Working from home as a personal assistant
Although I studied communications and sociology, I ended up working as a personal / virtual assistant for a living. I really love my job; it's like it was tailor made for me! Sometimes it's boring and mind-numbing stuff, but most of the time I get to talk and listen to all kinds of people, follow (and often participate in) interesting projects, plan things and make overviews, book beautiful trips - when I'm booking a flight to some tropical country, I almost feel like I'm going there myself. And best of all, as I'm my own boss, I get to decide wether I can take a long lunch (if I finish everything urgent first, nobody will miss me) or take a few days vacation (if the work can wait, why not?). I have to say most clients and coworkers I've had over the years I'm doing this, have been wonderful and a pleasure to work with.
At first, I was working from Amsterdam; of course I would also work when on vacation (visiting my parents in Belgium, a friend in France, or just taking care of business in Spain), but most of the time I would push non-urgent stuff forward until I was home again. So when we decided to move to Spain, it felt logical just to take my job with me... most of it is done through the internet anyway.
Working from Spain... the first few weeks
Moving to Spain was a big thing - although most of my job is online and can be done from anywhere, it still requires me to have reliable internet and to get in touch with clients at times.
The first week working from Spain was kind of hellish - we had no internet at home, had to find an internet cafe every time I wanted to work for half a day or so, and I somehow used up all my mobile data (I usually have lots included in my mobile subscription) on the 3rd day... after that I really paid the prize for all the extra internet I was using. Of course my (wifi) printer wasn't working, and the work just kept building up. I reached a low when we finally got wifi at our Spanish house, and it seemed like I wouldn't be able to use Skype because the internet was very, very slow.
I admit I considered going back to Amsterdam for a week or so at that moment, just to catch up with work.
But then suddenly it all picked up; it turned out internet in the village is very very slow on Sunday nights (probably because most people here spend that time indoors behind their computers?) but using Skype on other days is not a problem - and I started enjoying to work from here. I was waking up earlier and happier here than I used to in the city (difficult not to, with the view from our bedroom). I would have breakfast, go for a walk with the dogs and even do a few things around the house before people in Amsterdam even woke up and got behind their computers.
My first winter working remotely from Matarranya
Most of the time, I worked in the morning (usually 4-5 hours non-stop) from the little house we rented in the village, then we'd have lunch and I'd do some household chores, and on sunny days I went to our finca (farmland) in the afternoon. Working offline, most of the time, and getting or making the odd phone call... as soon as I got a bit chilly (and the dogs have had their fun), I would back to the house to work some more.
It turned out I liked working from here so much more than I liked to work in Amsterdam. The work didn't change, but the atmosphere here is so relaxing that I'm happier... who would have thought? I didn't - I expected it to be more stressful, as I would have more to do here than I did in Amsterdam. Time management was easier than I used to think; everything that doesn't happen today, will happen tomorrow. Mañana!
On the other hand, I was always happy to be going back to Amsterdam for work. There's was often stuff I couldn't do remotely. And of course, it was a chance to see my friends & family andvisit the projects I had been working on (like the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and Amsterdam Light Festival). But then, after a few weeks there I was just as glad to come back to beautiful Matarranya and our ever-evolving project in Lledo. And of course, come back to working with the sun in my back...
Moving off the grid
In the spring of 2015, we made a bold move - tired from living away from our paradisiac finca (farmland), we decided to rebuild an old stable that was already there, and go live in it until our "real" house would be ready. We installed electricity, running water, a solar shower and a composting toilet... but no internet.
And work was going better than ever. I was getting tons of smaller project, on top of an almost full time job with a yoga retreat location who just opened a yoga glamping for the summer. This meant I was spending virtually every morning either working in a cafe in a nearby village (I alternated cafes almost daily for a change of scenery - and because they wouldn't all have consistent internet during tourist season); sometimes I would also go work at a friend's place - she would be working as well, and working together gave us an "office" kind of feeling... which was kind of nice!
However, all of this meant that I was neglecting my garden big time. Also, life on the finca would go on without me - we'd have volunteers camping around to help DIY-man with building, harvesting and all kinds of projects - while I was hiding in a dark (but cool!) cafe, making money. I started resenting the work (however fun it actually was), and realised it was either the full time job, or the simple life.
I chose the simple life.
Thankfully, the owners of the yoga retreat were planning to look for somebody local either way - so nobody was hurt in the process of me letting go. I still miss the people I used to work with, the hustle and bustle of getting things done - but I'm not sorry I chose quality of life over money. And in the next few months, I would support myself doing odd online jobs here and there. Read all about how it went after this in the update from June 2017 - From Personal to Virtual Assistant.