Working From Anywhere: How Two Months Working from Bali Changed How I Work From Home
Our Developer Solutions & Support Lead, Vincent, shares how his time working in Bali transformed his approach to working from home.
Hi there! My name is Vincent, and I’ve been working remotely with Whereby for nearly 6 years now. If you’ve ever contacted our support team there’s a decent chance you’ve interacted with me at some point; I’ve moved around various functions of the support team during my tenure, and most recently have been leading the team as the Head of Support.
Originally I’m from Colorado, but in 2019 I made the decision to move to Wyoming so I could enjoy the great outdoors and escape an ever-increasingly populous Colorado Front Range. One of my most favorite things is traveling and experiencing new places. Whether it’s backpacking for a week in the deep and remote wilderness, or seeing the best a big city has to offer; I just can’t get enough.
When people think about “remote workers”, they picture stereotypical 20-30-something year olds with a coconut in hand, sitting on the beach with their laptop. The reality of course is that for the vast majority of people working “not from an office”, working remote just means working from the comfort of their home.
At Whereby, one of our core tenants is that we’re building tools to make “a world in which anywhere works” work, and part of this means allowing employees to choose a working location that best suits them (whether that’s from the comfort of their home office, or a chaise lounge on the beach). Throughout 2022 I had tossed around the idea of uprooting my life in Wyoming and giving the “Digital Nomad” life a good shake. After some careful planning and outlining with my boss and reports, I decided to make that a reality at the start of 2023 by going to Bali for 2 months. This turned out to be a truly transformational trip for me; one that changed my perspectives on both life and work. Originally I wanted to document these things just for myself, but I thought other remote teams, or people hoping to “work from anywhere” might also benefit from my takeaways and experience. Read on to discover what I learned!
Flexibility is key
It may seem like an obvious statement, but when you shift your time zone 14 hours forward there’s all kinds of complexity that you need to sort out. Suddenly meetings that you take at 7am are happening at 9pm, and it’s unreasonable to ask everyone to adjust to you.
As a remote employee, flexibility is a key competency that you need to get comfortable with; and this is true whether you’re working from your home base or traveling the world. Rather than dread this, I did my best to embrace it by changing my ways of working.
At home I normally start my day early, and work straight through to the early afternoon. In Bali though it was important that I had some time in the morning to sync up with the US team, and had a few hours in my late evening to attend my regularly scheduled meetings. I decided that splitting my day into three working blocks would give me the best flexibility. I could get all my work done, and still take smaller day-trips or catch a yoga class in-between my “productive” hours.
Now that I’m back home I realize I can still embrace that type of flexibility, and in fact it’s one of my most cherished benefits of working remote. I’ll still work “in one big block”, but I make much larger allowances for random fun and exercise throughout the day.
Applying Flexibility to Travel
When traveling things almost never really go according to plan. When you’re spending 2 months traveling this is even more true; there are going to be some days that get totally messed up and you just have to be ok with that.
📜 Story Time
About halfway into my trip it was necessary to extend my visa. Earlier in the month I had sent my passport in to the visa office, and now it was time to show up in person and do my interview (I later found out that this wasn’t necessary for a number of reasons 😅).
Unfortunately for me, I had just relocated to a new area of the island, and the visa office was a 1.5hr+ drive away in Bali traffic - ICK. After a stressful drive I had to wait at the visa office in DMV like conditions for 2 hours, dreading the necessary 1.5hr drive back to where I was staying.
When I emerged from my interview though, I found that my car wouldn’t start. I called my car rental agency to have them come help but they were about 1 hour away. I was already agitated, so I pouted for a bit and lamented my unfortunate situation. However I decided that wasn’t particularly productive, and ended up walking around the neighborhood only to find a car repair shop just down the street!
Thanks to a winning combination of broken English and Google translate, I was able to ask for a jump start and got the car running! Finally I started on the way home, but then the rental agency said they were looking for me but couldn’t find - I had forgotten to let them know I got it sorted out! I was already 15 minutes down the road and nearly just kept going, but I remembered that I was in one of the few areas of Bali where there was a McDonalds (a tradition of mine to hit one up in every country I visit - I know, it’s weird). I decided this would probably be one of the only opportunities to check that off the list, so I stopped to get some food while I waited for the rental agency to check out the car and make sure it was all ok.
Four steps to embrace flexibility
Part of dealing with these situations is trying your best to make the best of it. Whether you’re at home or on the road, it comes down to 4 simple steps
Reset your mentality - Sometimes it amazes me just how much a mental shift can change your outlooks. In fact in a lot of cases just telling yourself “it’s really not that big of a deal” is enough to get you in the right headspace. Pouting has never solved anything, so rather than stewing in disappointment take a step back and ask yourself if a canceled booking or an unexpected 2 hour wait is actually that big of a deal.
Remember to be grateful - DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!!
So often people forget just how lucky they are that a relatively minor inconvenience can ruin their day. Remember that you’re doing this to have fun and experience things, and not all of those experiences are going to be incredible. Take a second or two to remind yourself how lucky you are to be doing this in the first place, and be grateful for the experiences: good and bad.
Search for alternatives - Now that you’re in a better headspace, take a look around and see if there’s anything you’ve been putting off that you can do instead. A lot of times “minor” experiences get foregone for more elaborate outings, but sometimes they are the most memorable part of a trip! Almost every traveler has been to that really famous, must-see spot, but how many get lost on a back street and eat questionable cart food with some locals? If you keep your options open your horizons will be limitless, so when A gets canceled you’ve still got B-Z at the ready.
When all else fails, Accept It
Acceptance is one of, if not the most, important step of this process. It can be easy to fall into the mindset that everything needs to work out, or that any problem can be resolved with enough creativity; but sometimes things just don’t go your way. It’s important to be flexible enough to recognize when acceptance is the appropriate path, rather than holding on to frustration and anger.
Flexibility was my souvenir
There are certainly times when working for a startup can feel frustrating or even demoralizing. After returning home I’ve realized that the flexible mindset I gained working abroad is a powerful tool to combat and move past these frustrating times.
There will always be something that’s broken, a process that’s loosely defined, or a pivot in product that needs to be worked out when you’re a part of a startup. You cannot control these problems - they’ll always exist. What you can control is how you approach these problems, and how they impact you personally.
It’s by no means easy, and it’s something that I still work on on a daily basis. The next time you find yourself frustrated though, be it at work or in your personal life, give a flexible mindset a try, you might be surprised at the results ✌️!