A Holiday From My HolidayJanuary 19th, 2010 by Santtu Parikka
I value my time. And I value my hair. But some things in my life cause me a major net loss on both. One of those things is researching and planning holidays. You know, the legwork of a holiday: comparing prices and checking availability on accommodation, flights, insurance, and car rental etc etc. Now, of course, I love holidays. I don’t just take them so I can send my workmates jealousy-inducing pictures while I’m away, though that certainly adds to the joy. But hours and hours of trawling through websites are, well… just plain work.
After another Saturday morning’s travel research – perched over the laptop, occasionally emitting exaggerated sighs of frustration when my girlfriend was in earshot, to let her know that she really owed me for taking it upon myself to plan this holiday – I was greeted by this nonchalant suggestion: “If it bugs you that much, you know you can outsource that kind of stuff to a virtual assistant right?”
“Uh, of course I know that”, I lied; hastily searching the web to see if such services did indeed exist. A couple of seconds’ perusal confirmed she was right…again. And although I’d already done most of the planning legwork, the very idea of it intrigued me.
It turns out VAs can indeed take the grunt work out of just about any administrative task – travel research included. But something about the notion of using a VA for a non-work related task felt a little strange. I’d never questioned my sorry lot to occasionally be doomed to perform tiresome, frustrating administrative duties. Rather, I had always considered holiday planning/research like shaving – annoying but unavoidable. In reality, the only question was whether I placed a higher value on my time and avoiding aggravation (hair-retention, if you will) than the money it would cost to contract out the service. All told, in my (OK, I admit) slightly idiosyncratic case of travel-planning-aversion, it might just be worth it.
Generally, my experience of outsourcing has involved relaying the sorry story of my lost credit card to a very patient and sympathetic young man in India. But the fact that many VAs are locally based has also stretched my understanding of this phenomenon. The notion of “Home Shoring” – outsourcing to locally based VAs is becoming more common as enterprising people with time on their hands turn to this kind of work. So, if you take my girlfriend’s advice, it may be that the person that helps plan your trip to the Brittany, Berlin or Boston could well have been there last week and have a restaurant to recommend.