2016 was a year of adjustment for me. I found myself in a new role at DNSimple; I became a full-time employee, I began living by myself for the first time, I got a dog, and planned for what would be a year of even more adjustment in 2017.
If you were one of the three or four people that read the post announcing my arrival at DNSimple, you'll remember that one of the dreams I had when signing up for remote work was to explore the world as I hack away on the application you (hopefully) know and love.
That's always been my goal, but as I started thinking and planning… it seemed much more difficult and much less "romantic" than I originally thought. Traveling is always great in my opinion, but when traveling for extended periods of time it's easy to get to a point where you feel alone, without a home, and without any sort of support system around you. It can get overwhelming, and it can make you incredibly homesick.
Luckily, some people solved that problem for me. During the summer of 2016 I signed up for a program called Remote Year. Have a look for yourself, but I'll say some things about Remote Year real quick. Basically they organize, plan, and execute virtually all of the logistics when it comes to traveling. Housing, planes, busses, local events, and—most importantly—friends! They do this for a large group of remote workers (in my case, 80) who want to travel the world while working. 12 cities, 10 countries, 12 months. January has been step one - I'm now on my final week in Mexico City. It's been a crazy month for me to say the least; let's dive in to it a little bit.
Right out of the gate I was hit in the face with something I did not expect during the first week of Remote Year. FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is a real problem here. As I mentioned, our group (dubbed Meraki) rolls 80 deep. That's a lot of friends. However, while we all have love for each other as members of the same tribe, you still have to get to know someone before you can call them a friend. During the first few days, everyone is on the same page; "Where are you from?", "What do you do?", "What made you decide to do Remote Year?". But some people cap off the night out at a club, others go out to a swanky dinner, some go explore. Obviously, these people start to make closer bonds with one another. That sounds expected and perfectly reasonable. What makes it different in this particular situation, though, is that these people aren't work acquaintances, they're not friends (yet), and they're not random people you won't see too much of in the future. What I mean by that is, you have to speak to your colleagues, you want to speak to your friends, and it isn't necessary to be friends with people you don't see often.
The Remote Year clan falls on a different end of that spectrum. It's closer to high school or college than anything else. Think about that for a second. Think back to the days where "fitting in" was a concern of yours. Only, even then, you likely had your own friends you could fall back on at the end of the day. When you're in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, if you don't fall into a group at some point soon, you run the risk of feeling isolated and alone… despite the fact that you're in a group of 80 people. Of course everyone is willing to make friends later. But if you go out with a group for the first time on their fourth outing, you're stuck being the guy that's asking all of the "day one questions," which can make you feel like you're in a permanent state of catching up.
The biggest hurdle to overcome is the fact that in this case, Remote Year (unlike work or school) isn't the only thing any of us are doing. We all have responsibilities which are the thing that enables us to be doing Remote Year. Though being a part of this program could be a full-time endeavor on its own, with its countless events, outings, and collaborative efforts; it's important to recognize that those things aren't and shouldn't be your number one priority. The priority has to remain as your job, otherwise you might lose both. For me, this meant shifting my work schedule a little bit. Back in Chicago, I'd work into the wee hours of the night, sleep in, and take several breaks throughout the day. That doesn't quite align with the schedules of everyone surrounding me, and keeping with that schedule would mean a lot of loneliness for little arnamak. Over the past few weeks I've been adjusting to a much more "human" work schedule. I wake up at a reasonable hour, join the chat, and get to work early in the day. Lunch is now lunch instead of breakfast, my night ends around 2 rather than starts, and I get to see a lot more daylight (which is great when you're in sunny Mexico, as opposed to gray and gloomy wintertime Chicago). So far it's been working well, especially this close to a full month in to the program. I don't feel like I've missed too much, I've been able to contribute with DNSimple, and I've made a lot of friends I'm eager to get to know better over the course of 2017.
Enough about your feelings brah, how's CDMX?
Mexico City has been a complete surprise since I arrived at my apartment for the first time. For a city you don't hear much about on a global scale, I'd go so far as to call it a hidden gem. It's absolutely gorgeous here. I wasn't expecting there to be parks literally everywhere, I wasn't expecting a city covered in trees, nor was I expecting the constant 70-degree sunny weather. Outside of that you have the food, the people, and the cost of living; all of which rank 10 out of 10. This Saturday we leave for the next city on our itinerary, Bogotà. It's bittersweet, because I feel I could easily spend more time in DF…but at the same time I am excited to see and get to know a new place the same way I've gotten to know Mexico City.
To be perfectly honest, although I've seen a lot of what Mexico City has to offer, it does feel like I'm in a bit of a bubble being with Remote Year. As amazingly vibrant and engaging as the neighborhoods of Condesa, Roma Norte, and Juarez are, they are a sliver of Mexico City. Generally we stick to these areas, though we are free to roam elsewhere, because it is where all of our apartments are located, where our workspace is located, and where we know how to get around. If I were traveling with my friends, we may have made more of an effort to go out and explore; embracing the not-knowing of the areas we want to see. Some of it can also be chalked up to the fact that I am not on vacation; an hour-long traffic-ridden journey to another area of the city is a touch more difficult to incorporate to your work day than it would be if you were taking some time off. One could use the weekend for such ventures, however it seems weekends are more catered to side-trips where the remotes, between themselves, organize an adventure to a variety of out-of-town locations; including Playa Del Carmen, Cancun, Tulum, Oaxaca, Puebla, Guatemala, and Cuba.
There's a saying that we use in Bosnia when making Palaćinke (crepes), roughly translated it goes something like: "the first one is for the dogs". What that means is you generally take the first crepe you make and either throw it away or feed it to the dogs. This is because you're still trying to find the right temperature of the pan, gauge how much you pour into the pan to get a perfect layer, and find the amount of time this batch is going to take to cook. So the first Palaćinak is very much a test subject, it's never meant to be perfect, it's meant to help you figure out how to make the rest of them perfect. Mexico City was not perfect, but I feel like everything that went "wrong" this month will only serve to make the coming months better. I don't expect every month from here on out to go flawlessly, but I do think that as we iterate it's only going to get better, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of this year goes.