Living the work-from-anywhere dream

An interview with Zuza, a globe-trotting free spirit

I’ve known Zuza since university, and out of my group of friends from that time, she probably has the coolest job. Or perhaps, to put it more correctly, a cool job that also allows her to base herself anywhere in the world. Here is my interview with her on the draw of travel and how she makes it work in practice. I’m definitely inspired, I hope you will be too. 

I work for an investor, doing market research, mainly focusing in healthcare. 

I have a lot of freedom to choose my location. Typically I would be scouting for companies and would move to a city where there is an interesting start-up scene, however, currently we’re not in an investment phase. So my next location, Valencia, will be purely for learning the language and socialising with local people. That’s also my excuse to escape Berlin [my permanent base] for autumn and winter when it’s too grey and rainy in that part of Europe.

Living the work-from-anywhere dream - interview with Zuza

I travel to meet people and to feel like a local. I stay in the same city for around two months, only traveling to nearby locations during the weekends. I really enjoyed Nairobi, Kenya. The start-up scene has been the most exotic to me so far. Its entrepreneurs are clearly focused on more tangible stuff, and it seemed no one is working on ideas that are just nice-to-have... In Mexico the most refreshing part was being forced to speak the language all the time - only a small portion of the local population speaks English. It’s incredibly  gratifying to speak with people in their local tongue, it gives you a boost. 

I prefer to travel on my own. When you’re traveling with other people, while it’s a nice experience in itself, you don’t get so immersed in the culture. You are focusing on the person you are traveling with more than on what’s around you. You’re less open to talking to strangers. I enjoy putting myself in these vulnerable (well quite vulnerable!), situations. Also, as I am just building my local life in these locations it means I have more time, which makes my daily life more relaxed than in Berlin. 

I meet new people mainly at co-working spaces. Also some Airbnb hosts have become my close friends. Sometimes, although recently more rarely, I go to meetups. I feel people are very open and very chatty. So far I’ve never felt lonely while travelling and working at the same time. 

Would I feel as free in my hometown, Gdynia in Poland? Could I go to meetups on my own? Perhaps because people know you and there are certain social expectations, I would not feel as comfortable doing it. If you go to a new place, you don’t feel these expectations. And because you’re new you’re excused from following them. Travelling gives you a fresh start.

Co-working spaces with big open kitchens are the best. The best way to find the one for you is to go for a free trial day or just pay for a day to see if you like the co-working space. The ones with open kitchens, from my experience, are the ones where people feel most free to socialise. For instance, there was one co-working space in Barcelona that I visited that had its kitchen in the basement, and I didn’t see anyone socializing in it.  

Living the work-from-anywhere dream - interview with Zuza

The remote working set-up at our company is having weekly update calls with Zoom or Google Hangouts. For everything else we use email, if there is anything urgent - Whatsapp. You need to have trust between you and your team. We had this set up from the beginning and it worked for us. From my side, because of the distance and because I might be seen as working less, I am trying even harder to prove my performance. 

I love working from home or co-working spaces, and having the freedom to arrange it as I wish. Not having anyone watching how many breaks I take or how fast I type. I really appreciate it! 

My day is quite structured. I always start at 9. In the morning I go for a run with my dog or exercise in the park on my own when not in Berlin. Then I have a lunch break at 12 and walk the dog again. All my personal stuff I try to schedule in the evening, as I prefer to have the evenings to myself. I’m used to having this discipline, so I had no issues adapting to this schedule. More of an issue was learning how not to work too much. As I really enjoy my job, in the first years I would sometimes start my work day at 4-5am. 

I share the ownership of my dog with my mum, she looks after the dog when I’m traveling. With the flat, I don’t have difficulties subletting it as there is a high demand in Berlin. 

Living the work-from-anywhere dream

When I pack, I just want to ensure I can survive 5-7 days without doing laundry. I try to take as little as possible, and I still take too much: three pairs of leggings, a pair of shorts,  three/four t-shirts, two tops, two/three long sleeves, and a light coat. 

My top cities are Tel Aviv, Mexico city, Berlin and Lisbon All of them have different appeal. Lisbon, for instance, (other than people who I have met there) because it’s compact, and because of small things like having corner shops that have a lot of fruit and vegetables that are open very late. The least I’ve enjoyed was Barcelona. It was too crowded. But overall, it is the people who you meet that make you fall in love with the city, rather than anything very specific.

My advice to those who want to travel while working would be just to start if their company allows for it, and stop making excuses. It’s a great opportunity that a lot of people are not using!