You're Remote. Now What?
Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Now that your company has gone fully remote, you’re finding yourself asking, “now what?” You’re working tirelessly from your house or apartment, you have your desk set up and arranged perfectly, kitchen stocked with snacks and coffee, but you’re experiencing some fatigue. Not just because of the pandemic and the news bombarding your phone, but maybe because you need a break or a change of scenery. You’re taking Zoom calls like they’re going out of style, going on more walks than you’d like to admit. You feel stir-crazy. You conclude there has to be more to working from your home setting. You miss human interaction. You miss being out of your comfort zone. Maybe a change of scenery is the exact remedy you need.
We here at broadn are here to provide two different arguments and perspectives about whether you should stay put or get out (with safety in mind!). The best part is, there’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s all personal preference. But we certainly want to address what’s been weighing on all remote workers' minds these days and how we’re navigating these new waters as nomads.
Justin from broadn
Let’s start with the argument of packing your bags, hightailing it to the airport, and traveling out of your home country. Whether it’s for a short amount of time or longer, you don’t care. You’ve thought about it. Waffled back and forth. Looked up flights, closed your browser, only to check Skyscanner again a few hours later. But finally, you say, “Ok, let’s do this.” I’m here to provide an argument about why you should feel good (relatively so) about your decision and why there’s no need to hesitate as much given everything that’s going on.
Travel Abroad? Now...?
So what do you do from here, now that you’ve decided to leave the nest? Pack your bags? Head straight to the airport? (Of course, with your mask in tow). It took me a bit to even work up the energy and courage to get to this point. But once I made my decision, I was ready to take off.
When I finally gave up my apartment in Austin, TX, it was a great feeling. A feeling of being untethered and unanchored with no rent and almost no furniture. I knew I would be saving quite a bit of money, too. To become a true nomad, I recommend following suit. I know ending a lease and selling your things or putting them in storage is a daunting idea, but totally worth it. You can always come back from your travels at any time and hop into another lease. But I understand if this is too drastic right off the bat. Traveling while maintaining an apartment isn’t the end of the world. You just have to be more strategic about it. Making sure you have enough money to cover rent while you’re gone - maybe you can Airbnb your place or sublet it to a friend. Either way, I’m an advocate for lightening your load - one less thing to worry about.
The downside was not having a real place to go when the pandemic first started. Not complaining, but after being trapped in my parent's house for two months, I was just eager to get back to what I was doing before the pandemic. But how?
Working out a plan
A little voice inside my head was saying - hold your horses, there’s more to it than just throwing a dart at a map and hopping on a plane like the old days. You need a bit more of an elaborate and well-researched plan nowadays to embark on or continue your nomadic adventures. For me, I had to take a step back and ask myself some standard yet vital questions: where am I going to go? How am I going to get there? Where will I stay, work, eat, drink when I get where I’m going? What are the rules and restrictions in place, given this new scenario we are all in? Are locals looking to interact and be social? Like we stated in our last post, the goalposts keep moving. It all sounds a bit tricky, no?
The way I went about researching was looking into what countries were willing to let me in based on my American passport and using the IATA travel restrictions website one of my main resources, along with the fantastic travel blog, Travel Off Path, for any breaking updates. I wanted to minimize my time in the air, so I only looked at flights that were direct or one-stop. Did I need to apply for a visa? Did I need a COVID-19 PCR test to get in? What about travel insurance? Did I need to quarantine after arriving and if so, for how long? If I book plane tickets and places to stay, will I get my money back if I can’t make it for one reason or another, as related to COVID-19?
What was the situation on the ground? Were people social distancing? Were people wearing masks and using hand sanitizer? Were bars, cafes, and restaurants open? What about tourist sites and public transportation? Were there lockdowns imminent?
I did the research and hopped on a plane. Something I hadn’t done in months. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous and anxious, but also excited.
If only there was some service or company offering to neatly package this up for me... hint, hint ;)
A return to international travel and nomadic normalcy
Fast forward four months. I’m currently writing this from Istanbul, Turkey. I’ve been here since mid-September and was in Croatia for two months prior. To be honest, I have no regrets about “leaving the nest” and traveling abroad. I’ve been rather safe while living in both countries. In fact, I’ve felt like I’ve maintained a pretty normal life minus facing some business closures, mandatory masks in certain places, and the occasional COVID-19 restrictions being put in place like bars and restaurants closing early.
