Founder of Compact Health
Why did you decide to go on Remote Year?
Building a small business can be a lonely and frustrating affair. I’m sure all the entrepreneurs out there know what I mean. We’re supposed to be sharing our passion with the world every day and, instead, we’re stuck doing accounts, managing the IT department (OK, turning things off then on again as the only solution to any technical problem)... and, of course, begging for meetings with the janitor at any larger organization!
Rarely are there folks around who understand the nature of your challenges… or the gravity of your small victories. I mean, which of your family and friends would drop what they are doing to have a celebratory beer with you when someone at Cigna returned your call?!
Anyway, the prospect of spending a year with a community of likeminded individuals who take an interest in what you are doing, are there to bounce things off and even weigh in when you need help or guidance sounded pretty damn appealing to me.
Oh, and travelling the world at the same time, I mean… WTF? Up until about 2 years ago I had been travelling pretty solidly for a few years… and only just getting started! As my business began to gain gravity I was able to do this less and less, a factor I was really resenting.
In summary, I guess you could say RY solved a fair few of the issues that were irking me.
How did you hear about Remote Year?
Ah! In March of last year I was trekking in Patagonia with with a friend of mine. He was walking behind me chatting to someone we had just met on the trail and she was telling him about this amazing new program that a friend of her’s was applying for. They were a little behind me so I was taking in small snippets of the conversation. ‘12 cities in 12 months’, I heard… ‘A group of 70 likeminded professionals’… ‘a mobile community working and travelling the world.’
I stopped dead in my tracks… turned around, and practically yelled at her “What the #*@ did you just say??”
She has since become a good friend and we regularly laugh about the intensity of my question. She didn’t know whether to laugh or run down the mountain. I got back a week later, applied the day I arrived… and was off to Prague 6 weeks later to start this crazy adventure.
How did you find yourself a remote role?
Well, I went up to my boss, looked at him straight in the eye and said “You are an absolute asshole if you don’t let me do this”. He pondered for about 20 seconds, stroked his chin for a moment and replied with two simple words.
I then turned from the mirror walked to the computer and accepted the offer to join :)... small business does have its advantages.
Jokes aside, it did take a fair bit of organizing… especially when it came to balancing which customers to tell and which to… well… ‘manage’. But, at the end of the day nothing was going to stop me getting on that plane.
What are you working on for the year?
Compact Health is a start up created to bring the ‘science’ of good health to ordinary people.
Our flagship program is called the Power of Calm and it helps people do a better job of identifying when stress is negatively affecting their health and performance and delivers a simple set of skills and strategies to help reduce it in an efficient, scientific and effective way.
My goal for this year is to create a fully digital version of our health education program, one that can get into the hands of all those who need it, wherever they may be.
Being surrounded by web developers, content writers, scientists, digital marketing experts (not to mention a great sample audience!) has helped me enormously towards achieving this goal.
What do you hope to achieve/gain by the end of Remote Year?
Honestly, I see the end of Remote Year more as a beginning. I want to have built a business that supports my lifestyle as much as my bank account. I want to leave with a deeper appreciation of what it means to be part of a community, wherever that may be. And I hope to have made a positive impact, if only in a small way, on the experience of everyone I’ve met along the way. I hope that recalling our time together brings a smile to each of their faces… as I know it will for me.
What does your typical work day look like?
Typical? Huh? Compared to what :)... But I do see what you’re asking. OK, my typical day would be:
Wake up whenever I wake up (strictly no alarm)
Check my emails and messages for any urgent overnight communications.
Meditate for 20 mins
Breakfast at home (Muesli, Granola, Fruit, Yoghurt).. The only meal of the day I can always control!
Work for a couple of hours at home
Do an hour’s exercise (Run, TRX or both…)
Shower, grab a light lunch and head into the shared workspace
Work for another few hours
Do something social with whoever is ready to do the same whenever I’m done (Beer, Chat, Walk)
Meditate for 20 minutes
Grab dinner with friends
Hit the town a few nights a week or go home and read a book (anyway the wind blows)
What advice would you give to others considering Remote Year?
I’m sure all Remotes would agree that Remote Year is equal parts professional incubator… and life experiment. Answering the question ‘Am I able to execute on my professional goals via the internet across a range of time zones?’ Is something that you alone can do.
On the ‘remote life’ side, I can certainly weigh in... In short, prepare to have your world rocked!
If you don’t want to rock your world, then maybe something different will suit you better.
What do I mean? Well, joining a community of open minded, talented and inspiring adults, getting to know them, their goals, hopes and dreams, joining in with them to effect positive change in the cities you visit, mixing with local communities touching lives and having your’s touched in return… seeing the beauty of the world through your own eyes… and through the eyes of so many others…
This is will rock your world...
… missing your home, being away from your loved ones, watching your pillars of routine crumble, feeling exposed and small on a huge unfamiliar planet, coming to terms with your privilege relative to others… and how little you know about so much...
This will rock your world...
You can certainly join RY and spend the year trying to ‘rock your world’ as little as possible! But, to me, that’s kinda missing the point.
Where does your passion for travel come from?
Where does my passion for travel come from? That’s easy… It comes from travel.
