I’ve been traveling for many years but like many others it was to explore and navigate new and exciting places to have grand adventures, as a tourist.
When I made the decision to begin a new lifestyle that combined traveling with working remotely, the foundation I was used to changed with what that experience would be like; I had to ask some tough questions.
Many years ago, I was vacationing on the island of Roatan, Honduras. It had been one of the places high on my list to go, as a potential scuba diver and an avid snorkeler. While I was there, I had multiple conversations with the American diving guide about his journey to live and work abroad as a scuba instructor. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I retained some very interesting facts and opinions that he had cultivated in the almost 15 years he had spent living abroad but finally settling in Honduras.
He said to me, at the end, “Look, this isn’t easy, but it can be your dream. The biggest thing you have to ask yourself and think about is ‘how’ do you want to live?”
This one word has been my focus for a long time, as the groundwork to create the life I knew I wanted to lead.
Getting Started as a Remote Worker
My search for remote work landed me a job in telehealth. This industry has ballooned all over the world due to the pandemic. Ever since Covid hit and shut us all down, the need for this industry has increased by dramatic amounts and there are so many avenues to be involved in, depending on what you can bring to the company.
My job is predominantly research and resourcing, working within the US communities to find therapy & personal aide services, personal hygiene supplies, transportation, and DME (Durable Medical Equipment). We also offer scheduling for medical or personal needs and find supportive housing, but sometimes the patient just needs companionship.
How did I find this position?
My position was advertised through a job search on Google using search phrases associated with the terms, remote, work from home, medical, and assistant/assistance. You could replicate this idea to fit the industry you want to work remotely in. Likewise, it's possible to find abroad or online jobs on LinkedIn.
If it’s too good to be true, it most likely is. These are words of wisdom. However, I wanted to find a job that I enjoyed, where my participation was appreciated, and work experience valued. What I found was a fairly new organization of a worldwide industry in the middle of a boom with some learning curves and growth complexities.
While I was quite certain what I was looking for in a remote job given my previous job experience, there are plenty of great online jobs for beginners. This is the perfect place to start your remote career and gain skills you can transition into something else.
Through the application process, I submitted my resume and cover letter. Their response was to have me take some computer assessment tests that related to customer service, telephone & organizational skills, and scheduling & time management questions. I was then required to tape a video interview of myself answering questions about why I would be a good fit for the position. This was then uploaded to a Google platform and then I received an email with a Zoom link from the human resource manager.
My preparation for the interview was to be professionally dressed, from the waist up; I dressed my hair and face and wore a nice-looking blouse. I seated myself with a pleasant background setting as well. Now, I was in Thailand when I had my Zoom interview and it was about 4:00am in the morning, my time but Eastern Standard Time US is 4:00pm the previous day.
It was about 30 minutes long and as with any interview we discussed the details of the work but as it is a remote job and I am overseas, the conversation is geared towards quality of computer devices, secure and reliable wifi, time management, dedication to the structure of company, communications, and particular attention is paid to responding to my superiors and patient continuity. This seemed doable to me. Why wouldn’t I respond to my superiors and the leadership of our company, and absolutely, my patient’s care comes first.
My Happy Boss
A Happy Boss has many facets to it and when you work remotely you do not have the human component of interfacing with each other on a daily or even weekly basis. You don’t see each other around the office or get hauled into their office for a brief conversation or pep talk.
The specifics I’ll get into below are for the remote company I work for. It’s important that you note that not all remote jobs are the same and your experience might greatly differ from mine.
The A Way Abroad founder, Kat, works remotely for a U.S. company, as well, but our schedules and day-to-day look completely different. As my time spent online is tracked and I’m to work U.S. hours regardless of where I am in the world, she’s just expected to get her work done in a timely manner, and have about 2 hours of overlap with her colleagues each day. Her boss is receptive to changing the way they work and keeping their workflow fresh.
A Day in my Remote Work Life
The company I work for designed a ‘work from home’ structure to account for every minute of your workday, no slackers, and they mean it. Being accountable for how you spend your time during your workday is within every job and there are superiors in most workplace to maintain this structure.
The difference between an in-person office environment and a remote work experience is there isn’t any chit chat time with your co-workers, grabbing your coffee together in the communal kitchen; those intermittent on the clock times that get absorbed into your ‘regular workday’ hours that no one thinks to keep track of, unless it becomes a noticeable problem. There is no manager observing you while working, keeping an eye on you physically.
The only way they can account for my time spent working is to be able to track my efforts through the computer and communication programs we share. My time in the chart itself, described accomplishments with the patient care, length of the chart note, and what it includes, it’s all a particular language that must be learned, quickly. This seems straightforward but there are pitfalls, learning curves, and changes in the community that can blind side you, so to be prepared for any conversation about the time spent and input of details may be challenged at any time.
The workday schedule is where the remote employee must be really flexible. Depending on where your company is in the world will tell you what time zone you are working in and if you’re a constant traveler like me, your workday hours will change frequently but remain the same for the company.
Most companies don’t care where you’re actually located, just so long as you clock in when you are supposed to, work the hours they hired you for, and you get the work done they assign to you and do it to their specifications. No If’s, And’s, or But’s.
Take note, this employer pays for nothing of my travel accommodations, expenses, or personal needs. I have to budget those on the bi-weekly paycheck I get deposited into my bank account and make my own way around the globe. I accommodate them and their structure as a company so I can get paid to fund my lifestyle. That being said, I also participate in house and pet sitting organizations, internationally plus the occasional stay in holiday rental or with friends and family, all the while I make time for my ‘work day’.
