A workation with kids in South Africa: Bart & Irina did it!
Go on safari with the family early in the morning, take the kids to school, open your laptop on a sunny terrace and end the day with a glass of wine by the pool. Sounds like a dream, but for Irina and Bart this was the reality of an average remote working day for months. Together with their children, they decided to pack their bags for a workation to South Africa.
And with a good school nearby, fast internet and beautiful surroundings, the luxury villas of Homes of Africa turned out to be the place-to-be for them. We spoke to Bart and Irina about this special trip. What was it really like? What did the kids think of it and what tips do they have for other parents with travel jitters and a limited number of vacation days? In this article you can read their experiences!
About Irina & Bart
The traveling family consisting of Irina & Bart lives with their two children Lars (3) and Emily (1.5) in the middle of the Netherlands. Irina works as a sustainability manager at a multinational and Bart works as a controller at an university.
What was the motivation / main reasons for you to go on a workation?
Before we had children we traveled a lot and loved it: from the Transmongolia express to Canada and from Africa to the North Pole. But we also enjoyed traveling with children: Lars had already “seen” 10 countries before he was 4 months old and when he was not even a year old we made a wonderful trip to Thailand. But unfortunately then corona came and our trips were limited to the – otherwise beautiful – Netherlands.
It was a happy accident that working from home became so normal. But still it started to itch again: if we can work at home, why shouldn’t we be able to do that in Africa? With two children and both busy jobs it seemed difficult in advance, but after one email with Homes of Africa we found out that they not only rent out beautiful houses, but also knew a shelter / school for the children! Then we were immediately sold.
With two children and both busy jobs it seemed difficult in advance, but after one email with Homes of Africa we found out that they not only rent out beautiful houses, but also knew a shelter / school for the children! Then we were immediately sold.
Why did you choose South Africa as the destination for your workation?
We are in love with Africa, especially with nature and animals. It was also important to us that a country is in the same time zone as the Netherlands, so that we would not have a meeting at the most impossible times. In terms of location, we wanted to be in one fixed place this time, because with small children i.c.m. we did not want to move the works too much. But then the place must of course be perfect: centrally located, beautiful house, swimming pool and giraffes in the garden were decisive for us: what more could you want!
Of course it was also important to us that the destination is safe for children with, among other things, good healthcare. And the fact that there was an English-speaking Montessori school and daycare 5 minutes away made it our ideal workation destination!
How did you arrange the babysitter for the children during the workation?
The children went to the local Montessori school in Hoedspruit. A wonderful school, sweet teachers and the children also came along well in English. It was also nice that a number of teachers spoke Afrikaans, which is very similar to Dutch, and therefore were able to communicate well with the children. Besides being useful for our work, it has also been a real enrichment for the children!
Lars spoke fluent English after 6 weeks and Emily also spoke her first English words. But more importantly, both children have grown enormously in self-confidence. A few months after returning, Lars went to school for the first time (because 4 years old) and that went so easily that the teacher said after the first week that you would never say that he went to school for the first time. According to Lars, it was not the case, because he had already been to school in Africa ;-)
What did an average working day look like?
- 06:15 Get up early! School starts early
- 07:00 Drop off the children at school (approx. 5 minutes drive from Homes of Africa)
- 07:15 Sports, drinking coffee, spotting animals (walking or mountain biking!)
- 08:00 Get to work! In our lovely house or in one of the lunch spots in the village
- 12:00 Pick up the children (School is actually until 1:00 PM and there is also afternoon care for the children, but because Emily still takes an afternoon nap, we often picked them up earlier)
- 12:30 Lunch & afternoon nap Emily until 3:30 PM. Lars entertains himself or with 1 of us we play with lego / swimming pool / ball on the estate etc. We work in between.
- 15:30 On safari in the backyard or to one of the many coffee shops with a playground in the village
- 17:30 Eat at home or in a restaurant and then take a bath
- 6:15 PM Kids to bed
- 6:30 PM Finish work
- ….: Drinking wine from a heated swimming pool under a beautiful starry sky
What did the children think of this workation to South Africa?
We thought it was very exciting beforehand, would it go well? Fortunately, we knew from Pim and Anne from Homes of Africa that the school was good (their own children have also attended it) and that if the children could not come along (Lars did not go to school at home yet) there are also alternatives in the form of babysitters from Hoedspruit. But as is often the case with children, they surprised us enormously. They loved it and school went smoothly. But most of all they enjoyed the animals, the swimming pool, the outdoors and the new impressions!
But as is often the case with children, they surprised us enormously. They loved it and school went smoothly.
How did you keep the balance between ‘work’ and ‘vacation’?
We had to work a lot and it would have been nice if we could have taken an extra week off. We both had now only taken our travel days off because we simply didn’t have the days because we decided very last minute (about two months in advance) to go to South Africa. But the great thing about remote working is that it hardly felt like work. So yes, as much free time as possible is always nice, but it’s no problem at all to have to meet deadlines. We did have an agreement that if a meeting lasted shorter than planned, we immediately jumped into the pool. And even if that was only for 5 minutes, it already makes such a difference in feeling!
The nice thing about working in a different environment is that it hardly felt like work.
It sounds fantastic of course, a workation. But were there also downsides?
Actually, there were few real downsides. Occasionally it was difficult that you do not see colleagues at all, you do not fly up and down. But it also gave peace and a different kind of inspiration not to be in the office. If I have to mention a disadvantage, I think it is the costs, what you earn in those months will go directly into the trip itself. But hey, we’re used to it anyway that traveling takes up most of our budget ;-)
Classroom of the local Montessori School
Do you have time for fun things besides work? And then what did you do?
Yes, we have done so many beautiful things! Of course we went on safari several times each week: many in the backyard and every weekend to the Kruger Park (about 45 minutes drive) or a safari with a ranger in nearby private game reserves. After all, we love animals! But also trips to, for example, Jessica the Hippo, driving the Panorama route and a walking safari with ranger Josh (both separate and without children, which was a good thing because we were 50 meters away from a lion!) were real highlights!
Hoedspruit is a very pleasant village: many restaurants have play areas: slides, climbing equipment, bouncy castles, water courses – it’s all there. A real win-win as most of these places have great coffee and lunches. There are also some shops where you can buy craft kits and the like, which is also very nice! And milk powder, wipes, diapers, medication for children, etc. can all be found in the spacious supermarkets. Because shopping has to happen, of course!
Is a workation for everyone, do you think?
Yes I think so. We also thought it was impossible, but when we asked around, talked to our employers and the great team of Homes of Africa, it suddenly turned out to be possible. It is important to share your concerns and problems (in our case childcare), because others often know very good solutions!
What should parents pay attention to if they want to go on a workation? Do you have any tips or advice for parents who also want a workation?
Choose a good place where you can work comfortably so that you can also give back the flexibility you ask from your employer. We highly recommend Homes of Africa!
A workation to South Africa: Why choose Homes of Africa?
Childcare and School 5 minutes away
Many safari & child friendly activities in the area
Remote working from a luxury villa with private pool
Fast Fiber Wi-Fi available
Countless lunch spots a.k.a. workplaces nearby
Supermarkets full of diapers, baby wipes etc etc
No time difference with Europe (perfect for online meetings)
Surrounded by harmless wildlife
2, 3 or 4 bedroom villas available