What I think will happen to Remote Year

When I talk about the issues with Remote Year, there's a question that inevitably pops up:

"So what do you think will happen to them?"

Current and former participants have varying views on the matter. Some are staunchly convinced that RY will figure it out and get there eventually. They're ride or die participants, and they trust that everything will come together. We didn't sign up for easy!

Others give RY a year, max, before they go out of business. They've experienced the rampant issues firsthand and so they'll scoff, incredulous that RY has managed to stay afloat this long. They're completely incompetent!

I think both views are myopic. Getting out of your comfort zone doesn't need to mean handing your daily life over to a company that makes decisions averse to your wellbeing. Changing your reality and disassociating yourself with a company you don't respect and don't trust is a perfectly adult thing to do. At the same time, a company that screws up - a lot - still can do enough things well to keep going for a while.

I don't think Remote Year will figure it out, but I also don't think they'll crash and burn anytime soon.

I think they'll die a slow death.

Here's what will happen before they call it quits.

 

Remote Year will raise VC.

I've mentioned before that RY's actions show that they care about growth before all else. It's more important than creating a good program, and way more important than lowering attrition.

I think it's because they're trying to raise.

In Q2 of 2015, they had one active program. In Q3, they started recruitment for the second (mine). In Q4, before the second program had launched, they started recruitment for the third.

Today, in early Q4 of 2016, they have:

  • One completed program
  • Four active programs
  • One program starting later this year
  • Several slated for 2017.

Issues aside, that's impressive growth. And their revenue numbers aren't shabby, either. I put together a quick back-of-the-envelope to show where they make their money, and the approximate value:

Click on the chart to make it bigger.

This is a hugely mega rough guess and the revenue numbers are certainly off. Changing the assumed values, for which I took a wild guess (like number of applications who make it to the essay round, which requires a $50 fee, or average number of months that participants who don't complete the program stay on the program) changes the revenue numbers significantly.

Some important things to note:

  • The initial deposit isn't a deposit, because you never get it back. It's actually a fee.
  • Starting with RY4, the initial deposit changed to $5,000. The 12th month is included in the deposit. RY did this to account for their high attrition rate. If you leave halfway through the program, RY still gets a chunk of money from you. When I say that RY has accounted for their high attrition rate in their financials, this is the kind of decision that I'm referencing.
  • RY used to have exit fees if you left the program early. They did away with exit fees because too many of us refused to pay and some threatened legal action. Now, they wrap the exit fee into the initial deposit, so you pay before you're pissed. Smart.
  • I used RY-cited numbers when I could. E.g.: they've publicly said that RY1 got 25,000 applications. I have no idea if that number has gone up or down, so I kept it constant.
  • The # participants to completion is a guess based on what I know about RY1 and what I'm seeing with RY2. Same with avg months on the program. These numbers are shaky, but not THAT shaky.

Even with high attrition, RY's revenue is pretty damn good. $9Mish from 2015-2016 will keep them going for a while, and is probably enough (paired with their quick growth) to attract VC.

Their overhead is very high, which I'm not going to even attempt to calculate, so I don't know how they're doing profit-wise. But if they want to prove to an investor that high revenue is happening? Done.

Another note: in general, customer acquisition is seen as "the hard part" when growing a business. RY is good at customer acquisition. They have no shortage of interested people and don't struggle to fill out their participant numbers.

If you're good at customer acquisition, and if you can prove market viability, traction, and scale, an investor will listen. RY checks all of those boxes, and they can gloss over the high attrition in a pitch deck. Oh, we can fix that with funding. Look how quickly we've grown! Give us money!

 

ONCE THEY RAISE, THEIR FAST GROWTH WILL CONTINUE.

They're in the start of the exciting section of the hockey stick. That growth will continue for a while. Their success will make it look like I'm completely wrong, because that graph will keep skyrocketing up, up, up... for now.

 

BUT GROWTH ISN'T EVERYTHING, AND THAT'S WHY THEY'LL DIE

If they successfully raise, it'll take even longer. They'll have more of a cushion and (probably) more pressure to focus on retention as well as acquisition.

Acquisition might be the darlingest of KPIs to investors, but high attrition isn't easy to fix. 

I don't think RY will get to the point where retention is strong. Their growth philosophy is to keep running when things are broken, then scramble to patch the worst of the breaks. 

They do not thoughtfully make the program as best as possible, then grow carefully and with intention. They're making the same mistakes, over and over again.

They get the same complaints every month from every program, about iffy wifi and insufficient accommodations. I can't do my job with iffy wifi, which is a deal breaker (obviously). Accommodations that wear on your every nerve (no heating with nights well below freezing, minimal hot water, even running water that stops working) cause participants to wonder where, exactly, their $2,000 / month is going. There are a lot of complicated answers to this, and I honestly see both sides. At the end of the day, poor accommodations means that nobody is happy and that participants start leaving. And there are often poor accommodations. The complaints are the same, and yet nothing changes.

They enacted a new visitor policy, without prior notice or consulting participants, wherein we were required to pay for every night a visitor stays in our RY-provided accommodation. It was clearly a cash grab and it did not go over well. While on RY, our accommodations are our homes. It's not a hotel room to us. It's where we live. And friends visit us - where we live. We own nothing except what's in our suitcases. We change places constantly. We crave stability, sometimes with desperation. But we still have a home, of sorts, in our accommodation for the month, which is where we make our own version of routine. Except that it's regulated by RY and we aren't allowed to treat our space like a home, which yanks away any sense of stability we might create for ourselves. They pulled back on the policy because there was too much uproar.

They did away with exit fees in a panic, because people like me wrote exposés and too many participants complained about feeling like a cog in a wheel. We don't (didn't) feel like important people with livelihoods to RY, we're customers who signed away control and must take whatever happens to us. Yeah, right, no thank you.

RY put on a desperate smile and said "there's no bad blood!" to all of the former participants glaring at them, frustrated from being treated like a bag of money and not a human. 

The examples I cite above are byproducts of a bigger problem: the practice of sprinting toward growth when things are broken, ignoring cracks until they become crises.

If you're seeing attrition because your app has too many bugs, sure, hiring a new development team might help. But they're dealing with people, not software. They can't write new code and turn it around, because the issue is systemic.

 

WHAT COULD KEEP THEIR SLOW DEATH FROM HAPPENING

A couple of these-won't-happen-but-man-what-if's:

Fire the founders. If I were an investor, I'd attempt to make change in leadership a condition of funding, because I don't think RY will be able to fix their attrition problem. Greg and Sam won't let that happen, because RY is their baby, so this is purely theoretical. A change in leadership could mean a change in philosophy, moving away from the sprint even when things break mentality.

Massive change in philosophy. This also won't happen, because egos, but the leadership could realize that attrition will be their undoing. They could take a step back and focus on creating the best possible program. 

I don't think either of those things will happen. 

 

MORE LIKELY:

A newcomer to the market will do things better. If I'm wrong and RY stays in business, this will be why.

If Wifi Tribe or The Remote Experience or Terminal 3 or another competitor builds a better program and can present a threatening-enough alternative, RY might be forced to get on their level. They'll have to gain market share and offer an obviously superior program at a similar cost. If that happens, RY will have to pay attention and improve their product accordingly. Capitalism at its finest.

RY won't do it on their own. They'll do it because competition forces their hand. They'll do it because they achieved growth early on and have a financial cushion to iterate in the face of competition.

Not because they believe in creating a great program and caring for their participants, but because they'll have to in order to survive.

Just like Time Warner upgraded speeds and lowered prices in Durham, my home, when Google Fiber started rolling through. Time Warner doesn't care about giving you the best service that they can. That's hardly why they're improving.

 

Who knows, maybe RY will surprise me. Maybe they'll hang on for so long that they'll accidentally get it right. 

I won't hold my breath.

 

These are my own predictions, based on my experience and nothing else. I was a participant on Remote Year and witnessed the issues firsthand. 

On the professional side, I have several years of experience building growth models for startups and helping founders fill out their investment pitches with data. My forte is strategic analysis and I'm well-versed in growth modeling. That's where I'm coming from in this analysis and forecast. 


