When it comes to personality types, I’m solidly type A. I consider myself highly motivated and very organized. Indeed, I’ve been one of the lucky ones who grew up never doubting what she wanted to be when she was old enough to go out into the "real world" — which, for this Southern-bred woman from the western mountains of North Carolina, only meant one thing. It was New York City or bust for me.
Three short months after graduating college, I high-tailed it as fast as my half-off Target pumps could get me to the Big Apple. Or, more specifically, to Brooklyn, on the couch of a girl I had never technically met. I didn’t have much then: a few thousand dollars, a few suitcases, and what I now realize was blind ambition. For me, there was no going backwards, there was no possibility for defeat. I was going to be a writer in NYC, and I was going to make all of my dreams come true, no matter how hard I had to work for it.
And in more ways than I could have imagined at that point in my life: I did. I worked for well-known publications and media corporations. I landed bylines from brands that actually wanted to hear what I had to say. And my anchor was a fun, full-time job with great community and perks at a popular startup I love and believe in.
I built not only my career, but a group of friends who feel more like family, a padded savings account, street savvy, and confidence. And while my parents would have given me the world if they could have, I consider myself self-made from the ground up — a feat that I’m not only proud of, but one that helps me give back to the two folks who always told me I could do it if I tried hard enough.
The only kink in this carefully-planned (and at times, incredibly overwhelming) life of mine was this aching pit in my stomach. Here I was, doing all of the things that I had dreamt about since I was a snaggle-toothed seven year-old… and all I wanted to do was throw everything up in the air and (pardon my language, ma) say:
And so a few months ago, I did.
Well sort of... in the way a type-A person does make a big move. I applied, and was lucky to be accepted into a program called Remote Year. Every year, 300 people whose work allows them the digital nomad life are accepted, and I’ll be part of a group of 75 that begin our journey in Croatia in late July.
Designed for working professionals, as opposed to recent backpacker-type college grads, your monthly fee includes a co-working space, a private room with an apartment or hotel, and your travel between countries. For just a pinch more than what I’m paying to live in NYC’s East Village neighborhood, I’ll now have the chance to live — and freelance — from Europe, Asia, and South America over the next year. I'll now be writing full-time as a writer and content strategist, working my own hours on my own time, in whatever timezone I happen to be living in each month.
Sounds great, right? It does. Truly.
It’s also been a rollercoaster of emotions that I didn’t fully expect. When the opportunity finally knocked on my door, I found myself teetering between wanting to stick to my straight-and-narrow lifeline that felt so comforting, and being inspired to truly challenge myself to take a risk, quit my full-time job, put my things in storage, and open myself up to whatever experiences I’m about to have. Here’s what it’s been like to apply, join, and decide to take this year-long excursion — and why I couldn’t be more excited to begin this chapter of my life:
How and Why I Applied
Around my 28th birthday last September, I finally accepted the fact that I was inching closer toward feeling depressed than just having a few rough days. And though it felt like sadness that was brewing, it was more anxiety than anything. I had everything I thought I wanted (except maybe a boyfriend, but hey) and yet, I was feeling increasingly more miserable. After beginning therapy, I found out about this program — Remote Year — that basically answered some of the more important questions that plagued me: Did I want to work full-time? And did I want to stay in New York? And, did I have the time to do all of the things I wanted to do before responsibilities (like dem babies) started lining up. I knew I needed a push to take the leap from working a 9-6 to making my own hours as a writer and content strategist, and Remote Year was that diving board. After two rounds of applications via the Internet, I had a Skype interview. And within a few weeks, I was jumping up and down in glee, in shock that I now had my ticket to see the world.
How It’ll Work
While Remote Year is an American-based company (sort of, employees do work from all over, too), the program invites any nationality to apply. Though I haven’t physically met anyone on my trip yet, we’ve been introducing ourselves via a private Facebook group. So far? Tons of people from the U.S. — from New York like me, to California and plenty of middle states in between. An Australian. Someone from France. And Ireland. And the list goes on. We all have various backgrounds, ages and reasons for signing up for Remote Year, but without ever meeting them, I can see the tie that brings us together: We’re all so thirsty. We’re all ready to strike up our curiosity, try new things, witness once-in-a-lifetime sunsets and let the world change us, as it will. Over the next year, we’ll travel together once a month as we change countries or cities, we’ll live together, we’ll work together in a co-working space... and I’m sure we’ll take side-trips to soak up as many passport stamps as we can. Remote Year doesn’t set our hours — that’s up to us! — instead, they facilitate the space for us to be productive… and braver than we were in our hometowns.
How I’m Starting
I tend to subscribe to the idea that the universe will guide you if you open yourself up to the signs it’s sending. What some may see as simple coincidences, I like to see as my guiding posts, nudging me to listen to my gut, instead of doodling pro-con lists. But when Remote Year presented itself, the signs didn’t just appear, they started shouting at me. From a psychic’s prediction coming true (she said I’d quit my job in June) to stumbling across my late great grandfather’s cigarette case from World War I that I grew up adoring, and noticing that the country featured was none-other than Croatia, the first stop on my trip — there’s been no way to ignore the symbols.
For the practical Virgo that I (proudly) am, a big one was the timing of my lease: It ends on July 25. Remote Year starts on July 30. Meaning, I won’t lose any money in the process, and I'll get to start the adventure early. I’ll be heading out on a one-way ticket to Athens with my best friend to celebrate a big birthday, exploring the islands and getting my Instagram warmed up while staying at Santo Maris Oia Luxury Suites and Spa. From there, I’ll fly into Split on our arrival day, probably bursting at the seams that I get to meet my 74 new friends, finally.
The funny thing about Remote Year, especially for a planner like me. is that there are still tons of unknowns, even though I’ve signed on the dotted line. I don’t know my address in Split. Or Prague. Or Kyoto. Or Buenos Aires. I don’t know if I’ll have a queen-sized or twin-sized bed. No idea if I’ll be staying in an apartment or a hotel, or who my roommates will be.
And my work? I don’t know how freelancing through various time zones will be. Or who I’ll meet. Or if I’ll enjoy remote work (though, I’m pretty positive I’ll dig it). I don’t know which of my friends in New York will come visit, or if I’ll come back to call the city home again, once the journey is over.
But if you’re going to quit your job, to travel the world for a year, and take a chance on variables you can’t predict or plan, there couldn’t have been a bigger sign it was the perfect timing for me to set sail. I’ll turn 29 during our second month (likely, in Vienna) and when I return stateside, I’ll turn 30 six weeks later. As the truly last hoorah of my twenties, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this decade.
Because do we ever know what’s next? Nah. But travel allows us to board a plane, let it all go, and let the world guide you where you need to go. All you need is a carry-on… and maybe some of that blind ambition, too.
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