When I recently started in a new company, the "work wherever you want - week" was something I was very curious about and looking forward to. A week to work literally from anywhere in this world, as long as I had my notebook with me and an internet connection - how great is this? In my case I immediately knew where to spend that week: In Johannesburg, South Africa, a country where I already spend most of my holidays.
As I was combining a passion of mine (wildlife photography) with the advantages of the southern hemisphere in November, I decided on rather short notice to visit a wildlife photography conference (Wild Shots) in Cape Town and later spend a week in Johannesburg with friends. As the conference day fell together with the final of the Rugby World Cup (including South Africa's Springboks), the lunch-break was extended and the match shown on the big screen. Wow, it was an absolute pleasure to watch and feel the emotions and waves of joy of everyone not only in the auditorium but the whole country for the next days.
My choice of accommodation for the conference weekend in Cape Town was a central Airbnb-apartment and since my flight to Johannesburg was only on Monday evening, I spent my day working with a summer breeze escaping the cold Swiss winter. Useful as preparation and on site was the “The Complete Digital Nomad Cape Town Guide”, the city is really an easy place to work from anywhere with a lot of people following their daily business in cafés and co-working spaces.
In Johannesburg, my current most favourite city, I had my own room, staying with Jay & Jan and their dogs who all generously let me stay in their house for the time in Johannesburg. Even though I had a desk to work, my preferred place was working outside on the terrace. Many people in meetings and calls were asking about the background noise – the flocks of beautiful birds buzzing and singing in the garden and around the pool, converting my workplace environment into a small paradise.
Besides the warm weather, one of the main advantages of working in South Africa is staying basically within the same time zone (+1h outside of daylight-saving time). This meant I could simply follow my normal agenda, having all the meetings and calls without shifting anything and get in touch with everyone back in the office whenever needed.
It wouldn’t be Africa however if everything went smooth, so there was this small issue I didn’t really anticipate. South Africa is currently struggling with providing enough electricity to the country. Due to this shortage, there is a complex schedule where in turns, all the neighbourhoods are taken off the grid for certain times depending on the severity of the shortage. This is called “Load Shedding” and probably rings a bell with most visitors to South Africa in recent years as it has become almost a part of the daily life and can be handled if prepared.
So when the electricity went out at 8am on Thursday morning, I was confirmed by my hosts it would usually be back around 10am and instead of Wi-Fi, I just used the still acceptable mobile connection with my South African SIM-Card (which is easy and affordable to get). When it wasn’t back at 10:30 I became a little nervous and after calls with others in the neighbourhood, it was clear electricity wasn’t coming back on soon. For an important meeting I went to a café where at least my connection was good enough for a conference call but I then realised my laptop battery was going down soon. So over lunchtime I organised myself a spot in the modern, fancy and newly opened WeWork space in Rosebank, a prospering business hub (they still had electricity - I checked in advance).
So, for the rest of Thursday, I could enjoy the WeWork world as long as it still exists, charge my laptop, use the Wi-Fi and facilities there. And in case my neighbourhood was still off-grid the next day, I booked a provisional space there.
Prior to this week, I was a little bit worried about having a constant and good enough internet connection for video calls but I didn’t expect electricity would be the biggest struggle. Relieved on my return in the evening I was glad to learn that power just came back and there had been an issue with a transformer substation which could be resolved.
To start the next morning more exciting, my friend suggested to take a flight over Johannesburg if we get up early. Since flying is a second passion of mine, I couldn’t resist and joined observing the awakening of this huge and diverse metropolis. What a way to begin a day and luckily, no further powered disruptions followed.
Of course, there were a lot of other things to discover aside working: Restaurants with tastes from all continents, walks in blooming spring green parks or gardens and meeting many old and new friends. Particularly to mention was the “Soweto Derby”, the football match between the two most popular and main rivalled clubs of Soweto, Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. The noise and atmosphere among the 80’000 spectators in the “Soccer City” stadium, venue of the 2010 World Cup final, was mesmerising. By the way, Kaizer Chiefs won 3:2 in an exciting up-and-down game for the first time in a derby after 5 years!
After all that hustle and bustle, together with Jay & Jan we went for two days of Safari into Marakele National Park / Tlopi Tented Camp to enjoy some calm and relaxing moments before returning to Switzerland. And even though the park is rather small and not too famous, we had surprising sightings (among some unexpected lions). It was the perfect way to end it there. The whole stay and the week of working in South Africa was a fascinating experience and certainly I will return and I’m already excited about my next week working from wherever I want.