Insider Story - 54 Nights in Bangkok

Who am I?

My name is Benjamin. I come from a small town in the Mosel region and studied business informatics in Trier and Essen. After my studies, I moved to Frankfurt, first working at one of the big auditing firms, and since April 2018 I am happy and grateful to be a part of tecRacer Consulting.

As my nature is to get things done quickly, I never took any detours in my academical or professional path, and I don’t generally regret that. The one thing that started attracting me a few years back though is living and working abroad for a while. I find the idea of digital nomadism tempting, but it never really fit into my schedule as there were other interests competing with it.

Sawasdee krap

After a long time of not making major travels, I now took the chance to travel to Thailand to work from there for 2 months (and of course taking holidays there, too). That time is about to end shortly, and I would like to summarize the experiences I made with regards to my unconventional work life while it’s fresh.

I left Germany on Dec 28th and I am going to return on Feb 22nd. It was a security guard at Frankfurt airport who first said One Night in Bangkok to me - a reference to the pop song from 1984 that I wasn’t expecting to hear countless times in the next two months yet. Apparently, it is the first thing that comes to German people’s mind when they hear the word Bangkok.

While the plan originally was to visit some co-working spaces, I found that modern condos in Bangkok also have facilities such as a pool, a gym, and most importantly a co-working area. I started renting such a condo via Airbnb and as it turned out, I am returning to that place over and over as it has everything I need.

Of course, I am not staying in Bangkok the whole time, but I’m travelling a lot to various parts of the country. Due to its central location and its supply of everything (particularly great and cheap food and good transportation), Bangkok is the perfect place to return for a few days of work for me. Productive and enjoyable work needs an awesome workplace and I have that here without familiarizing myself with the environment any more.

Time shift - pros and cons

The time shift to Central European Time is 6h, which means that the overlap with my colleagues in Europe is in my late afternoon working hours (and their morning hours). That time shift might be the biggest pro and con at the same time - but the pro prevails for me.

Over the last couple of years, I saw my calendar getting more and more populated with meetings. The time shift ended that. Having a head start of 6h hours gives be hours of working time before my colleagues and clients even open their laptops. These hours are both very enjoyable and productive for me as it allows me to strongly focus on one thing in a way that I rarely find the time for usually. I hope I can learn from that and improve my time allocation even when I’m back home.

Another positive aspect of the time shift is that I am experiencing quicker progress in some projects because of alternating working hours. In ping-pong situations such as reviews / feedback loops, work can be finished at the end of one day and the feedback is awaiting you in your mailbox the next morning because the peer has been working “over night” - although he/she of course didn’t really work at night. Particularly useful when working in IT is that I can easily do some maintenance tasks that are not supposed to be done during European working hours.

Of course, time shift can also be disadvantagous sometimes. Once or twice per week, late evening calls are unavoidable for me, but honestly, I don’t really mind because I am definitely more of a night owl than an early bird. Sending me an invite for 8am makes me more moody than an invite for 8pm.

Is it holiday or work?

I was asked if it’s really refreshing to mix work and holidays like this. I believe this question is rather subjective to the person being asked, but for me, it certainly is. I am not the type of person that can easily spend 3 weeks of holiday in a row without getting bored, and neither do I feel like I really need to get out of work for a long time because it stresses me out. Thus, putting myself in another place, working from there and lining up some nice short holidays is the perfect combination for me.

I know it sounds corny, but being in a different environment makes be more creative, too, and sitting under sunshade all day encourages me to even finish tedious tasks with joy. By the way, it's winter in Thailand, too. Temperatures are ranging between 30°C and 34°C and I've seen two rainy days so far. I am only wearing flip flops every day and I drink my coffees iced now. Is it hard to motivate myself for work like that? Not at all!

Plan ahead

For people that are interested in doing something similar, my most important advice is to plan ahead how your work-life is going to be like while being abroad. Specifically, what I mean is:

  • Block your calendar on days and hours that you definitely don’t want to work (in my case late nights, and when being on a vacation)
  • Reschedule regular meetings: blocking calendar will help keeping your calendar free from new events, but regular meeting schedules might have to be rescheduled to a different time.
  • Find a way to handle time shift: Set up tooling that makes it easy for you to see your availability in your local time and in the timezone of your co-workers or clients. For example, MS Bookings is a great tool for external parties to find available slots in your calendar - not only when working abroad. It will save you so many emails!
  • Inform and discuss: Your co-workers and clients should definitely know about your working situation, and allow them to raise their concerns.
  • Gather some tasks: Browse your personal backlog of tasks that you wanted to do for a long time but never really get to it. This might be the right time to tackle them.

Big thanks

I would like to thank everyone who worked directly with me during this time for their understanding and flexibility. It means a lot!

I will dedicate the last words of this Insider Story to Gregor and Sven, for not even raising a single doubt in my capability to combine work and vacation like that. I am very thankful that work-life can be organized as freely as that at tecRacer, and for the trust you’ve given me.

Khobkhun krap!

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