A World of Freewheeling Work

Mike had been on the miniscule Spanish island of Gran Canaria, off the west coast of North Africa, for five weeks, and he had had enough. 

The youngish, heavily bearded Canadian was looking for fresh pastures — somewhere closer to his native land that would allow him to work remotely without having to spend the night doing it, such is the time difference between the American continent and Europe. 

“I spend the day at the beach and work at night,” Mike told me when I met to buy his bicycle. I have one, but wanted more. 

I had seen the bike on a local Facebook group — I don’t usually log on to the controversial site but have been monitoring various groups — and thought it might be good to have a backup, and for when family and friends come to visit. And cycling is such a great way to get around — carbon-free and great for the body and the planet. I’m not sure if I’ll ever drive again, despite having two cars. 

Mike had a lock but wasn’t about to hand it over, as it was “expensive”, he said, and he had brought it with him from Canada. (Who packs a bicycle lock when you can buy one for a few euros at your destination, as I did?) Even with his big lock, one of his lights was nicked, he said. 

The digital nomad was heading to Brazil with his friend or partner, to continue their digital-nomad adventuring; I knew this not because he told me directly but due to a message he inadvertently sent to me on WhatsApp when it was intended for a property owner in Rio (“The most important thing for us is wifi, as we — a psychologist and a grant appraiser — will be working seven hours a day”). And, back when I messaged him on Facebook, Mike asked for a deposit, in case I flaked and didn’t bother turning up on his last day, to take the bike and pay. 

“Thanks for trusting me,” he said, about the PayPal-sent deposit, when we met one evening, pumping my hand with his firm grip, in an unending squeeze-and-shake that I repeatedly attempted to release myself from but failed. 

Eventually we parted — me pedaling away and he returning to his apartment to get ready for the next big trip. It’s the kind of pack-up-and-go lifestyle made famous by the pandemic but, actually, long since practiced by lots of people, including me. Don’t like where you are? No problem — just move. Certainly not everyone has the choice, if you have to be physically present for your work, and family, but, surprisingly, many who have the opportunity don’t make the leap. 

Lacking the gumption yet dreaming of remote working in year-round blissful weather, they instead remain where they are — and keep on moaning about how awful it is: the cold, the rain, the people, the food and on and on the unceasing doldrums-talk goes. If you have the possibility of work and lifestyle freedom, why not jump at the chance?

For some, the work-from-home party may be over, as bosses increasingly request that employees return to the office. But then there’s the hybrid option that some companies are implementing — part of the week in the office, the rest working from home, providing a dual working environment and a greater lifestyle balance. 

Because now that many have had a taste of work liberation and not having to spend long hours commuting to a premises and being chained to a desk for eight hours, there’s no going back to the way it was. The protracted pandemic has been painful, and tragic, with the sheer loss of life — over 5.3 million as of now — but at least there have been positives in the way we live our lives. 

And all the better when you can get around on your bike.

  • Title photograph is of my new bike, from Mike, and is by me.