If you plan to work online while traveling the world, don't go without health insurance. Most likely your company won't give you international health insurance so it's important you take care of this yourself with SafetyWing.
Making This Fit into my ‘How’
Here’s the thing: My ‘how’ I want to live had to include employment. What I will eventually be earning money at is still making progress, so for now, I need this job.
Once you’ve got a remote job and it helps to take you where you want to go and do the things you want to do, you will do everything in your power to make it work.
Initially there are moments of anxiety that you’re going to fail and remote work stress. This type of experience requires a strong backbone and very thick skin; taking criticism where THEY think it is warranted and biting your tongue trying not to sweat the small stuff.
Tips to Keeping My Boss Happy
My Happy Boss needs a lot of coddling, and there are multiple boss’s to adhere to. Putting my own experience as a manager or prior business owner aside, I’m saying “yes, ma’am,” a lot. Not in a derogatory or condescending way but swallowing my pride and as someone who could make the company run more smoothly, I’ve had to agree with their rules of engagement even if I know that’s not how it’s done properly or profitably.
Use Emjois to Your Benefit
There are many hens in the henhouse, with an occasional rooster crowing in the background, this analogy is quite relevant because they have a pecking order but essentially the head hen barks the request or inquiry and then the pecking order squawks in a wave-like procession down the line until we, the chicks, get the message and if we don’t respond instantly to the chatter feed, we get pecked until a recognizable emoji response is procured from us as a visual acknowledgement to them.
This emoji acknowledgement is a huge indicator to them that you are listening.
Occasionally there is a conversation or a comment that using my talent in linguistic skills, I have to ask the difficult questions but in a format that does not take away from the hierarchy of the establishment.
Again, it’s a balance of when and what to say or say nothing at all, just give a ‘thumbs up’ emoji.
They seem to really like the ❤️and 👍. 🙏is also quite popular.
Here’s the trick that I have found that works. Please, Thank You, & Be Patient.
Use Verbal Etiquette
Simple but thoughtful verbal etiquette, along with using complete and appropriate sentences, go a long way. Disregard the fact that most of them do not even use correct punctuation or capitalization, it’s about respecting the fact that they are above me and signing my paycheck.
Okay, okay, there’s more to it than that. They are talented people, educated and have the best intentions, and agreed, pretty much everyone is under the same hammer to get the job done and we all must follow the same rules; the presentation and communication is the game we have to play within the system.
The Please is the way to ask for their insight, their expertise, even if you don’t need it but they feel important, so that when you do make a faux pas you’ve got, brownie points stored up because they do remember who has made that effort.
The Thank You is a humble and grateful way of appreciating not only your superiors but your co-workers. They all give you information, resources, and connections to help you achieve what you need to accomplish in your job. I think it’s mandatory in work and in life. These two phrases stated throughout your day will build a successful and respectful path of stability within the company but also, should you ever need it, a positive reference and feedback.
Regardless of all the hens and roosters in the house, a Please & Thank You go a long, long way in accommodating a fruitful financial future, in a remote or a land job. These notations travel well in any language.
My Happy Clients
Good etiquette, common sense, being cordial and kind is all that is needed to encourage a good relationship with your clients. They can ‘hear’ the smile through your voice, even if you’re having the worst day or flat on your back with illness, a sing-song voice and pleasant, “how'd ya do,” can be heard through the miles of digital phone line.
They care about you too, you will make some friends throughout the months you care about them but essentially you are there to take care of their needs.
This is a resource generated industry and if you don’t produce the resources or connections, they don’t receive the benefits. I always refer to ‘good etiquette and being cordial and kind’ as a failsafe, because, honestly, I can’t find ways to provide everything for every client. This advice also carries over regardless of the industry you work in. It’s take you far if you remember this!
Communication is Everything
Most clients will acknowledge the effort you made, and it is always appreciated, but what’s more valuable is the language that you tried to use and that you are empathetic. This is where your conversational skills come into play and can be the determination in the retention of a client.
Everything from the tone of voice you use to how in depth you looked into their history to find discussion points or ways to help them; it all plays a role in their response to you. Remember, this isn’t a face-to-face conversation, just like your boss, this is all done online.
In my line of work, we are catering to the elderly. This puts me into an even more difficult position due to the basic challenges of hearing loss, trust issues because they think you’re trying to sell them something, and memory deficits. There is a lot to overcome and in the end your character is all that will truly carry your through to be successful, even if you aren’t able to provide services or valuable products for them.
Making the Most of My Remote Job
Am I in a dream job? No but I’m interested and know it’s serving as a stepping stone.
Here’s the hindsight. I remind myself of ‘how’ I want to live. This instant in time is a marginal portion of the grander view of what the rest of my life and living abroad will eventually be.
While neither of us needs to stay in a job we’re unhappy in, it’s important that you have this guidance to know if it’s worth it or not for the moment. How can you leverage the experience, the location independence, the paycheck until you can find something that’s a better fit?
As a child I was a bit rebellious and somewhat brave, a challenge. I’ve raised two children, homesteaded & developed land, been a garden guru, and now, I’m a medical professional. I’m certified in massage therapy and as an ophthalmic assistant. Academic achievements in Nutrition, Physiology, Pathology, and Medical Terminology. I’m a writer of whimsey and eccentric stories, humble poetry, and articles about health.
I keep my focus on the ‘how’ I live and make every accommodation I need to and continue living a lifestyle abroad. It is ever changing, the rules, the time zones, and the language, both in the country I am in but also the work I do, and I like it that way.
Hero photo curtesy of Elle Hughes.