I was talking with my friend Fanny, a few weeks ago. I was telling her that I couldn’t make it to an appointment we had because I would be in Tenerife. “Oh you’re taking a vacation!” she said. “No, I’m just going to work from there for a week. For a change…” She looked at me in despair: “I don’t understand why you don’t just take a vacation.”
Fanny is a successful Human Resources Manager in a big firm in France. Her work-life and my work-life could not be any different. Actually, her life and mine could not be any different. As I said to her that day, I don’t think we view work the same way. Yes, I could “just take a vacation”. But that would deprive me from doing some of the thing I enjoy doing: writing, strategizing, plotting, taking pictures, telling stories, inspiring people… Some people might call that work. I call it the things I like to do. And I don’t run away from them at the first opportunity to “take a vacation”.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~Seth Godin
Last September, I took my office to Italy for a week. I picked-up my laptop and moved in a huge house in Pontremoli, Tuscany, with a few friends. As usual, our days were a mix of quiet work hours and exploration of the local environment. When we travel for a week, we generally take one or two days to go further into exploration mode. That week, Friday was dedicated to strolling around the Cinque Terre.
It was early September, and it was a week day. With all the hype, lately, around that gem of a region, that was not enough to guarantee tourist-free traveling. And yes, we had to fight our way through the streets and on the trains. But it was worth it. The Cinque Terre are a magical land.
Cinque Terre, from Riomaggiore to Monterosso
It is quite impossible to drive there, so we left our cars in Pontremoli and jumped on a train to La Spezia. This would be the last place you could drive if you chose to do so. From there, the trains to the Cinque Terre are many. Beware though, they don’t all stop in each village, so you need to read the schedule a little if you want to see them all.
We decided to go from South to North, starting with Riomaggiore. This is the best possible route. I found that Monterosso (our last stop) was the less picturesque of the five. I was happy that we didn’t “waste” precious time there first before find the real gems: Vernazza and Riomaggiore.
So for a breathtaking breakfast, we started there first before jumping back on a train to Manarola for a swim.
There used to be a way to hike from one village to the next. Unfortunately, the roads have been damaged and are only open from Corniglia to Vernazza and from Vernazza to Monterosso. We only did the first leg.
From Manarola, we took another train to Corniglia, the only village that you cannot access by boat (more on that later). That’s where we stopped for lunch… and randomly ran into a couple of friends from France… when I’m telling you it’s a “hot place to be”.
If the morning was good, by lunch time, tourists had spread all over the villages like a horde of zombies in a bad episode of The Walking Dead. Time for us to retreat and hike the gorgeous Mediterranean landscape to our next pit-stop.
I am so glad we did. The hike is quite easy and the view over Vernazza upon arrival is simply amazing. For some of us, it was time for a second swim, and for others it was time for our daily gelato (I’m on team ice-cream, of course). Vernazza was the perfect place to take a little break before boarding a train to Monterosso.
For a moment, we considered doing the second leg of the hike but it was getting late and we really wanted to catch the last boat back to Riomaggiore. Because yes, what best than doing the way back by sea and catch a glimpse at the villages from a different point of view?
We arrived in Riomaggiore just in time for aperitivo and took the last train back to La Spezia.
Weather-wise, early September was great, by living a little more on the edge of tourist-season we might have had slightly more breathing space but probably a little more risk as well to miss the sun. Overall, it was a fantastic day, that might not have looked like work but actually did spark new ideas, and fed my creativity. Who said that should not be considered work?