It's my last week of Remote Year and I can't believe how quickly a year has flown by.
I've done so many things. Met so many people. Changed in so many ways (yet stayed the same, I finally understand this song, Wallflowers!). And instead of finishing up my weekly documentation posts this week, I'm going to focus on a few word-heavy blog posts every day.
In honor of our last week, I'll put out a post a day about Remote Year. Questions will be answered, you'll probably be annoyed by some of it, you'll hopefully laugh at some of it, but mainly, this is for my Ikigai fam. The posts will highlight the ups, the downs, some inside jokes that outsiders may not get, (and that's okay) and my feelings, thoughts, and learnings. And if you're thinking about doing Remote Year yourself, maybe this will convince to 100% absolutely do it because it's incredibly life-changing and horrible and amazing and hard AF - in the best way possible. Confusing? Yes, it is. Worth it? Yes, it is.
Keep in mind these posts are meant to be un-edited - they're the first things that have popped into my mind, and I'm keeping a time limit for myself: one hour.
So, with that small intro being said and me having already wasted 10 minutes - let's get down to business.
Remote Year screwed me up.
Nothing like brutal honesty, huh? Yet, I feel this happened for the best reasons possible. And I'm sure people will see this click-bait headline and be all, "YEAH REMOTE YEAR SUCKS I KNEW IT" and cue the comments section of the Remote Year ad on Facebook (which, by the way, is ridiculous. One guy thinks we are all part of a sex-traffic ring. Seriously. I mean, if that's what I signed up for, I want my money back.) Anywho, allow me to explain...
What I once thought was the answer to living my dreams has now turned into, "Holy crap what do I even want to do with my life? What should my career be? Do I go back to advertising? Do I keep my remote job of love-maker (matchmaker) while continuing to travel sans group? Do I move to California, pick up in the ad business where I left off, and basically just pretend none of this ever happened? Can I travel on my own and enjoy it just as much without my rocks (my group) behind me? Do I try to go completely freelance? Do I start another business? Do I ignore the pure fear I have about not knowing any of the answers to these questions? How can I even begin to express what I'm feeling to the people that I now care so deeply about within this group? Am I going to go home and then roam around Rome and Europe forever? Will my friends forgive me for not keeping in touch as often as I should have and still take me in with open arms? WHERE AM I LIVING IN THREE WEEKS?"
All of these things are now weighing on my mind. My anxiety has skyrocketed because I've never been so unsure of what's happening in my life at any other point and time. Did part of me think I'd go back to Dallas or some other city, get another writing or art director position, and be grateful that I lived more in a year than most people live their entire life? Yes. Am I now questioning a career change, more travel, and a flexible lifestyle over any of that? Yes.
Remote Year screwed me up because I now know that I can actually do anything that I want to do.
Over the course of the year, I took on random jobs that I never thought I'd be doing. I made money in so many ways. I'm not in total and absolute debt! I started a business and failed. I have another business idea that I want to start. Do I know what I'm doing? Hell. No.
I've climbed mountains that literally made it hard to breathe. But once I took that breath of fresh air at 17,000 feet, I thought,
"Damn. This is what it's about."
I cheers'ed a beer with my friends and almost fell to my death off the slippery, snowy slope that was in front of us. But I didn't. I survived. And that's what this year has been about. Getting by. Pushing through. Surpassing limits. Realizing potential.
Remote Year screwed me up because I'm not afraid of the unknown.
Now that I've got this so-called freedom, it's almost too much to think about. I've got plans for the next three weeks of my life and then...*shrug*. No idea what's going to happen. And yet, while we're on Remote Year, planning three weeks ahead is RIDICULOUS.
Remote Year screwed me up because now I actually have to plan my own shit.
Seriously. This is a biggie. These people (program leaders, mostly) have been my travel agents, apartment locators, assistants, and best friends, and they freakin' work for the company. You've got people planning your travel for you to your next country that you'll be living in. Your flights are covered. Your roommate will wake you up to catch your flight, even when you stayed out too late the night before. They'll bang on your door, call your cell phone, and take on the responsibilities that you should have taken on yourself. Your program leaders are your parents and will be there for you when you're locked out of your apartment at 4 AM, about to break down and cry because it was just one of those nights that you wanted to ghost and go home and crawl into bed because sometimes, this lifestyle just gets the best of you.
Claire will hold you on her shoulder and whisper adorable, calming phrases in your ear - sometimes of which are in broken English - which somehow makes it even more comforting.
