3 Lessons After 30 Days of Remote Year: Am I Doing This Right?

July 18, 2016

2:30 pm

Remote Year is a startup that offers a program for digital nomads to travel the world – bringing together a community of 72 digital nomads to spend a year working, traveling, and exploring 12 cities around the world. And, I’m one of those lucky 72.

What intrigued me most about Remote Year was the concept of taking logistics planning out of the digital nomad lifestyle. Remote Year provides each cohort with housing, a 24/7 co-working space with reliable WiFi, and travel between the destination cities.

“While I love to travel, the planning and details can be a bit draining,” said fellow Remote Year Darien member Nancy Levenson, a freelance writer and content strategist. “With Remote Year, I don’t have to worry about things like where I’m going to stay, which is a big plus.”

We are now one month into our 12-month journey together. And I’m 30 days into defining, for now, what Remote Year actually is. Here are 3 things I’ve learned along the way.

The Group Is Proving to Be Something to Navigate

While I was concerned about fitting a year’s worth of necessities into two carry-on sized bags and wondering if I’d like Morocco more or less than Peru, there was a challenge I was completely underestimating: How would a group of 75 people play in my year-long journey?

Traveling and working solo for the past year, I called the shots – always. Suddenly, on Remote Year, the behind-the-scenes of how people navigate the digital nomad life was opened up. I wasn’t just interacting with strangers in a coffee shop. I was peering through a window into what people do in their daily lives, all day long. Posts on Instagram of views seen on walks around the city and messages on Slack about what a group was doing at night moved me to take stock of what I was doing with my daily life – all parts of it – and if I’d fit in with the group.

I started thinking thoughts like:

“Should I attend group activities even if I’m not interested in the activity we are doing?”

“Do I work too much? Is it weird that I like to work in quiet spaces by myself?”

“Am I going out with the group enough? Am I valuable to this group of people?”

When thinking about my relationship to the group, the most prevalent thought I’ve had over the last 30 days is, “Am I doing this right?”

It turns out I wasn’t alone. Navigating group dynamics, finding balance amidst the never-ending list of activities and outings, and marrying individuality and cohesion has been a challenge for others, too.

“It’s tempting, but you don’t have to say yes to everything,” Rhonda Craig, a PR consultant, told me. “Everyone is doing something, nearly all the time. FOMO is real, but so is exhaustion. Do the things that interest you, do a few things that freak you out, and leave space on your calendar to let life happen.”

The more I talk to other members, the more I feel at ease with my unease. I read my thoughts echoed in their blog posts, and I see many of them doing their own thing without second-guessing themselves.

“While it sounds basic, I’ve noticed that time management is absolutely key to this entire experience,” shared Nick Fico, associate director of strategy for a boutique digital consultancy. “The first two weeks, I found myself falling behind professionally and personally because I kept trying to stay up to date with all things. In doing so, I fell behind on everything.”

“Say yes to things that intrigue you, but also say no to things that don’t excite you,” added  Jessica Schlauderaff, a Marketing Effectiveness Analyst at Nielsen. “Then go find something that does and do that instead.”

We are a patchwork quilt of personalities, interests, passions, pet peeves, and temperaments. And, in the end, the only thing we all truly share is we signed up for Remote Year. And that’s just fine.

To Cowork or Not to Cowork

Figuring out where to work in this new normal was another obstacle for many of us. Although  24/7 coworking space with reliable WiFi is one of Remote Year’s primary offerings, not all of us opted in for this environment all the time. “I know one of the main things I need to be productive in my role is alone time,” said Jessica. “I get distracted at the workspace.” adds Nancy:

“I prefer to write, edit, and do strategy work in the mornings, in a quiet place by myself. That hasn’t changed. I love the concept of co-working, but it’s never super productive for me because I’m easily distracted.”

I echo Jessica and Nancy on these sentiments. However, as I move into month two of Remote Year, I am committed to challenging my comfort zone when it comes to workspace environments. Switching up my surroundings might be very beneficial for my personal and professional growth – and it might just spark new depths of creativity for me.

Utilizing Remote Year for Activities and Day Trips Is Awesome

So far, I have liked the variety of day trips the Remote Year team has offered to us.

While in Prague, I managed to catch two group activities. I spent the day at Karlovy Vary, a beautiful spa town 80 miles from the city, and I went on a hike to Karlštejn Castle, a Gothic castle founded 1348. Both trips were organized by Remote Year end to end. I was notified of the trip, signed up, paid a group rate fee, and showed up. No research and no logistics planning – just enjoying the new experience.

For Nancy, Remote Year was a way to shake up her life. For Nick, it was a step towards living the life he had envisioned for himself. For Rhonda, Remote Year was a solution to not wanting to travel to 12 cities alone. In Jessica’s eyes, Remote Year was a way to live in new places before getting antsy. 

For me, so far, the Remote Year experience has uncovered what has been one of the least visited places in my digital nomad experience – what it feels like to travel with 72 strangers. I have a feeling I’ll never know if I’m doing it right, but I am excited for the journey ahead.

Remote Year Darién

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Jacqueline Jensen is the Community Evangelist at Piktochart. She is a former venture-backed startup founder, recognized storyteller, and relationship builder. As Community Evangelist, Jacqueline shares Piktochart innovation with various groups at conferences, and enjoys meeting users around the globe.

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