This time last year, we were packing to move into our new rental place. It was going to be bigger, with an actual kitchen (if you are from New York or Mumbai you know what we are talking about), bigger wardrobes that fit everything we owned and higher ceilings that made our furniture look tiny like it was straight from a doll house.
We had no clue then, that a month after, we would take off to follow the sun all year round, literally. We got selected for Remote Year’s pilot program. Remote Year is a company that is based on a simple hypothesis “One can work and travel the world at the same time”.
So, you put your lives on hold?
The most common phrase we hear is, “we put our lives on hold and took off on this adventure.” When we started Remote Year in June 2015, we did technically leave our family, friends and belongings behind for a year, but we wouldn’t call that ‘putting our lives on hold’. In fact, it’s the absolute opposite. We feel like we have ‘accelerated change’ with travel. We have been able to do (in six months) what we would’ve done in six years or longer. When living in one city, we limit ourselves to what we’re comfortable with and don’t feel the need for something new until a certain situation arises.
Since we started, we’ve constantly been discovering and learning new things. From learning scuba diving, starting a business, getting a first-hand experience on the political situation in Turkey, attending three weddings across Tunisia and India, living in our favorite neighborhood in Istanbul, discovering that Slovenia is an amazing country and how to pronounce ‘Ljubljana’, to spending more time with friends and family than we have in the past five years - all this and more while traveling and continuing to work on freelance projects. What this year has given us, is the space to think of new ideas and the mental pause to decide what we really want for ourselves. Everyone should take a pause like this; it doesn’t have to be for a year, it can be for one month or three. Get out of your everyday environment and experience the completely unfamiliar.
Not a vacation, but a new lifestyle
When you travel, you discover a lot about yourself. Your strengths, limitations, preferences and how you like to travel. For the first month, we were constantly trying to keep up with this transition. We were still working the same insane hours as in New York, but just in a new city. We were in Prague, a beautiful European city, yet we were at the co-working space and in-phone meetings till 11pm on a Friday instead of checking off the ‘things to see/do list’. That’s not what we are used to when we go for a 10-day vacation somewhere.
But this was not a vacation. It was a new lifestyle and it took us a month to get into the groove and discover the new us. Traveling and working is not as easy and glamorous as it looks from the outside, but it’s definitely worth it. Everyone thinks that as soon as you leave your job, you can achieve work-life balance. But that is far from the truth. To get work done, we realised that we needed to be more organised to be productive on the go. It’s one of the things that is a daily challenge. We also realised we like interacting with locals more than visiting monuments; we travelled great lengths to eat some authentic local food. It was the favourite part of our experience in every city.
Looking back to look forward
Eight months of travel and we have a lot to look back on. Our lives have completely changed and turned upside down, in a good way. While it’s hard to encapsulate the experience in words, four of the most valuable takeaways so far are new friendships around the world; an empathy for different cultures; having the freedom to pursue our passion and exposure to new experiences.
We have made wonderful friends around the world. People have opened their homes and hearts to us, and we will cherish them for life. Empathy is probably the number one quality anybody should have in life, especially while traveling. Living a lifestyle on the go has given us immense freedom.
The question of life after Remote Year comes up constantly but our philosophy has never been to overplan our lives. While planning is important in certain parts of life, at the moment, we are making calculated decisions on-the-go.
We love our work and wouldn’t want to let go of it completely. More so, we cannot afford to do this at the moment. So we will continue design consulting alongside . Even before getting on this year-long journey, we wanted to live a lifestyle of working eight months a year and indulging in personal growth (traveling, learning new skills like surfing, or fixing motorcyles) for four months. Having gone through this year-long experience has shown us that it’s possible to do both seamlessly and we will certainly try and include it in our lifestyle in the future.
Starting a business
We started Pikkabox in the first month of our journey in Prague. We had a good idea but had never done anything like it before. However, we knew that to make the most of this one year, we had to dive in and pursue the ideas that we weren’t able to while doing our full-time jobs. We’ve had a lot of learnings in the past eight months and based on our experiences, here are the most important ones.
Just launch it. You may do a lot of planning and make a million preparations and while that last step to put it out is the hardest, it is also the most gratifying. There are so many platforms/services out there that help you build your business easily, be it simple website makers, plug & play payments platforms, or even just Facebook to help you market your product - there’s no excuses to not bring your ideas to life if you’re really passionate about them.
Show your idea to people. It’s really important to get moving on the idea that’s in your head and show it to people. It may not be perfect, but the feedback that you get by putting something out there is invaluable and helps iterate your product in the right direction faster.
Collaborate with someone. You don’t have to, but we have to admit, doing it alone is far more difficult and having a partner in crime makes things a wee bit easier and a lot more fun.
- Anuja Joshi and Gaurabh Mathure.
Anuja Joshi are currently travelling the world and building a business on the move