Katherine Conaway is an freelance consultant, producer and writer from the United States who traveled the world with Remote Year Battuta.
I have actually been traveling + working remotely since June 2014, and although it was amazing, it got exhausting and lonely. I heard about Remote Year at the right time in 2015 for me to decide to continue being a digital nomad and join RY's second group, Battuta, which started in Feb 2016 and ended in Jan 2017.
It had its challenges, but I really appreciated not having to coordinate everything myself (travel, housing, networking, local events, problems). The community is wonderful and special - it’s hard to describe how many of these 75 strangers from such a range of backgrounds became my family over the course of our months together.
And these relationships have continued both personally and professionally even after our year ended. I thought of the RY investment (time and money) almost like a grad program because of the learning and networking opportunities.
During RY, I was the Head of Production for Public Persona, where I managed our client projects, developed online workshops + DIY branding materials, and did copywriting, research, strategy, and design work for our projects. Currently, my main client is Bluffworks, a men's travel clothing brand, and I also do freelance consulting and writing projects.
I also have quite a few passion projects:
Lived: Texas, Massachusetts, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland, Bulgaria, New York.
I’ve done a lot of traveling thanks to living abroad, having friends + family scattered around, and now doing RY. I’ve been to over 45 countries so far. For me, it's more about exploring and learning than about racking up a certain number, but when you devote your life to traveling, you hopefully see a lot of the world.
One experience that I’m really proud of is traveling for 6 weeks alone in SE Asia in 2015. I felt that, in order to consider myself a true world traveler, I needed to do a trip by myself. It was very challenging and lonely but also a really rewarding experience. I learned a lot about the countries + cultures I visited, I got to treat myself in ways I couldn't afford on my own in the US or Europe, I had a lot of personal realizations and creative inspirations, and I interviewed for & committed to do RY during that trip!
Since RY ended, I've stayed on the road (my median days in one place for 2017 was 6. Days.). I fulfilled two life dreams last year: I spent 2 months in France and I went on an incredible safari in Kenya's Mara Conservancy.
As I'm writing this, I'm in Medellin, Colombia, where I've gotten to know a couple of the current groups and other visiting "citizens", which has been a really great perk of being an RY alum.
In June 2014, I had been working in production at a design studio in Brooklyn for 2 years and was leaving to visit friends + family for the summer. A creative director friend, who had recently started her own small branding studio working with entrepreneurs, asked if I’d help manage her projects. It started out with 4-5 hours a week, and I've been working remotely as a freelancer since.
Inspiring, Challenging, Unique
My parents also traveled whenever and however they could, so by blood and by example, I think I inherited it.
I’m a very curious person and I love learning. Plus, travel is an injection of new and different. It’s a constant game of adaptation and adventure, which I find addicting.
Storytelling + art. I get so excited about sharing ideas and information, and I think art is the most incredible communication tool and conversation starter. I love that art can be entertaining and informative, inspiring and depressing, abstract and representational, anything and everything - art is life.
I’ve always been drawn to performing, writing, storytelling, and my parents took us to museums and art classes as kids. I took an intro Art History in college and it completely opened up the world for me, reframing human history through visuals - sculpture, architecture, painting. I ended up studying ArtH as my major and continue to find myself constantly drawn back into art, art education, and storytelling in different ways.
I am not going to become a perfect, static person at the end of RY or ever. Instead, I aim to continue trending in a direction that I’m proud of and passionate about.
Traveling and living abroad have helped me become more confident and creative, and that year helped me gain clarity about what I really want to be doing professionally and personally.
Slaughterhouse Five. At first, I had no idea how to pick any *one* book, but then I thought of my “favorite quote" answer (below) from this.
I read it for the first time as a teaching intern after college, and Vonnegut's writing really resonated with me, giving me some great imagery + perspective. His description of the Tralfamadorian mountain range and concept of time has really helped me accept changing situations and relationships, and I think of the applauding cells every time I finish a yoga class. I also think he talks about war and international conflict in an unusual yet poignant way.
The best approach is to start with what you can. Whatever budget, time, and distance you can do, try it, and then see how you can add on to that (if you want). Maybe it’s a weekend away within a short drive or train or bus trip from home, maybe it’s a solo international vacation, maybe it’s joining an academic or travel program in another country. It’s all about your interests, managing your constraints, and taking the first step.
I grew up in Texas, and my parents didn’t have much international travel experience until they were adults. We did family road trips around the US, and they always encouraged me to sign up for summer church trips, which taught me that there are a lot of different ways to travel (and on various budgets).
I studied a semester in Italy in college and loved being abroad, so I looked for a post-grad job that would allow me to live in another country - teaching in American/international schools.
In 2014, I started traveling for a couple months in the states. In 2015, I visited some friends abroad, and then my mom and I did a yoga teacher training in India. In 2016, I found myself 2 years into working remotely + traveling and started Remote Year. Now I've been on the road almost 4 years.
I don't have a special money pot or a close personal example of how to travel or live abroad. I track my money down to every dollar spent, and I take it one step at a time: I do what I can, when I can, how I can.
App-wise: Evernote, offline Google maps, and Whatsapp.
I use Evernote for everything - reading with the web clipper, writing, work. I love having a good quality map (hello blue dot!), and I’m so grateful my dad taught me how to read maps + navigate. WhatsApp has been particularly critical to coordinating with RY and it’s also the main way I keep in touch with my family on a daily basis. Also, I admit that I am now hooked on Instagram Stories.
They aren’t words to live by, per se, but “so it goes” from Vonnegut is something that comes to mind for me often. It's a helpful reminder to me that sometimes life just requires acceptance and moving forward with what is.