283: How Remote Year Ruined My Life
Calm down, Remote Year competitors who constantly dog my email and Instagram: this isn’t some juicy tell-all about the shortcomings of Remote Year. It’s not a list of reasons why I left (I haven’t), why I would leave (I wouldn’t), or why I would make a different choice if I had to do it all again (not in a thousand years).
This is simply a recognition that Remote Year has definitely, flagrantly, overwhelmingly ruined my life.
To all the pre-motes and potential remotes who read my blog: take caution. In these 5 ways, Remote Year is going to ruin your life too.
Before you embark on your program, no one tells you the harsh truth: you are going to meet the best friends you’ve ever had on this trip. You’re going to be surrounded by a cohort, a tribe of people who think like you and support you and take care of you.
You’re going to develop friendships that feel more like family, a bond created by shared experiences that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to convey to your friends at home.
And then, 12 months later, your program will be over, and your tribe will scatter. The thought of not seeing the faces of my fellow Dariens every single day makes me want to throw up, and yet it’s a reality that is looming ever closer. In this, Remote Year has ruined my life.
When you’re on Remote Year, your friends are going to call you and text you and email you and Facebook you and ask you how it’s going.
You’re going to tell them everything; the amazing churches you saw, the mountain you hiked, the song that plays at every bar, the local liquor that kills you inside, the incredible locals you’ve met and danced with, the number of languages you can say please and thank you in.
They’re going to text you back “cool!” or “that’s awesome!” They won’t understand, and you’ll get the feeling they don’t care. You’ll come to realize that you’ve done something incredible and experienced the world in a way that most of them never will: and no one wants to hear about it. All you’ll have is a litany of beautiful memories, a hard drive full of photos, and the sweet, warm feeling of catching up with other remotes who understand. In this, Remote year has ruined my life.
As you travel from country to country, you’ll begin to realize how easy it is to be mobile. When you set out you thought you’d go home when you were done. You thought you’d go back to your apartment, your car, your desk job. You had a plan, and everything in life seemed so sure; but after 10 months, you’ll feel completely lost.
You’ll have felt the high of landing in a new country too many times. You’ll have seen too many sprawling views, and hiked too many rocky paths. You’ll have tried every fruit under the sun and eaten dishes you can never recreate. You’ll have watched the sun set over cities and mountains and beaches and fields.
And suddenly, you’ll find you’re not so sure you want to go home anymore. Suddenly everything’s up in the air, because you’ve lived so much you can’t imagine stopping. In this, Remote Year has ruined my life.
When you meet your program leaders, you’re going to think it’s nice to have some support while you’re on the road. Slowly, as your program progresses, you’ll come to realize that they’re so much more than that. You’ll realize they have handled your life every day for the last 283. You haven’t had to book a flight or search for an Airbnb for a year. You’ve never had to deal with a landlord in a foreign language, find your own ride to the airport, or wonder what to do if you have a problem or land in a sticky situation.
Because you’ll have a Jenna and an Aline, and they’ll make sure your life is smoother than it has ever been. You’ll stop worrying about things and let your life float into their capable, trustworthy hands. You’ll text them like a helpless child when something isn’t perfect, and they’ll get it fixed in the blink of an eye.
And then on day 365, they’re going to take them away from you. You’re going to need to handle your own life again. You’re going to need to plan in advance, think ahead, have a backup. Remember the first time you got sick in college and your mom wasn’t there to take care of you? It’s going to feel like that. And in this, Remote Year has ruined my life.
When you join Remote Year, you’ll have no idea what it means to be part of a 75-person strong roving community. You won’t realize that no matter where you are in the world, you’ll run into a friend on the street when you’re walking to the grocery store.
You won’t realize that when a city starts to make you feel uncomfortable, you’ll have a home in the people you’re traveling with. You won’t realize how much better tajine tastes when it’s shared with friends, or how much more fun beer gardens are when you’re rolling twenty people deep. When you join Remote Year, you’ll think you’re in it for the travel. You’ll be wrong.
The truth is, travel can be lonely. You meet locals, you make friends, you talk to bartenders and waiters; but at the end of the day you struggle to make lasting and meaningful connections, and you find yourself on the road again, alone. But this, this experience is different. It’s immersion, it’s movement, it’s learning about the culture and integrating yourself with new cities: but it’s never, ever lonely. Some days you won’t talk to another remote, some weeks you’ll go on a side trip completely alone; but in the end, they’ll always be there. And then, all too suddenly, a year will be up and you’ll be alone, and you’ll miss running into Tyler picking up a burrito in Prague. The first time you venture out alone, you’ll realize you can never go back to the way things were.
And in this, Remote Year has ruined my life.