There is no shortage of challenges when you are an immigrant, but being away from family is by far the most difficult one. During the first year of the pandemic, I was lucky enough to be able to book a flight to visit my family in Brazil. That was the last time I had seen friends, close relatives and my brother and sister-in-law. After two years apart, when you’re craving hugs, tropical heat and Brazilian barbecue, WhatsApp video calls can only do so much.
When I interviewed for the Senior Consultant position at MP nearly a year ago, the chance to reunite with my family popped up when I heard the words “Work Away Benefit.” Having the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world was the best solution to a challenge that often weighs on those who immigrate—you always use your vacation time to fly back home. Don’t get me wrong, I miss my family and friends dearly and love to go back to my small town in the south of Brazil, but getting to explore new places is what fills my soul on vacation. And MP’s benefit meant I could work close to my loved ones and explore the world.
My Work Away in March came around quickly, and just like that, I was ready to start the (awfully long) haul to South America. Thanks to MP’s benefit reimbursements, the trip was surprisingly pleasant this time because of shorter layovers and an upgraded seat. The journey started with a stay at the VIP travel lounge in Pearson, where I enjoyed food, drinks and comfort. I even met a sweet elderly woman, my seatmate on our 9-hour flight, who shared her life story with me. She helped me set the right tone for my time away.
I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t shed a tear when the plane touched the ground. I was thrilled to land in my small town again after so long. So many life changes happened between the last time I was here and now. I became a permanent resident of Canada, landed a “big girl” job and turned 30. Walking through the arrival door at the airport and seeing my family and friends smiling at me never becomes less emotional— having a place and people to return to is not something I take for granted.
Straight from the airport to my favourite restaurant
My family knows exactly what makes this girl happy, so the first stop included my favourite meal, barbecue ribs, and all the proper sides: potato salad, greens (with palm hearts), pasteis (deep-fried dough filled with grounded meat), all washed down with caipirinha. My closest friends joined and I felt the complete joy of being back home, surrounded by my favourite people in the world having an absolute feast. Life was pure bliss and it was only the first day!
I started work the next day and the time difference worked surprisingly well for me. Working one hour ahead of Toronto and five hours from my usual Vancouver workday meant I could use an extra hour before logging in to go on walks with my parents and enjoy the early morning sunshine.
My new workstation in my parent’s dining room
The window view – Welcome to Rolandia, Parana, Brazil
Comically on day two, my computer had a slight hiccup and wouldn’t turn on. This had never happened before, so after a few anxious hours, the problem was managed promptly by our head of IT, Stephen. I spent my work days completing tasks and taking calls while enjoying snacks prepared by my mom and lunch with the family. My days were filled with small pockets of joy that someone who lives alone certainly appreciated.
Enjoying a morning walk in the park before logging in at 9 am EST.
Moments before the weekend dip at my uncle’s house
Coming back home meant seeing as many people as possible, so weekdays became busy as they turned into an opportunity for plans one would usually save for weekends. We had friends over for dinner, visits to relatives and short trips to neighbouring cities.
During my last week of work in Brazil, I set up a base in my brother’s office. He works as a day trader, so I was surrounded by his multiple screens, making the workday feel even more efficient. Along with his setup came his three dogs, my companions during all my meetings.
The “absurd” set up at my brother’s office. He owns seven screens, I only needed two.
The best footrests: Snow and Onix
Time went by quickly in Brazil, and before I knew it, my vacation in Argentine Patagonia with my family arrived, a dream destination for all of us. We departed from Sao Paulo and flew down to the very tip of South America, Ushuaia, a city known as “The End of the World.”
The austral landscape and proximity to Beagle Channel make this an extraordinary destination for nature lovers. We hiked to the bottom of a glacier, took a boat to see sea lions, birds and humpback whales, and stood at the end of the highway that connects all the Americas. Ushuaia is a must-see for those exploring a less conventional destination in South America.
From there, we flew to El Calafate and El Chaten, other cities inside Patagonia where the landscape changes entirely and you find yourself in the middle of the desert. The water is unbelievably blue in this area, forming lakes and the Perito Moreno, a glacier easily accessible by car. We had a chance to take a boat to see the ice formation up close—it’s hard to believe your eyes, even if you’re standing in front of it.,
We also hiked in El Chaten, the world’s trekking capital and from a viewpoint, had a glimpse of Mount Fitz Roy, probably the most iconic mountain range in South America (also the logo of Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand). Here, everywhere you turn looks like a postcard.
I’ve been back home in Vancouver for over a month, but I often think back to my time with my family and friends in Brazil and Argentina. I’m so thankful for MP’s Work Away benefit and the opportunity to spend quality time with my loved ones. I cannot wait to revisit Brazil next year and discover another part of South America at the same time. Thanks, MP! 🙂
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..
Giulia Sa Baarreto