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

On traveling alone and why this blog is so damn blue most of the time

So, I left Remote Year. I'm traveling alone. 

I spent a blissful 10 days in Dubrovnik. I spent every meal in solitude. I lounged on the beach, listening to the chatter of several languages around me - conversations in which I didn't have to partake. I climbed the city walls, kayaked in the Adriatic without a partner. I worked my pattotey off, completely out of passion. My passion for my work and the bliss I found in solo travel fed each other, building in a beautiful snowball effect of awesome.

I was on my own schedule, victim to only my whims. I didn't have a checklist of sights to see, adventures to have. It was sorta-kinda-planned serendipity, - serendipity designed by Taylor and no one else.

And it was fucking fantastic. In Dubrovnik, I was on cloud nine all the time. Dubrovnik felt like healing, like a big hug when you're sad or like a hot bath after a chilly day. Croatia is a friend that I can't wait to introduce to everyone.

Toothy grin brought to you by the Dalmatian coast.

Toothy grin brought to you by the Dalmatian coast.

That's the blissful side to solo travel. 

And then there's the other side.

Today, I'm in Vienna. I've wanted to come to Vienna for a long time. It's a Taylor kind of a city - art, architecture, history, etc...

But for some reason, it all feels kinda "meh."

The glittering palaces aren't inspiring a sense of wonder. Nor are the museums or the cafes or the sunny skies, admittedly nice after rainy days in Salzburg. I'm finding myself strolling the beautiful streets, fantasizing about meal planning. Meal planning. I'm strolling Vienna, wishing I were in the fucking produce section of Harris Teeter.

Maybe I'm sick of cities and should have allotted some time in a village or two in the alps. Or, maybe, the honeymoon of solo travel has worn off.

Because here's the truth, something I talked about with Tortuga's cofounders a few weeks ago:

Travel is more fun when you get to come home.

Until I FedEx-ed my newly-signed lease from London to NYC, I didn't know where "home" would be. I left via a one-way ticket to Uruguay without an idea of where I'd live next, or when. "Not Durham" is not exactly enough direction to conceptualize a feeling of home.

But now I know where I'm going. As soon as the option was there, it felt right. 

I'm strolling Vienna dreaming of the mundane because it feels like I'm in purgatory, waiting for the next iteration of life to start. Beautiful, privileged purgatory, yes. But still an in-between, still not where my heart is. Or my mind, clearly.

Hangin' in Hallstatt

Hangin' in Hallstatt

I have a home now. A home I've only seen via Skype, a home that doesn't have furniture yet and won't feel cozy at all. It does contain my Jeffers, though, and it offers stability and routine. God, I want stability again. 

I don't want to fall out of love with travel.

Dubrovnik proved that I hadn't. 

Vienna is proving that it's still a possibility.

Which brings me to another, semi-related thought:

Why do I mostly write about the downsides of digital nomadism?

Because dang, reading through my catalog of posts is downright depressing. No wonder my aunt was worried about me.

I'm fine. Happy, even. 

No, really. Shit's good.

Here's why this blog reads as otherwise:

  1. I wasn't happy in South America
  2. I wrote a lot in South America
  3. I've been mostly (very) happy in Europe
  4. I've written next to nothing in Europe
  5. I write out of passion, nothing else, and that itch to write happens when I feel blue
  6. My best writing comes out of malaise
  7. When I'm happy, I don't want to be in front of my computer.

And, of course, I started writing colloquial.ly as a foil to all of the misleading "work from the beach!!!" digital nomad blogs out there. The downsides aren't covered, not really.

And I don't gush, as a rule. When I'm happy, it's almost a private experience. Shared happiness is really just shared with the people present. I forget that not everyone operates that way. With my friends, it's easier - Brendan and I tell each other the bad, but still understand that the great is there, because we can see it on each other's faces.

You can't see my face. You can't hear my laugh. Jeff and I had tons of happy moments together abroad, but I didn't talk about those - I told you about the hard part. 

Every joy is unique, every tragedy common.

A musing from an ex I adored, one that's stuck with me.

I don't think you need to hear about my unique joy. I don't think you even want to, unless you're my dad or, like, Chloe.

But I do think that someone needs to know that their tragedy is common. Someone reading this will relate, will have strolled an exotic location, wondering why the wonder is so elusive. Someone will have embarked on a grand adventure, just to find their dreams changing to the mundane.

My six months abroad have not been tragedy. I've made lifelong friends, explored the world, laughed and snuggled and danced.

But there have been plenty of hard moments, moments that aren't unique. Moments that I haven't read on other blogs, not in connection to nomadism, no matter how common they might be. I'm offputtingly direct and will tell you the emotional stuff that other people won't talk about.

I'm good at communicating the hard. I think descriptions of the tough moments should exist in a public forum. So I'll state them.

That's why this blog might read as depressing. 

Not because my relationship is doomed (hardly), not because I'm depressed (nope, definitely past the divorce depression).

Because I'm selectively honest, just like the idyllic pictures of nomadic life I critique.

Really, I'm no different. I'm only telling you the downside, and they're only telling you the good. Blend us together and you get a more balanced picture of what it's like to travel the world full-time.

 

PS: Brendan, I miss your blog posts. You are my favorite writer in the whole world and I want to read more of your stuff. Please. Pleasepleaseplease. In case pleading doesn't work: I'll mail you all the cilantro I can find if you don't send me at least one of your unfinished novels.

xoxo,

T


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

When marketing isn't about more-more-more

Aka, that moment when you're the marketing arm of an ecommerce company, but also dislike the "buy now!!!" consumer culture.

I wrote a piece for OnYourTerms.com, Tortuga's Medium publication. It's about consumerism, why I'm happy with linear growth (at a startup?! what?!), and some general businessy shit mixed in with social commentary.


Taylor Coil is a marketing manager who works remotely from around the world.

Why I'm leaving Remote Year

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. 

One of our last days in London before Jeff left for NYC.

One of our last days in London before Jeff left for NYC.

 

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.

Answers to your burning questions

Why haven't you written anything in forever?

Because writing Colloquial.ly for me has always been a passion project. I never gave myself rules or deadlines. I write for joy.

I haven't needed to write to find joy in London. I'm too busy finding joy in London.

What are you up to? 

EVERYTHING. Just look at my Instagram

You've written a lot of RY critique lately. What are you doing now?

Well, after London (on June 30th), I'm leaving Remote Year. I'll write about why in the coming week.

I'm traveling on my own in July, then moving to NYC in August. I'll be there for a couple of months, then traveling for another month, then back in NYC. Long-term, I'll still nomad, but I'll have a SWEET home base on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. 

Where are you traveling?

In July: Dubrovnik, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, and Amsterdam. Helluva July. 

In Sept / Oct: Lisbon, Porto, Morocco (cities TBD), Barcelona.

Alone?

Sometimes, sometimes with / meeting up with friends. I have friends all over the world now. It's great.

Can you elaborate?

Later. Right now I'm enjoying my last few days with my RY family. Martin baked bread and we're watching Game of Thrones.

To be continued.

An updated, annotated packing post

A reader asked me today if I had a packing post. Technically I do, but I wrote it before I left and before I knew anything about anything.

So it's basically worthless.

Here's that list, annotated and updated.

