One of my 2022 resolution was to spend 25% out of home. Why so? That resolution is the result of a reflection of a regret I have about 2021, when remote work became something normal and yet I felt like I should not be leaving Warsaw apart from my days off. In December I realized that in a few years time, I might not be able to travel whenever I please anymore — I might have family commitments or else — so it is now or never. I decided to spend a minimum of 25% of 2022 travelling and so far, it is 1/3 — and I am loving it!
Lovely as the idea of travel may sound, those of you who know me better know that I do work a lot and there is no way I could pull off a vacation longer than 3 days without getting behind on some stuff that I consider very important. Thus, each of the 10+ trips I have taken so far is a workation. Some of my friends have asked me how the recent trip to Malta has been, so I thought I might write an article combining my workation recommendations with my Malta recommendations. I hope to please both the digital nomad crowd and the “I would NEVER work on vacations” crowd by these type of posts. Let me know your thoughts on this approach here in comments or via DM on IG @nina.wieretilo — if you like it then I will write similar “how to” posts from other trips. In the meantime, here we go. Enjoy :)
Where to live
I am a power user of Airbnb. I first search for cool apartments, and only then for connecting flights/transportation. However, I do not like short trips, as given that I am both working and sightseeing I need more time to actually see the place. Therefore, I am staying for longer than a typical “tourist” and I am not willing to pay the tourist rates for accommodation; I set the filter at 30GBP/night max (the ideal being 20 GBP). This crosses out 60–70% of Airbnb accommodation out of the list, but it leaves some real gems, places for “normal people” rented by “normal people”, the locals. Apart from London which I love for a hundred different reasons, I only travel to places warmer than Poland, so my other must-have is balcony. Another must-have is a good neighbourhood, safe, relatively close to the city centre (no matter the size of the city), with some supermarket in a 1 km radius. A nice-to-have is a hammock, something that is quite popular on Airbnb and that I do not have at home, so it gives me a vacation vibe. As you might imagine now, to fulfil all these requirements, I must be spending quite a lot of time on the home sharing platform. Oh well, it’s still cheaper than Zalando.
I don’t mind having a room and balcony to myself and sharing a kitchen, as I mostly eat out or eat snacks that do not require cooking anyway — and meeting people in shared spaces is fun. These kinds of apartments often have very good location and very good pricing and that’s what I decided on for Malta. Honestly, for the price I paid (200 gbp for six days) it could not have been any better. It was right in the city centre of St Julians. St Julians is the city I consider the best for a workation in Malta. It is not very touristic, it has more of an expat vibe, it is beautiful, it has lots of eating spots, it is walking distance to Peaceville, the party-ville (more below, in Where to Party section), plus it boasts some AWESOME running routes to Sliema, along the bay, with a view on Valetta. I consider Sliema my #2 best city to live in Malta — it has very cool restaurants, it is only a bit more touristy than St Julians, it has a super nice outdoor shopping centre, and it is closer to the bay with the ferries to Valetta and many more. It is a bit of a British-ville, with plenty of places called as if the were taken out of Oxford and Cambridge and brough to Malta to satisfy the British tastes. Regarding Valetta, for me it is a city that is nice to look at from any other city with a view on it, but on its own it is too packed, too touristy and crowdy. I would discourage you from booking acommodation there.
I am also including a link to my Airbnb apartment as I consider it a true gem: LINK.
Where to eat
Malta used to be a British territory and I expected the food to be accordingly bad (sorry not sorry). The reality could not be more different. It was a perfect mix of various subspecies of Mediterranean cuisine, with plentiful vegetables and fish. Maltese wine is okay but not as good as Italian, Spanish or French, but it is also cool that you can order it in almost any restaurant, enabling you to have a 100% locally sourced meal. For fish, you have to visit the Marsaxxalock village on a Sunday, as this is the day when there is a fish fair and all restaurants serve the freshest fish. All restaurants are absolutely packed on Sunday, so if you have a packed schedule or you are travelling in a group larger than two you better book a table somewhere. We found a spot at Three Sisters and we loved it. In Valetta, I would recommend Porticello — a restaurant specialising in seafood, with a beautiful view on the sea. In St Julians, I have multiple picks: Fresco’s for lunch or casual dinner, Naar for more fancy dinner or drinks and Peperoncino for casual but very real Maltan-Italian lunch or dinner. I absolutely loved the food in all three of them.
Where to go
Regarding sightseeing, I am not a typical tourist with a bucket list of items to cross out. My favourite way to see places is through long walks and my morning runs. In Malta, it is impossible to see everything just by walking; meanwhile, renting a car might not be the best idea for someone living in continental Europe or the US, given that everyone is driving on the left side, just like in the UK. However, Malta has a very good network of public buses that are very cheap plus multiple providers of bus tours (“hop on, hop off” or with a tour guide) and ferries. Sometimes, going somewhere by ferry is faster than by bus. The tour operators are very friendly and open to make recommendations to you even if you eventually don’t buy their tour, so just ask them when you cannot find the optimal route on your own. I would definitely recommend going to Marsaxalokk for a lunch or dinner on a Sunday (fish fair day).
Blue Lagoon, Gozo and a couple of beaches along the bay are places definitely to visit as long as the weather is sufficiently good. Regarding Valetta — it is your call — too touristy for me but still the capital city, so possibly worth a half-day visit.
Where to party
Malta has bars in all of the bigger cities, including my favourites of St Julians and Sliema. However, the real party-ville is Peaceville, with lots of clubs, bars and shisha lounges, as well as a huge casino. To be honest, these are not high-end places, but they have really cool, chill atmosphere, with close to no dresscode policy and very funny local people to meet. We spent the Saturday night at Sahara Lounge, a shisha lounge as well as a club and it was real fun. Just make sure to watch out over your drinks and do not get too tipsy, as I have heard about incidents happening in bars and clubs around here. Of course, this happens everywhere. So just NEVER leave your drink alone, wherever you are. Peace.
If you want to go out just for drinks or a date with a sound level that allows you to talk to each other, I truly recommend Naar in St Julians. It is a high-endish bar (or actually three separate bar spaces in one common area) with a great view on a swimming pool and fantastic food. Just bear in mind that it is closed on Mondays, just like many other restaurants in Malta.
Where to work
To me, nothing feels better for work than a place with a nice view over the sea, as it makes me feel that oputting all the effort into work is worth it if it enables me to visit such wonderful places. St Julians and Sliema have plenty of cafes and bistros strewn along the bay, with a perfect view on the sea. I would recommend eeeatwell, Fresco’s, il Fortizza or Naar, but there are plenty of others that I just have not tried out. The most important thing about the workation in Malta (as well as in many other places) is that if you want to have a good time, you cannot leave yourself feeling like you are missing out on sightseeing and enjoying yourself because you are working. Hence, I would recommend booking twice the time that you fee you need for sightseeing alone. I would recommend booking 7–10 days if you want to be working 4–8 hours a day, and 4–6 days if you are working 2–4 hours.
My workation strategy is to see what times I need to be available for my coworkers for meetings and schedule 2–6 hour blocks of working time around it, so that the rest of the day is left for enjoying the trip. Once I block the time, I know that I MUST finish the work planned for the given day in that block. Peterson rule of “work expands to fill the time available” does apply here. OK, I do admit I missed a bus for a night trip of Malta once by an hour because I was in the zone of doing some very cool work stuff one evening, but my afterthought was — well at least I enjoyed myself anyway and I have four more days to go on this trip.
Happy people do not count the time (“szczęśliwi czasu nie liczą”) as we say in Poland. I think that’s the thought I want to leave you with today :)