Meet Meredith and Janae: Queer Business Owners Traveling the World as a Couple
We check in with Meredith and Janae, who are currently on month 6 of their 12-month Remote Year Journey in Cape Town, South Africa. Today the pair shares their experiences exploring the world together as business owners and as a queer couple.
Self-described adventure-seeking introverts, Meredith Williams (she/her) and Janae Teal (she/they) love to travel, drink beer, and eat food from around the world. But that’s not all these entrepreneurs are passionate about. In 2020, the couple founded , a small business providing data capacity-building supports to non-profit organizations as a way to level the playing field for historically marginalized communities. When their business moved online due to the pandemic, the pair had an idea - what if they could combine their love for adventure with their work? They saw a social media post about Remote Year and that same day, Meredith and Janae applied to join a 12-month Remote Year Journey. Just 5 months later, they said goodbye to their home in Seattle, Washington, and have spent the last 6 months hiking Machu Picchu, paragliding over Medellin, climbing volcanoes in Guatemala, zooming around Lisbon on scooters, and so much more!
Today we check in with the couple to learn more about their Remote Year experience as they travel the world and run their business on the road.
What was going on in your life before you first went on a Remote Year program and what made you decide to join us?
Meredith: Janae and I started a really cool business together, and our success is all about our relationships with our clients. When the pandemic hit, we worried that we'd lose the close, trusting relationships we had built with our clients by moving our meetings online. We were wrong! If anything, we've been able to grow closer, because now we see their homes, we meet their kids, and know each other more intimately. Once we saw the business was going to be okay, we started thinking "What if we could do this from somewhere else in the world?" I saw Remote Year in a Facebook post, and I knew immediately we wanted to do it.
Janae: Meredith and I started our Remote Year program in October 2022, still very much in the middle of the global pandemic. Because of Covid-19 and the restrictions that followed, I hadn’t left my house more than a handful of times in over a year. We had just started a small business and we were working around the clock. I was stuck in a rut and didn’t see an end in sight. Meredith saw a post on Facebook about Remote Year, sent me a link, and we filled out the application that evening. It was a bit rushed - moving your entire life into a storage unit, packing two suitcases, and moving to some random place in the world is no small thing, but it worked. Once we realized that living in Seattle was MORE expensive than traveling the world for a year, how could we say no?
Before Remote Year, were you nervous about traveling the world as a female/nonbinary individual?
Meredith: Not really. I started traveling the world in my 20s, and have never really been nervous about my gender. I had short hair for a long time, which made me more visibly queer in some places, but I have never really felt nervous. There is a wonderful world of solo women travelers out there, and we feel lucky to be traveling alongside so many.
Janae: In preparing for Remote Year, I had moments of fear and uncertainty, but I also had many moments of excitement and empowerment. Gender dynamics are always on my radar, and I knew that traveling the world would expose me to many different ways of understanding gender. I’ve tried to find a balance between staying open to and honoring the cultures and histories that I encounter, while also keeping gender justice and personal safety at the forefront. I am lucky enough to be traveling with Meredith, which in many ways diminishes my fears, but in other ways exacerbates them. I so deeply admire the women doing Remote Year independently.
What was it like connecting with female travelers on Remote Year?
Meredith: I wasn't sure I'd be able to relate to many people, and being an introvert, I was worried I'd be forced into too many uncomfortable interactions! Those connections have come, and they are pretty great. When it comes to female travelers, honestly, I connect with people (no matter their gender) as humans first. Especially knowing that what it means to be a woman, or female, will vary widely across the world, and across our ages, sexuality, and other identities, we are connecting as whole humans, in a million ways, not just as female travelers.
Janae: I am incredibly inspired by the women I travel with. It’s unlikely that I would be in the same social circle as many of the women I am currently traveling with, but because of Remote Year I have expanded my definition of what it means to be a woman, and what friendships between women can look like. The women I travel with are fierce; they are strong, independent, brave, and incredibly smart. We connect authentically, in new ways, all the time.
Give us an update - what are you up to now and how is your Remote Year experience having an impact on your life?
Meredith: We are halfway through our 12-month journey! We are loving life in Cape Town and getting excited for our upcoming safari. During the day, we are soaking in all of the sun, beauty, and culture, and at night we are burning the midnight oil with other US-based remotes in the coworking space. On one of our first days, our Community Leader Eddie said we were going to be like family. That seemed more like pressure than a promise at that point, but I can say that it really is happening. We have developed relationships that are both different and deeper than I would have imagined, and I love that. I love being surprised by everyone's stories and personalities, and seeing all of these experiences through their unique lenses.
Janae: While the program isn’t over, it’s already impacted my life in ways I never expected. I’ve come to believe that traveling with people you know is comfortable, but traveling with people you care about…that’s magical. I love sharing this experience.
How is your Remote Year Journey impacting you professionally?
Meredith: This experience has impacted our business and the way we do our work. It is very important to us to be culturally responsive in our work, as our clients are mostly immigrant and refugee families from all over the world. Getting to know so many people and cultures more deeply, with more nuance, has added layers to many of the ways we think about the research we do.
Janae: This experience has absolutely impacted the way I do my work. I work with dozens of non-profit organizations, representing children and families from all over the world. To be exposed to norms and cultures outside of the US has given me so much perspective on how I can be better in my work. I’ve even had a few clients who found out I was visiting their home country (and even hometown) and they were so excited to give recommendations and share their stories. While working into the middle of the night isn’t always my favorite, this experience really has made me better at my job.
It’s true! 90% of Remote Year travelers say Remote Year changed their lives. Learn more about our 1-week Retreats, 1-month Trips, and 4 and 12-month Journeys here.