CLOTHES

  • 5 short sleeve shirts -- I think I still have 5, but I want different ones because I'm so bored of them
  • 2 tanks -- ditched one, now just have a basic black one
  • 1 long sleeve shirt -- I spilled pasta on this in Bolivia and had to ditch it
  • 1 wool sweater -- I don't think I actually brought this. I SHOULD HAVE.
  • 1 wool cardigan -- SEE ABOVE. I AM COLD.
  • 3 jackets -- I only have two now, a thin floral one for hot weather and a black bomber for chilly
  • 1 skirt -- still have this, but very much want to replace it
  • 1 pair of denim shorts -- ditched. They've never fit right and it's cold in Peru. I'll buy another pair in Europe.
  • 1 pair of jeans -- I want to replace these so badly - they don't fit right at all
  • 1 pair of tights -- also something I didn't pack and TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE
  • 2 jumpsuits -- ditched. They fell apart.
  • 2 sundresses (one that's nice enough for going out) -- Still have, but haven't worn them since it's been cold.
  • Black combat boots -- ditched, but wore them to death first. MVP packing item. They're just falling apart.
  • Bronze oxfords -- reluctantly keeping since I ditched the above
  • Rainbow flip flops -- kept, for beaches
  • Old (but cute) sandals that I'll either ditch or replace during the year when they fall apart -- keeping until they actually break
  • Running shoes -- keeping, duh
  • 1 ultralight rain jacket -- MVP, I wear this all the time
  • 1 packable down jacket (La Paz, Bolivia is at 12,000 feet elevation - brrrrr) -- ditching after Peru
  • 1 zip-up hoodie -- reluctantly keeping because I'm cold
  • 7 pairs of socks (a few no-show, one set of Smartwools, one black pair, and some trusty Balegas) -- keeping all of these.
  • 10 (probably) pairs of underwear -- I almost wish I packed more.
  • 2 sets of PJs (two comfy tees, one pair of PJ pants and one pair of PJ shorts) -- ditched everything except one tee and one pair of PJ pants
  • 1 pair of workout capris -- I packed two, why?? Who knows.
  • 2 Nike dri-fit workout tops (the best) -- Only needed one.
  • 1 sports bra -- keeping.
  • 3 necklaces (one that I'll never take off) -- Only packed two. Keeping both: one casual, one dressy.
  • 1 set of earrings + 1 ear cuff -- keeping, and I wear them every day
  • 2 rings (that I'll never take off) -- see above.

TOILETRIES

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste -- keeping because I'm not a monster
  • Dr. Bronner's -- MVP. Keeping.
  • Travel sized skincare - cleanser, moisturizer, and maybe a travel sized mask -- I would do terrible things for a face mask right now
  • Makeup (which makeup? TBD) -- I'm almost out of everything. Restocking in London.
  • Chapstick -- SO necessary
  • Travel sized shampoo and conditioner (I'll buy more when we get there) -- Protip: shampoo in South America sucks. Bring a full-sized bottle.
  • Simple wipes -- should have brought more of these. 
  • Nail clippers -- very glad to have them.
  • Tweezers -- see above.
  • Add: tampons

ELECTRONICS

  • 15" Macbook Pro, in a hardshell case -- yep, still have this
  • iPhone 6 -- see above
  • Bose in-ear noise cancelling earbuds (totally worth the splurge - they're an introvert's dream)  -- see above
  • Nikon D3200 + 35 mm lens  -- see above
  • Zoom lens -- want to ditch, but too expensive to ditch
  • Kindle Paperwhite -- use it often!
  • Chargers -- necessary, I have my in a cable organizer pouch and it's great
  • Converters (one universal, one Apple converter set for my computer and phone) -- very useful, but I ditched the universal one and just steal Jeff's
  • Backup battery (for my phone) -- I didn't bring this and haven't needed it
  • External hard drive -- for peace of mind!
  • SIM card ejector tool -- an earring works just fine

ETC

  • A portable pharmacy (brand names only if I don't know the active ingredients off the top of my head): ibuprofen, dimenhydrinate (motion sickness), doxylamine succinate (for snoozy woozys), Pepto, Immodium, malaria pills. -- glad to have the advil, sleeping pills, stomach meds, and cold meds. The rest is superfluous.
  • Tortuga packing cubes -- so helpful for organization
  • Pen + travel journal -- it's my thing and I kind of regret that it's my thing
  • My ankle brace (you suck, broken tibia) -- super valuable.
  • Travel towel -- oddly useful - I use this a lot more than I thought I would
  • Neck pillow -- duh, for overnight flights
  • Curling iron (a luxury to make me feel more normal) -- yep, glad I brought this
  • Collapsible tupperware (maybe) -- didn't pack them and I'm glad I didn't
  • My travel spork (hey - it's useful) -- ditched, why the hell did I bring this?

There ya have it. For the stuff I'm going to buy to add to this packing list, see here.

Header image via Unsplash.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

Creature comforts

Talking to my friends and family occasionally makes me homesick. Pictures of Cape Lookout from the hull of my aunt's boat are pretty effective.

But the one act that has made me the most homesick on Remote Year?

Buying shoes from Nordstrom and shipping them to Amanda. She's going to bring them to me while we're in Ireland.

That little act made me crave creature comforts, crave a life in the United States where those comforts are all around me. Crave the ability to shop at my favorite stores, crave familiar surroundings and comfortable extras that make a huge difference.

Like scented candles, bubble baths, fuzzy blankets. Fashion, of course, which I've already written about. At-home spa days and online shopping. Snuggling up on a comfy sofa to watch a movie, my favorite candy in-hand. Giving myself a pedicure while I watch an indulgent Netflix series. Taking an extra-long hot shower (with a favorite scent of body wash) after a session at the gym. Pulling down the coconut oil from the pantry and giving myself a little foot rub.

I read Emily's post on Cupcakes and Cashmere about how to make your week feel a little bit like a weekend, and found myself getting frustrated. I can do a couple of those things, but not the ones that make me feel recharged. 

Right now, I miss how easy things are in America. I miss feeling like I can fix it when I feel stressed or sick. I miss easily accessible self-care and I miss indulgences.

I hope that doesn't make me shallow.

I don't feel shallow.

I just feel worn out.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

Iterating on life

Something isn't right. Something isn't working.

I don't need a vacation from work. I don't feel burned out and I'm genuinely happy to log on every weekday. That isn't it (though I am taking a few days off soon to hang out in Ireland with Amanda).

I don't need to be single. My relationship is great, definitely not the problem.

I don't need different (long-term) friends. I have found great people with whom to share my life.

But something isn't right. Something is really, really wrong.

Here's the truth: I'm happy in moments, but not in the aggregate.

The even worse truth is that I felt happier in Durham, in my life right before RY. I loved living with Jeff in a little apartment, going to the gym regularly, cooking all the time and watching food documentaries while we ate. 

That life wasn't quite right, either, because I desperately wanted change. I was antsy and itchy to try another way to live, to be somewhere else, to live somewhere other than Durham.

But needing to be somewhere else and joining a program like Remote Year aren't necessarily congruous. 

Something isn't right. I iterated, and perhaps I made the wrong choice.

It might be South America. Maybe I just need to get the hell out of this continent and get to Europe. I think that's part of it. I have a suspicion that it's not all of it.

It might be traveling with Remote Year. That's likely. I'm not exactly silent on my critique of the program, at least in regards to fit for a person like me.

It might be full-time travel. Maybe nomadism isn't the life I want. Maybe I don't like to work while I travel, at least internationally. Maybe I want to separate the two - work at home, and travel often. I do miss having a home. 

Maybe I needed to live in a different city.

Maybe I just needed a different job (which I now have). That's entirely possible. The happiest I've been, in recent memory, is working for Tortuga from Durham. 

Agile marketing, full of testing and iterating and learning, is what I do. We do something, we watch what happens, and we tweak the strategy (or change it altogether) based on results. Of course I've applied the same concepts to life.

I iterated in a major way, when I felt itchy.

I learned a lot - a hell of a lot.

I learned that remote work is exactly how I want to spend my career. I learned that I felt trapped for reasons that didn't hold weight. I learned what I value in a travel destination. I learned that yes, Jeff and I can actually get through anything (travel, especially like this, really challenges a relationship). I learned that I really love Durham, but I don't want to live there right now. I learned that a city like NYC might be a place that I could find happiness, much to my surprise (I wouldn't have said the same before coming on RY).

But something is not right, not yet, and it's time to iterate again. This test gave me lots of information, but I wouldn't call the results exactly optimal.

Learning from something and getting great results from something are not the same thing. 

So what now?

Iteration number next: change continents. Get to Europe, and see what I learn. And go from there.

Header image: Ales Krivec via Unsplash


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

Snapshots of life through music

When Jeff and I started dating, we talked a lot about music, as many do in a budding relationship. We'd share artists with each other and talk about what we listen to in different contexts. He sent me Zero7, I introduced him to The Staves. We bonded over a shared respect for each other's taste.

