May 2015, I booked a one-way ticket to Prague, Czech Republic to meet up with 74 strangers from around the world - embarking on a year long journey. Together we would travel to a new country every month, across Europe, Asia, and South America, all while working remotely.
Sounds crazy right?
Well, I didn't question the opportunity for even a split second. For me, I felt like it was the right choice and that it was meant to be. I was sick of cubicle life, the 9-5 rat race, and pretty much just wanted to travel the world forever - and this was my golden ticket to that dream lifestyle.
The Start of Remote Year
When the group first met up, energy was high. Oftentimes we'd roll 75 people deep into a restaurant, bar - wherever it may be - making it almost impossible for any place to handle our large size. There was always, I mean always, something going on. From dawn until late into the night, it felt like you always had 10 options of where you could be. Even when you were spending your time doing something cool, you knew you were missing out on something else.
I think this overwhelmed many people, but for some reason, it didn't really have an impact on me. Instead, my biggest impact moments were:
- Getting homesick in Istanbul, Turkey in month 4
- The final months as Remote Year wrapped up
- And most of all, my return home to Canada
The Final Weeks of Remote Year, Before Retuning Home
The final weeks leading up to the end of Remote Year were tough.
- I couldn't focus on work
- I felt like I was zoned out at all times
- I was trying to reflect on what just happened for the 351 days prior
- I was trying to figure out how I could manage to adjust back home
- And even more so, trying to manage all of the emotions that came with it all
I was exhausted - Remote Year was fight or flight mode where you were constantly "on". By my last 2 months, I found myself not even exploring the cities I was in. I was just exhausted and craved some stability. Leaving Remote Year left me in tears. I would miss every moment with my new family, yet I couldn't be more excited to get home. It had been a whole year since I saw my family and friends, and that's a lifetime when you have 2 young nephews who were growing way too fast over a Skype screen.
The High of Returning Home
The first 2 weeks home were exciting and busy. I was in a wedding just days after my return home so my week was filled with wedding festivities and catching up with family and friends. It was like Remote Year hadn't stopped yet with being so busy. I didn't have time to process what happened for the last year. I keep saying, "time to process what happened", because it's so easy to get caught up in Remote Year that you don't even have time to process what's happening. Even being at home felt surreal. I didn't even know how to process it all.
After a 2-week high came the low. The incredible low. Travel Blues are an understatement. It was a pure depression. I've never had to manage depression or anxiety but those 2 weeks I was homesick in Turkey and my return home gave me a dose of what life is like with depression and anxiety and it is effing difficult. It wasn't because I was home and wished I was out traveling - I was exhausted and needed a break. I was just sad for no reason. Everything and nothing could leave me in tears.
Justin Bieber's song sorry came on in the car - cue the tears. It was a song I loved while abroad because it reminded me of home now it reminded me of Remote Year since all my American and international friends embraced the Canadian-ness of the Biebs while on our year-long journey.
I literally had a breakdown at one point with no trigger. I just cried.
For weeks, I couldn't even smile - not even a fake smile. For anyone that knows me really well, this is not of my character at all. I'm usually a pretty (overly) optimistic person with a high energy. This was something I had never experienced in life. It sucked. I didn't know when or if it would stop. I suppose knowing that I hit a depression wall in Turkey braced me for the fact that it will just eventually stop, out of the blue, whenever it decides.
Needless to say, the transition home has been hard and I'm not even sure if this depressive state has even left.
Lost & Confused
I've since escaped the deep depression but I haven't been myself since returning home, which is odd because on Remote Year part of me never felt like I was being my full and true self anyway. I still find myself on a bit of a low. Being on the program made me realize and consider things I never knew was an option or consideration before.
I feel confused and displaced.
Going away doesn't seem like it would help, but neither does being home.
What Life Is Like For Me Now
- I'm back home in Canada
- My car died so I'm car-less at the moment
- I'm still working for the same company that I did during Remote Year, doing online marketing
- I launched a 2-week retreat in Bali, called WiFly Nomads, to show people how they can become digital nomads. It covers everything from finding remote work to navigating this crazy lifestyle as a digital nomad - and you better believe it covers the mental challenges that come along with this lifestyle too
- I will return to Bali this fall
- I hope to have a vacation soon. I'm craving to travel to a country and not have to worry about wifi or work for once
- Oh and, I don't drink or party anymore. The social aspect to Remote Year was of such high intensity that I'm exhausted from it and have become pretty anti-social and don't party anymore. I'm in bed early and never drink more than a beer or two. I'm still in Remote Year recovery mode
What's My Plan
Well, I don't need a plan. As a digital nomad, you can just roll with things and see what happens.
I do, however, want to buy a house and a car. I crave the stability that a house brings... and the convenience of a car. After a year of living in a variety of places, wherever Remote Year chose, it got hard to feel at home and I had no choice but to adapt. Of course I will still travel, I don't think I'll ever stop. But I do have to say I'm excited to own more items than can fit in a suitcase.
Mental & Physical Health
My immediate plan is to focus on breaking bad habits in order to get back to a healthy physical and mental spot.
Before Remote Year...
I was in the best mental and physical shape I had ever been in, in my life. I was zenned out. I had a life coach. I meditated every day, exercised regularly, ate organic, never drank coffee and was sugar-free. I was mindful, balanced and happy.
365 Days Later...
I've created bad habits. I eat sugar, drink coffee, and don't exercise. I'm literally in the worst physical and mental shape I've ever been in my life.
Remote Year was such a fight or flight survival mode, "always on" type of situation. With that, I lost focus on the important areas of my life. My goal is to get back to a "thrive" mode instead of just "survive" mode. I'm clearly having trouble getting myself there so I've enrolled a life coach to help me get back on track.
Whatever happened between day 1 and day 365, it has left an impact on my life, no doubt.
There's no way to wrap up this post, as I'm still in a state of mind that I can't quite figure out. So most appropriately i'll leave it as,
To be continued... ;)
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