over internet and so on.
They nod along for a while, and after about a minute or two I hear something like:
? But I couldn’t work from home!
I DO understand why they say that – and they are right!
Working from home makes one… different.
It’s good to stay in touch with other people. Have you ever been sick for 2 weeks and then you just became sick of… being sick?
There comes a time when you would do just about anything to leave your apartment. The perspective of spending every day like this is scary indeed.
? Stages of working from home
Believe me, I can relate. The only difference is that I have a crow sitting in my window. Her name is Kraaatherina.
But I do have some good news!
Remote work does not (necessarily) mean work from home.
One of the benefits of remote work is that you can choose a place within walking distance from your home.
You don’t waste so much time commuting to the office,
You are not limited to companies hiring in your area,
You can work for the company of your dreams without having to move.
These are fantastic benefits that can change your life. But if you don’t feel like it, you can ditch the office – there are plenty of options to choose from.
☕️ Working from a Coffeeshop
I’m sure you have stumbled upon a romantic, greatly overused photo of a wooden table and a MacBook perched on top. And a cappuccino (of course).
I’m aware this looks like a hipster’s wet dream. When working remotely, you have to get used to the fact that your life resembles a promotional photoshoot. Working from exotic places, whipping out your MacBook at a cafe…
The struggle is real.
So how does it look in practice? How do you get work done from a coffee shop?
I usually pick a chain one. Unfortunately, my favourite cafe in the neighbourhood is taken over by moms with their kids. It may be surprising for you, but this constitutes a sub-optimal work environment.
In Poland I opt for Caffé Nero – they have the best sandwiches. But while traveling, there is always a Starbucks. And a Starbucks on the corner of every Starbucks.
At a chain coffeeshop, I don’t feel self-conscious when I’m sitting and sipping one cup of coffee for 3 hours,
They usually have a long, wooden table where I can secure enough space for my laptop. Romantic, round tables are probably useful when discussing poetry and charging tourists ridiculous prices, but not for real work,
You know what to expect. I appreciate some variety in my life, but when I have a stressful task to accomplish – the unexpected factors, high noise level or limited bathroom access can make us feel a little uncomfortable.
However while travelling, I do look for “pearls”. When my fiancée and I worked from Paris, we were heartbroken by the fact that all those Parisian cafés are incredibly uncomfortable. But you do (have a chance to) stumble upon some interesting decor. Rainforest Cafe (an USA chain) imitates, well, a rainforest with fake gorillas and all. In Lviv, there is an amazing “Apteka Mikolash” where the inventor of a gaslamp used to spend his days.
Usually I get to a cafe around 9:30-10:00 and leave before lunch. Sitting there for about 3 hours, I pick “less popular” times so I don’t block the table during breakfast and lunch time which is an avalanche of hungry mob.
I like to eat breakfast at the cafe, to leave more money – in the end it’s a business, not a charity. Unfortunately, healthy options are sparse. If you want to limit caffeine consumption at the same time – it’s even trickier. Most non-caffeine options are pretty sugary. By the way, I highly recommend ginger tea in Starbucks. It’s great for those cold mornings.
When I walk into a place, I’m like a special-ops commando. But instead of assessing exits and possible murder weapons, I do check for power outlets. I carry a 3-meter extension cord with me (write me if you want to know more), so it’s less of an issue nowadays. If I happen to secure comfortable-looking table close to power outlet, I need to mark it by my sweatshirt. Searching for a proper work spot carrying a sandwich and a coffee is a real challenge.
As I mentioned – I like those long communal tables, even if I have to share them. I don’t mind company, but I really value desk space.
So I start to work.
Headphones are key, but from my experience cafe is not the most noisy environment. Other patrons tend to scroll their facebook feeds, chat in small groups, read book or work like me.
Do you want to know how to make sure you can secure a power outlet, which headphones will ensure blissful focus and what cafe is best to work from? Sign up now! ?
Cowork is an office space you share with other companies / freelancers. You can get a whole room, but a desk in a an open space is much more common. You can get your own dedicated spot or a “hot desk” – where you just sit at the spare desk.
This arrangement is the closest to traditional office and has some benefits:
Every day you see the same faces. You meet folks during coffee breaks, you can chat about football, startups or challenges of your projects. You will have the opportunity to network – or even find friends.
If you’re a freelancer, it makes it so much easier to find business partners or clients. The startup that is producing a video game 3 desks away may trust you with their marketing campaign if your off-handed advice will pan out.
