A 9 to 5 life with a side of beach? Yes please! I would like to preface this by saying we are by no means, digital nomads. We don’t always have the flexibility to work remotely. We have clients that like to meet face to face, and we have a dog that’s too big to fit underneath the plane seats. But we make vacations work with the limited personal time we have to take off. If that means taking a working vacation to save personal days, then we’ll try it. Over the years we’ve learned with some blood, sweat, and mistakes, it can usually be done with a lot of preparation, research, and rescheduling of any important face to face meetings.
In true multitasking form, we decided to save some vacation days by ‘working remotely’ from Fiji. The time difference from Pacific Standard time is about 20 hours, which believe it or not, is pretty good compared to other places in the world for working remotely. Yes, I had to be up at 6:00 a.m. for a 10:00 a.m PT meeting, but it was a small price to pay to be basking in the warm sun of the southern hemisphere. As the flight takes about 10 hours from San Francisco, we budgeted a 10 day period, during the Thanksgiving holiday to take advantage of the 2 extra vacation days during the week.
The real challenge was researching which resort to stay at, with the best internet connection to accommodate virtual meetings. For this task, I took to trusty Trip Advisor reviews, and searched for keywords ‘internet’ and ‘wireless’ to see what patrons have had to say. Landing in Nadi (pronounced Nandi), the airport is close proximity to the port that services the boats leading to the resorts of the Yasawa and Mamanuca islands. But I found out pretty early in our research, that staying on the outer islands were not possible if I wanted guaranteed business level internet, so the decision was made to stay on the ‘mainland’ Viti Levu. I should also mention that we looked for co-working spaces on the island, but didn’t really find any, and they definitely didn’t seem as appealing as working from a resort. The capital of Suva is also the center of commerce and business for the island, so by proxy it was assumed the best internet would be here. However, being a port city, the beaches were lacking and we found out we would have to travel elsewhere to visit the famous beaches and experience some sense of a tropical vacation. We continued our search, eventually settling on the Intercontinental in Natadola Bay as a adequate compromise for beach and connectivity.
The flight from SFO left on Saturday night, but landed early in the morning on Monday in Fiji at about 5:00 a.m, so we completely missed Sunday. Due to the time change, we had to start work on Tuesday morning for any Monday PT meetings. In hindsight, I would have booked a Friday night flight to land on Sunday, and had at least 2 days to enjoy prior to working.
Upon arriving at the airport, we decided to get a Vodafone sim card for our devices, just in case we got disconnected from the wifi. Conveniently, there are several cell phone carrier stores right outside of baggage claim, with ample staff to help with any questions. We don’t always get sim cards for the countries we visit, but when departing for a working vacation, I often research the internet connectivity prior to leaving. I’ve found with island countries, as well as in more remote locations of the world, the infrastructure can be limited. Although we did our research, we were not 100% convinced of guaranteed connectivity at the resort, and felt this was a necessary step just in case we ran into any issues while working.
The resort is about an hour or so drive from the Nadi airport, through lush farmlands and forested hills, which are very pretty in the pink skies of dawn. Upon arriving at the resort, we were taken into the open air lobby, which is an impressive, cavernous loft, with balconies facing the beach where guests are checked in. Reception was a breeze, but, being around 6:30 or so in the morning, our rooms were not available just yet. As such, the helpful staff recommended us to have breakfast or use the facilities. After the long flight, we were ready to change our clothes, and luckily there was bathroom close to the lobby where we could change into bathing suits and head to the pool.
The wi-fi was present throughout the resort, so we were able to log on from phone or our devices at the restaurants, the lobby area, and the pool area with little to no disruption. We did have a wifi outage one day in the morning, where the bar area seemed to be without service. During this time, we were glad we had opted for a sim card! Our favorite place to work was the adult pool, located in the center of the resort leading to the beach. This is separate from the family pool, where the resort hosts activities for children, and therefore is a pretty quiet and relaxing area in which to get work done. With jet lag almost non existent, save for the time change of one working one day in advance, we were able to get up early and work by the pool. Since we were guests at the hotel, there really were no limits to where we could work. On days when we did not want to work in the hotel room, we would mosey over to the open air bar and use the bar areas to set up our laptops. Although the bar was not open, the staff did not seem to mind us using the furniture as stand up desks. The resort is barely open at that time, save for a few early morning shift workers napping in the bar, and working from your machine with the gentle sound of waves in the background is calming.
To set up our pseudo-desks, we usually bring a backpack packed with all of our necessary peripherals when working. The Intercontinental is an upscale resort, with little to no traffic in the morning, and we never once felt like our belongings were in danger of being stolen. Since there was a 20 hour difference, our most demanding times, workwise, were from the 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. timeframe (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. PT) which is pretty quiet for the resort. The clientele at the Intercontinental mainly consists of honeymooners or families with children. The resort is fairly self contained, on a pretty stretch of Natadola bay, but it’s fairly remote so we didn’t expect too much action or nightlife. We were mainly there to work with a generous helping of beach. No, we did not see any other ‘working vacation’ individuals at the resort, although there was a business center at the resort, with a desktop, printing facilities and conference rooms if required. We felt that working with the scenery of the turquoise blue waters, listening to the sound of the crashing waves, and partaking in the ample sunshine was a better environment. The staff were incredibly friendly, oozing with the warm charm of Fijian hospitality that we had heard about. They were quick to laugh, eager to help, and always ready with a smiling ‘Bula!’ whenever we passed.
Overall, I would say that working from the Intercontinental in Fiji was a pleasant experience and I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again. For the one time we were dropped from wi-fi, I was glad we had opted for the sim card purchase as it proved useful in an emergency.