It took me a while before I actually filled out the type form online. I tested out how people felt about the program for a while by bringing up remote year in conversation to see their reactions. I needed to know if my friends had a positive opinion and if my family would support it. Telling work about my application was what made me the most nervous of all to be honest, but when my CEO had a positive comment for me I knew at that very moment I was definitely going to do it.
I am going to travel.
The amount of time it takes to prepare for remote year is one thing that I definitely underestimated. Administration-wise there were visas, immunizations, health insurance, banking, IT setup etc. Home-wise I needed to find a tenant to live in my house, move out, set up pre-authorized payments and e-post billing, forward my mail etc. Packing-wise, there was organizing clothes, buying new luggage, deciding what is essential, packing and unpacking and repacking to meet the weight requirements. Through all of it I realized just how much I own and how many items are non-essential. Despite throwing out much garbage, donating some things, and cleaning up, I still have so much. I left my townhouse fully furnished for my tenant, yet I was still able to fill a bedroom offsite with all of the personal items I removed from my home to keep for my return, whenever that may be. I watched the Minimalist documentary before this trip, twice, which helped put me in the right mindset. Having said that, I know am nowhere near close to that level, but I now have an appreciation for their message.
Bring only one.
The last 2 days I spent in Canada were the toughest emotionally; feeling overwhelmed with receiving best wishes, farewells, goodbyes, and I miss yous, compiled with nerves and fear of the unknown. One thing remained constant however, and that was the confidence I had in knowing that I was going in the right direction. I just needed to get there because I knew everything would be fine once I arrived. Showing up is often the toughest part of starting anything new. No one warns you that the preparation for the trip and leaving home parts are the toughest. Subconsciously, I believe I knew I wouldn’t be returning to the same things, to the same people, or as the same person at the end of it all, so in a way the goodbyes were tougher. I was saying goodbye to the life I knew and trusting the blind path that lies before me. This is the hardest part to communicate to your loved ones when you’re leaving.
This is the part I held inside.
The first flight.
I’ve never been on a plane for 15 hours before, let alone the overnight hauls, or to a time zone 13 hours ahead. If I can lend any piece of advice on this it is this; you will want to upgrade your seat. Do it. That extra few hundred dollars won’t matter to you once you’re crammed in a row with other people for what can seem like an eternity. When travelling from west to east make yourself as tired as possible before the flight and keep your eyes closed as much as you can during the flight so you can sleep for as long as possible. Choose a window seat so you can lean against it and have the illusion that you have more space. When you finally arrive at the peak of dawn, stay awake that day until it is bedtime locally. You’ll thank yourself on day 2 when your body has adjusted to the time zone difference easier than you may have anticipated.
The only way I know how to sum up the first week is to use the term “frosh week”. You don’t want to miss it. You’ll attend everything. You’ll lose sleep. You’ll also connect with your fellow remotes on a deeper level than you expected to after only 7 days and it will set you up very well for the journey ahead. Do the things, even if they are uncomfortable.
Do all the things.
The first month will seem longer than it is, because it is. It will be 5 weeks instead of 4. You’ll attempt to justify everything you’ve packed by wearing all of your outfits at least once. You’ll probably still style your hair and put make-up on everyday, using all of the beauty products you’ve packed from home because you weren’t sure if you could buy the same ones overseas. It might take you awhile before you are comfortable walking around alone in an unfamiliar city in a foreign country. Hell, it took me 3 weeks before I walked to the workspace alone in broad daylight. I like to attribute it to the fact that each time I walked there my companions took a different route, and I was too caught up in conversation to observe my surroundings. Sure, my remote family teased me about it, but that’s what family is for.
Your comfort levels will grow, one step at a time, at your own pace.
Now that you’re in the swing of things, you’ll try regaining your health regimen. You might begin to say no to a few things as you get pickier with the events you attend. By now you’ve found your core posse but still want to get to know the others, so it’s a good idea to change up your roommate this month. Side trips will begin to be planned well in advance of arriving to the next country, making this month seem to go by much faster. Do a side trip. Travel with someone new. You lose a few people from the program going forward.
Mail a post card home.
You’ve got your month planned out in advance. You’ve adjusted to moving every 30 days and your packing skills are on point. You’ve unloaded some unnecessary items along the way. You’re down to 4 staple outfits; the rest stays in your suitcase, as you can’t be bothered to unpack it into the closet this month. People in the group start having breakdowns as they question their purpose and passions in life. Some will want to quit their jobs, while others have been fired. The rest are exploring and don’t have any work pressures, for now. You will review your budget and tighten your spending; it can’t go on this way for the rest of the year, can it? If you’re a 4-month participant you have less worries and continue to go hard, next month is your last after all. Go hard and go home.
Your bathing suit doesn’t fit the same. Hit the gym.
It’s your last 4 weeks and you start getting sentimental. You start getting to know some remotes a bit better this month since you’ve not really seemed to connect in the previous months. Your openness radiates as you accept everyone, quirks and all. You begin to anticipate and expect others uniquenesses, it makes you smile now. You’re not ready to go. More people are leaving by choice but you want to stay. The promises you made back home take precedence and you know you need to go back, for a bit. You delay the inevitable by extending your last month by another 10 days. You follow the group. You’re now no longer a “remote” but a shadow of the group. It feels different.
You’re truly a solo traveller now.
You say you’ll see them soon, instead of goodbye, not wanting to accept the reality of a possible ending. You’re hopeful of visiting them again, but you’re uncertain of exactly when. I thought I’d be used to goodbye by now, since I’ve had so many of them in my life. Perhaps the more you have the harder it becomes because you know that for some of them it’s the truth. With the others, it becomes a choice.
Say goodbye or see you soon.
You force yourself to get on the plane, you unwillingly check into the airport on Facebook to communicate that you’re on your final flight back home. You do it with sadness, only thinking about what you’re leaving behind, and what you’ll miss out on. You replay five months worth of memories in your mind over the next 12 hours. You land, you check your phone, and it’s then that you see the other side. To combat the sad reactions of your departure, you realize the amount of excitement that has been waiting for your return. For every sad emoji there’s a heart emoji. It’s overwhelming so you put on a smile until it becomes real.
It will become real.
You fill your calendar as much as possible. You’re not used to being bored. You set clear concrete goals to accomplish while you’re home and you get it all done. You are too busy to miss the group, initially. You’ve conquered through the first three weeks so you book yourself a vacation. You aren’t ready to settle in quite yet.
You’re yearning for more.
Three months go by. You’ve seen all of your friends and closest family. You rejoin your old hobbies and activities. You make the most of your time. You accept and realize you’re going to be here for a while so you make commitments.
You buy a condo. You begin to date.