Around the World in 365 Days, or: A Tale of Twelve Cities
Heather Lane (1998) has just returned to the UK from Bolivia, the final stop in a twelve month remote working adventure.
World travel is usually something one might think of as a holiday, disrupting the flow of work rather than enhancing it. Digital nomads, remote working, communal work spaces; these concepts one might associate with gap year students, or people whose work requires only a computer. Heather thought so, until she encountered Remote Year, and spent twelve months working in twelve different cities across the world.
Go travelling in South America for a month or two and Google’s algorithms will soon work out that you’ve been bitten by the travel bug. You might find yourself, as Heather did, targeted by adverts for Remote Year, a programme where a group of 50 – 80 people, with completely different jobs, travel the world together. Remote Year sets up living arrangements and 24/7 wifi, and the rest is up to you. For Heather, it came at exactly the right moment.
“It really spoke to me on lots of levels because it seemed like a fantastic way of being able to continue my job, not throwing away the career I’d spent a long time building up, but at the same time my wanderlust and urge to get out there was too strong to ignore. It just seemed the perfect way to combine the two.”
One successful application, a forward-thinking employer and a lot of planning later, Heather was on her way, starting the year in Kuala Lumpur. Heather worked part time, affording herself the flexibility she needed to make the most of a remote year experience. Moving from a quiet, studious environment to the open work spaces of remote year required a significant adjustment period, and returning to the London office may now present its own challenges. But there are advantages; Heather found that working remotely, and often whilst London was asleep, meant less emails, phone calls, and distractions, balancing out the disadvantages of working away from the office.
But remote year is not just about work; it’s also about experiencing new places and living in a completely different way for a year. There are plenty of opportunities for travelling outside of your twelve cities; remote year participants also enjoy side-trips, like Heather’s trip to Cuba, a place she says was the most unusual and different place she had ever been to. (You can read more about the cities and countries Heather visited on her blog):
“It’s so different from anything you can imagine. It’s the opposite of what you’re used to, of a free economy with lots of choice, adverts vying for your attention. I even found it difficult to buy a bottle of water because finding a shop is not simple, and neither is finding one that will serve you. Some of them are called bodegas, and if you don’t have a Cuban ration card you can’t buy goods from the shop because that’s what they’re there for.”
From the salt flats of Bolivia to the Burma-Siam railway in Thailand, Heather’s blog documents colourful places, new experiences, and the presence of history everywhere she went. Peru, “one of the most vibrant and exciting places to be”, offered access to Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail. Prague presented freezing temperatures to add to the culture shock – and with all these different climates, packing can be challenging!
So how does it feel now it’s over?
“If you can get through this, you can survive most things. It can certainly help with flexibility, and also with confidence. You’re meeting all these people from different cultures, so you learn better how to get on with people and have a better appreciation for different backgrounds and opinions. I think I have become more open minded. I don’t think beforehand I realised that I wasn’t. But being presented with so many viewpoints and ways of life, you take on a bigger appreciation for the obvious fact that everybody’s different.”