Yeah, I kept screenshots of our swoony conversations. What of it?

Yeah, I kept screenshots of our swoony conversations. What of it?

I didn't mention that my best friend and I were both obsessed with Nicki Minaj. I also didn't tell him about that one month where I couldn't stop listening to Hilary Duff's new album. Seriously - during one week, my ONLY "recently listened to" artist on Spotify was Hilary Duff. 

It was a rough time in my life, okay? 

Right after divorce, I found that every song sounded like a love song. A simple lyric would send me into uncontrollable sobs. It was a problem. I turned to what my friend called 'anthems' - decidedly safe songs that weren't about love or breakups or pain. Or if they were about pain, the lyrics weren't too raw. They were sophomoric glee in music form.

Stuff like Hilary Duff's album, Taylor Swift's 1989, Nicki Minaj's Pinkprint. Mixed with nostalgic tracks from way-pre-married life, songs that are so bad they're enjoyable like Mandy Moore's Candy and Jessica Simpson's With You (I loved that song in middle school). I compiled them all (except the T Swizzle ones, because she's not on Spotify) into a playlist I called "I'm appropriately ashamed of this playlist."

I think we all take a bit of pride in our tastes. Any clout that I could earn with a careful curation of music will be destroyed if you look at that playlist. Just know: it's not what I usually listen to.

That's what I listen to when everything hurts.

 

Tracking my healing through music

I've always found immense power in music. I use it to change my mood, to focus, to celebrate, to destress. It sets the tone of a dinner, it helps me power through a lethargic workday, it makes a commute way more fun.

After my ex left, I drowned my thoughts with Spotify. I listened to music all day, every day. I couldn't stand silence.

At that time, I had a habit of creating monthly or quarterly playlists. I'd sometimes carry over songs, usually all-time favorites like Cosmo Sheldrake's Solar (the lyrics are a William Blake poem) and Evergreen by Broods. Most of the songs and artists, however, would be unique.

Looking back on those playlists is a fascinating replica of my healing process.


December 2014: Broken

This is one of my all-time favorite playlists - it truly feels like a snapshot in time.

I listened to Wolf Gang with sadness - my ex and I discovered them a few years prior and loved their music. We'd sing their songs on road trips. I couldn't let go of those moments. 

The same was true of Ben Howard. I can't listen to Old Pine without crying, even now.

I binge-listened to AM, the 2013 release by the Arctic Monkeys. Snap Out Of It was a song that I'd angrily blare in my little convertible, pissed at my ex and that one Tinder guy. R U Mine? was the same.

Speaking of that one Tinder guy - his influence is all over my December 2014 playlist. He introduced me to Purity Ring, Beats Antique, and Crystal Castles. His taste is impeccable. 


Q1 2015: avoidance

This is quite a small playlist. I curated a few songs that didn't couldn't me of my ex. I knew he'd never heard of these artists and would probably not seek them out on his own.

Some of these turned into all-time favorites. I still love Not Going Home (really anything by Great Good Fine OK) and Uma by Panama Wedding. They'd definitely make the ranks in a "Taylor Loves These" playlist.

Also noticeably absent: any influence of the Tinder guy, peppered in my December tunes. I was pissed at everything. Though a third party could never guess my anger from this little collection of tunes, it's painfully obvious to me.


Q2 2015: Confusion

I'm calling this "confusion" because, today, I legitimately don't like some of the music on this playlist. I think SOHN is meh and I find myself skipping over Banks songs whenever they come on shuffle.

Wolf Gang re-appears here, this time not out of teary nostalgia but because I legitimately love their music. Same with Cosmo Sheldrake, Broods, Arctic Monkeys. I started to re-claim my own tastes and separate them from my ex.

I started adding in new influences in Q2 - Brendan introduced me to ODESZA. Another friend pointed me in the direction of Glass Animals. Those were steps forward... but then I looked at my ex's recent listens and grabbed Best Coast and Electric Guest. That's also where I found SOHN. Two steps forward, one step backward.


Summer 2015: Friends

Let's be honest: most of this playlist was influenced by people I love (though, at the time, Jeff was a crush and not yet a love).

Chloe and I listened to Ryn Weaver on the daily. I kept trying to get her into Tame Impala, but was met with ambivalence.

Jeff pointed me to DJ Shadow and Jamiroquai. Ratatat was suddenly not an association with my ex, but the songs Jeff and I would listen to in his GTI, driving to dinner.

Megan makes an appearance, too - she sent me Dillon Francis' Get Low as a joke. Doubt she thought I'd actually like it. I do. I really do.


August 2015: Bye Felicia

There is no trace of my old life in this playlist. I love Wolf Gang, but it reminds me of old Taylor. The Taylor who had a townhouse and a husband and a puppy and a convertible.

HOLYCHILD, Conner Youngblood, Phantogram and AURORA feel like the more current version of myself. Do yourself a favor and listen to all four immediately.

This playlist feels like independence, defiance, and moving on.

I guess I should admit that Chloe found HOLYCHILD first.


Fall 2015: Modern Taylor

This one feels the most "me." 

I found The 1975 (Love Me is a fave) and DWNTWN. I continued my love for Conner Youngblood. Man, I love that music. This playlist is full of the stuff I listen to today.

Of course, my friends' influences are all over it. Brendan and I listened to Big Grams obsessively for a while. Amanda and I went to a Lord Huron concert together. Chloe wouldn't stop talking about CHVRCHES' new songs.

This one, along with the very first "era" playlist I created, is my favorite. Fitting to begin and end on high notes.


I no longer create playlists based on eras, in part because my emotions don't change as completely as time goes on. I'm no longer in a turbulent process of getting through trauma. In 2014 and early 2015, my entire being was turbulent. The music I listened to reflected that.

Today, music is more circumstantial. I listen to one set of tunes while I work and a completely different playlist when I'm walking home or hanging out in my apartment. If I drove, ever, that'd be when I'd turn to these former eras. I love a bit of nostalgia when I drive.

It feels great to listen to these songs and feel no pain. I remember the pain I felt in December 2014, but it's only a memory.

That's progress.

Header image: Corey Blaz via Unsplash


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email, or read more from the blog.

Illness is defeating right now

I've always been the person who refuses to let illness get in the way, for better or for worse. I won't lose a workday, but I will stay sick for longer. It is not a good thing and not something that should garner accolades. It stemmed from feeling unable to take care of myself if it came at the expense of productivity.

A few years ago, I had an awful bout of laryngitis. I still worked - every day - until my doctor told me point-blank to go home and sleep. That's in part because my sick time and vacation time were one in the same, and I didn't want to let laryngitis in January keep me from taking time off at Christmas to spend time with my family. But that's another story.

The plus side of that: illness has always been something annoying that I had to deal with, but not something that impacted my mental state.

Today, that's not the case.

I get sick a lot on Remote Year. That's mostly because we're in South America, where bouts of food poisoning are frustratingly difficult to avoid. I've gotten a cold or two, but that's bound to happen regardless.

I've now had 4 awful encounters with food poisoning in 3.5 months. That's not counting the many, many days of an upset stomach (but a manageable one). In Argentina, I was throwing up so hard that vomit came out of my nose. The other night, I spiked a high fever in the middle of my nausea-filled misery and had to deal with sweats and intense body aches. It was so bad that I wondered if my typhoid vaccine was a dud.

 
Feeling like death on a bus while Martin and Jeff were exploring Pisac, Peru.

Feeling like death on a bus while Martin and Jeff were exploring Pisac, Peru.

 

In the grand scheme of things, it's not that bad. 

But it feels so incredibly defeating, every time.

Every time my stomach turns, I feel as though illness is inevitable. Getting healthy is a shallow joy because I'm just waiting for the next time it'll strike, the next moment that I'll be incapacitated by some environmental factor. The frequency and severity are so, so frustrating. Feeling shitty is my reality, and feeling healthy is a nice (occasional) break. 

I can't remember the last time I got food poisoning in the USA.

In that sense, Europe feels like my saving grace. I know I'll probably get sick in Europe, too, but probably not as often. Hopefully not as severely. 

