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It’s been a few months since I started coming out of my COVID/Corona induced coma (I call it my Co-Co coma). Like I imagine many of us, I started feeling hopeful in late March, after my first vaccine.
With part of my quarantine crew (a team of 6 adults that have been known to successfully cohabitate with yearly, one late summer beach week at a time), I had already started to work outside of my Washington, DC suburban home office in Reston, Virginia. In February, we had spent a winter-beach-week at Virginia Beach. Following my first vaccine, another week together at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Both places I had been before. Both weeks, I was working remotely.
After nearly 10 years of practice, I can literally work from anywhere. I just need my laptop, my headphones, my notebook, a great pen and a fast internet connection. In essence, I can work from everywhere…
All the while, my brother Julien’s 2021 PGA Tour schedule with professional golfer Adam Long was becoming clearer. On it, the RBC Heritage event, on Hilton Head Island, the week immediately following my trip to the OBX. Some 600 miles (or 1000 km) from home, coming from the Banks, I figured I was already on the way. “Count me in, I’ll keep going south and meet you there!“, I told my sister-in-law Mallory as we finalized our plans. I was eager to spend time with my family – those individuals whom I feel the closest to and love me authentically, exactly as I am. And I am a sucker for spending time with my 2 year-old niece Madeleine, who is growing up so fast.
Also, I was itching to go somewhere new.
I got that feeling almost immediately after I crossed the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway on SC-278. Everything beyond it was new. Ripe for discovery. I was a traveler again. For the first time since I had visited Istanbul in October 2019, a first-timer. And while Hilton Head wasn’t as exotic as some of world’s megalopolis that had been my destination choices prior to the pandemic, I was thrilled that the chance to explore with my beginner’s eyes. I was itching for that feeling.
One of welcomed displacement, of being outside my comfort zone, of acute alertness, of all of my senses being engaged in the magic that is examining something with insatiable thirst for discovery, of mixing the perfect cocktail of cognitive and emotional awareness. That excitement. I can’t get enough.
Turns out there is brain science behind that feeling. It’s called novelty. Especially for experiential learners like me, new information, specifically sights, causes strong activity in the midbrain area. Which is not coincidentally, where dopamine is made. No wonder scientists from the University of Surrey found that people are at their happiest when they have a trip planned! Go ahead, start planning yours.
My first observation was: “Oh this is LUX and plush!” LUX referring to the monochrome coordination of high-end signage leading up to carefully planned communities, strategically placed around golf courses and natural habitats. Plush referring to the greenery I saw exploding everywhere on this mid-April afternoon.
There is a thing I do when I arrive an ocean-side location: I want to get my eyes on the water as soon as possible upon arrival. It’s as if seeing the water juxtaposed against the horizon is the only thing that matters in that moment. As if seeing the ocean is the only valid confirmation that I have really arrived. As I rolled closer and closer to the coast, I was expecting to finish on a road that ended at the ocean. I was intrigued and pleasantly surprised when I drove as far East as I could and ended up in a roundabout. Here, I would have to park and get on my feet to put my eyes on the Altantic.
I expected to find a “normal” mid-Atlantic beach, like those I have been frequenting for the 20-some years I’ve road tripped to the coast from Virginia. Nah, not here. I was stunned by the uniqueness of the beach, namely its width and sand consistency. Fascinated, I asked Google about it. I’ll play oceanographer for 50 word, Alex… I learned that is is like this because it sits on the Atlantic’s continental shelf, where the ocean floor is shallow for miles and miles. It benefits from low wave energy and slow erosion. It’s essentially been settled since the ice age. Geography, isn’t it cool?!
Working From the Beach
But we weren’t there to sit at the beach and sip on mocktails all week. We all had work to do. Julien was on a business trip. Mallory, a former LPGA player herself who, in addition to having the primary responsibility of caring for Mads 24-7, is also working in the PGA business as a Player Representative at agency Fairwhay Management. And I had to put in my billable hours at Slalom all week.
This is our life. We make it work. We all can work, literally, from everywhere.
Perhaps this is one of the few topics we can all agree on at this very moment in time: we are all a “yes” on working remotely, works.
And that’s the power of this moment. One that in addition to continuing to help my clients invent solutions to gnarly problems, I intend to personally continue to take full advantage of. Because I am a better at work and life when I work everywhere. Here are three things it does for me:
–It betters my relationship with time. By nature, a get-away has a beginning, a middle and an end; it’s a concrete block of time that has an expiration date. Because I am so curious about the foreign place I find myself in, I manage my time better to maximize the time I have available to discover it more. This mindset gives me more balance and helps me reinforce my boundaries. I simply don’t want to stay in front of my computer screen longer than I have to, so I automatically prioritize my time to thinking and tasks that are really important. New for this trip, this mindset also gave me a boost of confidence to kindly demand from my colleagues that my time be used more sustainably (we don’t all need to be at all the Team meetings we all dread – we must do better). I wouldn’t trade even a half-hour of work for the chance to hear Madeleine’s giggles and see her face when she does. Or to ride my rental cruiser bike on the beach. Or to get ice cream with the family.
–It helps me practice empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. For me, observing people in a different context activates the origin of this practice. I constantly wonder: What’s it like to live here? Who is this community made up of? What do people do for work here? It’s a way to put myself in someone else’s shoes and activate my imagination. It literally makes me see the world through a different lens and expand my connection to people. (I wrote about empathy last May).
–It fuels my creativity. This statement is essentially my bottom line. I put myself in new situations so I can practice stretching my mind and my adaptability skills. It is outside my routine, as I carefully curate a new day-to-day, even if temporary, that I continue to practice thinking differently.
I am all about it. That feeling.
Epilogue: What We Loved About Hilton Head
Since this is also a travel post, I gathered a quick list of what we really liked about Hilton Head.
–The beach: baby waves, biking and long walks.
–Its low-key factor: There isn’t a strip of mega-hotels and clubs along the shore. There isn’t even a boardwalk. The music we heard, during the day mostly was played live, and loudest, sure, at happy hour. But what we heard at night was the sounds of frogs; and in the morning, the songs of birds. It’s a great place for families and people who want to relax.
–Its small and quaint feeling: Yet it’s equipped for big events. It’s sophisticated enough to host a premier PGA tour event and from what I read in the local magazines, really large conferences and corporate events. But you can pretty much get around anywhere on the island on your bike.
Disclaimer: this was mid-April – we all agreed we wouldn’t want to be there in the thick of summer / tourist season.