Working on the Airbnb rooftop in Istanbul
I’ve been strategic in where I’ve chosen to go. Not only because these countries are still letting in Americans, but also because society has been functioning relatively normally. For 2020, I was in Singapore, the Philippines, and Mexico City before COVID-19 started. I thought about staying put in CDMX and Puerto Escondido, but after the State Department said to return, and not quite knowing what the dreaded C-word had in store for the world, I decided to hole up in my parents house in Dallas, hoping the storm wouldn’t last too long. Almost immediately, I was eager to get out again. Beggars can’t be choosers - I was open to anything. I was desperate as the walls slowly closed in. And of course, super grateful for the time with my folks.
Plans to escape to Portugal got thwarted in June, so I scrambled and booked a flight to Serbia before switching last-minute to Croatia due to some unrest in Belgrade. After doing the research, making sure I would be able to enter Croatia via London, I was on my way, mask on face, ticket in hand.
I had to do some digging to find reports and stories of people who stayed abroad or had chosen to get out on Reddit and other digital nomad communities like Nomadlist. I had to turn off the constant barrage of doom and gloom from the news, where the main story was not only should you not travel, but you’re not allowed anywhere, anyways.
While it was still early, Mexico City and the Oaxacan coast felt relatively safe. Things were starting to shut down, people were starting to wear masks. Temperature checks were starting to happen and hand sanitizer was starting to appear on tables. The same goes for Croatia and Turkey.
I’ve continued to look for month-long stays in Airbnbs, continued to take public transportation when convenient, although I still prefer to walk places, eating outside at restaurants and I haven’t really taken a deep dive in a lot of tourist sites. Luckily, these activities are all relatively COVID-19 friendly.
This is how I typically travel, though. I’m recreating a lifestyle that would mirror one that I would have if I were more of a homebody. It would be the same if I was back in Texas, motorbiking through the mountains near Chiang Mai or diving into steak and wine in Buenos Aires. I’m looking to push my boundaries, get out of my comfort zone and gain a bit of happiness by being in unfamiliar settings, interacting with different people with different perspectives, experiences (and languages) than my own. I’m just doing so within the bounds of what the coronavirus has brought to the table. I’m not moving around a ton and I’m following the local rules and regulations.
I’ve been making new friends (expats and locals alike), going to restaurants and bars in mostly outdoor settings, cracking my computer open at coffee shops as I would normally, just with seats blocked off next to me. All of these places certainly have taken precautionary measures, but I can say that I haven’t been truly worried, at least for myself. I’ve been protecting myself and others by staying as distant as possible while holding on to a normal lifestyle as dictated by rule-makers. I do have to admit, it’s relatively easy to stay distanced in places like the gorgeous beaches of Croatia or the remote ruins of Ani.
It’s a personal choice, albeit a difficult one. It’s been good for my mental health being more on my own, clinging on to some semblance of what normal means to me. Certainly from a tourism perspective, I’m happy to be spending my US dollars in an economy where tourism is needed just a bit more. I know some countries are tackling COVID better than others. In reality, I’ve felt safer in Mexico, Croatia, and Turkey than I would in the US, based on my observations after two months in these locations. I would say COVID-19 isn’t being taken more or less seriously than other places around the globe. People have been wearing masks when appropriate, sometimes on the streets, certainly in stores and restaurants, on airplanes and public transportation. I would say folks are taking it as seriously as they can. Temperature checks, digital menus, hand sanitizer, and proper seat spacing at restaurants have been commonplace.
Overall, I’ve not once thought that I was in any sort of immediate danger in either Croatia or Turkey, even while traveling via ferry or plane to Hvar, Vis, Cappadocia, or Ani in Eastern Turkey. It’s always on the mind, but it’s been easy to give the mind a break over here.
Some silver linings about this whole pandemic: being able to see and have space in places that are normally swarmed with tourists like Dubrovnik and Cappadocia. The old city in Dubrovnik (where much of Game of Thrones was filmed) with half the normal amount of tourists was been spectacular and honestly, once in a lifetime. Normally, these typically popular places would be overcrowded clusterf*cks, filled with every kind of Instagram Influencer and selfie stick imaginable.
Some not so great aspects (besides the obvious): having to be super flexible with travel plans. Your first destination might not end up being where you end up going and instead, having to cancel and change plans plan B last minute because of the changing rules. Especially when not all airlines, hotels, and Airbnbs are offering refunds because of COVID-19. Some hosts and some airlines have been more generous and understanding than others. You have to be prepared to be sitting on a bunch of travel credit to use when things start to lighten up, or when a vaccine comes out.