In just over two weeks I leave for London, where vegetables aren't suspect and water isn't poisonous. Where I can easily find healthy food to boost my immune system.

Two weeks until I feel like I can breathe, literally and figuratively.

I love you, Peru, but I have really hit my South America threshold. My body is done.

Header image: negative space.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

My capsule wardrobe needs work

I have a goal.

By the time the V3 of the Tortuga comes out (we don't have firm release dates yet, but I have a general time frame), I will be down to a carry-on backpack and a personal item.

Y'all - it's harder than it sounds. Especially for long-term travel.

I've always been a carry-on-only traveler, but I've also never traveled indefinitely. I packed a lot of just-in-case items that have come in handy in South America. Like a wine opener. It was weirdly difficult to find wine openers in Uruguay.

I'll ditch those superfluous things in Europe, where it'll be easier to find ad hoc gear that I need. That part is easy.

My biggest challenge lies in my wardrobe. 

I'm sick of my clothes and I miss the ability to dress fashionably. My go-to aesthetic isn't exactly minimalist and I don't love the look of performance gear. I'll never be the girl who wears head-to-toe Arc'teryx and Merrell and Patagonia. I'd far rather wear Free People and Asos and Halogen - but I have to find packable and layerable options from my favorite brands. I want this in my capsule wardrobe, but try stuffing those sleeves under a jacket.

Dammit.

I'm finding the line between fashion and practicality to be particularly challenging.

 

What I'm missing altogether:

  • Tights (regular and fleece-lined)
  • A maxi skirt - Lauren Hom has a gorgeous one in an elephant print that I covet on the regular
  • Black cigarette pants, or maybe something more stylish like joggers (but ughh they aren't as practical or versatile)
  • Dressy shoes (that are packable and comfy) like these in black or these, if my size comes back in stock
  • Bodysuit (great for layering under the maxi skirt I don't own)
  • Wool cardigan (planning to purchase this one in Dublin)
  • A flannel shirt (I had one, but I lost it in Montreal)
  • Laptop bag (as a personal item, for more space)

What I have, but want to replace:

  • Mini skirt - mine is a print, which isn't as easy to mix and match. I'd love a black or grey one with interesting textures. 
  • Jeans. I want to switch to high-waisted. You were right about that one, Emily. 
  • A dress or two. I want one that makes me feel like a badass and is nice enough for dressy occasions. My current options fulfill neither requirement.
  • Tops. I need some better layers. But stylish ones, not plain merino v-necks.
  • A warm jacket. Mine is not very warm.

My MVP items:

  • Jeans (even though they don't fit very well)
  • Ankle boots, comfy enough for walking through a city
  • Black bomber jacket
  • Blanket scarf
  • My Marmot Precip rain jacket. I respectfully disagree with my Tortuga colleages who think rain jackets are specialized gear that don't belong in carry-ons. I wear this thing all the time.

Things I need to ditch:

  • Half of my workout gear (I don't need as much as I have)
  • First aid kit 
  • A pair of shoes (or two) and replace them with the ones linked above
  • Tees - why did I bring so many tees?
  • My UNC hoodie (sorry, hoodie)
  • Clothes that make me feel bleh
  • Superfluous toiletries
  • Things that won't fly (get it) through TSA

Oy, this is going to be difficult.

Header image: Hannah Morgan via Unsplash.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

Oh happy day

Today, I feel like this.

I woke up with three ideas for Tortuga.

Two little insignificant ideas, but ideas that will certainly help us move forward on quarterly goals. Tiny things that feel like the missing pieces to a couple of my projects.

One idea that will turn into a massive passion project at work, one that I am so excited about and believe in completely. Not because I think it will work, but because I think it should exist in the world and it makes sense for Tortuga to produce. It makes sense for me to produce, as the marketing arm. I work for a company wherein that justification is enough. 

Man, that's awesome.

Patrick, our in-house product designer, has mentioned before that remote teams sacrifice serendipity. I can see that, from a design standpoint.

The loss of serendipity isn't true for me. For me, remote work takes away all of the little stressors that build up over time - the stressors that are caused by a work environment. The lack of those stressors ignite serendipity in me more frequently and with more passion.

It's little things, like the fact that I never set an alarm. I wake up when my body tells me it's ready. It's the fact that I'm never watching the clock when I'm out to lunch. I don't know if my ceviche takes 45 minutes or two hours. And I don't care. 

It's that nobody bugs me to be on at a certain time, that nobody cares if I'm hyperproductive during every hour that I work.

It's that people trust me, that I have true autonomy.

It's that I can have a week of working HARD, then take two days of only doing the bare minimum to recoup my mental energy. That happened this week. On Monday and Tuesday, I coasted. I was just getting by. But the week before? I worked my ass off.

And those two days of coasting allowed me to recharge.

Allowed for serendipity on a Friday morning.

Allowed me to get to the point where I could accomplish everything I needed to (and a few things I didn't, but wanted to cross off anyway) in the latter half of the week.

Allowed for a workday on cloud nine, a feeling of true bliss.

Bliss that was caused by my job. 

How cool is that?

Header image: a silly picture of a Tortuga that I drew at lunch today.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

For Chloe

Warning: Chloe, you're going to cry, don't read this at work. Or do, but don't immediately run into the Nugget guys at the coffee station afterwards. Go to the bathroom first and fix your mascara. Actually, scratch that, walk up to the Nugget guys and freak them out and then text me about it later.

Find your people and hold them dear. Sometimes, when I'm feeling really emotional about the people I love, I write about them. Thus far I've written about Brendan and Jeff. It's Chloe's turn. 

I have my people, wrapped up in my best friend. Sometimes, she feels like all of my people. She is the one who understands every nuance of my soul and compliments my essence with her own. She is my constant companion (no matter the distance), my platonic life partner, my favorite person. We understand and love each other in a way that is unparalleled. Stop crying, Chloe.

She is a brilliant, hilarious, loud (so loud), wise, kind, take-no-prisoners, self-aware, and a badass boss-goddess. "Boss bitch" isn't very on brand for Chloe. I see her more as a goddess. Though she'll tell you she's not a goddess, she's an elf - Galadriel, to be specific.

#GIRLBOSS.

#GIRLBOSS.

 

Some disjointed and emotional thoughts about my love for my best friend

You do not cross Chloe, because she might literally break your kneecaps (watch out, ex-husband who was mean to me and ex-boyfriend who was mean to both of us). I don't mean literally in the colloquial disambiguation sense - I mean literally. 

She has incredibly high standards. She knows what she values in a person and will hold you to that.

You can disagree, but you must be self-aware. She has no tolerance for "shitty people."

If you've won her favor, she is the most loyal person I know. Actively loyal.

She practices active love every day of our friendship. 

 

She lives by buddhist standards, but has a major Anthropologie habit. She's a bad buddhist. So am I. I'm a worse buddhist, because I'm not really a buddhist at all, I just admire Chloe's buddhism.

She forgives those she loves and practices kindness above all else.

She'll tell you when you're wrong, for all of the reasons that you're wrong, and then she'll love you so completely that you can't help but find the right way.

This is the purest and most uncomplicated love I have ever known.

 

Chloe helped me get through divorce with grace. She supported me and allowed me to be selfish with my emotions for months. She never once begrudged my weakness. It's hard to be there for someone during a time that turbulent. Chloe did it beautifully.

She is dear to me.

I hate that we are apart.

Chloe holds half of my heart.

 

Chloe,

I love you. I miss you every damn day. Literally every day. 

You are my people.

I am eternally grateful that distance has not weakened our bond.

Thank you. Thank you for everything.

Let's go live in a fairy house.

Your schnookums.

 
I don't miss working in an office, but I do miss attending entrepreneurial events with this one.

I don't miss working in an office, but I do miss attending entrepreneurial events with this one.

 

Header image: that time we bought gold iron-on letters and made funny tees that were funny for like 2 weeks and then we got sick of them


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

It's not Remote Year or bust.

Yesterday, I chatted with someone who was just accepted into Remote Year.

