Kristen Marano Works Remotely
Founder / Owner
Founder Digital Nomad Self-Employed
Digital Nomad Life
% Time Traveling
* All figures approximate as of October 2016
My partner and I quit our corporate office jobs in May 2014 to change up our lifestyle and routine. We backpacked through South East Asia, Australia, and New Zealand for one year before making Perth, Australia, a base.
We wanted to ensure we stayed relevant while on the road so we didn’t have a gap in our experience. We launched a small digital communications firm and worked with a few Canadian clients from the road, and I also started contributing international fashion pieces to Huffington Post Canada.
The flexibility to design what I want each day to look like, and work from anywhere in the world as long as I have my laptop, phone, and an internet connection. I can choose to work from my home office, a coffee shop, or the other side of the world. I can visit family and work at the same time. In the past year I worked from a cafe in Mumbai, to a home in London, to a cafe in Toronto, where I’m sitting now.
I can sleep in and then work late or vice versa; I can take a break during the day to ride my bike to the ocean, or meet a friend for lunch. I didn’t have that level of flexibility when I worked for a multinational agency.
Working for myself is one of the most empowering career moves yet.
This has been a huge challenge for me. It’s amazing how much time I can waste, if I’m trying to write, while picking up my phone every few minutes to tweet, scroll Instagram, and check email.
To avoid situations like this, I recently started using the timer on my iPhone to encourage myself to focus on one task at a time. If I’m pitching media story lines, then I’ll set a timer for 30 minutes, and tell myself that I need to have the task complete when the timer goes off. When I’m under time constraints there’s no room for distractions.
- A good set of headphones
- A mobile hot spot
I have everything I need to work from home, but I don’t have a dedicated home office. Most days I work at the home dining table, which I find comfortable, and one to two days a week I’ll work at the local cafe next door. I setup my computer, charger, headphones, phone, and notebook, and I’m good to go for the day.
I bought a desk when we recently moved into our new studio. The desk sat there empty for two weeks, while I sat at the dining table. That desk quickly went online for sale. In home office living, I think it’s about finding what’s comfortable and what works for you.
The biggest money-saving tip is to make meals at home or buy groceries and snacks if you’re on the road.
My partner and I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home almost five days a week. On Sunday we visit the market and ensure we have what we need for the week, which saves time to whip up quick meals. We also invested in a good coffee machine so we limit our trips to the local cafe. Coffee prices can easily add up.
Not being easily involved in decisions that are made in the physical office. This is a specific situation to a recent team I worked with in another country. Thirty to forty people worked together in a traditional office setting so it was easy for everyone to turn to each other or quickly get together to put ideas up on a white board. I was one of three remote workers, so a lot of the time, we’d find out about decisions that were made after the fact.
It wasn’t a situation that was easily overcome. It takes a lot of time and education to explain what it’s like to be a remote worker, and what a remote setup looks like, so everyone can take each other’s working situations into considerations (time zones, being the only remote worker).
We experimented with cloud-based tools like Trello to keep everyone involved and informed on certain projects, but even then working across several teams, Trello would be easy for the content team to use, while developers preferred Slack.
The remote workers would also visit the physical office once or twice a year for two or three weeks at a time to collaborate in person. This decision helped with relationship building and gave everyone an opportunity to learn about each other’s setup, challenges, and how to effectively work together once some of us were remote again.
Visit the shops, stores, and restaurants that make up the community, and get to know the people who make the community a valuable place to live, work, and play.
I look for local events happening whether political or social to support local culture like art and music, and organizations to join that connect entrepreneurs or women in business. I recently volunteered with the Creative Women’s Circle, an Australian women in business network, to launch the Perth chapter and connect creatives in the community to share advice, ask questions, and mentor each other.
I recently visited a few fashion stores in Perth, Australia, where I’m based some of the time, to speak with their owners and learn about their challenges. I like to give some of my time where possible to support the community and make it a better place to live for all of us.
Working in fashion and fashion technology, Instagram is a huge resource to stay on top of trends, influencers, and brands. I can easily spot a great activation from a brand, see where influencers like bloggers and editors are traveling, or learn about new markets where my clients want to expand. I can quickly send a direct Instagram message, or find an email and fire off a personal note.
Likewise, if I’m traveling to a city where I haven’t been before, I’ll search hashtags on Instagram for local events and people I can connect with. If there are similar interests between us, most people are willing to meet for a coffee or at least discuss an idea over email.
I can work a lot, so I need to be very conscious of a turn off time every day. That means staying away from my computer and phone once I’m done work for the day. Working alongside my partner helps as well, because one of us can say, “Hey, let’s take a break and go for a walk or a bike ride.”
I find if I schedule yoga classes at the beginning of the week, and I know I have a class to get to by 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. then I’ll leave the house and I won’t come back to work after. It helps that yoga is a five-minute walk and by the ocean where I can hear the waves. Similarly, when I’m on the road, I look for local yoga studios, or a new restaurant or band to check out, so my day is nicely broken up.
This has been a huge challenge for me, but I’m finally in a place where having a productive day means more than work. It means having time for myself or time with my partner like sitting by the ocean for 30 minutes, reading a good book, or working on a passion project like my Etsy shop.
I take short breaks that help me clear my mind, and I never make it feel like “I have to go work out.” I ride my bike to the ocean over lunch, go to a yoga class in the morning or early evening, or walk around town at lunch.
My partner and I have setup our studio in a location where we have easy access to areas where we can relax and be fit. Being next to the ocean is a huge part of staying fit.
Overall my diet has improved. When I worked in an office, it was easy to say at 3 p.m., “Oh, I need a break and a sugar rush to keep going for the afternoon.” That often meant a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie.
Now, I eat two to three meals a day from home, and all grocery shopping is done on the weekend so the fridge is stocked and it’s quick and easy to make a meal or grab a snack.
If I’m on the road or on long flights, I always drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, and limit how many airplane meals I eat. When traveling through different time zones I try to correlate my actual time zone to ensure I don’t overeat or eat at a time that my body isn’t used to like 3 a.m.
When I’m in another city, I’ll look for a local grocery store to grab snacks like fruit or nuts, so I have a healthy option and save money rather than buying something from the cafe or a bag of chips (my weakness and favorite thing in the world to eat). If I’m in an Airbnb I’ll look for a place with a fridge or small kitchen, so I’m not eating all of my meals at restaurants.
Use social media tools like Instagram and Twitter to see what people in your field or work focus are doing. If there are shared interests or values, I find people are always willing to meet for a coffee and exchange ideas. Search hashtags by the city you’re in or #digitalnomad, and you’re bound to find someone to connect with.
Likewise, search for local events or organizations where you can participate or attend with like-minded individuals. You might meet another individual or group of nomads who are in the same city for a while, and you can make additional plans or join in on what they’re doing.
This was a huge challenge for at least a year. Almost 2.5 years later, my family now has a better understanding of what I do, what remote work means, and why I like to travel a lot. But it wasn’t easy. It took a lot of sticking to my guns and knowing what I want, and having the patience to explain and re-explain “why I’m doing this again.”
I come from a family of generations where everyone lived in the same place, and stays in the same place. I’m the first person to travel long-term and adopt a remote work lifestyle. I got a lot of questions like “why are you leaving a good, secure job?”, “why don’t you just travel for a few weeks and then come home?” or “now you’re so far away from us.” There are multiple layers of concerns, but the more my partner and I have shown what success and happiness can look like, the more our families support us.