Why

Ben wrote a beautiful post on finding our why in Remote Year. Ben's words always inspire introspection, observation, and a shift in perspective for me. Of course I'm going to read and ponder his latest words, "When the Going Gets Tough."

From his blog:

Since mental and emotional preparedness is a very personal thing, I have often wondered have the people participating in Remote Year prepared themselves for successfully completing the program. I’m not talking about the high level, generic reasons that come automatically with joining this program as a motivator for purpose. Travel, adventure, community, food, learning to work remotely and more, are all obvious aspects of this program – dismiss all of those reasons. If a person hasn’t thought about goals or a purpose for being here, are those surface level traits of this program enough to get them through 12 months when they become challenged by things they may not like? The obvious answer to that question is ‘no, it’s not’ – but depending on the individual, I will concede a weak ‘maybe’.

He's so right. Dismiss all of those superficial reasons. This isn't about travel, it's not about the gorgeous Instagrams or the delicious meals or even the community. 

Remote Year is HARD. It's hard to work in this context, it's hard to navigate change constantly, it's hard to learn a new routine and give it up - every month. That's just a sliver of the challenge, just a few of the examples. 

Before you say poor little middle-class white girl, traveling the world - yeah. You're right, this genre of hard is a huge privilege. I'm living in the developing world by choice. At any point, I can fly home and sleep in my aunt's gorgeous new house, lounge on my stepdad's boat, drink clean water and breathe clean air.

When I go home, I'm going home to this.

When I go home, I'm going home to this.

Know that every moment I spend in South America makes me ever more grateful for my own privilege

But it's still hard - recognizing your privilege doesn't make the experience less hard. It still forces us to question and redefine our purpose.

So what's my purpose? What's my why? Using the framework Ben gives us:

I am participating in Remote Year because… (this is your why)

Because I want to live on my own terms. Because I am choosing to intentionally curate my own life, for me, for the first time. Because I am saying goodbye to feeling trapped in convention. Because I am regaining control over a life that felt as though it ran away from me, ignoring my passions and ignoring my priorities.

It is a selfish purpose.

When I successfully finish Remote Year, I will… (these are the personal benefits you’ll acquire upon reaching month 12)

I will have a solid group of people, people I love and with whom I have shared priceless memories from a year of challenge and joy.

I will have (even more) resilience.

I will appreciate my privilege in a way I didn't previously, not since the summer I spent in Haiti with my dad.

I will feel more solid in where and how I want to live.

I will grow in ways that I haven't yet discovered.

If I give up on Remote Year, I will… (these are the negative perceptions you’ll develop of yourself, the program or your fellow remotes if you quit – harsh but effective)

I will miss my tribe terribly.

I will wonder what I missed.

This last question, for me, depends on the why. So much can happen this year. I will not quit just because it's hard, just because I'm struggling. If that were my motivation for leaving, I would feel shame, regret, sadness.

But I won't say a definitive "I'm never leaving." A reason for quitting, for me, could only be a reason that is bigger than Remote Year. This trip feels all-encompassing for me, but it's not - not really. There are things that are more important than this adventure - not many, but they exist. If I were to quit because of a priority I hold more dear than RY, I would feel sadness and nostalgia, but not regret and not shame.

The problem, for me, is that my "why" and the reality of Remote Year don't quite align.

I said yes to this adventure because it was a new life of intentional choice. A life free from everything that trapped me in my hometown, a life that I gave over to a relationship rather than defining for myself. For me, RY was about regaining control.

That seemed to fit when I was preparing to leave Durham. In reality, RY is about a total lack of control. I give control to the people that make our schedule, assign our roommates, set up our workspace. Choice feels like an illusion on this adventure.

That's my biggest struggle. That's where I find myself needing to redefine my why. If this adventure isn't about regaining control over my life, what is it about?

I think it must come down to the people, my fellow remotes. I love this group, I truly do. I have so much fondness for the people with whom I travel, and I choose to go through all the bullshit to do it with them. 

Obviously, it's a process. My purpose feels solid. When your purpose and your day-to-day don't align, what then? Do you put off your purpose, adapt and force yourself to be malleable? Or do you choose another path, one that more aligns with your why?

I don't know. I really, truly, don't know.


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.