02 OCT 2017: Eleven years ago my wife and I started to work from home. We had just switched from an agency in a mostly residential area, perhaps 10 minutes’ drive from home and where parking was easy and free, to a downtown Toronto agency. The new agency was a mere ten miles from home, but we found that we were spending almost 3 hours a day sitting in traffic, and another $400 a month on parking.

There had to be a smarter way. (And it wasn’t public transit – our neighbourhood is not well served).

So we converted our basement to an office. We went to IKEA, and bought two desks, two office chairs and a Billy bookcase for brochures that we never look at. We invested in a fax machine (barely used) and a printer/scanner (though Windows 10 has since made the scanner obsolete). We decorated with a couple of art-deco travel prints and some photographs that we had taken on our travels. We put up some African masks and my collection of vintage cameras. And to make it all look genuine, authentic and professional, we hung on the wall the requisite world map (at which neither of us ever even glance, but all travel operations have a world map, so….)

And so we took the leap.

Working from home has its up-sides and its down-sides. Our biggest concern had been the discipline of working from home, but that discipline quickly imposed itself - when the phone rings, and a client wants a ticket to Tallahassee, or a cruise or a family vacation, one can’t go and sit on the deck with a cappuccino, or go and sort laundry, or look through recipe books for a new way to present ground beef for dinner. Our commute is admittedly short, and instead of road construction our biggest hurdle in getting to work is our 95lb golden doodle blocking access to the basement stairs.

On the other hand we respond to e-mails after regular office hours, and if a corporate client confirms at 10pm that he’s ready to book, and the ticketing deadline is looming, then at 10pm we run the tickets.

Not that we’re complaining – it’s the nature of our book of business, and it’s given us a decent (if not rich-and-famous) life-style.

But as far as friends and family are concerned we don’t have a real job.

My late father used to roll up during business hours just to shoot the breeze. My wife’s uncle and aunt turned up one morning while we were busy as all heck, and invited us to join them on an expedition to the nearby farmers’ market, and while we declined as politely as possible, they left with their noses more-than-somewhat out of joint. My son called up one morning – he had lost the ownership slip for his car, and could I go down to Service Ontario today or tomorrow and get a copy?

His car, his responsibility, no?

“Yeah, but I don’t have the luxury of being at home all day. I have responsibilities”. In other words, I have a real job, you don’t.

I bit my tongue, but I was so close to saying “…and, what… people just send me cheques for sitting at home?”

So here’s my advice – if you don’t already work from home, and are considering it, then tell your friends and relatives that you have taken a job with an agency in a semi-industrial part of town, two subway and three bus rides away. Then go and sit on a beach in Mexico and have people send you cheques.

And let me know where I can sign up for that gig too.

 

 

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Derrick Bloch

A regular contributer to Travel Industry Today, Derrick has been recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 80 travel agents in North America. 

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