The Reality of Work & Travel: Marrakech
By Justin Hannan
Culture affects every aspect of your being; your beliefs, your values and even, your deepest thoughts. So, it goes without saying, that culture impacts the way you work.
Justin Hannan, winner of Latitude's recent #TravelDoneBetter campaign, is half way through his four month remote working experience. Read on to hear his recap of month two. Want to follow Justin's journey? Check us out on Instagram!
Imagine you're in a foreign country. The difference is implied in the name itself. Everything is foreign. You're now in unique lands with their own history spanning centuries. Within this, language, rituals and social norms have taken their own form.
And now stands you - the same person, but different. A person now entrenched in this new world with the hope of maintaining your productive lifestyle. This is something that made me so nervous about taking my career - and life - overseas, and into the unknown. When you think about working remotely, it's easy to only consider the upsides that await you. It's when you realise that you will have to adjust your lifestyle, and working style, to align with the cultural norms of your surroundings that working overseas seems a more difficult goal.
As a stereotypical Gen-Y Westerner, stepping into the historical Moroccan city of Marrakech was a shock. You're in a Muslim country where you've got far more chance of getting by speaking French than English. Dietary requirements? Good luck. Need an Uber? Sorry, go argue with the taxi driver over your fare because "the meter's broken".
This is their culture. And your new norm. It is your work as a remote worker, that will remain the same; the same hours, the same requirements, the same needed outcomes. It's now your job to adjust.
Not only will the culture of each place affect your day to day life, there is no doubt it affects your mind and your way of thinking. When you walk the streets, your mind is in overdrive. It's busy examining the new landscape, attempting to understand all that you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste. Mental-autopilot is an impossibility, and your normal working routine can seem completely unattainable.
Life is a constant, but thrilling, struggle between the known and the exploration of the unknown. In a new country, that balance has disproportionately shifted. And unfortunately, when you're not in a position to recharge and relax as you would on holidays, as a remote worker, this added stress takes a toll.
After five weeks in Marrakech, I must admit, I missed my Western comforts. I felt sluggish, and not myself and my productivity decreased as a result. To help me with this, I made an effort to seek out what felt familiar to me, and remind myself of that feeling of being home. I found a Starbucks that served soy-lattes, I shopped at the supermarket and purchased ingredients to cook meals I'd eat at home. I found wine. I drank it.
In my experience, the more different the culture, the longer it's going to take you to adjust and get into a workable routine - an obvious observation.
Now, I can already feel readers thinking... "You're just not embracing the culture enough! That's what travelling is about!". Yes, yes... my friend. You are right. However, since embarking on this experience I've come to learn there is a big difference between going on vacation to visit temples in your newly purchased hippie pants, and having to work a 50+ hour week remotely.
Your diet, exercise, mental and emotional health are all highly influenced by routine, which you've now just detonated with a hydrogen bomb. It's going to take you some time to get back to your optimal pace, and this is the side of working remotely that not many people realise.
Every city isn't for everyone - many people in my group would love to move to Morocco permanently. Some cities you may find better for vacation, and others better for work. That's the beautiful thing about this world, every place is different and everyone is different, and you will find something that works perfectly for you.
As a remote worker (especially if you're looking to settle long-term) find a place that boosts your performance, and maximises how you feel each morning you wake up. Find a place that overall, makes you reach your highest potential, personally and professionally. Not every country will allow this for one reason or another. Whether it's the food, internet, language, culture, or even just the weather. It all has an effect. Choose wisely, visit broadly and experiment. You'll find what works for you.
So, what's your objective on your next remote working adventure? Is it a cultural experience? Or do you want to have productivity sprints nestled between beachside cocktails? The options are varied and unique to each individual.
Now, the next challenge awaiting me is how the culture of Portugal will affect my lifestyle and working routine. Between you and I, I've got a feeling things are going to get a lot easier.
From Marrakech - with love,