Two years ago I quit my office job in London, sold all my stuff, packed my life in a 23kg suitcase, said goodbye to all my friends and flew to Colombia to start my year-long adventure working as a Program Leader with the Remote Year program. It was like they basically invented my dream job and then offered it to me. I was over the moon, and terrified.
By the end of March 2017 I had successfully led a community of 50+ digital nomads, who were working remotely and travelling around the world. For 12 months we lived in 12 different cities across Europe, Asia and South America, always together. Intense? I felt like I’d aged 5 years in 12 months, and sometimes struggled to understand how profoundly the experience had changed me.
The thing is, travelling always changes you in some ways. But travelling as part of a community is a completely different story. Here’s three important lessons I learned in the process.
Stop talking, start listening
When you’re constantly travelling from place to place and meeting new people that are also doing the same, you want to be able to create meaningful relationships in a short period of time. You quickly realise you don’t have the time nor the energy for small talk. But if you step back and take the time to really listen to others, you’ll be able to tune in very quickly with whoever you meet. Everyone has an interesting story to tell, and it’s often not what you were expecting.
No matter how open-minded and well-travelled you are, you will judge
Being forced to spend time with people that I wouldn’t normally choose to hang out with in a familiar environment made me realise how often we tend to judge a book from its cover. Back home, we tend to stick to people that we feel are similar to us and make us feel comfortable. However, if we take the time to dig deeper and push through the initial ‘awkward’ feeling, we will find that people that are very different from us are those that we should seek out and hang out with more often. They are the ones that would offer us a different perspective and really make us richer individuals.
Location independent work is the future, and communities are the key. As long as they foster vulnerability
Before I started to travel with a bunch of 50+ strangers, I had heard the term ‘tramily’ (travel + family) a few times from previous colleagues at Remote Year. And I was skeptical. I thought there was no way I would get attached to these people, as nice as they were, to the point that I would call them ‘family’. Once again, I was wrong. Travelling for a long period of time will eventually make you feel uncomfortable and push you to your limit, revealing who you really are and hence making you vulnerable. Nobody likes their dark sides to be exposed, but when your insecurities and fears are revealed and you have no choice but opening up about who you really are, that’s when the deepest sense of connection arises. Vulnerability is the most powerful tool for creating communities that really feel like families. It allows others to better understand you, accept you and love you for who you are; it instantly erases the defensive walls that we all build and that prevent us to have real, meaningful, heart-to-heart connections.
A year after saying goodbye to my Remote Year program and tramily, I find myself starting a new adventure at Sun and Co. I am excited to have the opportunity to witness and spread the word about coliving, a new way of living and working for digital nomads based on communities, collaboration and meaningful connections. It’s a revolutionary concept that is hard to explain and understand without having experienced it.
If you’re skeptical, like I was, you just need to come and try. You’ll never want to go back 🙂