How to Live Like a Remote in Your Own Town

Many people who seek an experience like Remote Year are looking to expand their horizons and take them out of their routine. Remote Year definitely does that. But there’s a limit that’s built into program that’s in the name itself: It’s just for a year. And if you’re like me, you have a home to get back to. After a year of adventure, hyper-stimulation, and constant change of everything except your capsule wardrobe (a trendy way of saying you wear the same 8 shirts every week), a return home can feel restrictive and boring. The place may not feel like it has changed, but you have. You’ve seen the world, man. You have new perspectives, yo.

I recently heard a quote credited to Marcel Proust that really resonated with me:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Rather than bemoan the same-ol’-same-ol’-ness of returning home, I got excited about checking out life in Phoenix through new eyes. I’ve been home now for the past seven months and have found a comfortable balance between feeling stable and unpacked, but also still up for adventure. Here are a few ways you can rock life in your home city the RY-way. (Bonus: You don’t even have to have done Remote Year to do these things!)

Before Remote Year, I’d hung out with Michelle only a handful of times. About a month after I got back, she texted me on a Thursday and said, “Hey, what are you doing Saturday? Wanna go camping?”

1. Find your “up for anything crew.”

One of the best aspects of Remote Year is being plugged into a community of curious, active people. One quick message out to the group, and you would have a half dozen people ready to join you for anything: happy hour, a museum visit, a hike, a weekend road trip to Zagreb, a week-long adventure into remote Bolivia. At home, find that group of friends who will not only join you for outings that you plan, but who also suggest new places to explore that you don’t know about. This crew may not be your go-to group of besties. They may be folks on the periphery of your social circle. But go on enough adventures together, and soon that won’t matter.

SUGGESTION: Make a dinner reservation for 4–6 people, then put a call out on Facebook or via email or text to a wide group of friends, saying that the first 5 people to RSVP can claim a spot. This is a fun way to learn who your “up for anything crew” is, and it’s a great way for your social circles to cross-pollinate.

2. Mix up your workspace.

Remote Year teaches you to be productive anywhere. After a year of working from trains, buses, castle courtyards, pool decks, climbing gyms and more cafes/restaurants/bars than you ever expected, being tied to a desk in an office can feel limiting. So set your sights on exploring new workspaces around your city. Coffeeshop hop. Find a new coworking space. (A big shoutout to my coworking home in Phoenix: Co+Hoots!) Look for random places that have wifi and a cool view.

Deck the halls with boughs of emails and spreadsheets and brainstorming. (And perhaps a bit of Bailey’s.)

MY EXPERIENCE: Since returning to Phoenix, I’ve linked up with a couple of other friends who can work remotely, and about once a week we pick a different local coffee shop to work from. On the Friday before Christmas, my friend Benjamine and I started our workday at a favorite local dive bar notorious for going overboard with their holiday decorations. We sat at the bar with our bloody Mary and Bailey’s-spiked coffee, tapped into their surprisingly fast wifi, and powered through a few last-minute pre-Christmas tasks. It was one of the most productive mornings I had all year. Before Remote Year I never would have thought of working in a dive bar. Now, I love the thought of finding quirky places to set up my laptop and have a little fun while getting work done.

3. Shift your work hours to take advantage of a local experience.

Remote Year throws the concept of the 9-to-5 to the curb. When you’re trying to keep U.S. business hours while working from Prague, it frees up your mornings for museum outings or morning hikes. If you don’t have to clock in for your job, why restrict your work hours to everyone else’s? Take that weekday hike when the trails are less crowded. Go to a mid-morning yoga class. Work through happy hour, but then grab a nightcap at bar and stay until they close. Figure out your natural daily rhythms, including when you are most productive (aka your “chronotype”), then let that influence your work schedule, rather than falling back in line with the 9-to-5 just because everyone else around you is working then.

SUGGESTION: Read more about how to determine your chronotype. Take Dr. Michael Breus’ The Power of When Quiz or read Daniel Pink’s “When: The Scientific Art of Perfect Timing,” and start figuring out the work schedule that works best for you.

4. Create your own track events.

In every city Remote Year visits, local staff plan events and outings to introduce Remotes to unique cultural experiences ranging from a Latin dance class in Mexico City, to a handicraft project in Prague or a ceviche-making lesson in Lima. Each month you pick a series of such experiences (in RY parlance: a “track”) and get to dive deeper into learning about the local culture. Don’t stop learning once you get home. Seek out classes and events that allow you to learn from local experts. If you can’t find an existing class, create your own.