Overall, I don’t feel like deciding to travel now or planning your travels for the near future is irresponsible. It’s a personal choice. You have to decide what’s best and don’t let anyone tell you, or shame you, otherwise. It’s not an issue if you want to stay home, it’s not an issue if you want to get out and roam. I think you shouldn’t abandon your smarts. Still take whatever precautions are necessary to keep yourself and others safe. Testing, masks, following the rules, etc. But at some point, all of us will need to adapt and get back to some semblance of normalcy as this situation isn’t going away any time soon. For me, it was restarting this nomadic lifestyle and being quite grateful to get to do so.
Romi from broadn
I know you probably feel overwhelmed by the possibilities of your new remote job conditions. Being remote allows you to work from virtually anywhere - except in the times of a Pandemic. Bummer. You'll get to take advantage sooner than you think. I'm certainly pining to get back out and hit the first noodle shop and hawker centre I see! I know you are too.
But don’t worry for now - I’m here to present the case for a bit of time at home and sooth all that anxiety and antsiness. Sure, FOMO is a major factor when you notice the growing movement of tourism even in times of the pandemic. At first, there was a good amount of travel shaming and knee-jerk reactions, but eventually, people started figuring out that there are ways to continue feeding your traveling spirit in safe mode. At least, that’s what I’ve been doing for the last what, 8 months here in Cordoba, Argentina? Wow. It’s been a long time...
Anyway, let me start with the easiest form of traveling. Virtual traveling! Remember being a kid playing with the Encarta map listening to the Music of the World instruments? Yes, I was a huge nerd. But today, I replicate that same future nostalgia (Dua Lipa dixit) by watching tons of Travel shows in my free time. Just to name a few: anything by Anthony Bourdain, Somebody Feed Phil, Ugly Delicious, Down to Earth. And sometimes fiction makes me travel, too - like Master of None’s episodes in Modena or Mamma Mía’s Greek landscapes or Emily in Paris. There are a ton of online, virtual experiences being offered by Airbnb as well. There are even virtual tours being offered!
And how about domestic travel?
According to the Wall Street Journal, it might be better to stay close to home: “Many health experts agree that as long as you take the necessary precautions, closer-to-home vacations in relatively uncrowded spots are fairly low risk. But keep in mind that state- or city-mandated travel restrictions vary widely and change frequently.”
Near, far, wherever you are. There are some things that you need to consider when traveling during the pandemic. For example, not all countries have their borders open (here’s a guide). Some places will require testing, some places will require quarantine. Make sure you go through all the information before buying those plane tickets, or you will find a much different reality than you set yourself up for. For domestic travel though, from one state or region to the next, you’re relatively safe in my opinion. In fact, domestic travel just sounds so much more attainable than having to navigate some of these international travel waters without dedicating a ton of time or needing help. Especially, generally speaking, a car is more practical and safe. Roadtrip, anyone?
If you do decide to travel domestically, whether that’s within your own country or even your own state or city (yay for staycations!), you should still be paying attention to logistics like Justin mentioned above though. How will you get to where you want to go? What’s the situation like where you’re going? What are the refund policies set by where you’re staying? The main difference is, if you’re staying close to home, you’ll have a better understanding of the rules and restrictions put in place by the government. And if something happens, it’s much easier to retreat back to your apartment if you decided to keep it.
Overall, there’s no better time to travel and see your own backyard! We’ve seen people hopping on short flights, taking road trips, even renting or buying camper vans for nomading! The good news is, international travel will still be there when this situation lets up.
Have you considered not traveling at all?
And hey, even coming from us, that’s OK. There’s always time to daydream and plan for the future. My mom hates traveling (how we are both Sagittarius, I have no idea). Her reasoning is based on the idea that because she’s not spending any money on planes and hotels, all her savings can go into her house - into being comfortable and feeling like vacationing every weekend. I thought that I could never truly adopt this lifestyle, but it’s much easier to take a page out of her book than we all think.
Her idea of a vacation house is neat landscaping with pristine waterfalls in the backyard, a big fridge always stocked with ice and drinks, and taking a nap under a big willow tree next to the pool. During these turbulent times, maybe investing in creating serene, beautiful scenery in your house or apartment is worth it. Whatever makes you feel more at peace with your immediate surroundings, less stressed out overall, and ready to jump on a plane once you feel ready and safe again. I recommend following Instagram accounts like Apartment Therapy for decoration inspiration!
On top of all of this, if you're lucky to live in the same city as your family, once you determine you're safe and free of COVID, you'll get to (hopefully) spend more time with them. A true silver lining in this mess. I know your parents and siblings will certainly appreciate you being around more. Your dog too!
And while you’re staying at home, working - make sure you stay busy outside of work! I started a food recipe Instagram account during quarantine, and I started freelancing to save some money for when I can travel again. After all, being in lockdown gives us a chance to be a bit more creative with our time, right? When you are ready to travel, we’re here for you.