By Megan Seckman

The group went on a 10-mile hike in the mountains outside of Split and then to a small village where they were invited into the home of a local couple to eat traditional Croatian food. 

By the time this article is published, Sara Pitt, 28, will have lived in three new countries. In June, she learned to buy groceries and squeeze in a morning run in the coastal setting of Split, Croatia. In July, she’ll learn to order food as a temporary resident of Budapest, Hungary. In August, Lisbon, Portugal will become home.

Sara, who grew up in Louisville, recently embarked on the experience of her lifetime: a year working abroad. Through the organization Remote Year, Sara and 50 other professionals will live and work together, each continuing their independent professions and meeting their clients’ needs far from the office, as they travel around the world. In 12 months, they will work from 12 cities, including time in Thailand, Malaysia, and Argentina. Her group consists of freelancers, full-time entrepreneurs (like herself), and come from 10 different nationalities — all with the common goal of creating a traveling community.

At the time of this interview, Sara is 10 days into her journey and living in Croatia. She has survived the jet lag and managed to buy some groceries; she posts pictures of her giant house keys and other international oddities. As she acclimates to her new environment, the overwhelming feeling she exudes is awe.

Coworking space in Libson. Sara says having a normal work routine is essential for helping everyone adapt to living abroad and moving each month. “We all work from a variety of places, but Remote Year always provides 24/7 access to an awesome coworking space with excellent WiFi.”

“I will never again experience this type of community,” she explains of her new co-workers.
When Sara decided to apply to Remote Year, what most appealed to her about this organization was the focus on community — travel was actually the second draw. As a remote web developer and a natural introvert who struggles with social anxiety, she found the idea of Remote Year liberating. “I know this is the group of people I’m going to spend a year with…it actually takes out a lot of the pressure. It’s easier to be myself and lay it out there, to embrace being uncomfortable.”

Many remote workers who travel complain of being lonely, and that is the driving mission behind this group — to intentionally build strong communities that grow and learn together. Through roommates, a shared workspace, scheduled outings, and a host of events and activities geared toward community building (including service-learning projects), the organization strives to create a close professional network while addressing the social and emotional needs of remote workers. “We travel as a tribe,” Sara says.

Image of the entire group with the name Earhart spelled out in the balloon letters. Each Remote Year group is named after an explorer, and their group is named after Amelia Earhart. Photo: Amelia Thiele

The 50 participants went through a multi-step interview process in order to participate in Remote Year. Sara originally saw an ad for the organization while surfing the web and couldn’t shake the idea. “I was at the point of looking into how to grow personally and professionally, and after stumbling on this, I simultaneously felt excitement and dread because I knew I had to do that! There are thousands who apply, so I thought, ‘Sure, I’ll apply, but I won’t get it.’”

Sara had her doubts, even after she made it through several rounds of interviews and was accepted. She had transitioned from an installation artist to a web developer two years prior and wasn’t sure she could afford the fees with a new business. In addition, there were the logistics of leaving behind her dog, her stuff, and 60 house plants to travel the world. “But everything fell into place,” Sara explains.

“I found someone to care for my dog and plants and realized I could make this work.” Sara says her apartment in Louisville cost her around a $1,000 per month, and this experience (including rent, a shared office space within walking distance of her travel partners’ apartments, flights, and fees) costs $2,000 each month after a $5,000 initial fee.

Each month, the group partners with the local Remote Year city teams to reach out to nonprofit organizations they’re interested in helping. In Croatia, they went to an animal shelter to socialize the puppies and worked with a women’s organization to redesign their website and revamp their social media. Photo: Melissa Randall

Sara is looking forward to her time in Asia, which will be completely new territory. And new territory is what this whole experience is about. “I’m looking most forward to knowing, that at the end of these 12 months, I will be able to adapt to any situation in life. I’m doing the thing that is both completely exciting and horrifying — it’s good to be a little uncomfortable if you really want to grow.”