A Digital Nomad in Pulau Batam
The Montigo Nongsa Workcation
By Cindy Bingley-Pullin
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a dull girl! Most people that work in an office fantasize about escaping the office, and people that work from home are sometimes challenged by family and cabin fever. Cindy Bingley Pullin is a spirited travel writer that has learned the fine art of working on the road while bringing her family in tow.
What does one do when deadlines and client demands mean taking time off work is a no-no, or your kid’s school breaks are seemingly always around the corner? Could the best solution be a trip away? Enter the “work-cation”, a vacation where one spends part of their time getting work done. As the boundaries between work and everyday life become increasingly blurred, travel trends of mixing business with pleasure are increasingly popular.
With the rise of the digital nomads and remote jobs, all you need for location freedom is a laptop and a decent wi-fi connection. Wherever you are, you can log on and create a virtual office poolside, beachside, or anywhere in between, as you enjoy the company of the ones you love.
My new work + pleasure endeavour is a review of global work-cation resorts worth checking into. My first destination was the Montigo Nongsa in Pulau Batam, Indonesia. The Southeast Asian weekender destination of Pulau Batam (or Batam Island), is part of the Indonesia archipelago. It is only a 30-minute ferry ride from the fast pace and big lights of Singapore, making it the perfect work-cation addition to visiting the cosmopolitan city.
With my four-year-old son in tow, I was looking forward to a work-cation at the family-friendly Montigo Resort Nongsa. The Montigo is a luxury retreat that strikes the right balance of business and recreational facilities that cater to both work and play on a getaway.
Once we passed through passport control at the rustic international ferry terminal, we were greeted by our private chauffeur and taken on a ten-minute drive to the resort. As we checked in at the airy reception lounge, we were surrounded by soaring vaulted timber ceilings and polished marble floors.
Upon entry, Tilo the resort mascot, a gigantic yellow chick dressed in a sailor cap and cape, ambles out to say hello to delighted kids and pose for photos. Golf buggies then whisked us and other guests to our accommodations. The resort features whitewashed villas that resemble delicious oversized sugar cubes propped up against coffee coloured latticed windows. This sweet sight is tucked into verdant green hilltops overlooking the turquoise Nongsa waters.
Our triplex villa took our breath away. Stylishly dressed in a palette of cool whites and blues, with accents of dark wood, the two-bedrooms came equipped with all the necessary modern conveniences and was immensely spacious. We bemoaned the absence of additional family members, as the open-air rooftop terrace with cushioned seating and panoramic water views would have been perfect for group BBQs and sunset drinks.
So, where to work? I was spoilt for choice, as I considered working in the master bedroom with mesmerising sea views, or the alfresco table next to the private pool? Luckily, the speedy wifi comes standard with all the villas, as well as throughout the resort.
After mealtime ends at Tadd’s, the resort’s casual restaurant, the blue armchairs and shiny timber tables serve as a quiet spot for calls and click-clacking on keyboards. I found myself joyfully working in harmony with the hum of whirling ceiling fans.
Tadd’s was also our first port of call each morning for hearty buffet breakfasts with pastry stations, eggs cooked to order, and chefs twirling discs of dough to make roti canai right before our eyes. It is also a “wet swimmers acceptable” spot for lunch, where we nibbled on traditional local fares like gado gado salad, nasi goreng and satay.
How do you keep little ones occupied while you work? The kids club has a two-story-high slide, splash pool and activities such as hula-hooping, origami and kite-making. My pre-schooler delighted in making chocolate milkshakes and baking cookies with his assigned “buddy”, getting his face painted to look like his favourite superhero Spiderman, and countless hurls into a ball pit via a chute.
It’s not just kids who get to have fun, there is a myriad of things to do for together-time. Resort activities for the whole family range from treasure hunts to water sports, board games to billiards and even fishing charters and cycling excursions to a traditional kampong village.
What about grownup R&R after work is done? You can simply laze around or you can indulge in heavenly treatments at the spa or head down to the Tiigo Beach Club for sundowners. Grab a cocktail and settle into a lounger for dusk when incandescent orbs blink on, illuminating a view of the beautiful bay with its elongated jetty. The jetty stretches from the sand into the sea, against a sky splashed with hues of pink, purple and orange. With options like Montigo Nongsa on hand, it is enough to make one want to flee both home and office for a laptop lifestyle.
These are some practical rules of the road to consider for a workcation.
1. Connectivity ~ Workcations will not be possible without connectivity. Speedy and cheap (or preferably free!) wifi is a must-have. Printing facilities or an on-site business centre may be handy, in case hard copies of documents are needed for proof-reading or reviewing.
2. Workspace ~ Having a comfortable space to work in is essential. Be it simply a desk and chair in your hotel room, a separate study in a serviced apartment or something else altogether. A variety of choices such as balconies, pool areas, and terraces will also keep you from getting bored with your surrounds and prevent a loss of motivation to work. If you are consigned to a small hotel room with a partner and little ones, make sure the hotel/resort has quiet zones that you can escape to and concentrate.
3. Location ~ Choose a holiday accommodation that is equipped with or is in close proximity to attractions. This will keep your family occupied whilst you work or come together to play. Kids clubs can be godsends.
4. Noise control ~ Check that where you are staying isn’t a party hub or surrounded by nightclubs. Make sure there will be no construction work taking place on the property when you are there.
5. Take it easy ~ Make it a single destination trip. This will cut down on transit time and chances of unforeseen travel hassles.
6. Logistics ~ Arrange direct flights, pre-book airport pickups and hotel transfers at your destination.
7. Time management ~ Schedule and split your time for both work and play. The idea is to get the best of both worlds.
8. Family expectations ~ Agree on upfront when you will be working (eg: mornings and after dinner) and when you will be spending time together (eg: afternoons). Agree on things you may do that day, and get a rough idea of what everyone wants to do the next day, so you all have something to look forward to.
9. Work goals ~ Set goals about what you want to accomplish during your workcation. Let your team know how and when you will be in touch with them, and how to contact you if they need to. Setting an out-of-office message on your email, with an indication of your availability, can be useful in terms of managing expectations around response time frames.
10. Contingencies ~ Bring a back-up hotspot (your phone may do), a few portable chargers, and at least one additional technology device (eg: a tablet) in case you have laptop issues. Make sure your email, Skype, etc. are functioning properly before you go. If you’re travelling overseas, bring adaptors / outlet converters and make sure your phone is set up for global roaming beforehand.
11. Stay flexible ~ Don’t over-plan your trip and be open to change, in case you have to make adjustments to your itinerary.
Cindy Bingley-Pullin is an Australia based travel writer. Wendy Tee is a London based Art Director.
Collages © Wendy Tee Photos © Montigo Nongsa Resort