Full-Stack & a Family Traveling Full-Time
Before joining Clevertech, working remote was just an idea that crossed my mind. The thought often came when I would turn on the space heater under my office desk in the middle of summer because the air conditioning threatened to provoke hypothermia. I couldn’t work remote, I love people. How could I do my job of navigating complex organizations through times of change without standing in front of the people most affected? Remote work is for software developers and people who would rather sit in front of a computer than talk to each other. . . or so I thought.
Now I work fully remote in People Operations and my connections with this community go far beyond knowing my colleagues’ names and skills, I am inspired by the examples I have seen of what the world can look like while working remote.
Aurélien, a full-stack developer with Clevertech, was telling me about his past five years, the time leading up to this moment in which his entire family is living a nomadic lifestyle, and feeling that ah-ha moment when he realized that, although his life had changed so much, he and his family were still trying to do things the way they were “supposed” to be done. And since having that revelation, he is working towards a more conscious way of living.
Making the Decision to Work Entirely Remote
Four years ago Aurélien was working as a developer in France. His commute to work was two hours each way. Like so many others, he would leave home in the morning before his family was awake, and get home in the evening after his kids were all in bed. And for years, that was the routine; until finally he and his wife decided that that was not the way to live.
When he told his job he was leaving he was convinced to remain with the company, but this time as a remote employee. He thought it could work, it was a good alternative: continue with his projects, with his company, but with no commute, and therefore more time with his family. And it worked for a while, but this wasn't a remote company that was used to working with distributed teams of developers. There was no trust, communication was difficult, and ultimately it wouldn’t work out.
Establishing a remote culture is not something that happens over night. While many companies are providing the option in order to meet the demands of this workforce, not many are equipped to handle the unique challenges. The difficulty is worsened when some of the workforce is on-site, and others remote. While system wide decisions may be disseminated electronically, hallway conversations and camaraderie cannot be summarized in a newsletter.
While Aurélien preferred to work on a team, he didn’t have a team that supported his way of living and, by this time, his family had already left France.
A Long Journey to Find Work-Life Harmony
I only realize the life I live when I need to summarize it.
When we left France four years ago, we first went to the Caribbean, following the course of my lineage. Compared to France, the Caribbean provided us with fresh air and allowed us to drastically change the way we were living. As we made this big step to build something new, we didn't want to make concessions anymore. Once we gained distance and perspective, we could begin to see what we were really in search of. This is the reason we only stayed in the Caribbean for a few months: the weather was great, the beach was only a thirty minute drive away, but the mentality shared amongst the local community was not what we were looking for. And for a young family with three children, the cost of living was disproportionately high.
So we moved to French Guiana, a territory of France that borders Brazil. My wife is Brazilian, and we took the opportunity to learn more of her ancestry and travel through Brazil, exploring the different cultures from the northern region of Amapa, to Sao Paulo in the south.
We were very sad to leave Sao Paulo. Maybe we would have decided to stay there for several more years, however, a friend presented me with a project in Florida, USA, that would be a great opportunity for my work. So we left Brazil for West Palm Beach. What a huge and beautiful state in a huge amazing country. However, our visas were limited and we did not get enough time to visit as many places as we would have liked. So we relocated only a short distance away to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. An impressive place where you can stand in front of pyramids, Mayan ruins, explore cenotes, and walk to the beach; truly unique experiences.
Six months later, we were already excited to keep moving and with startling contrast we landed in Canada. The landscape of Lake Louise is the most incredible sight! My family loved the wild nature and if the internet connection were not required for work, we would live in a beautiful, isolated forest like those found in this part of Canada.
After visiting Montreal and Toronto we were planning to move to London. However, the day of our flight my wife was sick and we were unable to travel. Missing the flight forfeited all five tickets, an investment we couldn’t afford to make a second time. It was a difficult event but we placed our faith in destiny and just booked the least expensive destination available: Cancun. Not a bad option while Canada was freezing with winter.
We’ve been in Mexico for four months. Today we have no plan of where we will go next but we imagine making it across the Atlantic to travel throughout Europe. Our fourth child is on the way and we will take some time, somewhere, before continuing our adventure.
The Impact of Casual Communication in Company Channels
At this point, Aurélien's family has been fully-nomadic for FOUR YEARS. I asked him how long they planned to travel and he said “forever… unless we find somewhere we’d like to stay.” He explained that, since realizing that their life is different from the people around them, they have had to become more conscious of themselves, their family, and their environment. For example, their children now have the freedom to dive deep into their individual interests: his oldest daughter, 10 years old, excels at math; his son is 5 and loves piano (and drawing robots); his youngest is 3 and she loves to say words in all different languages; and now his fourth is on the way and they will decide, as a family, what kind of a place their next child will be born into.
Aurélien shares pictures and stories in our internal communication channels and our other colleagues share their similar experiences — as well as their completely unique experiences. Most of us have never met face to face yet I feel more connected with this community than any office I’ve ever sat in. We’re connected by our shared experience of making conscious decisions to craft the lives that we want to live, and contribute to the community that we want to share. Aurélien’s story is uniquely him and just one of the many that has inspired me within our fully-remote community.
Wondering what it looks like to travel full-time with three kids? Check it out here.