Last summer, our Tanner McIntosh, a contract manager based in Pennsylvania, dove into a program called Remote Year. The program allows individuals to travel the world while maintaining employment through remote channels.
He recently shared his experience:
What is the “Remote Year”?
Remote Year leaders interview and select specific groups of 70-80 people and assign them to a year-long itinerary that visits one new city every 4-5 weeks. I was selected to join the group known as “Kublai.”
While this program was intended to be a full year, I opted to travel with the group for four months instead (this is a very new option for Remote Year for which I was a part of the pilot group). I joined the group as they traveled through Europe this summer. RY offers its members the chance to participate in a number of activities and programs while we travel, including opportunities to give back to the communities in which we’re residing.
Why did you want to participate?
The thought of leaving my comfortable and routine life behind somewhat terrified me, but this sounded like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I kept thinking that if I passed this up, I would always regret it.
And I would have been right.
This experience wasn’t just an opportunity to work while traveling Europe; it was a way to challenge myself, to learn and grow in ways I wouldn’t have access to if I hadn’t decided to go.
Where did you go and what are some of the volunteer opportunities you participated in?
Month 1: Belgrade, Serbia
- We rescued a puppy (named “Peanut”), took her to the vet, and took care of her until we found her a home.
- We wanted to keep her as our mascot but ultimately that proposal was denied.
- We held a fundraiser and volunteered at a local homeless children’s shelter. Face painting, water-balloon toss competition, soccer (futball), dance parties, coloring, you name it.
Month 2: Lisbon, Portugal
- We volunteered with a non-profit organization: A Avó veio trabalhar. We held a dinner party for some of the women who gave us an impromptu Fado performance (a traditional Portuguese style of music). We got the opportunity to go on a tour of the city where the women of the group showed us their homes, their favorite parts of Lisbon, and historical sites that held significance in the towns and their own histories.
- We held a fundraiser for a locally based organization, “Re-Food,” that worked with local restaurants, took their leftover food, and provided it to the homeless and homeless shelters.
Month 3: Prague, Czechia
- In Prague, my roommate, Paully, and I lead the group in our “Positive Impact” initiative. We worked with a local community center to help refurbish and clean up their space. Žižkostel Community Center offered a venue, garden space, kitchen, workspaces, and much more for local at-risk youth. We cleaned, painted, sanded, and spackled some of the spaces.
Month 4: Sofia, Bulgaria
- In my final month with Remote Year – Kublai, we worked with a local organization known as “TRAP” Trotoara Room for Angry People. This is another non-profit aiming to provide a safe space for homeless or at-risk youth. We gutted the venue, painted walls, removed debris, fixed floor panels, etc. We also held a fundraiser to help keep the space afloat. They hope to have enough funding soon to invite mechanics to teach classes to fix bikes (the primary means for transportation among the youth of Bulgaria), teach music lessons, start a small library and study space for students, and much more.
Month 5 Lima, Peru
- Re-Joining the Kublai family as well as meeting and working with another RY group, “Veritas.”
How was this experience meaningful for you? What did you learn?
I learned a lot while abroad; there’s nothing quite like complete local immersion in a completely foreign city to provide a new sense of perspective on not only yourself, but the world in general. I learned a lot about the local culture and the history of the areas in which we were residing. I met so many people from different parts of the world, and being able to hear their stories was one of the best ways to learn about parts of the world I have yet to explore.
What was most memorable?
The most meaningful memories would be of times where I was able to chat and connect with locals, to hear their stories and their opinions which really helped me to see things from a new set of eyes. In each country, a local would volunteer to teach us some local recipes, dishes that the area was well-known for which was also really fun and something meaningful I could take home to my friends and family.
Will you be participating in Remote Nation? And if so, can you describe what that is?
Remote Nation is essentially a continuation of the program offered to those who successfully complete their programs. At any given time, Remote Year may have 6 or 7 operational groups in any of the cities Remote Year is collaborating with. As a “citizen” of the nation, you can opt in to any group and benefit from the program’s structure without having to commit to an entire year of travel. I’m excited about this option because I can continue to be a part of this great group of people but have more of a foundation back at home.
Can you talk a little about the work that you do for PRA?
I’m a Contract Manager with PRA; I’m assigned as a Sr. Trial Initiation Specialist working in oncology. My job is to assess medical protocols and develop a global budget template that’s used in all of the participating countries to negotiate with our sites. We then continue to manage the budget throughout the duration of the clinical trial. We respond to site and country-level escalations pertaining to negotiations, assess any protocol amendments for budget-related items and update the global template as needed. I’ve also began to take on more of a role in process improvements and have recently been working with management to update and streamline some of our groups current processes.
How did you balance Remote Year with work? What made you successful?
Sometimes the balance of work was difficult, but ultimately this was a great way to continue to challenge myself as a professional. I agreed that, regardless of my location, I would continue to work my sponsor’s “core hours” which are 9am-3:30pm EST.
When I was living in Sofia this meant that I was often working from 3 or 4pm until 2 or 3am when I was used to working your standard 9-5. So while initially it threw me off a bit, I eventually adjusted and found that I somewhat enjoyed the change in pace and difference in schedule. There’s something very cathartic about starting your day peacefully with a cup of coffee and a good book (as opposed to rushing around trying to get ready still half-asleep when the sun hasn’t even come up yet).
Learn more about Remote Year here.