An American in Sicily: A Workation to Remember by Mel Candea

Mel Candea

One of the best ways to make sure you’re always bring a fresh perspective to your writing and online activities is to make face-to-face connections. It’s this swapping of ideas and collaboration that ensures you’re always learning and being inspired. Being a Digital Nomad can be a lonely experience so it’s crucial to look for opportunities to step away from your computer screen to interact with other travelers, and also people in the local community you’re currently calling home.

In this week’s #NomadicTimes article I’m excited to introduce Mel Candea as our guest columnist who is a shining example of this ethos. She’s hosting a series of Digital Nomad articles about her experience collaborating, living, working, and playing with a group of digital nomadics in Sicily.

Find out more about Mel’s involvement in the ConsumelessMed Project, and then stay tuned for 1:1 interviews with her collaborators over the coming weeks.

Nomadic Times Mel Candea episode An American in Sicily, A Workation to Remember

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” –Jane Goodall

Mel CandeaColumist: Mel Candea

We were in Rome visiting friends when we got the email invite. It was from Alberto, the guy behind Nomadi Digitali, and he was asking us if we’d be interested in applying for a workation.

It was going to be based on the southern-ish coast of Sicily in Ragusa, and it’d include a team of professional digital nomads.

He thought we’d be perfect and said we should apply. We did and we were chosen. I was to be the ‘copywriter’ and my husband, Armando, would be the filmmaker for the project.

Our Version of Being Digital Nomads

Mork at the Mediterranean Sea

Mork at the Mediterranean Sea

Unlike most of the nomads involved in the project, we wouldn’t be flying, but driving. We travel, live and work full-time in our T4 Westy van (named Mork). We’ve been ‘on the road’ for almost 6 years now, mainly in Europe.

We’re both freelancers and work remotely with our clients, usually from our van. However, we’d never done a workation before and we’d no clue what to expect.

The ConsumelessMed Project

Team Photo for Mel Candea Workcation

Team Photo for Workcation

The hook for both of us was the project itself. It was for ConsumelessMed, a new partnership of Mediterranean territories that focus on sustainable tourism. They needed web visibility, which included: the website; graphics; stories (both written and video); social media; and an official site video.

We’ve been lucky enough to travel to countless beautiful places, some of them remote and difficult to reach. And one underlying theme emerged for us: try to leave each place we visited better than we found it.

Are you helping or hurting the places you visit as a #DigitalNomad? @westydigitalnom Click To Tweet

We weren’t consciously being responsible tourists, just like we hadn’t planned on being digital nomads (the term didn’t really exist when we started out) and hadn’t planned on the whole #vanlife phenomena. We just knew it saddened us to see gorgeous places suffocated by careless litter.

The workation gave us a chance to have a voice about a topic that’s become important to us, especially because it’s Sicily and the Med. Armando, my husband, is half Sicilian. We’ve been all over the island on several visits and it’s become a sort of second home to us.

The Workation Itself: Ragusa, Sicily

Moored Fishing Boat

Moored Fishing Boat

The workation lasted just 10 days. It was an amazing experience that flew by. Even now, post-project, I’m surprised by how much we accomplished in such a short time. My ‘copywriting’ job was a little bit of everything, since I was the token American.

I edited the website text; I wrote and did the voice over for the video script; I edited the stories and some of the social posts; and after the project finished I helped with the guide that’s going to be sent to the other territories that are part of ConsumelessMed.

You can see the finished video here:

Not only did we have intensive work days, we also had intensive ‘down days.’ We had scheduled visits to local shops, farms and restaurants in the Ragusa region. The people we met were unforgettable in their passion for retaining the integrity of their area.

The Locals in Ragusa, aka ‘Consumeless Companions’

Locally Grown Produce in Sicily

Locally Grown Produce in Sicily

Local businesses or tourist ‘facilities’ (like restaurants) can become part of the project – as long as they’re connected to sustainable tourism in some way. These are a few examples of places we visited:

  1. Rosso Cinabro: Traditional Sicilian cart makers. These guys actually dress like turn-of-the-century artisans, and use only historical wood working methods. They’re also the only cart craftsmen schooled in the authentic painting involved in decorating.
  2. Prima Classe and Delicatessen in drogheria: Two restaurants located in the same neighborhood decided to collaborate instead of compete. They serve locally grown produce and locally made products (cheese, salami). Part of it is their personal aesthetics and beliefs in organic, and part of it is being dedicated to encouraging the local economy.
  3. Frantoio Cutrera: An award-winning olive oil producer that reuses all that it can while creating the oil. Leftover water is used for irrigation and even the olive pits are recycled – they get used as fuel. The family-run business has been making the change from the old-world ways to newer technologies that look like something out of a sci-fi film.

Reflections on the Ragusa Workation

Ragusa at Night

Ragusa at Night

Looking back just a few weeks, I’d say it was extremely successful. I don’t know if it was the affability of the group dynamic as a team, or if it was just the new of the thing – but we did it.

8 (pretty much) strangers co-lived, co-worked, and co-played. I think this could definitely be a step forward for digital nomads. Not the whole ‘workation-to-an-exotic-location-for-your-vacation’ that seems to be popular at the moment. But gathering professionals together to work on the same project.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat, especially if I were lucky enough to work with the same team. It was an impressive group of people and I’m still feeling inspired from the experience.

I was able to interview all 7 of the Italian digital nomads I worked with, to ask them about their digital nomad start; advice for newbies; and what they thought of the workation.

Find out how these #DigitalNomads collaborated on the #ConsumelessMed project @westydigitalnom Click To Tweet

Meet the Digital Nomads who collaborated with Mel on the ConsumelessMed project in the following interviews:

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Author Bio for Mel Candea

Mel CandeaMel Candea has been an online writer for 9 years and a digital nomad for 6. She slow travels Europe with her husband in their van. She splits her time between working from the road and exploring the countries and their cultures. Mel is a voracious reader, an avid writer, a partial photographer and a believer in trying to leave places better than how they were found. If at all possible.

You can find her journeys with her Italian husband Armando (filmmaker), their dog Ziggy and their van Mork here:

  • What an interesting way to spend your time. Can’t wait to hear more about it and “meet” more of the digital nomads that took part. This is such an inspiration, I am planning on becoming a nomad myself, but it’s so scary, and stories like this are an inspiration and very motivating.