Today’s guest post is by Ivan Howard Chan, founder of AnywhereWorkday.com
After my first brief trip to Barcelona years ago, I knew there was a better way to travel.
It was a short flight from London. Before I finished my tea and reading the third article of the BBC Travel blog, we were landing. I took the airport shuttle to meet a friend by the apparently expansive grid of the Eixample district in Barcelona. I quickly grabbed a chocolate croissant and Americano at a bakery, dropped off my carry-on at the hotel and greeted my friend at a nearby plaza. From then on, it would be 48 hours of intense sightseeing. While the weather and scenery were nothing short of incredible, it was bittersweet from the start. Each tick of my watch reminded me of the short time I’d have to experience the city.
Fast forward to May 2014 when instead of a daily commute, I decided to take steps to work remotely for a few months from Barcelona and other locations. I wanted to really get a feel for Barcelona – including its great food culture – travel feeling refreshed, and have the flexibility to experience daily life.
As much as I love staying at good hotels, I found an apartment with a complete kitchen and balcony in a neighborhood that would be very walkable. In Les Corts were a charming cafe, authentic Spanish restaurants, markets and convenient transit to just about anywhere.
I used the balcony to do my remote work in communications with clients in the U.S. The time difference actually suited me because it allowed me to work when I was most productive, in the afternoons, while preparing in the mornings for Skype calls or updates. I would take breaks to go for a short walk to explore the neighborhood or visit a market, where I would ask neighbors or clerks about local ingredients and preferred recipes for meals.
A neighbor at the market taught me how to make the local Catalan noodles version of the arroz or rice paella. Paella fideuà with fresh seafood is enough to serve a table of new friends (or impress one’s mother). Here’s a photo of the one pan wonder, delicious alone or with a glass of crisp verdejo wine.
I also love the recipe by chef David Tanis, written in The New York Times, here.
From Barcelona, I was able to explore the region on the weekends. About an hour and a half by train and transfer on the mountain railway is Montserrat, part of the Pre-Coastal Range.
The mountain rewards hiking up to the summit with great scenery and a view of the entire region. Or, you can opt to climb with one of the outdoor activities groups, as these adventurers did:
Perhaps the best part of the extended stay was walking by the inspiring architecture of Gaudí, Nouvel and others in the city. They beckon you to think creatively and think big.
One morning at a cafe in the El Raval neighborhood, which has been undergoing a revival with new restaurants as well as a cultural center and museum of contemporary art, it occurred to me to start a jobs & career site to help others find most-flexible work opportunities. On the way back to the States, I outlined my plans for AnywhereWorkday literally at 39,000 feet.
My experience in Barcelona and its inspiration for me were invaluable to ideation, or the creative process. Being surrounded by creativity in food, art, architecture and having the space and time to process everything were vital.
In the sometimes rushed pace of modern work life, extended stays give us a meaningful way to recharge, synthesize experiences and thoughts, and make new things happen.