Imagine you were given a golden ticket to travel the world for a full year. The ticket would grant you access to some of the greatest places on Earth. Twelve months, touching down and living in 11 counties — and thanks to technological advancements, you still get to keep your job. Would you do it? Could you do it? Thanks to Remote Year, I would and I did.
Remote Year brings together people from different companies who live all over the world to work remotely and travel the world together. It sounds too good to be true, but as someone who’s been living this lifestyle for the last month, I can promise you: it works. And in June, I was one of 75 fortunate individuals who arrived in Prague to do exactly this.
Down to Business
While the obvious appeal for doing something like this is to travel to some of the most beautiful cities in the world (see itinerary here), the program is not designed to serve as a glorified vacation, but more of a cultural-educational experience that will help advance our professional AND personal growth.
I’ve realized the benefits of this almost immediately. Thanks to the technology and company culture from Polycom, I’ve become a living example of the workplace of the future. While I’ve always had the feeling that I was close to my globally dispersed coworkers, working across these new times zones will give me the opportunity to work more directly with my European and Asia-Pacific colleagues on a regular basis. Now, when I wake up in the morning I can have a call with China, at lunchtime I’m in a team meeting with the UK and I finish up my day with a one-on-one call with my manager in the US.
In fact, working in this remote and flexible environment has giving me new opportunities at my job and pushed me to be more innovative in my role, a phenomenon which I’ve noticed for others on this Remote Year journey. And while we might be doing it together as a group, there are others all over the world taking on the life of a digital nomad to reap the same benefits. While our schedules may be more flexible, we have a greater responsibility to create structure around our jobs. What do we need for this? Great technology. And good planning.
Organizing video meetings, training direct reports, client pitches and sales calls requires you to be better prepared than you would if you were in the office every day. When the success of your job depends on technology, you learn to take it very seriously.
Even when it doesn’t go smoothly (it’s bound to happen at some point), you learn to find a way to make it work. I’ve actually witnessed a fellow participant take a video call over her computer, using one cell phone to dial in over audio and use her second phone as a Wif-Fi hotspot. This all happened while we were on a bus riding to Berlin; technology at its best.
Technology: The Great Enabler
While the impulse to take on this yearlong adventure comes from a very personal place, Remote Year would be near impossible without the benefits of modern technology. Office spaces have changed. We’ve gone from working in an office eight hours a day to having the ability to connect from airport terminals, restaurants, coffee shops or even my home/hotel office in Prague. The number one necessity: Wi-Fi connection. Prague was named one of the top 10 best places to work remotely and I’ve found the connection to be great. In addition to having some of the best food and drinks around, Prague coffee shops and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi regularly. So even when I am located outside our designated office space, I’m still connecting very easily. The second most important work necessity are the tools for collaborating with my colleagues. The basics like email and IM chat are great. But the essence of collaboration is working together to accomplish one or more goals together. And while email and instant messaging are valuable, they merely extend the workflows slightly for real-time communication. I can literally work on multiple projects with people in multiple locations and, in real-time, work on a document while my colleague looks on.
Outside of my work responsibilities, technology is helping me live in foreign countries that I’ve never been to and don’t speak the native language. Need help ordering off a menu that’s in Czech? Use Google Translate. Not sure which trams go where? Google maps. I even called an Uber the other night and it arrived in three minutes. Don’t want to pay for international phone service? Buy a local SIM card and download WhatsApp and you’re instantly connected to your entire contacts list.
While traveling can get lonely, I’m lucky to be on this crazy adventure with a community of others. There’s so many of us that we’ve created a team on Slack and set up different group topics that range on everything from #foodies to #alternativeworkspaces and #techsupport.
I can’t imagine how this would have worked 20 years ago. Before high speed internet, accessibility of Wi-Fi everywhere, and the ability to work on mobile devices, my job here would have been obsolete. Technology has afforded me the opportunity to share experiences from across the globe, learn new cultures and become better acquainted with the cities I’ll be living in. It’s offered me the opportunity to work as I normally would, with the people I enjoy, at a job I truly love. And the biggest benefit is that I can do all this without ever having to leave my “office,” wherever that may be. If this isn’t the epitome of living the great millennial dream, then I don’t know what is.