It usually starts around this time of year. The change in seasons causes a change in my mood. The shorter darker days have an energy sapping quality on my mood. I have never been formally diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but I certainly feel its presence. I am just built for the sunshine.
To combat the effects of seasonal depression, I save up my annual leave to catch some winter sun. This year I have taken things a step further. With the increasing presence of SAD and a second wave of COVID 19 restrictions looming, I felt like there was no better time to escape the UK and make a longer than usual trip abroad. Inspired by Tim Ferris’s book - The 4-hour work week : Escape 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich; I decided 2020 was the perfect opportunity to take what he calls a ‘mini retirement’.
Essentially, mini retirements are a series of intentional breaks throughout your career which replicate how you want to spend your latter years. This is my first attempt at a mini retirement and whilst I haven’t followed Tim’s exact specifications; you have to start somewhere right!
Step 1: Where in the world should I go?
When I daydream about my retirement, I imagine a simple life beside the ocean with year-round sunshine and access to great surf. So, I knew my primary purpose for my trip was to catch some waves and enjoy some winter rays. This narrowed down my search significantly. My mind flooded with inspiration and excitement. I dreamed of exploring exotic places like Bali and Nicaragua. Then I suddenly realised this trip was going to be a mixture of work and pleasure.
I love my job and I have the responsibility to my team mates to be available if they need me. For me this meant avoiding any country with over 3-hour time difference to the UK. Rather than being a hindrance, this helped me reduce my options further. It also made me realise before I could fantasize about this trip any further, I needed to get the greenlight from work (gulp!).
Step 2: Surely work would never allow this?
Even though I planned the conversation meticulously… I was dreading it. I had practiced over and over what I was going to say. The trip made perfect sense in my mind. I was to fly out to Morocco where I would spend 3 weeks working before enjoying 2 weeks of annual leave.
My justification pivoted on 3 key points.
- We are currently encouraged to work from home due to covid-19. The location of my home is irrelevant. Besides, my new home in Morocco is in the same time zone as the UK and moving would not disrupt my availability. (on the 24th of October it moved 1 hour ahead which provided a great opportunity to surf in the morning before work)
- I love my job and I am a highly motivated person. I was confident that the change in environment would not affect my work ethic. To further ensure there was no disruption to my day to day, I rang ahead and check that there was high speed internet available. It turns out their connection was quicker than my connection in London!
- If points 1 & 2 failed I would suggest that we trial the first week and should my director be unhappy with the situation in anyway, I would fly home immediately to resume working from London.
Armed and ready with my reasoning, it was time to discuss the idea with my director. Whilst I knew my request was a little unusual, I had little reason to be worried. I am fortunate to a director who is both compassionate and understanding of my situation. With the approval from work, I would finally allow myself to get excited.
Step 3: You must be out of your mind to move to Africa during a global pandemic!
Now granted, I understand to a lot of people, making a move to Africa during a global pandemic sounds a little risky. Having weighed up the risk versus rewards I felt confident in my decision.
Whilst I knew this would be a good decision for myself, I have complete respect for the severity of the situation and wanted to ensure I acted responsible.
- First thing first, I wanted to ensure I could travel within the UK law. Whilst it was against their recommendation, at the time of writing, it was still legal to travel. You can check the latest updates here: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/morocco
- One of the entry requirements to Morocco was a negative COVID -19 PCR test (There are multiple types of test. If you are looking to travel abroad made sure you take the PCR one!). The test gave me a peace of mind and reassurance that I wasn’t contributing to further infections. Here is the testing service I used: https://doctap.co.uk/services/coronavirus-test/
- I am very fortunate that the area I am visiting in Morocco has a very low number of COVID-19 cases. Further to this, Surf Maroc my end destination has implemented a number of measures to ensure a safe stay.
Was it worth the hassle?
With everything in place, I jumped on a flight and haven’t looked back since. Yesterday was my first surf session and I managed to catch 4 waves between being beaten up by the waves. I can’t thank the guys at Surf Maroc enough for their hospitality https://surfmaroc.com/en/home/
2020 has been a crazy year. That being said, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Within crisis there is opportunity. You must look for those silver linings. Whether you get the chance to spend more time with family or loved ones, or perhaps you also take a mini retirement. There is opportunity if you look for it. I realised COVID-19 and working from home provided me with the perfect opportunity to avoid SAD and extend my trip abroad into a work-cation.
The trip is already paying dividends. I have a renewed sense of adventure and an invigorated purpose for l;fe.