Happy Birthday, Remote Year! As we celebrate another year spent circling the sun, we reminisce on all of the ways that Remote Year has evolved these last 3 years.
A lot can happen in three years. Trips can be taken, jobs can be transitioned, businesses can be built, tacos can be eaten, and lives can be forever changed.
When you’re on a ride as inspiring and energetic as Remote Year, three years flies by in the blink of an eye.
This month, we’re celebrating three years of Remote Year, but that’s not all. We’re celebrating the 1,096 days (there was a leap day in there!) that have brought the world closer to embracing flexible work. We’re raising a glass to the thousands of people who have pursued their purpose while leaping off cliffs into the ocean, building sustainable homes in Latin America, and working from some of the most inspiring coworking spaces around the world. We’re sending high-fives to the travelers who have started their own businesses while on this wild ride. We’re sharing hugs with those who made it through to the other side. We’re celebrating everyone who pushed through heartbreaks and hurdles just to say “I did it.”
In true Remote Year fashion, it wouldn’t be a birthday celebration without a few toasts.
First up, the founders of Remote Year, Greg Caplan and Sam Pessin, who want to share their thoughts on how much Remote Year has changed over the last few years:
Over the past three years, we have grown so much. From a Nation of 70 to a Nation of over 2,000, we have grown to nearly 30 times our initial size. In the early days, we were a passionate group of risk-takers who wanted to bring something important to the world. Now, we are a vibrant community that has made this lifestyle more accessible to people across the globe.
When we first set out on this adventure, we used to show up in cities for one month at a time and run them with a foreign staff. Now, we have long-term cities and full-time local staff that bring our experience to life in a way that we couldn’t have fathomed in the early days. The Local Teams and our Experience Team truly power Remote Year and have helped us deliver a better customer experience year after year.
Our communities have been so proactive when it comes to leaving a positive impact, far beyond what Remote Year has organized for them. We’ve completed 6,700+ hours of service in our three year tenure, and have connected on a deeper level with the people in the communities that we are lucky enough to call home. Here’s to the many opportunities that await us as we strive to create a more peaceful and productive world by fostering genuine human connections across diverse cultures and people.
Beyond the impact that we’ve had in the places that we travel to, we are having an impact on the world at large. In the last year, we’ve started to make meaningful headway in getting employers excited about offering Remote Year as a benefit to their employees. We now have nearly 20 employers that sponsor Remote Year for their employees, ranging from startups to Fortune 500s.
Not to be outdone, our girl Trish Kennelly, Remote Year’s VP of Experience and a true crowd-pleaser, shares her story of the Remote Year evolution:
Our team, how programs operate, what Remote Year offers - almost everything has changed in the last three years. The thing that’s stayed consistent? The people are the magic.
Someone in one of our early groups told me that there is no end to the pursuit of happiness, but in fact, the happiness of the pursuit is always there for the taking if we embrace it. I think the happiness that people find in being part of a journey like this is pure beauty.
When the first Remotes showed up for the first day of Remote Year, people were genuinely relieved that it wasn't a scam and that we were there to meet them. Thinking back on it, I can’t help but laugh because there was just so much unknown. The one thing we were right about - we didn't have the slightest idea of the adventure the world had in store for us.
We called that first program "Remote Year." Upon launching the second program, we realized we needed a way to distinguish between the programs, so we started naming them after explorers. As time passed, we opened up the names to anything that reflected who the Nation is and what we're about. Some of my favorites: Ikigai, Libertatem, Sonder, and Meraki. Recently, we wanted to tap back into that magic of the Nation and let Remotes and Citizens have a hand in naming new programs. You’ll be seeing Exupery, Kahlo, and Curie on the road very soon.
Another group of magical people: the Remote Year team. When we launched the first program, we had a team of six people. Today, we're a growing team made up of people from diverse backgrounds, located on six continents around the world. Our team is the pulse at Remote Year's core, and being able to build Remote Year with such an incredible set of humans is a dream come true for me.
In the early days, we did our best to connect to local cultures and communities, but we didn't have great networks. Being able to experience a city through the eyes of our Local Teams has brought the world alive for me - learning to cook from an abuelita in Mexico City, meeting a refugee family in Malaysia - those are the experiences that stick with you!
When we started, we didn't have the slightest inkling about building a "Nation" - it was just about the individual community. By the end of our first year, we had three programs running, and we brought everyone to Lima to meet in person. That was the real beginning of the Nation network - which today is one of the most global and inspiring networks I know of.
Travis King, Community Strategy and Development Lead, Kairos Program Coordinator and a pro at toasts by now, reminisces on the creation of one of Remote Year’s most cherished events:
On a rainy Prague evening, the idea for Nation House was born. Trish was visiting Cousteau (Remote Year 12-month program) and we ended up brainstorming together, as we tend to do. We were thinking through ways that we could connect people from different Remote Year programs. We started spitballing about getting people together across communities for a weekend, in a sweet Airbnb somewhere. In a house. A Nation House.