He expressed hesitations about the program and wanted an honest view from someone doing it - beyond the Instagram feeds with verbose captions and the constant expressions of gratitude. A note to readers: I'm always willing to do that, if you've been accepted into RY and are not sure whether or not to join the program. Email me. We'll chat.

Anyway. I noticed something about him, something that was true of myself when I received my letter of acceptance. 

Neither of us realized, or else truly appreciated one crucial thing:

There are lots of alternatives to Remote Year.

You are not limited to the choices of "join RY" or "get a desk job." That's what it felt like, to me, when I first heard about nomadism. I thought that I could either take this big leap with an established program OR stay in ennui-filled convention.

It seemed to me that there was no middle ground.

I thought that the logistics of nomadic life must be extraordinarily complicated, because why else would a program build a value proposition on solving them for you?

I thought it must be expensive to travel full-time, so expensive that $2,000 / month suddenly seemed reasonable.

I thought that nomads must get lonely, because again - why else would a program emerge to solve the issue of community in a full-time travel context?

Y'all. That's a fallacy.

A fallacy of false choice, to be specific.

Remote Year is one way to do nomadism. I've written before about how I don't think it's the best way - not for a passionate professional who places career in her top priorities (along with nurturing a relationship - but that's a whole 'nother story). It's, perhaps, not even a logical way.

RY, on the surface, presents a lower barrier to entry for nomadic life. The programs offers the comfort of traveling with 75 friends, a cushion of community in which to confide as you "figure out" how to do nomadism and how to make remote work a long-term, sustainable lifestyle.

But "lower barrier to entry" and "best option for a newcomer" are not synonymous. Just as first-to-market is rarely best-in-market (also relevant here).

Traveling with 75 friends sounds idyllic. Sometimes it is. I've made friendships on Remote Year that I already know will last for a long time (and not just because Martin has a place in Belize).

Pictured: 17 of the reasons I don't regret joining RY. Yes, I know my and Tiago's handstand game is on point. #humblebrag

Pictured: 17 of the reasons I don't regret joining RY. Yes, I know my and Tiago's handstand game is on point. #humblebrag

But sometimes it isn't idyllic. Often the social energy is exhausting; sometimes it's even toxic.

I didn't know about #nomads, or Nomad Forum, or the existing community of people who do this already. Because of course digital nomads formed their own community. Of course they did. Why wouldn't they?

I didn't realize that some coworking spaces, particularly those in Europe, doubled as a place to live and a place to form community.

I definitely didn't realize that RY culture would often overlap with the bar scene - boozy Tuesday nights and bus rides soaked in Jack Daniels. It didn't occur to me to be concerned about partying ruling the social culture. I've been removed from that scene for so long that I legitimately forgot that people my age spend lots of time and money in bars. 

That's not to say I hate the social scene. I might leave the party at 11 pm, downing only one glass of wine, but I still enjoy my time with my RY-ers. 

It's just not the social culture I'd choose for myself.

The point: you get to choose.

If you decide against Remote Year, you don't necessarily have to decide against nomadism. You don't have to decide against community, or full-time travel, or remote work.

You have options. Don't forget that.

And for the record, you don't need a year of hand-holding to figure out how to "do" digital nomadism.

Relevant: I just wrote a post for the Tortuga Backpacks Medium publication, Life + Travel + Work. It's a resource on coliving and working spaces around the world - both static places to live for a month or two (like Sun Desk in Morocco, a place I'm dying to go) and short-term retreats like Hacker Paradise. That should help with the fallacy of false choice issue.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

Applying good habits to nomadism

I've been traveling full-time for three months and change.

In digital nomad terms, that's nothing. Some spend three months in one place before switching countries. Some have been traveling for years, with no idea when they'll return home. But to me, three months feels like a lifetime.

When I joined Remote Year, I gave myself a bit of a buffer in order to adjust to traveling. I didn't put pressure on myself to maintain my morning routine or eat as healthily as I did in Durham. At first, I stressed about my exercise routine (or lack thereof), but quickly decided to go easy on myself in the name of navigating change.

I've hit the time, though, to start thinking about those factors again. I'm established in the "routine" of full-time travel (routine in quotes, because there's never really a routine).

I now know how to land in a new country on Sunday and be productive on Monday. I'm getting the hang of the mental impact of changing everything, all the time. 

In Durham, I went to the gym three times a week. I cooked healthy lunches for the entire week on Sunday afternoons. I rose by 6am and finished work in the early afternoon. I cooked healthy dinners most nights and ate a protein-heavy breakfast. I budgeted my time and my money effectively.

I want those habits back, in some iteration. I am not, however, going to try to implement all of those habits at once. 

Because currently I spend too much money on restaurants, I don't exercise at all, I eat too much sugar, I sleep later, and my schedules are too erratic for my liking.

Trying to change everything at once will likely fail. I've never found success in the extreme - always in intention and focus, with room to forgive myself for missteps. With that in mind, here's my plan to adapt my healthy routines to a nomadic lifestyle.

 

May: focus on Food & Budget

I used to grocery shop on Sunday mornings, before the rush of the after-churchers. Sunday shopping was purely utilitarian. I didn't need a list, because I bought the same few ingredients every time.

Chicken. Veggies. Hummus. Pimento cheese (my vice). Eggs, for breakfast. Sometimes salmon, if it looked fresh.

I'd cook a chicken and broccoli stir fry in my dutch oven and divide it into tupperware for lunches. I'd whip together a dinner of lean protein and something green. 

 
Prepping ingredients in Durham.

Prepping ingredients in Durham.

 

I can't tell you the last time I made a simple stir fry. I don't always trust the ingredients in South America, and I don't usually have a kitchen, but honestly it's just that I've set bad habits of eating out all the time. I had to eat out in Uruguay, and sort of kept doing it after that. Not great.

I have a kitchen this month (and will do my darndest to have one going forward). To me, a kitchen is crucial for budgeting and for eating right. 

My goal is to eat all breakfasts at home, cook most dinners, and ideally pack lunches. The last part is difficult right now - Peruvian lunch meat sketches me out a little and we don't have a microwave at the workspace. Going to improvise based on what I find at the grocery store.

Budget is also a focus, but my main misstep in finance is also related to food. If I focus on cooking and eating healthier, the finance will follow.

 

June: Focus on Exercise

I'll be in London in June. I'll have switched time zones (and continents), so I'm going to leave the morning routine focus for July.

In London, I'll also have a kitchen. It's (obviously) an expensive city, so I'll try to maintain my cooking habits. It should be far easier in a place like London. I doubt I'll have trouble finding ingredients in London.

So cooking is solved. Time to add on.

Cusco's altitude makes exercise a bit challenging. London doesn't have that problem. In London, I will focus on establishing a regular workout routine. We (allegedly) have a gym in our coliving space. I may pair that with something like SkyFit App to make a treadmill workout bearable (and HIIT).

Ideally, I'd go to yoga and barre classes. London has ClassPass (yessss), though none of the studios are very close to my coliving space. Hm. Maybe I'll jog to a class? I suppose easier doesn't necessarily mean easy, full stop. I'll figure it out.

 
I hope my ankle will let me jog.

I hope my ankle will let me jog.

 

 

July: Focus on Morning Routines

July is Prague. I'll have been in Europe for a month. I should have the time zone thing figured out by then. Hopefully I'll have eaten well for two months and exercised for one. 

Time to optimize my mornings.

I have trouble with morning routines in South America. I love logging on at 6am, when the world is asleep. But here's the crucial part: I love doing it in my pajamas, steps from my bed, with a cup of coffee and a plate of scrambled eggs.

The internet is never fast enough in my room to make that morning a reality. I don't love getting dressed and walking to a workspace that early - I'd rather sleep until 8 and start my commute around 9.

My hope is that Europe's internet will be faster and more reliable than South America's, which will enable me to inject more productivity into my mornings. I'm really excited at the prospect of finishing my Prague workdays at 1pm and exploring the city from there.

 

August and Beyond: blend it all together

I know that my mornings, workouts, and meals will be slightly different from country to country. I'm worried a bit about eating healthy food in Serbia and maintaining a workout routine when it's cold outside (I hate being cold), but I'm hoping that starting these routines in a travel context will help me keep them up.

