The Leisure of Work

Many people hate working during vacations. Others hate going on vacations with people who stay just as connected to the office in the country as they are in the cubicle. One of the things that I’m learning on this trip, though, is that work can actually make the trip more relaxing.

This isn’t a forget-your-worries kind of vacation, but more about keeping my ties. I grew up in the Philippines, and most of my family and my friends live in Metro Manila. The short trips I take are the only time I get to catch up with them face-to-face.  I remember one trip when I felt so distraught at the prospect of leaving that it was hard to enjoy the days before my flight back to Toronto. When departure looms, every moment gets thrown into hyperfocus, and there’s such a temptation to pack every instant with activity. When I return to my quiet(er) Toronto life, the the sudden vacuum in my schedule gets filled with the pain of being between worlds.

So when I decided that I’d find a way to make it to the wedding of one of my best friends, I felt guilt over not being able to spend the whole time relaxing. My team members were counting on me to contribute to the project. I didn’t feel comfortable taking an entire two weeks off, and it didn’t make sense to fly halfway around the world for a trip of only a week. My compromise was to spend the first week on a proper vacation and the second week working remotely.

It turned out remarkably well. This week of work is what made everything feel more like home. It seems that the greatest leisure is the feeling of normalcy, of being part of the everyday routine, of following the rhythm of meals and work and some unwinding at the end of the day. Last week was hectic: lots of fun, hardly any time to breathe, hardly any time to reflect, hardly any time to slow down. This week, I feel more like I’m at home.

This trip to the Philippines feels much more relaxed than the others, as if we’re not trying to cram too much in too little time. Yes, we’re flying back to Toronto two days from now. Yes, two weeks is still too short a trip. Yes, I’ve run out of evenings for planning get-togethers. But it doesn’t feel as jarring as the last time I traveled. I don’t feel as misplaced, and I don’t feel that I’m unraveling from the strain of being “on” all the time. I have space to be normal. I have time to breathe.

I’ve checked off some bugs, written some documentation, responded to some mail, and thought about some improvements. There’s a sleepy cat on my lap. All is well with the world.

I’m flying back to Toronto in a couple of days. In the past two weeks, I learned that I can work anywhere, there are things I love about both worlds I live in, and that I can be fully present–here and now–even though I’m becoming a person of two worlds.