Gianni will be there ready to make you laugh and cheer you up because he's wearing that ridiculous bear onesie with a poncho over it and it's 100 degrees outside but damnit, that's his travel day outfit. A bear onesie. Beer in hand and passport in the other, you'll smile because, how can you not?
Remote Year screwed me up because I now feel less relatable to people who haven't done it.
Every time I talk to someone from back home, the questions that they ask me are extremely hard to answer. The most common? "What's been your favorite country?!" UGH. (Hint: another post coming soon about this.)
I don't know, Martha. Every place is different. Every person I've lived with has been a different experience. Every single city has been amazing in its own way. Do I have favorite things about places? Sure. The people. The cultures. The foods. The apartments. The workspaces. The cafes. The coffee. The alcohols. I could go on and on. Case and point?
I don't know what to say to these people.
I don't know how to respond to people on Facebook who are petty and comment "must be nice" on my travel photos when deep down, I know that that photo was taken when I was pissed off at something, late for a work deadline, or feeling alone and withdrawn. But social media depicts other things, obviously. I don't know how to explain how this life isn't as glamorous as everyone may think. I don't know how to do it without feeling like I should be grateful and cherishing every moment that I get to live this incredible dream instead of complaining about the "hardships" I'm going through. Somehow, this has made me unrelatable.
I don't have anything to contribute when my friends send snap chats of "happy hour" or "work lunches" or "the drama" with so-and-so. I feel horrible when I think, "Oh, you went hiking? Ha. Ha, that's nothing compared to XYZ" (Hint: another post coming on this topic as well!) IT MAKES ME FEEL HORRIBLE. But I've lived experiences that I would've never done without this group (i.e. hiking. WTF, I hate hiking, but now I'm some sort of hiking maniac.) and it's seriously hard for me to hold back the things that I want to say or the advice I want to give - I'm not sure if it sounds helpful or annoying. Normally, I'd never question these types of things. But the people that I'm leaving behind have been through all of this insanity with me. They know me. They've seen me at my absolute worst. They've seen me at my absolute happiest. They've been there, by my side, pushing me forward. Always. I won't have that back home, and I won't have anything other than a WhatsApp group to lean on when I need a reminder of this. That being said...
Remote Year screwed me up because I've become part of a new family and now I may not see many of them again for a very long time.
Can I imagine planning my own travel? Sure. Do I want to do it alone? Not really. It's not the organization or planning aspect - I'm good at that. But the thought of a journey similar to what we've been on without the people that I'm on it with seems awfully lonely.
It's hard to process how we've all got friends that we've known our entire lives - for me, just a handful of those - and so many acquaintances that we've met over years and years. And yet, somehow, this group of random people from all over the world have become people that I feel the most comfortable with. I genuinely feel as if I could call any one of them, say, "SUP I'm in your city, wanna go to Croatia next week?" And they'd be all, "LOL sure you cray what's the cheapest flight option?"
I guess I've always been somewhat of a floater when it comes to friends; typically I have many and have never been part of any particular "clique", even in high school and college. My friends come from all backgrounds, all sorts of interests, and the diversity that's within that is something that makes me extremely proud. But I've got a very small group of very close "best friends". It's no different in the case of Remote Year - I'm friends with everyone, but I feel as if it's a stronger bond than something that would normally come about while meeting new people. We range in age, skill sets, skin colors, race, jobs, stages in life, interests - a LOT of things. But I've never felt so close to such a wide range of people in my life; it's an amazing feeling, and it's screwed me up. Will we ever be in a group like this again our lives? Will we reunite and will it feel the same? (HOPEFULLY!!!)
I will miss these people like no other.
The last few weeks have been a ball of emotions for everyone. Our farewell party was two days ago and we watched this video that one of our fellow Remotes made for us - a lot of people cried and hugged and slowly we're all realizing that this thing is ending fast and hard. Me? No tears. Lots of hugs. I don't think I've come to terms with reality yet. Which is part of the reason I'm writing these. I think I need an outlet, so excuse me for rambling, but if you're reading this, I hope it gives you some insight into me and the way I think and how incredibly amazing this journey has been for me.
I've got a few more posts coming up, and I'm excited to get them down on electronic paper so that you all can get mad at/laugh/cry/go through these emotions with me.
I'll end with a quote that kind of sums this up because I'm almost out of time on this post - one hour goes quick! But it's one of my new favorites, and I hope it resonates. Be on the lookout for my other posts this week.
"One is reminded, at a level deeper than all words, how making a living and making a life sometimes point in opposite directions." - Pico Iyer
Professional writer, designer, and do-it-aller. Remote Year citizen/alum. Currently living in San Francisco and probably trying to avoid the terrifying amounts of pigeons.