Working Remotely as part of a Distributed team

When explaining our nomad lifestyle to others it takes a few minutes to iron out the details. That is if they are actually interested enough and don’t just assume we’re homeless vagabonds. Usually they start out thinking we’re trust fund babies or some form of “we’ve struck it rich and don’t work anymore”. Then, they usually think along the lines that we’re taking a gap year and have saved up months or years of expenses and we’ll head home broke and have to rebuild, or even that we’re travel bloggers somehow making money by traveling…

The reality is (sadly) we’re not loaded and I still have a job. I work as a web developer building websites and I work remotely, or you may be more familiar with the term “work from home”.

Dilbert to the rescue

I’ve had many surprised or even confused responses from people. “How can you work from all these seemingly random places?” “Are you doing contract work as you go?” “Do you work for yourself and just support your own clients?” No, while these are possible, I work remotely as an employee for a company. I’m part of a the workforce at 10up, and they allow me the flexibility to work remotely. I’m on a team of others that work remotely. The whole company in fact works remotely We’re all remote! Or better put, we’re a distributed team.

I enjoy this setup, because the company has specialists in things like winning new clients and projects, dealing with things like SEO and project management, account management and server infrastructure, accounting and billing clients and other legal issues, as well as the HR issues like health insurance and payroll etc! I don’t excel at any of that. But, I do have a specialty as well, I’m a web developer, and I didn’t want to go out on my own because I’d be required to either pay people/services to do all that for me, or somehow figure it out myself. It’s been a perfect setup that allows me to live my dream lifestyle as a nomad and travel the world as a way of life.

This dream came up in part when I first heard about companies that allowed employees to work remotely 100% of the time. I’ve done stints of remote work and always enjoyed the experience; the extra time and the freedom it gave me. So, I began looking up (and stalking) companies that are set up this way. To make a long story short, I found a distributed team at 10up and have jumped into this nomad life! I’m grateful for the company I work for, the work is truly interesting and I’m growing as a web developer, while also living my dream lifestyle. Talk about a good work-life balance!

Along the same lines, here’s a video from Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress and CEO of Automattic, a “parent company” of sorts of the WordPress foundation (the software that runs a third of the internet). Like 10up, Automattic is another distributed company, and I really enjoyed how Matt talks about all this. He even mentions the nomad lifestyle! I wanted to share this video because it explains why a company would want to be distributed.

Some even choose to not even have a home base. They’re nomads. Whether they’re in RVs or traveling through Airbnbs, they’re in new places every day, week or month.

As long as they can find good WiFi, we don’t care where they are!

Matt Mullenweg

I’m happy to be a part of this growing group of digital nomads. I feel like I’ve won the lottery because I traded in a daily commute for world travel.

PSA: Moab is hot during the summer

Driving from Colorado to Utah is beautiful and I was able to literally “work on the road” again as we went, though some places along the interstate don’t have much as far as data connections. I was able to get my work done still.

My kind of corner office… Coding + Roadtrip = Codetrip

We were heading to Utah and we wanted to return to Moab for some family hiking. We visited about 10 years ago and thought the kids would love it. As we pulled in the night before we decided to check the weather and we were a little surprised. We hadn’t put two and two together, that it was summer and we were heading to the desert. Not sure why we hadn’t even thought about that yet, but we had just enjoyed some beautiful weeks in Colorado. Anyways, it was hot than expected so we rearranged our schedule to hike early in the morning before it hit 100 degrees since it would stay above 100 until 8pm when it started getting dark.

We had a good hike to the delicate arch though and the kids became convinced we were trying to kill them with the heat already, so we called it a day and went to hydrate and swim at the hotel before heading north.

Working on the Road

We said goodbye and left home to start our nomad adventure!

  • Sell stuff, check
  • Get rid of rest of stuff, check
  • Sell house, check.
  • Pack up, check
  • Drive off into the sunset, check

We left Georgia and drove all the way to Indiana in a day to visit more family. Then a few more days on the road through Illinois, Iowa, South Dakota and Wyoming. As a family we’ve made road trips a tradition and have had a big trip across the states every summer for the past few years. We’re happy to be able to continue the tradition this year and incorporate it into our nomad life. In fact our road trips are what inspired us with the idea of living on the road full-time. We love to travel that much. The past couple years we’ve been aspiring nomads and been researching and putting things into place to make it a reality.

I’m lucky enough to be able to work remotely and we put it to the test while I worked from the passenger seat of the minivan! I’m pleased to report that it works pretty well. I turned on the hotspot on my phone (it’s not too expensive), I wouldn’t use it for video conferencing, but for my needs, it was alright. A few places were a bit spotty with connection (looking at you South Dakota), but most of the time I don’t need constant connection for the work I do, so we we’re just fine. I just need to push code up every once in a while and send/receive messages.

It did get tricky a few times however when the bright sun was coming down it was hard to see the screen! We had to get creative a few times to roll with it. It also gets pretty warm to sit in the sun in the car with a laptop on your lap for hours on end, so I’d recommend taking advantage of the cooler parts of the day to work from the passenger seat. If we can figure out how to work from the freeway, we expect to be able to figure out how to work from various countries and time zones too.

Driving across country gave us a good excuse to make some stops we haven’t been able to work into other trips. With Jackson, Wyoming as our destination for a work summit we would be so close it made perfect sense to hit Yellowstone Park on the way and the route went pretty close to some other landmarks too, like Mount Rushmore so we made it a weekend whirlwind through National Parks. 

We’re lucky to be able to take advantage of the Every Kid in the Park program, where since we have a 4th grader we get free admission into all National Parks for the year! We’re trying to hit as many as we can on our quick road trip before we leave the country, but as we have 4 kids, we’ll roughly have a 4th grader every other year for a while, so we can hopefully take advantage of the program more in the future. If you have a 4th grader, fill out the form on the site and bring it (and the 4th grader) to any National Park and you’ll get a pass for admission which is good for each and every National Park! We’ll try to follow up with a post for each park.