By Zoe Weiner
Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job to travel the world? Yeah, same. While working an 80-hour-a-week job in the fashion industry, I daydreamed nonstop about packing a suitcase, buying a one-way ticket to somewhere on the other side of the planet, and having an adventure. Last year, when I had had enough of life in the big city, I finally did it. Now, I’m working as a freelance writer and traveling the world with a program called Remote Year. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made — and it definitely leads to lots of questions from friends, family members and perfect strangers. Here are the things people ask me most often about my current lifestyle.
Wait — what the heck is a “remote year”?
Basically, it’s a year of telecommuting — or working remotely — while traveling the world with a community of 60-80 other people. We live in a different country each month for 12 months, and pay the company a monthly fee to arrange our travel, accommodations and workspaces in each new destination. They also set up local events (like food tours and surf lessons), and we have two program leaders who help things run seamlessly (and generally make our lives a lot easier). Some people call it “travel with training wheels” because you don’t have to think about any logistics.
What do you do for work?
I’m a freelance women’s lifestyle writer specializing in beauty, wellness and travel. I work with a number of different publications including Bustle, Well + Good, Teen Vogue, Glamour, Allure, Glam.com and Marie Claire. I also have a blog, Letsjustzo.com. There’s no such thing as a “normal day” for me, but most days you’ll find me sending pitches to editors, setting up interviews (and then actually doing interviews, which isn’t always easy with a time difference), trying out new treatments or experiences to write about, and then actually writing the stories.
How did you get your bosses to agree to this crazy thing?
Because I’m a freelancer, I didn’t technically need anyone’s permission to flee the country for a year. A month before I left, I e-mailed my editors to let them know what was going on, but assured them that I would still be able to meet my deadlines on time. I was lucky to have really strong relationships with the publications (and, more importantly, the people) I worked with, so they never doubted that I’d be able to do my job from overseas.
Where have you been so far?
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Bangkok, Thailand; Belgrade, Serbia; Lisbon, Portugal; Prague, Czech Republic; and Sofia, Bulgaria. I’m currently on month nine, living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will then head to Cordoba, Argetina; Santiago, Chile; and Lima, Peru before the program ends in February 2018.
What has been the hardest part of this whole working/traveling thing?
Figuring out the whole “work/life balance” thing. I’m not going to lie — sitting down to write a story is pretty unappealing when there’s a festival to go to, an artisan market to visit or some local food to try (and trust me, there always is), but I’ve learned to mold my work schedule around the other things I want to do. Sometimes that means staying up all night or waking up at the crack of dawn to meet a deadline, but it’s worth it.
What do you wish people knew about the program?
This isn’t a vacation! Even though my Instagram feed is filled with dozens of pictures from beaches and beautiful backdrops, the reality is that most of my time really is spent in an office, which isn’t that different from my life in New York. Just because we’re living in a new place each month doesn’t mean we aren’t working!
What advice would you give freelancers thinking of doing Remote Year?
Just do it! In my opinion, there is nothing more inspiring than travel. And as long as you are a good communicator, and prioritize maintaining relationships with your bosses and editors, you’ll be able to make it work.
To follow along with the rest of this adventure, follow me on Instagram @zoeweinerrr and check out my blog. If you have any more questions about Remote Year, my work or just freelancing in general, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.