I like to immerse myself in the places I visit. Work is one of the things that keeps me rooted to USAmerica, because even though I work with a fully remote team, the majority of them are based in the United States. I am as far as I know the only one working the digital nomad lifestyle.
It’s unsettling and occurs like teleportation to be fully adapted to a place only to suddenly be making culturally narrow, USAmerican, remote water cooler chit-chat with colleagues that can’t even pronounce the country I am in, let alone point it out on a map.
I hear that the soldiers that fly drones in wars in the Middle East while working in warehouses outside Las Vegas and going home to their families every night have worse mental health and PTSD issues than those separated from their families in actual frontline combat. It’s the disconnect between the two states that seems to be the most crazy making.
When I begin the digital nomad lifestyle I’m very careful to be on WiFi and behind my laptop for every meeting, but over time I realize that I can take a meeting from pretty much anywhere on my phone.
And so, I do. Here are some places I have taken meetings for work:
In Traffic in Lagos, Nigeria:
I am surprised when anything functions in Lagos, because the city itself is so dysfunctional. The biggest cause of that is probably corruption which underlies woefully inadequate infrastructure throughout the city.
I’ve had a few of those moments where I visit a new city for the first time and declare that it has the worst traffic in the world. Not too long before landing in Lagos I visit Nairobi for the first time and say the same of it. It’s categorically worse than anything I’ve experienced in over a hundred countries.
And then there is Lagos. Lagos traffic is an ordeal. I can’t believe anything in the city functions. It took me three and a half hours to get from the airport to where I was staying. I spent the majority of the days I spent in Lagos stuck in traffic. It’s constant, awful, and OMG you better pray there is no weather.
The roads themselves are also the worst I have seen in any capital city in any country.
And so, of course, to see anything I will have to take meetings in traffic. I’ll have to take many of them there, but the first one I take is on the way from the airport to the place where I am staying.
The Uber driver has been making chit chat with me. Trying to be super nice and informative. Priming me. For him, it’s potentially the greatest opportunity of his life. For me, it’s a ride. I’m happy to get out of the coming call for White Saviorism via my excuse of a work call.
I sit listening to a meeting about the email calendar while staring out of the window at the other vehicles, passengers, clutches of humans handing on to the back of a truck. Women doing their makeup. Cars that don’t look road ready.
And the constant pace of street sales. Lines of salespeople flank the spaces between vehicles. I’m offered car parts, floor mats, water, personal fans, hygiene products, food, snacks, USAmerican snacks, snacks I do not recognize or comprehend, brightly colored drinks, household supplies, wiper blades…
On another ride my host buys wiper blades. Here is where I learn one of my Nigerian mantras:
“Why are you wasting my time?!”
She berates the salesguy, coming on abrupt, aggressive, and strong. It doesn’t even end in her haggling with him, it’s just the Nigerian way. She eventually buys a wiper blade.
In A Prop Plane on the Runway Flying from Trinidad to Tobago:
I am not sure if propeller planes are a sign that I am succeeding at the digital nomad lifestyle or failing at the digital nomad lifestyle. I rarely travel anywhere but major metropolitan cities so if I see a prop plane it’s not usually a good sign.
This time, I am flying from the notoriously dangerous Port-of-Spain, Trinidad (not so sure about a city whose initials are POS) to the laid back, sleepy island of Tobago. Mostly this little hop is planned just so that I can honestly say that I have been to Trinidad and Tobago.
I’m fascinated by the difference in the demography. Whereas Trinidad is mostly Indo-Caribbean, Tobago is mostly Afro-Caribbean. I don’t know the history well enough to know who lives where, and why, but I do see a different population between the islands.
Even the dialects are different. Trinidad and Tobago speak different creole, and different dialects of Caribbean Hindustani.
And English, which is often peppered with both. Both Trinis and Tobagans frequently ask me if I am having trouble understanding them, which I find cute. Mostly I do fine.