Here's to health.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

What I ate for a week: La Paz, Bolivia edition

New series! This isn't meant to be a health diary as much as it is a peek into what's available in the countries where I live and how my eating habits change in each country. Let me know if you like it or if it's boring.

I've written before about how I gave up health when I joined RY. I miss health food terribly - local greens (that I'm not scared will give me food poisoning), lean protein, almond milk. I suppose almond milk isn't "health food" as much as it is "easy on Taylor's lactose sensitive belly."

My friend Michael made a joke the other day that we read menus very differently in Bolivia. We don't look for healthy, we don't even look for tasty. We look for safe. Things that won't land us in the hospital.

Sound dramatic? Tell that to my multiple friends who have landed themselves in La Paz's hospitals, with salmonella or other stomach infections, just because they ordered the wrong thing at the wrong restaurant.

Sure, I could risk it. But I've been sick enough in South America. I just want a month of not throwing up so hard that it comes out my nose. K?

So, here's all of the "safe" food I ate, during one workweek in La Paz. My Durham self is scowling at this smattering of food. Actually, my La Paz self is scowling. There are no veggies, lots of bread, and honestly? Too few calories per day.

I'm really looking forward to a happier and healthier belly in other countries.

 

Monday

Breakfast: cafe cortado doble and the desayuno americano (scrambled eggs, "bacon," toast, OJ). The eggs are risky. But I wanted protein.

Lunch: I didn't eat lunch. My stomach felt weird. My stomach always feels grumbly in the middle of the day in La Paz and I never have an appetite. 

Dinner: Seafood ravioli. I've ordered it before from this restaurant and it was fine. This time, however, it tasted a little suspect. I ate approximately six bites and then gave up. I did, however, eat the bread we got pre-meal. Bread is safe.

 

Tuesday

Breakfast: cafe cortado doble and the desayuno americano (scrambled eggs, "bacon," toast, OJ). Same as Monday - it didn't make me sick and it's a lot of calories. That's important, when I'm barely eating.

Lunch: Coca tea. No, that doesn't count as lunch, but I started getting those ominous stomach-related goosebumps. Food = danger. 

Snack: Cheesy dough thing. I dunno what it is. They were free in our workspace, so I ate one. It was tasty. EDIT: it's called a cuñape

Dinner: Beef pho and M&Ms. Ah, the flavors of home.

 

Wednesday

Breakfast: French toast and a cafe cortado doble.

Lunch: Beef empanadas, coca tea, and a te con te (like a Bolivian hot toddy, made with a local liquor called singani). I was stressed. Hot toddies are my go-to when I'm stressed.

Dinner: Green curry.

 

Thursday

Breakfast: French toast and a cafe cortado doble.

Lunch: hey, the ominous nausea goosebumps are back!

Dinner: Confit de Canard and too much red wine. A splurgy meal with wonderful friends.

 

Friday

Breakfast: French toast and a cafe cortado doble. Because I am predictable.

Lunch: Roast beef sandwich and fried yucca. Photo in header.

Dinner: Beef pho and fresh melon juice. I had to say goodbye to Andres, our favorite Bolivian chef, who runs the Vietnamese restaurant!

 

Is this interesting or boring? Tell me in the comments.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

The hardest way, on purpose.

I love my job.

I'm not saying that the way that many do, claiming they love a career because they've devoted time and energy into it and need to convince themselves it's worth it.

I legitimately love what I do, why I do it, and who I do it with.

I'm also a driven personality. My fatal flaw in work is that I am prone to burnout because I want to do too much, achieve too quickly. 

My job is very important. I WILL excel at this role. The question is how.

In the United States, I worked five or six hours a day for Tortuga. Those hours were extremely productive and spent (mostly) in solitude. I could accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time. I ended the day feeling refreshed, energized, satisfied. I'd go to the gym and burn off excitement, not stress.

Currently, I work approximately 10 hours a day. Sometimes 8. The number isn't really the point. At the end of those 8 or 10 hours, I am exhausted, mentally and physically. I hurt all over. I'm sometimes at the verge of tears. Stress is a constant reality.

A candid "holy hell I'm drained" selfie.

A candid "holy hell I'm drained" selfie.

I achieve the same amount. My performance is the same. My teammates are not impacted.

Nobody but me feels the strain, which is important to me. But wow, do I feel it.

It's not Tortuga's fault. This is self-imposed pain, self-imposed because I chose a life of travel with 75 people.

I have a suspicion that Remote Year may be the toughest way (of my current choices in consideration, an important caveat) for me to do my job.

Perhaps that sounds incongruous. Don't I pay RY to make it easy?

Yeah, RY takes care of logistics so that we don't have to. They set up a beautiful workspace in Cusco, they upgraded the internet in my apartment, they booked my flight to London. I don't have to worry about those things.

But honestly - I find myself craving a simple stressor like a plane ticket. That's something I can solve. I need to get from A to B with X amount of money. That's what Rome2Rio is for.

Remote Year stressors aren't simple, and I can't find anything to cross off to make them dissipate. They come as a result of a social dynamic for which we are woefully unprepared (how could we prepare for an experience like this?). They come as a result of a unique method of living, one that we have no proxy or similar benchmark to use as reference. 

By biggest stressors, particularly in regards to how my work and my life choices interact:

  1. I am not agile.
  2. I am rarely in solitude.
  3. I am never in solitude in a work context.
  4. I am out of control.
  5. I am overstimulated.
  6. I sleep less.
  7. My mental energy is devoted to navigating constant change.
  8. My emotional energy is spend on social dynamics.
  9. My anxiety rears its ugly head because of said social dynamics.

I want to spend that mental energy on Tortuga projects.

I want to spend that emotional energy on Jeff.

I give everything I have to both loves. But right now, everything I have is not always everything I want to give. 

It's hard to spend all of your emotional energy on a sponge-like empathy shitshow when everyone around you is unhappy. When I get home after a day like that, I have nothing left, no more energy to nurture the person I love the most. And so our relationship is the thing that suffers.

It's frustrating to spend a morning thinking about Remote Year minutia (but minutia that feels significant), and open my computer to find myself scatterbrained. I get through my to-do list, of course I do, but at major cost to my mental state.

This is the hardest way.

The hardest way, of the choices I considered (and the choices I will consider, because I am not trapped) for 2016.

I'm doing it the hardest way, on purpose.

I'm legitimately confused as to how I feel about that.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

On monotony

Seven of us opted to fly to Cusco.

Remote Year organized a 14-hour bus ride from La Paz for us. 14 hours? On a bus? How much are flights again?

So we ate the extra $160 cost, took a one-hour flight, and spent the day exploring while everyone else was fighting the urge to stretch their legs.

Worth it. 10/10 would spend extra to fly again.

I noticed something about myself during that quick hop over the Andes.

My nose is usually glued to the window during a flight, watching the landscape and allowing the surreal feeling of adventure to sink in. I love watching the world below me. Some of my favorite and most distinct travel memories are from the window seat.

I remember flying over the Grand Canyon for the first time, eating the tapas snackbox on United. I remember pointing out the Empire State building to a seven-year-old-girl as we flew into Newark and watching the shy grin spread over her face. I remember the tears of relief as we descended into Raleigh, the lush trees carpeted below, after a terrifyingly turbulent flight.

Usually, I allow myself to indulge in the travel high of flight. Not this time. This time, I was distracted by my own jaded emotions.

Surreal travel has started to feel mundane. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities are now just everyday life. That's not an exaggeration - I'm taking "bucket list" trips every single weekend.

Last month I went to the Bolivian salt flats. In March, I watched the opera in Buenos Aires. I'm going to Machu Picchu next week, visiting Dublin with Amanda next month, living in London and Prague and Split.

Fancy AF.

Fancy AF.

It all sounds so exciting.

But really? It just feels like normal, everyday life. I'm not sure the human brain can handle getting excited so frequently. It craves a steadier pace, and will force a sense of normal on the most abnormal of lives.

