First person: My fling with a footloose workation

It was all planned in the head — till a new job offer threw it offtrack. But in my mind, I was ready and raring to go… places

By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Sat 17 Apr 2021, 12:02 AM

Last updated: Sat 17 Apr 2021, 12:09 AM

Man proposes, Covid-19 disposes. Workation is a new word that was added to the English lexicon last year because of the Covid-19 outbreak. It is a portmanteau of working and vacation that allows a professional to work remotely while integrating elements of leisure. The word may have a human resource (HR) specialist’s ring to it, but I have a personal anecdote to narrate — one that made me conjure up “workation” long before the word enjoyed any currency.

ALSO READ: The long read: Being on a workation

I had taken up a new job back home in Delhi in February 2020. Soon, I went on to become one of the first employees in the organisation to be asked to work from home (WFH) — on March 19 — as the early strains of the raging Covid-19 outbreak started spreading its tentacles and ringing alarm bells.

The Indian government announced a nationwide lockdown from March 25, which kept getting extended in a phased manner for the next 68 days. Come April 17, I suffered a 40 per cent pay cut. The silent suffering amid the stringent lockdown restrictions made my mind work overtime about workation options.

More is less was the minimalist mantra amid viral times. I was thinking of hitting pay dirt by relocating out of Delhi the moment lockdown restrictions would get over. Bringing the living cost down was the sole motivating factor in letting my mind’s eye cast its net far and wide to identify an idyllic workation locale.

By-end April, I was zeroing in on places as diverse as the Dzüko Valley, which is located on the border of Nagaland and Manipur in India’s north-east, and Sarangkot, Pokhara, in western Nepal.

The reason for the choice of these locales is not far to seek: the Internet connectivity at both these places are way better than my apartment in a tiny south Delhi neighbourhood.

What also appealed to me was the fact that both these places were unscathed by the viral scourge till end-April 2020, and the cost of living was abysmally low.

Alongside, I would be in the lap of nature and far from the madding crowd, which appeared to be the primary source of contracting SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

On paper, it appeared to be a swell idea. I appeared to have hit the sweet spot.

I have been familiar with both Dzüko Valley and Sarangkot (the latter many tourists to Pokhara may recall as an idyllic locale for paragliding that ends on the banks of Phewa lake in the quaint western Nepal town). A few preliminary telephone calls to people I knew in Dzüko Valley and Sarangkot got me going.

Fortunately, logistical support fell in place in no time because of the cheerful, ever helpful and innocent local residents from both my (potential) workation options.

It was a toss-up between which one to go for, as local employment in the form of managing secondary schools materialised in no time. I was in the horns of a dilemma: should I keep my current job (if my company agreed that is) or take up the new one?

By end-May, the professional world around me had collapsed like a tonne of bricks. The organisation I was working for went for manic rightsizing in the face of dipping revenues.

An informal interaction with my HR manager, who had one day called me to inform me about WFH in the foreseeable future, brought to light that the organisation didn’t consider workation as an idea whose time has come.

I had no option but to fall in line with the HR diktat. The school’s pay wasn’t lucrative enough to give up my current job. I needed to juggle two jobs to make up for the pay cut.

But then when reality bites, hope springs eternal. The UAE threw me a lifeline by end-September.

A new job offer made me abandon the fanciful and footloose concept of a workation.

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