A beautiful accented English airline announcement for Caribbean Airlines is going on in the background of my work call as I present during our weekly meeting where we share our top two priorities from the week prior, how we did on them, and talk about the top two priorities for the week upcoming.
I use Zoom on my phone and appear on camera sitting in a plane seat. I don’t mention it, and no one else does either. Right at the end of my presentation the propellers whirr to a start, but luckily I hit mute before it gets painfully obvious, not that the bing-bonging of the seatbelt notification and the safety announcement wouldn’t clue people in. Luckily the microphone I use for my phone has a good limiter and filter.
Watching the Cargo Ship “Miracle” go through the Panama Canal:
It’s the first day of my period and I am grumpy. The hot Panama sunshine is making me both happy for my digital nomad lifestyle, and also concerned that any digital nomad lifestyle leads to skin cancer. Most of the world is sunny. I’m not sure the digital nomad lifestyle is de facto good for human health. But I digress.
I have grand expectations for the Panama Canal. I’ve read the history. They made islands off of Panama City with the stuff they dug out of the canal. An amazing feat of engineering. I’m ready to see it up close and personal.
Turns out, you’ve seen one lock, you’ve seen them all.
It’s pretty underwhelming watching ships go through Miraflores locks. It takes about forty-five minutes to an hour depending on the size of the vessel. I watch the Miracle go all the way through the lock, and then watch another ship enter.
It’s just water moving up and down, and ships moving up and down. It isn’t as big as you would think it would be, the canal shrinks down to a small channel that only a few boats can get through at the lock, so the scale of it as an engineering process doesn’t really impact the size or complexity of the lock itself.
I watch it fill up, I watch it drain out.
The entire time I am listening to the “monthly intention meeting” wherein we talk about what we did as a whole as the marketing team over the past month and what we will do as a whole as the marketing team over the month to come. I don’t have to present or appear on camera, so this presentation full of massaged data just plays as an audio background to my experience of the Panama Canal.
While at Association Green Planet Cannabis Social Club in Barcelona:
I end up with a gap between check-out and check-in times one day in Barcelona and need to spend about four hours working somewhere. Rather than choosing a cafe or coffeeshop, I choose another kind of coffeeshop, a cannabis coffeeshop.
Actually it is a pet peeve that they are sometimes called this in Barcelona because they are not coffeeshops at all, they are Barcelona cannabis social clubs, but people are more familiar with the Amsterdam model so it gets the point access.
Green Planet is a comfortable space that sells marijuana, hash, edibles, and concentrates, and will lend you the equipment to use them. They have lockers on site in case you need to leave product there.
It is my favorite cannabis club in Barcelona in that they have the most comfortable seating, are cleanest, and have the best overall ventilation of any of the clubs with dab rigs.
There aren’t that many clubs with dab rigs, and even though it seems other clients are hell bent on stealing, losing, or destroying the equipment at Green Planet and occasionally I arrive to find a piece missing or in repair – for the most part they reliably have the best dab setup of any of the cannabis social clubs in Barcelona.
It’s set up well for socializing. I have met people from all over the world at Green Planet – everywhere from Switzerland to Suriname to Saudi Arabia. The staff is really cool too, they are friendly, helpful, humble, and knowledgeable.
Green Planet has a couple vending machines for snacks and drinks, but considering they are located smack in the middle of the Gothic Quarter, very close to Plaça Reial, there are dozens of food and drink options in every direction, and you are welcome to bring food and drink into the club.
So, since I am absolutely welcome to do so and it is way more comfortable and quiet than most cafes – it’s here that I decide to take a work meeting about migrating CRM’s.
In this meeting I have to share my screen and appear on camera.
I’m a little concerned they may see wafting smoke or vapor show up behind me from others actively using in the club, but it goes off without a hitch and my company has no idea that just behind the screen is a lovely dab rig complete with terp ball.
Considering the digital nomad lifestyle? I’ve been doing it for over a decade now and am happy to help you get started. Feel free to ask questions in the comments!