In January 2016, I came to Fuerteventura for 1 month. I had deserved it after 4 years of hard work on my PhD project at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam (Netherlands). The ingredients for my ‘1 month of relaxation’ had to be: sea (for swimming, surfing, kayaking), sun and breathing in some fresh air. Time to think, time to evaluate what I had just finished and what I wanted next. In December, I had handed in my thesis, and now it was my time to relax before I would go on with the next logical step in the academic world: the postdoc phase. Although I sometimes felt an urge to look for something more creative and more in the outdoors, I never could figure out HOW I could make this happen. I had naughty day dreams of, for example, being a kayak instructor on some tropical island, guiding people and telling about the local flora and fauna, and in the meantime spending time on creativity as well. Such dreams often kept me awake at night during the 4-year PhD project.. But this is not what society expects from you after years of studying, years of PhD-ing and an outstanding career inside the university building. I didn’t expect to find a path that leads to new opportunities on the island of Fuerteventura…
This month had changed a lot in my life, and also opened my eyes for a new way of working that doesn’t even have to feel like working. I met my boyfriend here, who was a good motivation to come back more often J. And then I discovered that there is an entire community out there that I have not heard of before: the digital nomads. They work at companies all over the world, and can live in various places as long as they have access to wifi and a desk. Although this way of working/living tends to be more common among IT and designer freelancers, it is not very accepted in the academic world yet.. My new employers were pretty surprised in February when I opted the idea of working – at least partly – from abroad, but as a damn lucky girl, they gave me the chance to try out this concept. And why could this not be possible if your tasks are to perform online literature searches, analyse data on the computer and to write scientific papers for publication? A shift in mindset is needed in this field, and employers should realise that the same quality can be kept even from a distance.
Through an inspiring lady that I met during one of the surf sessions (Lien who has a network for female entrepreneurs in Belgium), I heard about the Hub Co-working office in Corralejo. As I started to come back to Fuerteventura more regularly, this became my new office with colleagues from all over the world with all different backgrounds. In the beginning I only saw the comfortable desks, good wifi and the little kitchen, which would offer me a practical space for my job. But as time passed, I noticed that there is much more to it. People listen to each other’s jobs, get new ideas and maybe even start collaborating.
And not to forget: my office is next to many beaches, where I can surf, swim and run. Who else has this great chance to go out swimming in the sea during their lunch breaks???
This November my contract as a postdoc researcher is ending. Even though it feels scary, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing, because many doors are open and I could use this opportunity to work towards the perfect combination that I dreamed of: working partly outdoors, partly with art, and partly in academia. The idea for the outdoor part is born during my stays here: I want to show others my passion for the sea and the outdoors by offering them swim-run holidays on Fuerteventura. I can take people out for sea swims, volcanic runs and let them taste good local products. I can even start painting with people, and relax with the making of art. This will become my business, and now I’m working towards it. Building my website, designing my logo, getting in contact with the right people and at some point: launching it!!
The next step will be to find a job in research that I can combine with the swim-run-art camps, AND that I can do partly from Fuerteventura, partly from Holland. Voila!
Dream come true?
To be continued, exciting steps…