What We Learned After Traveling A Year With 75 Digital Nomads

One year ago, 75 strangers from around the world packed up their lives, bid farewell to loved ones, and boarded one-way flights to Prague. They weren’t going on vacation, studying abroad or relocating for work. They didn’t have friends in town, speak the language or know who was waiting for them upon arrival. All they brought were a few pieces of luggage and a jumble of emotions in anticipation.

These 75 strangers descended into Prague to make up the inaugural Remote Year program. Of the 25,000 initial applicants, this group of “remotes” was called upon to put their lives on hold and travel the world with us for a year. To call this situation crazy would be a colossal understatement. The remotes took a leap of faith on us having a program in place; we took a leap of faith that they would even show up at the airport; and together we dove headfirst into the adventure ahead.

Fast forward 12 cities and 12 months and our journey has now come to an end. Few words can do the last year justice. It was incredibly challenging and rewarding, comical and heartbreaking, profound and saddening — an all-encompassing and life-changing experience.

Looking back to the beginnings of Remote Year, we’re amazed by how far we’ve come. Stemming from a simple desire to see the world with friends, Remote Year has evolved to become a symbol of autonomy, a stance against routine and a movement to revolutionize the way we live and work. Navigating the digital nomad world has taught us a lot this past year but undoubtedly, we learned the most from the remotes themselves. Here are a few of our favorite goals and lessons…

We set out to prove that good work isn’t always achieved in the cubicle. Our remotes not only demonstrated they can be productive outside the office, but showed us that great work can be done from anywhere in the world. We watched them crunch numbers from co-working spaces Ljubljana, code from bungalows in Thailand, take meetings poolside in Argentina, and write from rooftops in Istanbul.

Our biggest learning: Your best work happens when you feel inspired. It’s hard to find inspiration in routine. The daily grind is monotonous, stale and designed to muffle creativity. Shake up your environment and watch how much more productive, motivated and happy you will become. We hope to see a world where everyone is inspired by their lives and eager to weave that excitement into everything they do.

We also wanted to show that having authentic experiences is one of the most valuable things in life. As a society, we’re placing less and less importance on ownership of material things and more value on accumulating life experiences. The remotes proved this month to month as they gradually shed their belongings and saw how much more mental and physical space freed up for new adventures and memories.

Our biggest learning: You don’t need a bunch of shit to be happy. Once you overcome your initial separation anxiety from plastics and leathers, you’ll wonder how you ever let yourself get bogged down by so much stuff that don’t provide any real value to your life. Instead, you’re better off investing in authentic experiences that give you things money can never buy.

At the highest level, we dream of living in a more empathic world, which begins with more empathetic people. We can accomplish this by pulling people out of their comfort zones and plugging them into diverse global communities. The remotes have shown that complete immersion in the unfamiliar can fundamentally change how one thinks, behaves and views their surroundings. Whoever goes through this experience will forever move through the world with newfound sensitivity, awareness and purpose, leaving each place and person better than before their encounter.

Our biggest learning: Being a member of a global community will make you a better global citizen. Surrounding yourself with people of diverse backgrounds not only gives an appreciation for other walks of life, but also a chance to look within and learn how you fit in and react to the world. The Remote Year community provides a small sampling of that diversity but the real growth comes from experiencing the world together and helping each other observe, digest and apply those lessons to your own life.

Looking forward, we want to pioneer a global and cultural movement that not only encourages people to experience the world, but also maintain a career, run a business or explore a passion while doing so. We want to show that location independence is not a trend, fantasy, or temporary vacation from reality, but rather, a sustainable and long-term lifestyle. It’s no longer a debate between keeping your job or traveling — it’s now become a question of why are you only doing one or the other?

The remote revolution surely won’t happen overnight but we’re determined to lead the way. Our drive comes from the accomplishments and growth we’ve witnessed from our remotes and we can’t wait to see what greatness lies ahead for Remote Nation.

We hope you’ll join our movement and tag along for this crazy ride.

Greg is the founder and CEO of Remote Year, a year-long program for digital nomads to travel the world while working remotely.