„How is travelling going at the moment? Is remote work even possible right now? In mid-December 2020, I spent five weeks in South Africa for remote and bleisure work, in the midst of the viral mutation outbreak. A special situation, but a lot of security was taken care of on site.” Corinna Döpkens, Consultant for Travel Management
That’s what I love about being self-employed – I can work from anywhere in the world. I don’t need more than my MacBook, my AirPods, my mobile phone, reliable Wi-Fi and, of course, lots of espresso.
I still consider remote work a luxury. Working independently, being free and travelling – that’s what I’ve always wanted. Professionally, I have been on the road a lot from the beginning, due to various sales positions over many years. And no matter whether it was customer appointments in Munich, the annual meeting in Dubai or a sales meeting in the Turkish Aegean – I always took time off or extended my private time. Usually only for a few hours within Germany, but abroad for several days. And since I’ve become an entrepreneur, private and professional life have become intermingled anyway. On the negative side, you could say that you never really have time off and have to work even on holiday. I see it differently. Remote work gives me the freedom to stay longer in a beautiful place in the world and to organise my time the way I want.
Changing the perspective
When I worked as a flight attendant for Lufthansa after graduating from high school, during my studies and afterwards, I got to know Johannesburg and Cape Town in a layover and was immediately fascinated. That was in 2001! Especially Cape Town and the Western Cape cast their spell on me. Every year I travel to South Africa and feel safe. For me, it is a place of strength that makes me come home with a lot of energy every time. This is now especially true for my remote work times in Cape Town. Remote working works well here. There are now great co-working spaces, you meet lots of interesting people from all kinds of countries and, of course, friendly locals. And you have stable internet everywhere, unless there is a power shut-off due to “load shedding” and the power goes out for one or two hours. When I have an important, necessary call, I simply drive to another part of town to my favourite shopping centre and sit down in a café with Wi-Fi. Anything goes!
Because South Africa is pure lifestyle with great nature, fabulous food and above all the positive, fun-loving people. The Cape Town Marketing and Tourism Agency is also promoting Remote Work in an exciting way, while Airbnb has created the slogan “Keep your home comforts, change your perspective! And that’s exactly how it is for me! Corona doesn’t change that either. Quite the opposite. The current situation makes it possible for me to stay down there even longer.
Smile over the mask
When the borders were opened for international air traffic in mid-November 2020, I immediately booked for December. Cape Town is calling! A negative PCR test no older than 72 hours is required for entry. You also have to install the Covid Alert South Africa app on your mobile phone, fill out a health form online about two days before entering the country and find out about the local Corona situation and rules. No problem at all. And of course I also worry about the situation in the country after the long lockdown. Through close contact with friends on the ground, I know that unemployment has risen noticeably. And I know that with my trip I can support tourism as an important economic factor in the country and the people.
When I finally arrive, it is indeed almost like always. Lively people who are happy to welcome international visitors. Hygiene and safety measures are implemented everywhere in an exemplary manner. You can’t get into a shop or restaurant without using a sanitizer and measuring the temperature. And somehow the South Africans also manage to make the sanitizer smell good and I immediately buy some for home.
Everywhere in the public space you also have to wear a mask, and it doesn’t really bother you at all. Because people deal with it well, because you look at each other with your eyes, and it has to be that way.
As usual, I’m staying in Kalk Bay in an apartment belonging to my friend Kim, whom I originally met through Airbnb. Kalk Bay is a small artists’ and fishermen’s village, a district of Cape Town about 30 minutes from the city centre. In the morning I go for a jog and an espresso, then I work for a couple of hours, then I go out again, and towards evening I sit at my laptop for the last time. This kind of work with breaks has always been the most effective for me. Only then do the ideas come and I am in my “flow”. I already wrote my diploma thesis mainly in the Lufthansa layover, at the airport or on a plane.
Shortly before Christmas, the news that the country had suddenly been declared a high-risk area, that all flights to Germany had been cancelled and that there was a ban on travel, provided a new kind of short break in my head. This is also because I don’t feel any change on the ground and follow the German media in amazement. I panic for a short while, but that quickly subsides and I just stay calm in the country. My days go on as before. The beaches are closed and there are no more alcohol sales, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. I go on excursions to the Winelands or Hermanus in the afternoons and at the weekend. As a German lockdown victim, I enjoy the gastro experiences, or I just stroll around Kalk Bay or the Waterfront. “Browsing around” becomes my new favourite word.
And this time I decide: I have to get a professional foothold in South Africa. Therefore, I initiate various topics on the spot, meet possible business partners and collect many ideas about my new topic of sustainability. Networking in the country is easy and fun.
Test and enter
As my journey home approaches, the flight connections are active again, albeit thinned out, but my flight goes. I think back and forth about staying longer. But Kim’s apartment is sublet and I have to check on things at home. So it’s a case of getting a negative PCR test for check-in, which must not be older than 48 hours. Some test centres have no capacity or cannot guarantee that the test result will be there in time. Through a recommendation from friends who fly a few days before me, the appointment works out and the negative test result arrives quickly by email. Then I quickly fill out the online entry form for Germany and am ready. The plane is half empty and I have a whole row to myself. Great! Plus a nice crew and I can sleep well, as usual. Also when landing in Munich, the immigration formalities go quickly, despite the mutation area. A quick glance at the test result and then you are “free”. Welcome to Germany, which quickly presents itself again as cold as sleet and pitch dark. But the energy from Cape Town remains. I am pursuing my goal of initiating one or the other project in South Africa in the future. My business network there is growing day by day. And soon it will be “Cape Town is calling” again. I’m looking forward to it!
Corinna Döpkens …
is a consultant and expert on digitalisation and sustainability issues with a focus on tourism and travel management. The business graduate in tourism management has worked in the travel industry for 20 years. She also has teaching assignments at various universities in the tourism management course. When she is not in her adopted home on the German island of Rügen, she works from on the road around the globe.
Fotos: © Döpkens