So. I'm leaving Remote Year, and I'm telling you why.
Why I'm leaving: RY is too hard on my relationship.
This, above all, is the reason Jeff and I are leaving. Apart from this, we likely would have stayed.
Remote Year can be a tough way to exist in day-to-day life. Every single emotion you can possibly imagine is something you'll feel - sometimes daily. It's exhausting and there's a lot of negativity in a lot of genres.
That piece is hard to explain, and I've written about it before. For now, trust me that Remote Year is an emotional roller coaster for absolutely everyone on the program.
That's hard enough as a single person. Now compound those emotions as a couple.
The roller coaster is rarely in sync. When Jeff is on a travel high, I'm cranky and tired and feeling ill. My mood crushes his happy. When I'm feeling blissful, Jeff is cranky and tired and mad at the world. His negativity crushes my happy. We're never aligned, and rarely have moments of simultaneous gratitude for the other person.
I can't count how many times that has happened. Those moments build on each other in a terrible cycle that only ends in contempt. A month of hard goes by, and we realize that we both feel unloved... but simultaneously love the other person dearly. We've just had no emotional energy to show it.
That's not to mention the fact that we don't get a break from each other. We live together, walk to the coworking space together, work in the same room, eat together, travel together. We have very little time apart, even when we schedule solitude. We run the same (tiny) circles and never get a break. That's unique to Remote Year.
And so the cycle continues, quickly snowballing and never really dissipating.
So many of our problems will be immediately alleviated upon exiting the program. It's worth mentioning that none of Remote Year 1's non-married couples stayed together. I can see why. This program erodes a relationship, and I value Jeff and my partnership way more than I value traveling with this program. That makes our decision simple.
The only responsible choice, for the good of our relationship, is to leave Remote Year. So we're making that choice.
On the plus side, getting through this with so much love still intact means we can probably get through anything. Because yes, it's been hard, but we love each other just as much as when we started. Probably more, because it's not a love based in warm fuzzy feelings. It's based in choice and action. Like damn adults.
THE SIMPLEr REASON: I LOVE A GUY WHO GOT A DREAM JOB IN NYC.
Career is hugely important to both me and to Jeff. I certainly know what it's like to leave a job that was a terrible fit and land somewhere that makes you starry-eyed. I'm in my dream job. Jeff wasn't. But now he is.
That job is in Manhattan. It isn't remote. He doesn't want it to be remote - he likes working in an office. And, so, we made the choice to leave Remote Year in favor of a wholly different adventure: moving to NYC together. Neither of us have ever lived in a big city before. This is all very new and very exciting.
As a single person, I probably wouldn't make the same choice.
That realization took me a while to come to terms with. In many ways, I still see myself as the post-divorce, free, in-control, defiant Taylor. I still am all of those things.
Single Taylor would still be on Remote Year (the next section could make you question my sincerity here, but I do actually feel this way).
But I'm not a single person, and at the end of the day, I'm giving this relationship a fair shot. It matters. I value this partnership and I choose to make it sustainable. That might be controversial, you might think me anti-feminist, but you're wrong.
This isn't Jeff forcing me to leave something I love in order for him to do something he loves. This is a joint decision, a choice made to maximize happiness for both of us. This is on my terms - on our terms.
I am not an N of 1 and I cannot act as though I am. Jeff is a priority.
The secondary reason: RY, as a business, frustrates me.
My biggest professional strength is marketing strategy. Which, often, is just plain business strategy. Good marketing isn't just a perfectly curated Instagram channel- it's about having good business practices to begin with.
I say that to demonstrate that my professional knowledge makes me feel well-versed enough to judge Remote Year on this point.
And they get a low grade. To their credit, that grade is improving. They're starting to actually listen to their current clients (hey, shocker, we have voices and people listen to us) and make changes based on things we're upset about. Previously, the response was essentially "tough shit, this is how it is."
Yeahhh that's not the way to operate a client services company. The companies that win aren't the companies that try to eek every penny out of every client. The companies that win make decisions that cater to existing customers - not piss them off - and recognize when to take the high road (aka a short term loss for a long term gain), and handle attrition with grace.
