Ferris wheel from a festival in a park by my apartment. It was my afternoon work break.

The First Month of Remote Year

The first of many learnings in the next 12 months.

In exactly 6 days I’ll pick up my bags, board a bus and move to another city in another country. I’ll ride for hours to the opposite coast of the Iberian Peninsula with 60 something other people who I’ve come to know, appreciate and enjoy over these last 26 days.

During this last month I moved 3,769 miles away from NYC and most of my friends. I boarded a one-way flight to a city I’d never been, to meet people I’d never spoken to, to join a start-up community that was only a year old. I have only 1 suitcase worth of belongings to last me a year, a backpack to carry my laptop and other precious items in, and exactly 4 pictures in frames to make each new home feel like a home.

I’ve stripped away so much in my life these last 26 days and then have also gained so much. I’ve learned more about myself, what I want, and about the world around me.

The work / life balance is a myth.

Honestly, it’s just not possible. It’s a constant battle to figure out how much of work I need to do vs. how much living I should be doing. For a couple weeks I struggled with working too much and not living the city enough. Then on other days when I was living too much, the concern of how much work was piling up through emails and lost hours crept up. Even the Spaniards don’t have a work / life balance—they just have lives. They don’t get to work till 10am, then take a 2 hour lunch, a nap, then go back to work and leave in time for dinner at 10pm.

My balance solution? I haven’t really found one yet. But I have learned that making weekends about adventure trips and overnight travels makes the weekly struggle a bit more manageable. Especially when those trips involve hiking through mountains, cliff-jumping into lakes and climbing all over castles. Making sure I spend at least one day a week exploring the country I’m living in is really important to me.

Feeling comfortable can turn dangerous.

I’ve been lucky so far and haven’t been too personally affected by the darker side of international travel. Others, however, have had the unfortunate experience of being the examples for the rest of us in how not to get too comfortable in our new lifestyle. One apartment was broken into while the one woman Remote was home; another Remote had her phone stolen from a cafe she frequently visited near her home; a group of 7 Remotes had over $10,000 worth of laptops, hard drives, electronics and cash stolen from their home while visiting Ibiza. Livelihoods were disrupted, confidential company files were no longer private, work and stability were put into jeopardy and insurance policies ended up being the wrong type of coverage.

The only thing that’s happened to me so far has been that my Netflix and Amazon accounts were hacked into, and my credit card number was stolen and used in Vegas for $315 worth of clothing. All I had to do to get back on track was reset passwords and get a new card overnighted to Spain courtesy of Capital One (also known as the best company ever). Knock on wood my good fortune continues.

Living outside the US clarifies how messed up things are at home.

It’s no secret that the US is going through some horrible times right now. I was working in the afternoon when I first heard news of the shooting in Orlando. When Trump visited Scotland after the Brexit vote, I was with fellow Remotes discussing the (yet again) ignorant comments he posted all over social media. I’ve tried to keep up to date with the Airbnb NYC issues, the Gawker bankruptcy, Obama making Stonewall Inn a national monument and the Congress filibuster turned 4 failed gun bills turned sit-in turned huge political divide.

When back in the US, it was well understood that things were not ideal. Some would go as far as saying they were downright corrupt politically, socially and ethically (cough, me, cough). But being outside of the US and watching all these things happen from afar is like watching a really badly scripted reality show. And if watching the Geordie Shore has taught me anything, it’s that you can’t get much worse than the Geordie Shore. The current state of the US is rivaling that status.

Traveling with a variety of nationalities takes empathy to a whole new level.

We have about 5 or 6 UK and Irish citizens in our Remote Year group. Another handful are EU citizens. When Brexit happened, our collective group was devastated along with them. We cried with them, consoled them and turned into sounding boards for all their fears, anger and sadness. We couldn’t imagine what they were feeling aside from absolute confusion and uncertainty, yet all of the Americans knew that in 5 months time we might be turning to them for the same support.

Living in Spain and watching what’s happening in the UK makes it so much more real, and so much more frightening. Yesterday, Spain had a national vote that’d determine the future of their government’s policies. Through the rest of this year and into early 2017, some major elections across Europe are happening that will determine the fate of the European Union.

It’s surreal to be living in Europe and at the same time watch it begin to tear itself apart.

Yeah, I’ve also seen a lot of beautiful things in Valencia and in the area around here this last month. I’ve taken a lot of great photos and shared them on Instagram. And I’ve eaten some super delicious food, made some good friends, and had my first visitor from back home.

But this year is bigger than all that. It’s about being a global citizen and, ultimately, being a better human.