Why Everyone Should Work Remotely (It Has Nothing To Do With Travel)
Why Everyone Should Work Remotely (It Has Nothing To Do With Travel)
My belief in this has nothing to do with the benefits you hear most digital nomads and remote entrepreneurs talking about – like traveling the world or reducing the cost of living.
To me, it’s all about love.
The Last 10 Percent
In 2015, one of my favorite writers, Tim Urban, published a blog post titled ‘The Tail End.’ It was a follow-up article to an earlier piece in which he had looked at the number of weeks there are in a person’s life, and how those weeks are used by the average person.
In this article, Tim takes this concept a step further to discuss how that applies to the amount of time you have left with your loved ones.
Did you know that by the time you graduate high school you will have already spent 93% of your “in-person” time with your parents?
That means that the rest of your life makes up less than 10% of the total amount of time you will spend with your parents.
On further research, this has a lot to do with how we spend our lives after high school. Many people will go onto college and stop living at home. This not a bad thing, but it means no more daily interactions with your parents.
After college, many people will move away from the place they grew up for work and will quickly find themselves in a position where they only see family a few times a year over the holidays.
What’s worse is that many of those people will work at jobs that allow just a week or two of vacation days at best, and will have to choose between spending those days on trips home to see family, or what they would probably rather do – travel.
I want to make it clear that there’s really nothing wrong with this, and funny enough it’s exactly what my girlfriend Sarah did, but it does come with certain downfalls.
Sarah’s story and birthdays at home
Sarah grew up in Detroit, and after graduating from high school enrolled in college at Miami University, a mid-sized liberal arts college in the southwest of Ohio. The same college we met at before I dropped out.
Being so far from home while attending college obviously affected how often she saw her family during the year.
Furthermore, she didn’t even get to see them during the summers since she spent all four of her summers in college working at internships in different cities. Something she felt like she had to do in order to have a shot at a job in the competitive sports industry.
After college, it was time to find a job, and she decided to stay in Cincinnati and begin working for the local baseball team: the Cincinnati Reds.
At this point, she was seeing her parents and the rest of her family just a few days out of the year, most of the time around family functions like weddings.
Then we decided to get serious and go after our dream of working remotely.
For us, this had everything to do with travel and our desire to see the world. What we didn’t expect was the impact it would have on her family life.
At first, her parents didn’t look at our desire to be digital nomads very favorably and I don’t blame them. While our friends were out making a decent wage, we started out working for small salaries trying to figure out how to make it sustainable.
You can see how this can look worrisome to a parent.
Eventually, we improved and started doing much better financially, but before that ever happened her parents started looking at our decision to work remotely in a whole different light when they realized how much more they were seeing their daughter.
They went from seeing her just a few days a year, to whole weeks at a time since she wasn’t tied to an office in Cincinnati anymore.
Recently, Sarah dropped a bit of bomb on me. She told me that she hasn’t gotten to spend her dad’s birthday with him since she was in high school. Summer internships, busy periods in baseball, and travel had always gotten in the way.
We decided that for her dad’s next birthday we would be in Detroit so we can celebrate with him, and best of all we don’t have to sacrifice any vacation days to do so.
Sarah however, is not alone in this sort of experience.
Time with grandma
Growing up in Bulgaria my parents spent long hours at work in order to make enough money in the post-communist state to put food on the table. Since they were gone most of the day, I was raised in large part by my grandma.
In 2012 my grandpa passed away. It was a huge shock to our family and what made it even more difficult was that when it happened we were thousands of miles away in the US.
My aunt still lives a few miles away from my grandma, but she works as a teacher and has a busy schedule, so for the most part, my grandma was left all alone.
This was terribly hard on her and she later shared with me that it wasn’t uncommon for her to spend several days in a row without speaking to someone in person.
For me being location independent and working remotely has always been about travel. That’s what gave me the energy to work long nights and weekends to improve my skills in order to compete in a global market.
An amazing side effect was the amount of time I have been able to spend with my grandma.
My parents and I have always tried to go back and see family in Bulgaria as often as possible, usually at least one person will make it back every year. The tough thing is that that only amounted to at the most two weeks during which my grandma had someone with her.
Last year, my first year working fully online, I spent 4 months in Bulgaria. This year I am spending 2 and a half months here.
That would have never been possible if I wasn’t location independent.
This argument, however, stretches further than just the love for our families. Sure, it’s a big part of it, but what about the love for other things in our life?
For The Love of Kitesurfing
Johannes Voelkner has been a digital nomad, working remotely, since 2010.
His remote work journey started out in Cape Town, South Africa. After graduating from school in Germany he desperately wanted to move away to South Africa, a place he had fallen in love with during previous travels. Instead of getting another office job there, he started working remotely.
He lived and worked in Cape Town for 2 years until a break up caused him to start traveling the world in order to do something which he absolutely loves – kitesurfing.
To this day Johannes has traveled all over the world in search of the best places to kitesurf. A quick visit to his site will prove to you just how passionate he is about the sport since it is filled with awesome pictures of kitesurfing from some of the most beautiful locations in the world.
I don’t think it’s tough to see that if Johannes didn’t work remotely he could have never gone to half of the places he has in search of awesome kitesurfing spots.
His story isn’t unique either. Hundreds of people have found remote work as the means to fund their lives while they pursue a hobby they love. Want to live in Japan for two years while you master a martial art? No problem!
Love hiking and climbing and want to travel around the Americas in search of the best spots? There’s nothing to stop you when you work remotely.
Why Everyone Should Work Remotely
At the end of his article, Tim Urban lays out three main takeaways from his realization of how much time he has left to spend with his loved ones or doing the things he loves.
- Living in the same place as the people you love matters. I probably have 10X the time left with the people who live in my city as I do with the people who live somewhere else.
- Priorities matter. Your remaining face-time with any person depends largely on where that person falls on your list of life priorities. Make sure this list is set by you—not by unconscious inertia.
- Quality time matters. If you’re in your last 10% of time with someone you love, keep that fact in the front of your mind when you’re with them and treat that time as what it actually is: precious.
If you want to spend more time with your loved ones you can make sure you are based out of the area they are located in so you have the opportunity to see them more often. The same applies to the activities you love to do.
In his article, Tim also points out that if he continues to attend Red Sox games at the same rate he has in the past (something he loves to do as a proud Bostonian) he will watch them play at Fenway only 20 more times, assuming he lives to be 90.
In closing, I urge you to think of your loved ones and how often you get to see them. Consider how many times you have left to see them based on how much you see them now. This is why for me working remotely has everything to do with love.
It allows me to be in full control of how much I get to see the people I love, and how much I get to do the activities I love to do.