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No one ever talks about the fact that when you go to university outside your hometown, the closest friends you make—the ones who molded you into the “adult” you are now, the ones with you during arguably the most formative years of your life, the ones who you got matching tattoos with against your better judgement, the ones who became your home away from home—will likely be scattered across the country (and world) after you graduate and leave your university town. 

Having so many of these types of friends from my days on the University of Prince Edward Island’s varsity soccer team is bittersweet. On the one hand, I miss them daily. On the other hand, it makes our reunions all the sweeter. If we’re lucky, these reunions usually come once a year for major life milestones like weddings and baby showers. But it’s hard to replicate the feeling of living down the hall from your best friends. The daily surprise pop-ins, running errands together, and generally, spending every waking moment together no matter how seemingly mundane the activity was. 

That’s why when Media Profile announced its “Work Away” benefit—which supports staff with $3,000 to work anywhere in the world for up to one month—the first call I made was to my university roommate, who happens to live more than 4,000 km away in Vancouver. “Want to live the roomie life again? Is Hotel Jer (the name we dubbed her apartment) available?” I shouted over FaceTime before explaining the benefit I was so eager to put to use. Without hesitation, her answer was a ‘yes’. 

After a few days of coordinating schedules, I booked my flight and started counting down the days until I could spend a whole month with my long-distance bestie at what she was now referring to as “Hotel Jer & Al.” Extra bonus of visiting my friend on Work Away? I got to bring my adorable sidekick/coworker, Pepper the Cat. As MPers and my clients know, no Microsoft Teams call is complete without an appearance from Pepper hopping onto my lap.

To keep work flowing smoothly, MPers work in EST regardless of where they choose to adventure. For someone most of my friends and family would consider to be less than a morning person, the 6:00 a.m. PST start time was certainly an adjustment. But with my temporary roomie working early shifts at the BC Children’s Hospital in the NICU, we got to enjoy our morning coffees together, which I considered the perfect start to my day. Plus, ending the day at 2:00 p.m. meant I could enjoy the uncharacteristically sunny October outside and explore beautiful BC.

I spent my post-work afternoons exploring Kitsilano, trying every local coffee and donut shop I passed—of which there are many—and parking myself on a blanket in the sand at Jericho Beach to read until sunset with a greenscreen-like view of the ocean and mountains in front of me. On my walks home, I’d stop at my new favourite local shops to pick up dinner supplies for the weekly menu that my roomie and I mapped out. Cooking with my best friend while blasting music, shaking cocktails and The Office playing on mute in the background felt like we were living a leveled-up version of our university life together. Surviving on Subway and Gatorade was a thing of the past, but the company and comfort of my best friend lives on! 

Evenings and weekends consisted of exploring Vancouver with hikes, reunions with other long-distance friends in the city, local concerts, breweries, tea time at Hotel Jer, more donuts, a running cribbage tournament and even a polar dip in the Pacific!

The break from Toronto was just what my mind and soul needed. While I generally try to avoid cliches, I felt at peace. Not to mention I felt more creative, focused on my work and had a renewed sense of motivation. I didn’t even take any vacation time while I was away, though the benefit does include adding up to two weeks of vacation time to your trip. The change of pace (and time zone) and time with my pal felt rejuvenating enough sans vacay.

It’s so fun to see how your friends build lives in their new homes. I got to meet Jerika’s friends, try her favourite restaurants and see her thrive in her professional life—which seemed so far away when we met in 2011—all things I’d only been able to admire from afar up until this point. And she got a glimpse into my professional life and marvelled at the way I’m taken care of by MP—still in a state of shock that they not only encouraged this escape, but financially supported it too.

When the rainy season finally kicked in, it was time for me to pack up and head back to Toronto to my usual home office, hit my regular coffee and donut shops, soak in my view of Lake Ontario and the Etobicoke skyline and return to FaceTime updates from my long-distance friend. 

While other MPers planned beyond incredible international adventures for their Work Away, this taste of home and nostalgia is exactly what I needed. The possibilities for this benefit are endless and I’m immensely grateful to MP for providing me with this opportunity to reconnect with my friend and myself. 2023’s Work Away plans? Reuniting with four more members of my university crew in Greece. I’m already counting down the days!

Curious to learn more about MP’s adventures abroad? Stay tuned for future Our Take #PassportToMP blog posts where employees will share their work away experiences..

Alex Shinnan
Senior Consultant

#PassportToMP: Balancing work and life is the path to success
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