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11 July 2018

Travel Adventures of a Remote Staff- The Pilgrimage of a Project Manager

AmDee values the importance of work-life balance. Progressive both in solutions for clients as well as internal culture. Our employees are distributed across time-zones. Working on their own schedules creats a stronger work-life balance, and a happy, fulfilled staff.

We recognize that happiness of employees is directly dependant on work-life balance. Happy employees mean they work harder, are more dedicated to their role and company. Studies show that employees generally stay healthier too.

Organizational Psychologist, Dr. Ellen Ernst Kossek and colleagues characterize a sustainable workforce as “one whose employees have the positive energy, capabilities, vitality, and resources to meet current and future organizational performance demands while sustaining their economic and mental health on and off the job.” (Kossek, Ellen & Valcour, Monique & Lirio, Pamela. (2013).

AmDee owner and founder Amar encourages employees to take advantage of the ability to work anywhere. Elyssa, our Project Manager, is doing just that, with time-honed tradition of a pilgrimage.

Currently living and working in Spain, Elyssa learned of a time-honored tradition she felt compelled to experience- The Camino de Santiago (The Way of St James)- a series of pilgrimage routes established in medieval times to the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain where believers say the saint is buried. Today these routes are not only for pilgrimages but also popular hiking and cycling paths that millions come each year to conquer.

Fortunate to work anywhere, Elyssa decided to take on the Camino de Norte, or the northern way. Traveling through the raw beauty of Spanish forests adjacent to the Bay of Biscay. Using the time difference in her favor, she knew she would be able to hike the first half of the day, and get settled into each town along the route before most of the AmDee east-coaster clients would be looking for answers.

To prepare for her journey. First she made she was caught up on any work she could complete. She packed all her essentials for an outdoor adventure-clothes and boots, hiking poles, Frutos Secos- a Spanish trail mix made of nuts and seeds- as well as must-have work equipment. Fortunately it is minimal- just her smartphone with local phone plan, tablet, charging cables and notebook and a pen.

The Journey Begins

The eight-day journey began with an early start at 6:00am in Irun. An industrial town encircled by the Jaizkibel, San Marcial, and Peña de Aia mountains, where she took one last look at email from the previous night before embarking on the 23 km (14.25 mile) hike through beautiful forests up 2000 feet of elevation gain, marveling at the sight of the sun sparkled Bay of Biscay to the right.

One of the biggest advantages to this work lifestyle is the ability to unplug. With over eight hours in nature, hearing no phones ringing, computer typing, or other office sounds, Elyssa was able to unwind, enjoy the scenery and focus on her first day of the hike, which according to her is always the hardest. When I spoke to her she said, “My body, specifically my feet, wanted to protest but my mind is stubborn.”

Upon completing her first day she received her first stamp in her Credencial- a hiking passport/journal. Then she hopped on WiFi at the hostel to answer work emails and address a few work challenges. While doing outdoor adventures is nothing new to Elyssa, sometimes finding consistent and fast WiFi is a challenge. Luckily, the WiFi here worked great and she was able to attend to work matters as usual.

Internet in Small Spanish Towns

For the next several days, Elyssa hiked five to six hours a day. Traversing through breathtaking views of the Spanish mountains, stopping only for occasional photo ops and ending her days in interesting cities along the way including San Sebastian, Zaratuz, and Deba.

Most evenings it rained. She worked in the local café or hostel taking breaks to run for provisions, and to prepare for the next days hike. After completing as much work as possible on slow WiFi, with sometimes scarce power sources, she often stayed up until midnight enjoying the company of other travelers. As she settled down to sleep, appreciating for the flexibility of this job.

Her biggest challenge of working on such a trip came on one of her last nights.She was supposed to be in a meeting with Amar and clients in the evening, but the internet was too unreliable. She wasn’t able to join that meeting, forcing her to catch up at the next town with a good connection.

Elyssa said one of her favorite cities was the adorable ocean village of Lekeitio where “we stayed at Markina-Xemein – a monastery- with a hilarious and friendly priest and nun as our hosts who entertained us with jokes and anecdotes while we stuffed ourselves on food we had picked up at the local grocery store.”

Pilgrimage Comes to an End

The last day was the toughest hike of 39 km (24 miles) with sections of steep elevation. Luckily the scenery was so breathtaking that Elyssa didn’t notice how exhausted she was until coming over the mountain to the final stop in Bilbao- the largest city on the Camino de Norte- home of the first transporter bridge, thriving culture and historic architecture, as well as the 2018 European City of the Year winner.

Elyssa spent her last night exploring the city, taking tours of some of the historic churches and gathering stamps for her credencial. At night working on projects to catch up on client requests while the rest of the group talked and laughed their way through cooking dinner at the hostel. She joined them late to enjoy one last meal with her new friends, exchanging tales of favorite parts of the trip, and promises to keep in touch.

Elyssa’s expedition shows that with this type of working environment, one can’t help but be happier and healthier, exploring the world, and enjoying life. Working remotely is slowly becoming more accepted in the corporate world and we hope to see more people living and working in a way that keeps the human spirit alive, and out of cubicles.

 

Stay tuned for more adventures of our remote staff soon!

Cheryl B.

Cheryl is a marketing, communications, and fundraising/development consultant for nonprofit and corporate clients.