Kimberly Koenig

Kimberly Koenig  

Freelance Photographer + Writer

U.S.A

 

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Why did you decide to go on Remote Year?

After 9+ years in the tech industry, I was adrift. My background is in computer science and I always thought tech was where I was meant to be. I needed to rediscover my purpose. After a 6-week solo trip, clarity emerged: thanks to a former coworker, I was suddenly working as a freelance writer and photographer. It occurred to me that these opportunities opened the door to that outlandish “Remote Year” thing I’d been considering for quite a while.
 

Tell us about your Remote Role.

I work for myself! I’m a freelance writer and photographer bringing fresh human interest to travel, tech, and gaming publications. My current clients include Republic of Gamers and ASUS, but I’m always looking for new visual storytelling opportunities at the crossroads of human interest and culture.
 

How did you find yourself a remote role?

I think my remote role found me. I’ve always had a knack for writing, and photography was a hobby for many years. A former coworker opened the door to freelance work, which led to many more opportunities, including covering video game events in Australia and Sweden. While working from Australia, I realized I could actually do my work from anywhere.

Inside the stunning St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel - an underground elevator and tunnel in Hamburg, Germany, that goes under the river.

Inside the stunning St. Pauli Elbe Tunnel - an underground elevator and tunnel in Hamburg, Germany, that goes under the river.

What are you working on for the year?

Aside from freelance writing and photography, I’m working on getting outside my comfort zone, expanding my business, teaching others, networking, and learning from other people.

Like I mentioned above, I’m always looking for new opportunities at the crossroads of human interest and culture. I love telling untold stories and finding meaningful narratives. If you have a project that you'd like to collaborate on, please get in touch!
 

What do you hope to achieve/gain by the end of Remote Year? 

Professionally, I hope to start a media business, learn new skills, build my brand, work on cool projects, and generally do whatever it takes to continue being remote 100% of the time.

Personally, I hope to fall in love with at least one Remote Year city, form meaningful connections with my fellow remotes, and help others gain new skills.

A fisherman in the Fes souk looks up from cleaning the day’s catch.

A fisherman in the Fes souk looks up from cleaning the day’s catch.

What does your typical work day look like?

Freelancing means I have a very flexible schedule and I have to create my own structure. Some days, I’m out on the town taking the pictures and video I need for articles, social media, and my portfolio. Sometimes I have appointments with industry experts and local businesses like virtual reality cafes, gaming studios, and other professionals for tours, interviews, and photos.

Once all this collateral is collected, I have to listen to recordings, annotate transcripts, select and edit the best photos, and write the accompanying articles. There’s some back and forth with my editors until the articles are complete, and then the process of researching and pitching articles for the next month starts anew.

There’s lots of variety on any given day, and sometimes I’m pulling very late nights to meet deadlines. It’s not all fun: there are definitely tedious days when I’m reviewing contracts with new clients and going through the (in my opinion, not very exciting) process of advocating for myself, including a decent contract and fair pay.
 

Mopeds and bikes are almost as common as pedestrians in Marrakech’s labyrinthine and narrow side streets.

Mopeds and bikes are almost as common as pedestrians in Marrakech’s labyrinthine and narrow side streets.

Where does your passion for travel come from?

Partially it’s that I feel most authentically myself when traveling - something about it calms my brain. The rest comes from my natural curiosity and verve for the unknown; I love thinking about how the world works, seeing how different people live, and taking in new experiences. I’m probably happiest when I’m getting lost in an unfamiliar market and doing street photography.
 

How has working remotely affected your current work? [productivity, timezones, communication etc]

Sometimes I stay up much later than I’d like. In Prague, there were some nights when I was up until 5 or 6 am working on deadlines. It wasn’t that I left my work until the last minute, but that I was being overly perfectionistic about my articles. That entire month was brutal - I had five article deadlines in four weeks, and the entire time I still had to collect collateral for the next month’s articles.
 

Do you plan to sustain this remote lifestyle after Remote Year?

I certainly want to! It’s why I’m working on starting my own media business for photography, videography, and article content. I also want to provide consulting, photo tours, photography critiques, storytelling classes, and travel planning services, but I’m trying to take it one step at a time so I don’t get overwhelmed. Ideally, I want to get to the point where I’m working less, making more, and able to sustain the remote lifestyle.

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, we were caught in a sudden thunder and hailstorm. 813 shots later, I had the one lucky photo I was hoping to get - lightning striking just outside the ancient city walls.

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, we were caught in a sudden thunder and hailstorm. 813 shots later, I had the one lucky photo I was hoping to get - lightning striking just outside the ancient city walls.

Where have you lived / traveled to previously?

My family moved around a lot when I was kid. These days, when I’m not traveling, I live in Seattle. 

I only began traveling internationally very recently - my travel addiction began with a rather ambitious 16-day trip to Ireland. Nonetheless, I made up for lost time by visiting about 25 countries in five years. Most of that’s been in Europe, but I’ve also been to Australia, Thailand, Morocco, and Israel.
 

What book should everyone read?

The most life-changing book for me as a photographer was Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs by Henry Carroll. I’m also a big fan of science fiction, so I have to say William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age were both very formative books for me.

