Monday, March 1, 2010

Walter Mitty goes hi-tech

We all have those Walter Mitty kind of dreams. On days when our office workload seems to overwhelm us with tedium and eye-glazing boredom, we stare out the window at the February snows and imagine a virtual office on a sun-kissed island.

The difference with me is that I’m actually doing it. This winter, with the reluctant blessings of my boss, I’m actually working from home. The only difference is that my virtual office at home is on a lovely Greek island, halfway around the world.

Why Greece? Well, the addiction to Greece started about 25 years ago (see first blog posts). I don’t really need to explain the lure of gorgeous vistas, a joyous welcoming people, history, architecture, music and fabulous food do I? What you might not realize is that Greece is a pretty hip country when it comes to modern communications. A perfect set up for a virtual office for a snow-crazed Canadian.

Because it is essentially an island nation, Greece is way ahead of Canada when it comes to internet capability and cellphone technology. It is a way of life – a common utility that islanders take for granted. In fact, the island I normally visit – Naxos – is completely wi-fi enabled. I can sit in my little apartment there that clings to the seawall and get a decent and fast connection – or make my branch office the little seaside taverna where I have my lunch. It’s a bit of a culture shock to see the black garbed granny waddling down the country road on her donkey, cellphone clapped to her ear, like any North American teenager. Yes, the new age of communications has utterly captivated the always chatty Greek population.

So - for all you techno geeks, here are the bare bones details. I write for a living mostly. I sit on my fat bum in an office and crank out reports, grant applications, write public relations copy and news items. To do that, I need a reliable computer, a good internet connection and, er, focus. Ahem. Well. I've now had a month of doing my job from 'away,' as we say in New Brunswick. And so far so good.

My apartment here in Chania Crete (the one in the 600 year old Venetian manor house) has superb wi-fi highspeed internet. I have Skype, iChat, Messenger, Yahoo and all my work files here. I have a reliable person back at the office to print off what I write and to lick the envelope. The 6 hour time difference isn't a challenge - the boss likes to work late. When he arrives at the office, I'm just settling in to watch the Greek version of Desperate Housewives. That gives me my mornings to dwaddle in cafes, go to the market, walk along the beach or do laundry and enjoy being part of a bustling community.

Mobile phones are virtually disposable here - they come cheap, you can get temporary accounts and if your mobile doesn't work (or 'Handy,' as I have heard the Brits call them) then there are phone cards for the payphones. Easy peasy.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I live in a 600 year old building. I look out my window across the tiny harbour carved out by the Venetians at a church built in 1265, a mosque built in the 1600s and, just beyond, to a hill that was the original Minoan settlement dating back thousands of years. My computer beeps and it is the boss on video camera discussing the day's mail.

Technology makes this possible. Astonishing in the cradle of civilization.

No comments:

Post a Comment