MY EXPERIENCE: A week ago, Phoenix had a small festival celebrating the street art culture. I put out a call on Facebook for anyone who wanted to check it out, and four of us hopped on our bikes, downloaded a map created by a local street artist and rode around downtown, checking out all the colorful murals. Next month, I’ve arranged for a dozen friends to join me for a private coffee-tasting class. These outings get me out of my daily routine and expand my understanding of the local Phoenix scene.

Happy Year of the Dog, y’all! Life is ruff!

5. Check out other cultures’ local festivals.

International travel automatically exposes you to other cultures, but when you’re back home, it’s easy to stay in your familiar cocoon of sameness. Break out of that cocoon like the lovely, culturally-minded butterfly you are!!! Chances are, there are immigrants and descendants from other countries in your community that host public events for holidays or have cultural festivals or celebrations. Look them up. Go to them. If nothing else, you’ll probably eat some pretty fabulous food.

MY EXPERIENCE: In February, my friend Kendra and I checked out the Lunar New Year festival hosted by the local Chinese cultural organization. They had food trucks serving tasty octopus balls and boba tea, a stage with martial arts performances and the traditional new year’s lion dance, and of course a photo booth.

6. Plan side trips.

When you spend a month living halfway around the globe somewhere like Bulgaria, all of a sudden places like Greece, Turkey and Romania don’t seem that far away. You become prone to making plans to hop a cheap flight or head out on a road trip to check out somewhere new. As you move from one country to the next for a year, all of a sudden, a month feels way too short to explore all that a city, country or region has to offer. You can do the same thing from home. Why wait for a vacation to take an adventure? Grab one of your “up for anything” friends and take a weekend road trip to off-the-beaten path spots a short drive away. Spend a night camping an hour or so out of town. Or keep your eye out for a super-cheap deal on a direct flight somewhere new.

MY EXPERIENCE: My friend Amy had told me for years that I should join her for a trip to check out the southern AZ wine country. In April we spent a lovely, lazy three days wandering around Bisbee, Tombstone and Senoita, AZ. We drank wine, explored a haunted hotel, watched Wild West gunfight reenactments, and wandered down winding country roads. All the while, I marveled that it took leaving the country for me to realize I could apply the same “side trip” approach to living in Phoenix.

7. Leave time for spontaneity / Say no.

Remote Year is a year of minimal commitments, which means it’s a lot easier to say yes to the impromptu adventures like a spontaneous day trip or a last-minute volunteer outing. At home it’s amazing how your calendar can get sucked up by social obligations and professional commitments that aren’t directly related to your job. Monthly board meetings, baby showers, fundraisers, Mother’s Day brunches, networking happy hours, your friends’ birthday happy hours, your friends’ kids’ birthday parties. None of these things are inherently bad. In fact, they’re often fun and rewarding. But cultivating the skill of saying no every once in a while helps you avoid getting overloaded, which can lead to burnout. It also leaves free time on your calendar to set out on spur-of-the-moment adventures.

MY EXPERIENCE: I used to serve on three different boards or committees, each of which had monthly or quarterly meetings. I stepped down from those organizations when I left for Remote Year, and when I came back, I let each organization know that I would attend events, but not serve on the boards. Maybe someday I’ll return to a leadership position, but for right now, it’s nice to have that time open on my calendar.

8. Integrate your travel habits into your home life.

Have you ever noticed that the words “habit” and “inhabit” share the same root? Wherever you make a home, you are bound to develop routines based on your surroundings. Many people choose to go on an adventure like Remote Year to break from old habits. Extended time abroad can help you initiate new routines. When consciously applied to life back in your hometown, these new routines can either keep you from falling back into destructive old habits, or can enrich your home life.

I’ve started shopping at Food City, a local grocery chain that focuses on the Hispanic market. There are times I walk through the store and I’m the only gringa in the aisles. I love hearing the cumbia music, seeing signs for Tecate instead of Budweiser and mountains of corn husks for tamales.

TIPS: Walk or bike more places instead of driving. Shop for exotic foods in the grocery store or farmers market. Do you have a local Latin pop radio station? Blast it in your car everywhere you go, or turn to the world stations on Spotify. Take a different route each time you head home so you can explore a new neighborhood. Go for a run along a new path each time. Drive across town to work from a different coffee shop. Check out unique foreign restaurants. Don’t accumulate unnecessary stuff. Maintain a minimalist lifestyle.

When your eyes are opened to all that the world has to offer, sometimes the little sliver that is “home” can feel mundane. But it’s not always the place that needs to change. One thing to keep in mind is that while the city may have stayed the same, your perspective is different now, so you can experience your home in a new and different way. That is powerful! And exciting. And it opens up way more horizons for you to explore.

Cheers to having new eyes!


Originally published at Unraveled Travels.