We thought about how to focus the weekend and realized it would be cool if it was themed around a certain topic that we knew a significant population in the Nation would be interested in.
The first topic stems from my background in non-profits and my interest in the Positive Impact side of Remote Year. We were in the early days, when there wasn't much strategy around Positive Impact, just a lot of good intention, so we thought that could be the perfect theme for the weekend. We could bring together the Positive Impact leaders from four communities around Europe and discuss all things Positive Impact, while forming new bonds with people from other groups.
We didn't need to wait for the feedback to come in to realize we had something special. The weekend was magic - the connections formed, the deep dive into Positive Impact, the group meals, late nights, and adventures throughout were lifetime memories. It was obvious from the start, this wouldn't be the only one.
To date, we've had seven Nation Houses. Our eighth is focused on digital detox and human connection and will take place at an 18th century chateau outside of Lyon, France. In the past, we've had Nation Houses in locations ranging from a 10-person rural town in Italy, to a china shop in Georgetown, Penang. Topics have ranged from Storytelling to Mindfulness.
Next, Emily Moyer, Director of Brand and Content and Queen of Creating Connections, shares what it was like to be a part of the construction of Remote Year’s first coworking space, WIP.
So much of what is said about Remote Year revolves around the time spent in the city, in nature, and beyond. It quickly becomes obvious how precious free time is, so Remotes tend to use it wisely, never letting a minute go by without the pursuit of action.
However, what doesn’t get talked about enough is how much time is spent in the workspace. Remotes are some of the most passionate, hard-working, creative, inspiring people I’ve ever met and, when they’re in the workspace, they have their nose to the grindstone, hustling to make their dreams come true.
When we embarked on our journey toward creating our first coworking space in Split, we knew that it would have to be an incredible space to match the energy of the Remote Year community.
Hannah, our first Program Leader, designed WIP from floor to ceiling. She used her eye for design and experience in so many coworking spaces around the world to imagine a space in which Remotes could feel productive yet at ease. She worked closely with locals in Split over the course of a summer (which was challenging to say the least - everyone was on vacation!) to create an environment that was conducive to collaboration and privacy. Peppered with local materials from a shipyard in Split, WIP came together in a flurry of big ideas and tag-teamed execution. It was the first coworking space in Split, which helped to expand the idea of location independence to the city for the first time.
WIP is truly a physical representation of the Remote Year motto that, “great work can be done anywhere.” With views of the Adriatic right outside the window, it’s hard not to want to head out for a midday dip - and you can because you’re working remotely! Every month, the Local Team welcomes new programs, staff members and Citizens because WIP feels like home to so many of us - we couldn’t be more proud.
Rose Eppensteiner, Customer Support Manager, AKA International Pizza Girl, wrapped all of our well wishes up with a bow by sharing some of our favorite memories with the Remote Nation - so far:
Kaizen was one of the first few groups to go through the Remote Year Onboarding journey I facilitated, preparing Remotes before their travels start. I chatted with many of the Kaizen Remotes via email, Slack, video calls, and webinars before their program launch, and I felt like I knew a lot of them before I finally met the community in real life in their third month in Lisbon.
Experiencing one of my favorite cities in the world with some of my favorite humans in the world, Kaizen Remotes, made for an unforgettable summer. I saw the Kaizen crew again in Japan in their sixth month, the middle of their Remote Year journey. If anything can make Kyoto and Tokyo better than they already are, it's a group of people who are just as eager for spontaneous adventure as you are.
Fast forward six months, and Kaizen is at the end of their Remote Year travels in Mexico and I was 8,500 miles away in South Africa. A few hours of back and forth internal debate and a cursory glance at my bank account, I booked a flight from Cape Town to Mexico City, packed my bags, and headed to the airport. 36 hours later, I pulled off what will likely forever be my favorite surprise by crashing a Kaizen rooftop party.
Yes, Remote Year is about the amazing places and epic experiences and unforgettable adventures, but none of that is possible without the people who are integral to all of those things. So, when you have the opportunity to spend time with those magically incredibly humans, you jump at that opportunity, even if it means flying across an ocean to do so.
We hope you have a glass in hand, Remote Nation, because now it’s your moment, your turn to give a toast. Before you begin, close your eyes and let the memories of your year on the road wash over you. Bask in the beauty of your highlight reel and look back with appreciation for the times when you didn't know if you could make it all the way through.
You did it. You are the reason that Remote Year lives on, continues to inspire, and encourages people to live their lives for themselves. It’s all because of you, Nation. So today, and always, we’re celebrating your tenacity, determination, and commitment to dancing to the beat of your own drum (or to Despacito - we don’t judge). Here’s to the first three years of this incredible journey, and here’s to hoping that you’ll join us for the next three and beyond. Cheers!