Chefchaouen, Morocco, is a must-visit for a slower pace than the big city hustle. There’s a tucked-away soap shop called La Botica de la Abuela Aladdin which feels more like something out of Harry Potter than real life - you almost expect them to sell wands in addition to incense.

Chefchaouen, Morocco, is a must-visit for a slower pace than the big city hustle. There’s a tucked-away soap shop called La Botica de la Abuela Aladdin which feels more like something out of Harry Potter than real life - you almost expect them to sell wands in addition to incense.

3 things you can't live without on the road?

A Turkish towel (it does quadruple-duty as a shawl, scarf, blanket, and pillow), makeup eraser cloths (they’re magic), and Bose QuietComfort in-ear noise cancelling headphones.  
 

What has been your favorite Remote Year city? Why?

I find something to love in every single place I visit. Nonetheless, I don’t think I’ve found a favorite just yet. Since I studied some Japanese in college, I’m really looking forward to Kyoto.
 

Your favorite quote / words to live by?

“People contain multitudes.” and “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
 

Describe your perfect day.

I wake up without an alarm, mosey to an amazing coffee shop with great smoothies, then spend the day exploring a new city without an agenda. I get lost in the best way, stumble upon amazing local spots, meet awesome people, and find incredible photo opportunities that I wouldn’t have discovered if I planned everything and did all the internet research in the world.
 

Where are you in 30 years?

Hopefully a photographer for National Geographic. Bonus: I have a published book. And maybe a startup. Hah - can I just do all the things, please?

Some of the Merzouga desert dunes are sharp like cut glass, but the ripples of light and darkness on these turn sand into the swirling, textured skin of a living creature.  

Some of the Merzouga desert dunes are sharp like cut glass, but the ripples of light and darkness on these turn sand into the swirling, textured skin of a living creature.
 

Are you working on any interesting side projects?

Yes - in fact, I’m working on three! One is my interview series called “Searching for Home”. Throughout the year, I’m interviewing people about what home means to them. My goal: understanding how people find a sense of place and belonging in the world.

I’m also a photographer for “Future of Women”, a documentary and social media project highlighting amazing women entrepreneurs around the world - the movers, shakers, and change-makers.

Lastly, I’m contributing to a Kaizen startup called “Laazy” as a program manager/UX designer/user researcher. I guess I wasn’t fully able to escape my love for tech and overcommitment. :)
 

Has Remote Year helped you discover any new hobbies or skills?

My newest hobby is improv. We’re lucky enough to have a fellow remote who’s teaching weekly improv classes. I always considered doing improv in the past, but never worked up the courage. Now I’m doing it twice a week, and we’ll even be doing a show very soon.

I’ve also discovered I really love teaching: I’ve led street photography excursions, provided photography critiques and one-on-one photo coaching sessions, presented a “Wisdom Wednesday” talk on storytelling, and hosted a personal growth session on empathy, active listening, and non-violent communication. Oh, and I have a Knowledge Drop on photo editing coming up on June 21st! #shamelessplug

Croatia is home to many abandoned military relics - holdovers from WWII and the homeland war. In addition to hidden military tunnels on Biševo, I got to explore a submarine silo on Vis Island. It was mysteriously adorned with Tibetan prayer flags.

Croatia is home to many abandoned military relics - holdovers from WWII and the homeland war. In addition to hidden military tunnels on Biševo, I got to explore a submarine silo on Vis Island. It was mysteriously adorned with Tibetan prayer flags.


Who is the most interesting person you've met while traveling?

This is a tough one because I’ve met so many interesting people, particularly once I began staying in hostels and Couchsurfing. I think right now it’s a guy named Dado who lives on a small Croatian island called Biševo. Through a series of fortunate connections, I was put in touch with him. He showed me these little-known military tunnels on the island. Most of the year there are only 13 permanent residents, and during winter he’s often the only person there. He likes to refer to himself as both king and mayor of Biševo. He likes the island’s solitude and wild beauty. I thought that was really interesting and poetic.

 

What’s it like being on Remote Year with your significant other?

It’s fun! It’s nice having someone you’re close to with whom you can share the experience.  I’ve always enjoyed traveling with him, though, so being on Remote Year with him isn’t much different than, say, being on a normal trip. The main distinction is that he often helps me with my work now.
 

In the back of a Thai tuk tuk, we were totally immersed in the chaos of the streets. Mopeds and cars sped and sputtered with wild abandon, and we were at the center of it all.

In the back of a Thai tuk tuk, we were totally immersed in the chaos of the streets. Mopeds and cars sped and sputtered with wild abandon, and we were at the center of it all.


Any advice for anyone considering going on Remote Year with a significant other?

Don’t use it as a reason not to interact with the other Remotes. It’s tempting to stay in your comfort zone, but try to interact with people individually and get to know them personally. Thankfully, I’m a pretty outgoing person, so this hasn’t been an issue so far. I’m also very comfortable with solo travel and we have both shared and separate interests, so we do things separately as well as together. I think this makes getting to know other Remotes much easier.

 

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