Ben Schmidtke is a senior developer from the USA traveling the world with Remote Year Battuta
Why did you decide to come on Remote Year?
Is this a real question? Why not?! All joking aside, I was at a point in time after living in Chicago for 7 years where it felt like it was time to move on. I had been doing a fair amount of traveling and, but nothing like this. Like a moth to a flame, the attractiveness of being able to continue working full time while traveling was a natural transition from my current situation.
What are you working on for the year?
After 10 months, this year I have worked primarily with two of our enterprise clients. One is based on the East Coast and one based on the West Coast. It's made for some interesting late night meetings now that we are in Asia, but I signed up for this. I'm having a great time and really don't think about it. One application is in the manufacturing sector, a behemoth of an application. The other is a streaming video application requiring me to connect to remote video streaming services during development.
How did you find yourself a remote role?
I asked. We talked about it, I was packed up and on the road in 3 months. It was more stressful for me than I think my company. My company is not a remote first company so proving to them that I was in fact going to work full time still was very important to me.
What would you say to others looking to bring travel into their lives?
Everyone is different, I think people need to find what works for them. Don't be afraid to push boundaries and take risks. Far too often we get comfortable with our lives and put other things before what we aspire to do. We need to take a hard look at what is essential to us as individuals and do it. There are always reasons why we don't pursue something, however if it is essential to where you want to go in life: Stop wasting time with non-essential things. Go.
Who do you hope to be by the end of Remote Year?
This is a very hard question to answer right now. Given we are only 6 weeks away from the end of our program... yikes! My tentative plan is to keep traveling for a week or two then swing back to the US for a little bit. After that? I'm cooking up a few things, my Schengen calculator says a fair amount of time in Europe.
What does your typical day look like?
I have worked 40hrs+ per week, all year and have yet to take a sick day.
*knock on wood*
My schedule for the most part has been pretty consistent, although it has changed every continent we have moved to. This has been to accommodate meetings that will never be moved to align with what timezone I'm in. In the western hemisphere and Europe, I'd be done by 7pm at the latest.
My schedule is basically the same as when I lived in Chicago. I'm in the office before 10am, I work between 7 and 8 hours depending on what time zone I'm in. I go out to dinner, explore or do whatever else I want. Then I sign in later in the day, evening or night for any meetings I have. Right now, I have about an hour of daily meetings between 11pm and 12am, depending on day of week. I really enjoy this rhythm, but in Asia it doesn't allow me to relax at night with one eye on the clock.
As a full time employee, I have set a certain standard for myself in regards to how I want to conduct business with my company back home. It's extremely important to me that there is a minimal difference between physically being in the office and being remote. That standard has led to the schedule I have, and it works for both myself and my company while on Remote Year.
Where does your passion for travel come from?
The passion I have for travel stems from multiple sources. Growing up in rural community in a fairly poor family, our vacations or weekend trips involved putting a mattress in the back of a pickup truck that had a cap on it and driving somewhere. My parents would load us in the back, throw a canoe on top then drive across the midwest to go camping and fishing. If we could afford a tank of gas, a 6 pack of beer and some staples (flour, butter, bread), we could catch our meals at the fishing spot. A cast iron pan over a wood fire, throw some butter in and make fried bluegill, bass or walleye. We'd save the Northern Pike and smoke them when we got home. My sister and I would play cards in the back of the truck to pass time. I wouldn't trade those memories for the world.
My grandfather bought a farm up in Wisconsin about 4 hours away so my perception of the world was pretty much every lake, pond, river and stream within 250 miles away from our small farm and his farm. Both him and my grandmother had been high school teachers, he was in the sciences and she was mathematics. One day they handed me a pile of maps that had been replaced at the high school they worked at. The kind you pull down and they roll away. I picked out the biggest one and put the giant world map on the wall. I would sit on rainy days plotting out locations I learned about from in the books I read. As a result, I still want to go dinosaur egg hunting in Mongolia.