The companies that win play a long game, not one of short-term revenue optimization. RY plays the short-term revenue optimization game, (probably) in order to maximize cash flow and grow more quickly. Which really frustrates me. You're doing it wrong, RY.
Remote Year was founded by two people with a lot of drive. Drive is always so valued, so revered in our society, but there's a fatal flaw in ambition.
Drive can lead to wanting to grow a business too quickly. To set huge growth goals, talk about those goals openly, and pursue that growth while sacrificing a lot. It's a trap that a lot of entrepreneurs fall into. Don't be Zenefits, Remote Year.
It's understandable to want to grow quickly, but here's the thing. A technology company desperately working to grow to 10M app users is different than Remote Year's goal of getting 10K participants. Because the responsibility to each set of users (/ clients) is wholly different. Remote Year cannot responsibly set the growth goals they're trying to achieve.
Here's why I think that. Using an app is a small part of a person's livelihood. So, that company scaling quickly to gain more app users can make a ton of mistakes without really changing the lives of their customer. Remote Year is, de facto, every single piece of my life. It's my work (because I rely on them to be able to do my job), it's my home, my leisure time, my calendar, my friends, my livelihood.
If you screw up at a tech company and treat your clients poorly, it's a problem, yes - but it's a problem that impacts a small moment of that person's daily life. But Remote Year's decisions truly impact the livelihoods of the individuals they serve. Not just their employees - their clients, too.
I'm not convinced that the founders understand the responsibility they have to us, as their clients. We are not a typical client. The stakes are higher. You can't act like a nimble, fast-growth startup when you have the responsibility that RY shoulders.
I gave control over to a company whose whose decision-making processes I don't trust. The decisions are made strategically to optimize for growth, not to create an awesome program. Their financials are built to cover the high attrition they've built in to their model, rather than strategically trying to minimize that attrition by improving their product.
I'm biased, yes, but I think they make more wrong decisions than they should. As a marketer, as a businessperson, I cannot endorse Remote Year.
But that doesn't mean I'd refuse to stick it out if I were on my own.
Am I burning a bridge with this post?
Quite possibly. I don't generally believe in burning bridges. But in this case, I think honesty and transparency wins.
You'll read other blogs, hear other voices, talk about the downsides of Remote Year. How accommodations are inconsistent, how new policies are enacted seemingly randomly with no voice from the community, how it's expensive and not worth the money.
Yeah, those are valid concerns, but that's not necessarily the point I'm making.
I bring up a larger, more systemic issue. Remote Year's leadership cares about scaling the company and growing quickly. Period. That comes at the expense of those who are on Remote Year.
I disagree with their business philosophies. I believe in building great products first and foremost, and basing all growth upon a quality service. Remote Year isn't doing that.
I wouldn't have left for that reason alone, because goodness knows I'll miss my friends more than I care about being right, but it's something that makes me feel better about parting ways.
So what now?
I'm traveling on my own for a little while, through Europe, before I meet Jeff in New York. He's already there. We need a little time apart to hit the reset button.
After that, we'll have a home base on the Upper West Side. I'll travel several times per year, often for a month or so at a time. I'm not sacrificing nomadism. I'm just making my own pace.
When I was exhausted, completely at the end of my rope, after bouts of illness in La Paz, Jenn told me to slow down. Slow means something different for everyone - for Jenn, it means staying in one place for months before moving. For me, it means coming home often and traveling for shorter periods. One month instead of six.
I want to travel, I still want to work from anywhere, but I want to come home.
That's tough to do when you don't have a home.
My new itinerary:
- June: London
- July: Dubrovnic, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Amsterdam
- August: NYC and North Carolina, to see my friends and family
- September: NYC, Lisbon, Porto, Morocco, Barcelona
- After that, for the forseeable future: NYC.
Trips that are probably next on the list:
- A very relaxing beach with Jeff
- San Fran, with Chloe, in early 2017
- Japan, with Jeff
- Scotland, with Chloe, in a few years
- Rocky mountains, with Jeff
- Somewhere with Amanda. Where do you want to go, Amanda?
Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.