I'm learning to live in the developed world without my American privileges, but I'm becoming a different sort of spoiled. I may have a new appreciation for hot showers, but I no longer find wonder in the window seat.

That makes me sad.

Frequent travelers, those who have nomadded (totally a word roll with it) longer than I have - how do you regain your childlike wonder?


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

La Paz, Bolivia: in retrospect

Remote Year's Latin America lead asked me yesterday how I liked La Paz. That's a complicated answer.

Bolivia was simultaneously my favorite place we've lived and the hardest month of Remote Year. It was a constant dichotomy of emotion, fueled by travel passion and drained by exhaustion, stress, and illness.

The internet was unreliable, but good enough for me most of the time. The workspace was very loud - something that wore away at my nerves on a daily basis. But above all, I felt sick to my stomach all month. All of those things are small annoyances. If they happen on a single day, it might impact my mood, but it won't impact my mental state. If they happen every day for a month, though? That's a different story.

But there's a flip side. Bolivia is a country filled with adventures, tasty food, and fascinating culture. I'm thankful for my time there, and it really was my favorite place - hard moments and all.

Here's a better way of thinking about it, I guess. In Argentina, I felt generally fine most of the time. I had a couple of happy highs, namely horseback riding and an evening at the opera. I had a few low lows. But overall, it was fine. In Montevideo, I was fueled by exciting newness, but I also felt a general sense of malaise. When I think back to Montevideo, it felt most like home. It's hard to explain, because Montevideo was made up of little moments, no grand happy something. Bolivia was a bit like Montevideo in that sense, but with better food and cooler adventures. Better food matters to me.

A feeling of home trumps feeling generally fine. Argentina was easy-breezy. Bolivia was not - but Bolivia also had that undercurrent of something that made me say yes, this is my speed. 

 

Favorite Eats

"Favorite" may not be the best way to put it. "Yummy" and "won't give you food poisoning" are more accurate. That said, food in La Paz was better than I expected.

  • Gustu: best meal I've had in South America. Worth the price tag. Just go get the 7-course tasting menu.
  • Vinapho: vietnamese food on Rosendo Gutierrez and Sanchez Lima, Sopocachi. I ate the green curry probably four times a week. Protip: order the fresh melon juice. It's amazing.
  • Chez Moustache: pretty good "nicer" spot in Sopocachi.
  • La Comedie: a little hidden spot in Sopocachi, so hidden that I can't remember where it is. But I got seafood ravioli and it was fantastic.

 

Favorite Experiences

My favorite thing about La Paz is its proximity to other adventures. La Paz is a cool place, but the pollution, lack of heat in the apartment, lukewarm showers, slow internet, etc make it a tough place to live. I really enjoyed getting out of the city at every opportunity.

  • Salar de Uyuni: 10,000 square kilometers of salt flats
  • Trekking Tuni Condoriri.

 

The downsides

La Paz is rough around the edges. I must say that I don't miss the following:

  • The polluted air, which gave me daily headaches. Wow, I'm glad to be rid of that.
  • The trepidation I'd get when I'd eat at a new restaurant. Is this going to make me throw up?
  • The noisy bustle and constant car alarms. The noise in general, really. I never realized how much noise impacts my mental state.

 

So. La Paz. Will I go back?

Probably not. I'm grateful and feel a huge fondness for Bolivia, but I also think I've had my fill. If I'm craving Andean culture, I'll likely head to Peru. I like Bolivia - but I adore Peru.

But who knows - things change, right?


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.

Cusco, Peru: first impressions

Seven of us landed in Peru yesterday morning. We shared meals, got caught in a hailstorm, tried (and failed) to join a walking tour, snuggled baby llamas, and got (more than a little) tipsy on pisco sours.

Here are a few first impressions from a truly blissful day, exploring with friends:

 

It's so pretty it's so pretty

Cusco's charm is hard to resist. Walk anywhere around the Plaza des Armas and you'll get starry-eyed by the gorgeous architecture. It's just so lovely, we kept saying, every time we'd find a new street.

 

The food - Oh, the food

I remember eating well in Cusco ten years ago. I remember the ceviche, the quinoa soup, and the drinking chocolate (delicious). I already had high expectations for Cusco's cuisine.

Those expectations were exceeded. I shared trout ceviche with Andean caviar with my RY crew, something I can't wait to order again and again. We sipped pisco sours as we tasted each other's meals. Chrissy and I ordered the ahi de gallina, the most tender chicken covered in a yellow pepper sauce. Peter braved the cuy (guinea pig) and Mike raved about his lomo saltado. Our bellies were full and happy.

 

My wallet is going to cry.

This city is not as affordable as I expected. There are tons of incredible restaurants priced ~ $15 per entree. Granted, it's a tasty entree that would cost at least $25 in Durham, but still. I'm not thrilled about spending $15 on dinner for myself every night. I scoped out some markets, but have thus far found the cooking supplies to be minimal.

I'll figure it out. 

 

It's so nice to be warm.

Cusco and La Paz are similar in altitude. I did no research on the weather (typical) and therefore expected Cusco to be just as chilly. I was wrong. It does get chilly at night, but I get to trade my puffy coat and scarf for tee-shirts and sandals during the day. Today is a beautiful 70 degrees and sunny - for now. It was the same yesterday, and then it started hailing. This is the Andes, after all, where weather changes extremely quickly.

The main square, mid-hail storm

The main square, mid-hail storm

 

We're going to get hustled - hard - all month.

Our daily commute from our apartments to the workspace passes right through the most touristy sections of town. The beautiful little cobblestone streets are dotted with markets, selling colorful wares. The architecture is gorgeous and so distinctly Cusco. The air smells clean, such a nice contrast to La Paz's fuel-scented air. 

The only little annoyance in our daily stroll: the persistence and aggressiveness of the people selling their goods. 

I know that Cusco is a tourist hub. I suppose it comes with the territory. But it doesn't feel great to say a harsh "NO" to fifty people trying to sell you a massage, a tour of the sacred valley, a photo with a llama, a painting, whatever. I tried a nice "no, gracias" - it didn't do the trick. A smile and a polite word only increases the persistence. You have to wear a resting bitchface and practice your disdainful side-eye. It's not my favorite mood in which to start the day and not my favorite facial expression to sport in general.

 

A note on "touristy" places

Cusco is definitely a tourist city. It's the gateway to the sacred valley and Machu Picchu. Yes - most of the people walking around are not Peruvians. Yes - a lot of it is westernized (there's a KFC and a Starbucks in the main square, after all) and possibly contrived.

So what?

It's gorgeous, it's full of history, there's still an undercurrent of authenticity below the commerce and the here, Americans and Europeans, have some familiar. This place is popular for a reason.

There is value in going off the beaten path, to places where few visit. Yeah, off the beaten path is great. It's a travel adventure that teaches you a lot about yourself. Some travelers, I think, scoff at the idea of visiting a "touristy" place. But why?

I don't get the badge-of-honor mentality that some have when they talk about popular destinations, using a trailblazer travel approach with a holier-than-thou tone.

I don't want to go there, everyone goes there. That doesn't seem like a good reason.

Off the beaten path, we deal with shaky infrastructure, food that makes us sick, and a total lack of convenience. It can be extraordinarily difficult and an opportunity for personal growth. In Cusco, I have to wade through aggressive shop vendors, but I also get to take a hot shower and order a cheeseburger if I'm craving a taste of home. It's less of a "personal growth" moment and more of a place to be curious. Both are valuable. Easier is not lesser.

Why the defensive aside? I guess my tolerance for people telling other people how they should travel is waning. The more I travel, the more I am convinced that it's a highly personal thing. Travel is beautiful and rewarding, but it's also hard.

Which genre of hard you select is up to you.

I'm not better than you just because I've lived in the developing world, where things can be difficult (but also affordable). Just as you aren't better than me because you've lived in luxury while you travel, which is quite expensive. It's just different. And it's all about attitude.


Taylor Coil is traveling the world with Remote Year, living in 12 countries in 12 months, while working as a marketing manager. Follow along to read more philosophies on work, stories from the road, and general (mis)adventures. Sign up for the weekly email or read more from the blog.