I think people often think they need to travel far to 'travel' but there is a lot near by where ever you live. Go check out that tower along the Mississippi where they made lead bullets in the civil war. Maybe Salem Village, where Abraham Lincoln grew up, they have a pretty cool flour mill there. What about the Effigy Mounds in Iowa?
How do you think traveling will affect your current work?
For the most part I'm on projects where I have clearly defined tasks. Most of our clients use JIRA or some other ticket tracking system, based on whatever our contract is I log in and begin knocking out work. Late nights in Asia are catching up to me, but not as bad as others. Some remotes are working 10pm to 7am. I'm thankful I have the flexibility to not work all day during the central timezone.
How travel on Remote Year HAS affected work has been internet issues and problems with phone calls. Chile cut the internet to Bolivia one day. Maybe the cellular service isn't that great for VOIP phone calls. Someone needs to plug something in and unplugs an innocent looking cable that happens to run the power to all the wifi routers. I have a series of backup options with me so it doesn't affect as much as other. Every time a call drops when I'm on the phone with my boss though I panic. I will say that I haven't had a lost day of work all year, just a few hiccups here and there.
If you had to be stuck on an island with another Remote, who would it be and why?
Who is semi resourceful, has a high chance of survival, that I would not strangle? Probably Carmel Legacy. She has an infectious, positive personality and has a green thumb. After the two of us caught ALL of the fish off the coast of Thailand last month, I think she's a solid choice. It also helps she's from the Hawaiian islands and has experience in the matter.
A close second is our operations manager Jason, he'd get us off the island in a jiffy.
What is your secret talent?
It's fairly public. When I have a place to do it, I enjoy glass blowing and playing concertina in my spare time.
Where have you lived/traveled to previously?
Belize, Kenya, Uganda, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Canada and a majority of the United States.
What book should everyone read?
Right now I'm reading: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
Your favorite digital nomad hack?
Simplify your gear so you don't need hacks? The last hack I used was heating up a pan on the stove and using it as an iron!
3 things you can't live without on the road?
Laptop, Power Adapter, Internet.
Throw the rest in the bin. Ok, and one pair of cloths.
Where is your favorite place on the globe?
My grandfathers farm in Wisconsin. It has a log cabin style dairy barn and a class A trout stream across the road. How cool is that!? Yea... I'm sentimental. Chicago and Munich are a close second.
Describe your Remote Year experience in 3 words.
Work, Family, Travel
Describe your perfect day.
Wake up. Kiss a lady good morning. (There is a lady right?) Make us some coffee and breakfast. Get started on chores done for the day, stack some firewood, feed the livestock. Go for a walk in the woods or do some fishing. Make some money in there somewhere. Turn on some classic rock while starting a wood fire grill for dinner. Cook some steaks with a beer. Watch the sunset with whoever is over for dinner (There is a lady right?). Dinner, shower, in bed by 10.
That sounds good, something like that.
Where are you in 30 years?
Hopefully retired while on Remote Year Battuta: Redux! Same 12 cities over 12 months. I may break a hip but I would love to do this again with our group. Cities and people change, it would be interesting to see the same places again 30 years in the future.
What is the most challenging part of being a digital nomad?
Traveling with all the different personalities in this program.
What is the best part about being a digital nomad?
Meeting all of the different people and seeing what they are doing to generate income. As a person who has spent his life in the corporate world, it's refreshing to see different ways of making a living and it has changed my perspective on a host of different things.
What are you most passionate about?
Whatever it is I'm doing at that moment in time. It's important to be present to the moment because it is going to be gone before you know it.
Who is the most interesting person you've met while traveling?
I think everyone I've met on this journey has been interesting for different reasons. Obviously some more than others but the one that stands out the most is the gaucho I met while horseback riding in Argentina. He didn't speak a word of English and he didn't need to. His facial expressions spoke more words for him without needing to say a word. A true man of the earth and soil. I'd like to spend more time with him to learn about everything he knows.
Your favorite quote/words to live by?
Beware of looking for goals: Look for a way of life.