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Rowena Hennigan

Opinion The remote work we do has transformed the lives of our entire family

Rowena Hennigan says remote work has the power to transform the way we live.

MOVING FROM IRELAND to Spain in 2017 was a decision made during a desperate time for our family. We were stressed, exhausted and out of options.

When our daughter developed chronic childhood asthma and nothing worked to improve it, we eventually turned to the idea of moving to a drier country to find a better climate to support her health.

We made the decision to pack up and make the physical move in a blur – leaving Dublin for Zaragoza in Spain. Remote work enabled that move and as a family, we will be forever grateful, so much so that I have dedicated my career to advocacy and education on the topic.

The true potential of remote working cannot be overstated: it can empower mobility and flexibility, which in times of need (like our situation with our daughter) is revolutionary. It also allows you to have better travel and family time, changing your perspective on the world, on travel and getting to experience new cultures.

More than five years on, with a healthy and energetic eight-year-old, we still embrace remote work fully to plan our long summers. Spanish school holidays are extensive, with up to three months of vacation. In recent years we have combined remote working with travel to extend our holiday time together as a family. From connecting back to our Irish roots to exploring new places in Europe as a family, mixing remote work with travel has opened up a whole new world of adventure for us.

Home fires burning

After our five years based in Spain, we are now Spanish residents and pay our taxes here. Also, as both myself and my partner hold Irish (and therefore European) passports and are both self-employed, we can travel and work within the EU for short periods of time (generally up to 90 days) across the union member states.

Therefore, we regularly visit our families in Ireland, extending our trips and being enabled to do so by remote working. This means that we can spend longer at “home” and have a better quality visit time.

We often combine these visits with school holidays in Spain and to coincide with other family members in Ireland too, so we can meet up and stay connected with our Irish “clan” and our roots in general. This is convenient on multiple fronts: it gives us more time to travel while keeping costs down as we extend our trip dates, having more flexibility in the booking.

All that is required is reliable wifi and a workspace to work from, which we check ahead of time and ensure is accessible when we need it, to ensure any work commitments are honoured.

It’s worth noting that if you are an employee, you may have certain tax liabilities if you move and work from a different jurisdiction so make sure to check with your employment contract/HR before travelling and working.

Exploring Spain as a family

Local school holidays in Spain often fall on a Monday so we plan trips around Aragon, the region we are based in. We love to hike and explore nature in the nearby Pyrenees mountain range.

In that case, we’d often find a place to work if needed on the Monday remote workday for one of us, whilst the other can spend time with our daughter. Here we are pictured below hiking in the Riglos in Huesca.

Riglos2022 Rowena Hennigan Rowena Hennigan

Travelling with your family and alternating with some days remote working: it may not be the typical vacation, but it is also far from being a traditional stressing day of work.

One of the perks of working remotely I appreciate the most is the ability to take advantage of any trip for multiple purposes at the same time: you can combine work with visiting your family, you can show your kids other places, try new things, experience new foods and cuisine… and by extending your trip smartly, you can also enjoy some well-deserved, real time off to fully dedicate to yourself and your loved ones.

Summer 2022 in Portugal

For context, we are raising our daughter bilingually, with her attending school in Spanish while we maintain English at home as the main maternal language.

This summer found us “down the road” from Aragon (well, a 9-hour drive), in Sintra, Portugal – where we spent six weeks travelling. Our time in Sintra was magical, it is a location steeped in history, culture and art. While there, we could combine our remote work and travel plans with a more structured and tailored solution for the family.

Remote working may still be a new departure for many, but the remote working ecosystem has been steadily developing and improving for some years. If you’re new to remote working life and have a family, it’s worth looking at options that are growing when it comes to travel. The tailored offering that we chose is Boundless.Life. It’s one of a number of international enterprises for families embracing remote. It provides families with suitable accommodation, co-working spaces and curated activities. This was combined with what we found to be excellent an education provision for our daughter.

While we were there, focused education support for her meant she spent the four weeks this year concentrating on her English literacy skills in the mornings with an experienced teacher. The afternoons were spent sightseeing and doing fun activities with the other families. While kids were learning, parents continued with their remote working in a supported communal co-working space, enjoying the best of both worlds.

Many working parents in the ‘traditional’ model will be very well rehearsed in the endless drop-offs to children’s camps while holding down their own jobs in the summer. Remote working has allowed my family to move away from that kind of intensity and this way, we all get to move at a more sustainable and healthy pace.

As more and more tourism destinations appreciate the needs of remote workers and digital nomads, new services and offers are emerging. Some of these also cater for families, meaning that if your work enables you to work from a wider variety of locations, more and more families can embrace and take advantage of this trend.

The travel you take as a family doesn’t need to be far afield either, it can be local staycations, local to Ireland too, the main point is with the extra holiday days remote work affords, the more choice families can have. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the next few years saw a transformation in pace for workers and their families – so that the workplace could be less ‘rat race’ and more ‘easy pace’?

Rowena Hennigan is founder of RoRemote. Subscribe to her Newsletter “Remote Work Digest” for regular news updates.

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