Coworking spots tend to have their unique communities. In my WeWork we get breakfast for the whole community every Monday. We can get to know one another while aggressively fighting for the last spoon of tomato hummus. Nothing brings people closer than food and a brawl.
These are the most beautiful offices you have ever seen. Coworking spots are evaluated the same way as potential spouses are – totally superficially. The nicer looking one always wins. Fortunately, its less paperwork to get out of coworking deal than a marriage (usually). WeWork puts a lot of effort into design.
Every cowork puts coffee, scanner and a printer as a benefit. Those perks may be less important for you – but you don’t have to worry about it anymore.
You get a physical address to put on official business documents. In Poland, that’s a legal requirement and not every landlord lets you do that in a rented apartment.
If you buy crap interesting items on AliExpress or do a lot of online shopping – you will have someone to sign for all those packages. This is important if you tend to wander around the world like me.
Price usually hovers around $250-$350 for a desk, but that depends on the location.
But there are tradeoffs
As I mentioned – coworking spaces have a lot in common with regular offices. With all the up and downsides.
In coworking spaces there are companies dealing with various things – for example sales or accounting – and make a lot of phone calls.
Fortunately, in my WeWork there are dedicated phone booths. This is a gamechanger. Loud phone calls are the reason why I left my previous cowork. The noise made it impossible to focus.
I generally have 2 complaints against coworking spaces:
It is surprisingly louder than a coffee shop.
If you travel a lot, it may not be feasible. The per-day passes are around $20, so monthly memberships are much cheaper. But if you plan to sightsee and enjoy the city, coworking spot may not be the best option.
When you were in college – did you happen to swing by the library to finish some project or focus? Why should it be any different now that you have your amazing remote career?
I am a fan of libraries myself.
Me, while smoking a pipe
This is the only place that ensures quiet working conditions. You don’t even need your headphones!
There is no shortage of outlets and desks.
Sometimes the interiors are phenomenal. All over Europe, libraries are the most spectacular buildings as they were founded and frequented by rich & famous. Now you have to be rich and famous to keep that tradition. It’ll be easy because – as you already know – libraries are free.
Now, that’s a pro territory.
Museums are a very picturesque environments/ interiors. You get to work from a very impressive/intriguing/stimulating location, get some culture and learn interesting stuff during the breaks. The potential is big, but you have to do your research.
A few hints how to find a museum and which ones to avoid:
Science, naval and war museums tend to have more seating options,
Unfortunately they tend to have more screaming children,
Your best bet are very unpopular museums,
Power will be an issue in all of them. Bring extension cord or a powerbank,
Usually the best chance of a table and power is the museum cafe,
It will be loud,
Some museums have libraries!
Working in the open air is like having a beer in the forest. But with a laptop and continuous quest for better wifi/lte signal. And without the beer.
By far this is my favourite mode. I love spending time in nature, watching trees and waterfalls. My remote work arrangement lets me commit new code in a Canadian National Park, conduct a video call with the Loire Valley castle backdrop and test new product version from the beach in Thailand.
WiFi is widespread nowadays, but it’s good to always have a 3G option with you. “Hotspot” option in your smartphone is usually enough.
US and Canada have a lot of picnic tables in parks. They are probably meant to be used as a place to have lunch, but they are also a great spot to whip out the laptop and pretend you are working while secretly checking your Instagram likes.
Artur, you promised that I don’t have to work from home!
I won’t lie anymore. I worked in all of those places, but pretty often I end up in my… home office.
We recently bought an apartment and I enjoy my place a lot. I can see birds from the balcony (I need to keep tabs on Kraatherina). I love being able to cook fresh vegetables, going to the gym or the swimming pool without carrying all my belongings and a laptop with me.
If you want to know how to arrange an awesome Home Office, do sign up!
Remote job allows you to work not anywhere, but… everywhere!
In a traditional job you have to sit in one place. Moreover, you have no say on the matter. It’s only natural that while moving to a remote setup, you are searching a replacement.
But… is it good for you to sit in the same position for 8 hours trying to focus? Won’t your mind appreciate a little bit of change? Won’t it feel energized in new surroundings?
In the morning you can work from home. Let everybody else stuck in traffic jams,
Once crowds are gone you can get your morning coffee and enjoy the coffee shop,
Around lunch time it might be a good idea to work from a restaurant? From my experience, Mondays are always empty and nobody will mind the laptop,
Maybe… Don’t you feel like a library is a good idea today?
Or maybe it’s better to hit the cowork early in the morning, go to the gym when everybody else is still in the office and finish work at home?
You get to choose. It’s worth it!
The best benefit of remote work is that the workplace has to fit you. Not the other way around.