Really! I’m not being a smart ass. When I first started taking vacations it was about lying on a beautiful beach somewhere and only getting out of my hammock to get the next ice cold beer. Yes… I know… that’s awesome too!... but that’s something you LIKE, it’s not something that you are passionate about. When I was 23, and just starting what ended up being a 15 year career on Wall St, I saved up two years of vacation time and went to India for 6 weeks. India hit me like a brick. The history and culture, the smells and colours, the smiles and pride… the tragedy of the destitute. I felt awake and connected… I learned more in that 6 weeks than I had learned since school. From that point I was hooked. I gave up little breaks and hoarded vacation days like they were going out of fashion. The next year was Mexico, then Turkey, then Nepal. Just like that, my world started growing, one culture, one landscape at a time. With wider eyes and broader mind I inhaled the incredible beauty and diversity of this impossibly unlikely planet. A blue oasis teeming with life… unique in a trillion miles of cold dark space. Damn straight I want to explore its every corner!!
Passionate about travel? Uh.. Yes :)
How has working remotely affected your current work?
I’m not going to lie. Being surrounded by amazing experiences, wonderful people and beautiful landscapes makes it hard to focus on work with the single minded attitude that you can achieve at ‘home’ or in a fixed office. BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t be productive and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t be creative.
When, inevitably, I get a little distracted from work, I just know I need to get a little creative to ensure I get things done. If I have a lot on but want to take a long weekend to explore the Argentinian salt flats, I put in a few longer nights, or get going a little earlier each morning. I stay in contact wherever I can and generally find there is a way to make things happen. I always return refreshed and inspired from these ‘distractions’ and bring back a positive and can-do attitude.
In the corporate wellness space there is a concept called ‘presenteeism’ essentially it refers to the cost of people being at work without being productive or mentally ‘being there’. Well, if you’re not going to ‘be there’... you may as well be riding a horse through the Sierra mountains… and come back next week refreshed and ready to kill it!
Do you plan to sustain this remote lifestyle after Remote Year?
I most certainly do. I plan to have a base back home in Sydney Australia where I’ll spend the extended summer months. Come and visit! When it starts to get cold I’m going to make like a confused goose… and head north. To me, Winter is totally overrated.
What is the most challenging part of being a digital nomad?
For me… it’s eating well. Most other remotes cook a fair amount themselves… but I’ve never really ‘flourished’ in the kitchen. There are always healthy options to be had but there is no end to the temptation of ‘being in Rome… and eating like the Romans do!’ (That wasn’t a reference to pizza but it’s damn hard to escape anywhere in the world)
What is the best part about being a digital nomad?
It is true, there is no place like home. But when home becomes the entire world, all it’s people, opportunities and experiences… that ‘saying’ takes on a whole new meaning. It takes sometime to start feeling that way… but when it kicks in, there is no greater feeling of freedom.
What is your secret talent?
Performing famous movie theme songs on a 1980’s musical calculator
Where have you lived / traveled to previously?
I was born in Pretoria South Africa, moved to Sydney Australia when I was 12 and lived in New York for 3 years a little while back. In a couple of weeks I will be visiting Uruguay… which will be the 85th country I have been too. And I feel like I am just getting started!!!
What book should everyone read?
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It puts a mirror up to the mental games we play with ourselves, the blind spots we universally have, and the ease with which we fool ourselves into making illogical decisions. Read it! Or continue to be fooled :)
Your favorite digital nomad hack?
The Roost stand…. Save your back neck and shoulders by getting your laptop at the right height! You’ll want a bluetooth keyboard too. (I have no shares in the company :)
3 things you can't live without on the road?
Icebreaker merino wool t-shirts, socks and undies
Silicone putty earplugs
TRX suspension trainer
What has been your favorite Remote Year city? Why?
300 days of sunshine a year, great beaches close to the city, fascinating history, friendly people, inexpensive for that part of the world, growing start-up culture, Good food, Europe on your doorstep. What more could you want? Uh.. OK, the beer there sucked… but you can’t have it all now can you :)
Describe your Remote Year experience in 3 words.
In bloody credible
Your favorite quote / words to live by?
Our impression of others is just that. OUR impression.
To think that we can sum up a person… a lifetime of experiences, hopes, dreams, relationships, triumphs and tragedies in a few moments, or weeks is surely the height of arrogance. Patience, empathy and understanding are all gifts we love to receive… we should give them in return.
Where are you in 30 years?
Well… I’m 45 now so ‘alive’ would be good for starters :)
What are you most passionate about?
People. Whether the ultimate pursuit is happiness, the search for meaning... or the most perfectly brewed beer… it is the people in our lives that will most affect our destiny.
Who is the most interesting person you've met while traveling?
In Mexico I took a side trip to Tulum… and went scuba diving through a system of cenotes (caves). The dive master who took me through the cenotes was a ‘pack a day’ Manyan local (he thinks he is around 60 but didn’t know for sure) who lives in the jungle during the off-season and only comes to the town when there are enough tourists to go around. (Just the kind of guy you want taking you on your first cave dive!). I wish I had a photo of him and his toothless smile to share with you… Anyway, he was a man of few words, opening his mouth only to give me the dive plan and answer the one question I asked of him..
Me: “Do you prefer living in the town or in the jungle”
Him: [with incredulous look] “in the Winter I live in the jungle, I do what I want, have no money and I eat as much lobster as I can catch. In the summer I live in the town, work like a dog and can’t afford a piece of chicken”
… with that he turned around grabbed his tank and beckoned me towards the cave. As we plunged into the pitch black water I couldn’t shake the thought that I’d just learned more about capitalism from my ancient Mayan Dive Instructor than I was ever taught at business school.
. . .