I told Tyler to go first.
He scanned the 20+ scraps of paper on the floor. Each, in bold Sharpie, held the name of a country and a timeframe.
He grabbed “Japan (March–May; September–November)” and placed it directly in front of us. Next, I picked up “Bali (April, May, June, September)” and put it below Japan.
We took turns — sometimes switching out choices at the last second — until we had 12. We then rearranged them according to the timeframes, which indicated when they had the best weather.
We smiled at each other, happy with our work. There was our future, our 2019, right in front of us.
An almost remote year
In July 2016, I received an email.
I was in Iceland, where I had taken myself on a solo trip for my 30th birthday. The email was from a newish company called Remote Year, to which I’d rapidly sent an application for a program coordinator position.
After a Skype call with one of the founders, I received an offer. It sounded like something out of a dream: I would lead people around the world, living in a different country each month.
The only catch? I’d have to be on-site, in another country, in three weeks. I wouldn’t be able to give much notice to my employer, The Penny Hoarder, which had been so good to me. That made me deeply uncomfortable.
I would also have to leave my burgeoning relationship for an entire year. I would be on-call, 24/7, for the “Remotes,” essentially adopting the role of an RA. I would not be permitted to freelance.
I agonized over the decision. While there were some drawbacks, could I really give up an opportunity like this?
The turning point came when I spoke to one of my best friends Claire. “It’s not like this is your only chance to do something like this,” she said. “You basically are already living that life — it’s why they hired you. So if it doesn’t feel right right now, that’s okay.”
I turned down the gig. It was a very cool company, run by very cool people, but the timing didn’t make sense. Three months later, the company raised $12 million.
Doing it on our own terms
To combat any percolating regrets, I decided that, sometime in the near future, I’d do my own remote year.
Although I had lived in other countries before, I’d never traveled like that — for a whole year, spending each month in a different place. So I would: on my own terms, with my own person.
The only problem was that person, Tyler, worked as a bartender. An incredibly portable job, but not a remote job. When we met, he’d been considering teaching English in Korea, but I told him to go remote instead. That way, he wouldn’t be limited to one career, or one country.
He went back to school, and got his bachelor’s in web development. A few months before graduating, he received a job offer from the University of South Carolina. Although Cackalacky hadn’t been in our plans, it gave us the opportunity to be close to his family during a tough period.
They also dangled a promise: Work in person for six months, and you can go remote. So we found ourselves in South Carolina for much of 2018. I loved it, much more than I expected to.
Then, in November, they gave him (us!) the keys to the world: permission to work remotely.
Where we’ll be in 2019
Which brings us back to our living room floor, circa September 2018.
Every night, for months, we had looked at the map above our kitchen table and talked about places we might want to live. But we had avoided writing anything down until we knew it was going to happen, afraid putting pen to paper would jinx it somehow.
Until one night, when we’d had many tacos and several margaritas and were listening to an electric cello player and said fuck it and started scribbling countries on a napkin. That napkin became the basis for the notecards, which then became the basis for the next year of our life.
I’m writing to you now from Buenos Aires. We’ve been on the road for just under a month; we’ve walked miles through the city, drank gallons of wine and coffee, and paid homage to Evita.
Over the following year, you may find us in:
- February: Patagonia
- March: Colombia
- April: Spain + Greece
- May: Croatia
- June: Italy
- July: The Balkans
- August: Malaysia
- September: Japan
- October: Bali
- November: Thailand
- December: ???
It’s thrilling to finally be on the road with my person, to be making our own personal remote year.
I loved creating a life and a community in South Carolina, but I also love this: seeing new places, meeting new people, feeling new flavors and languages and air on my lips.
It is an incredible privilege to see the world, to be alive in the world, and I am doing my best not to take it for granted.
This trip also has a tinge of bittersweet urgency. Because, if you asked me, I would say this is my last (big) hurrah.
That 2020 will be for settling, for building the community I crave, for getting a dog and starting a family, for making it through an entire one-year lease, for doing all the things I have not yet done.
When I tell that to friends and family, some laugh and shake their heads. “I’ll believe that when I see it” has become a common refrain. I can’t disagree with them.
Who knows how I’ll feel when this year is up? Maybe I will never stop moving. Maybe I will come home early.
What I do know: that life can change in an instant; that plans are often as delicate and crinkly as a leaf in fall; that, for any semblance of inner peace, you must accept every single thing as fleeting.
So I’ll be over here inhaling the world, one day and month at a time. Hope to see you somewhere along the way <3