Moving to Barcelona, surrounding yourself with interesting people and exploring new cities, our Co-founder, Marty talks all things remote working.
Living in the sun has always been a big motivator. I love Scotland to bits, but after months (or years) of walking to Tens HQ in the pissing rain, I found myself fantasising about living somewhere that I could actually wear my Tens. The jokes write themselves about running a sunglasses company in one of the least sunny places on earth.
At the start of June this year, I packed my life into surprisingly few boxes and moved to Barcelona. I’ve been attracted to the whole ‘travel the world with just your laptop’ thing for a while and felt that we, at Tens, could really take advantage of the fact that we run an entirely online business. If we sell online, and we chat between our team online – why not just go fully remote? If you want to work from Glasgow, cool; if you want to work from a wooden cabin in the middle of the Andes, go for it (as long as it has a fiber internet connection). A remote team split across the world, living wherever they want, feels a lot more like the Tens way to do things.
I’ve been inspired for years by the community at NomadList, and by people like it’s Founder, Pieter. There’s a wave forming in the tech scene, with talent realising they can ditch their super expensive housing in San Francisco and move across the globe to highly affordable places like Chiang Mai in Thailand whilst retaining their San Fran salary – their money now goes 4 times further. It’s easy to see why so many people are taking the dive into remote working. It also makes sense to me as an employer; why limit yourself to a local talent pool when you can pick from a remote, global talent pool? The chances of you finding the right people increases considerably.
Most of all, I needed a break from my regular routine. I get restless after doing the same thing day-in-day-out for too long, so it was time to switch things up.
So, why Barcelona?
1) It's close enough to home to jump back to Scotland (home) for friend and family occasions.
2) It's a short (and normally cheap) two hour flight to London. I can leave my apartment at 6AM and be in central London for 10AM. I can be over and back on the same day.
3) It has everything. Tech, arts, business, nightlife, beach, city. You name it, you can find it here (or you can get to it very quickly).
4) But mostly because a few of my friends moved here 4 years ago (shout out Antonia & Jenni!) and have established a pretty big crew that I knew I could get to know. A wonderful group of friends from different countries and cultures served on a plate; I’m very fortunate and thankful for that. It’s often difficult to make friends in new places, especially as you get older.
That last one is important, like really important. When we first started talking about remote working, my girlfriend and I weren’t too excited about living without a close friend group around us. I’d read a lot about remote working on Reddit, and my general impression was that travelling continuously while working is great for the first few months, but the novelty wears off fast for many, and it can become pretty lonely. But luckily, that hasn’t been the case at all.
“Having a fantastic life outside of work hours would massively help me through the more challenging times inside of work hours”
So far, this summer has been one of my best to date, and spending time with such a diverse group of friends from different countries, cultures, sexualities and careers has been extremely valuable to me.
Running your own business can be pretty mentally taxing at times, and part of my rationale for moving to the sunshine was a hypothesis that having a fantastic life outside of work hours would massively help me through the more challenging times inside of work hours. That has most definitely been the case. There’s no stress reliever quite like jumping into the sea and floating around aimlessly for a while.
On top of that, exploring a new city feels good for the soul, multiply that by 10 if you leave your phone at home while doing so. Being in an entirely new environment feels like a new lease on life, a bit of a hard-reset, and a chance to build some habits I’ve wanted to form for a while.
“There’s no stress reliever quite like jumping into the sea and floating around aimlessly for a while”
One of the things I like most about remote working is that you’re constantly adapting as you go, which works well for me. There are, absolutely, challenges that come with making such a drastic change, but the fun comes from working things out to experience the lifestyle you want to have.
First of all, making the move was expensive. The move was much easier and more seamless than I think anyone would realise, but the costs do rack up. Our apartment in Barcelona required a payment of 4 months rent up front (2 months deposit, 1 month agency fee, 1 month rent). The rent isn’t cheap here either. We also discovered that the apartment was an empty shell other than a bed and a couch, so we had to fill it with some essential ‘stuff’ (slightly against our will, we’re trying to avoid buying much ‘stuff’ thanks to The Minimalists).
After spending our time finding somewhere to stay, and finding our bearings, I then had to figure out how to actually do this remote working thing. Communications with the team were spotty in those first few weeks, but with apps like Appear.in, Slack and Zoom (never use Skype again) we’ve been able to make it work well. Luckily, around Barcelona, there are loads of great co-working spaces like Aticco, OneCoWork and MOB which is 100x easier than trying to have an important call in a busy coffee shop. These co-working hubs also tend to be full of startup founders, creatives and fellow remote workers, and often run events that help you get to know like minded people. If you prefer working at home (but still want to get to know more remote workers) Bumble BFF and Bumble Bizz are great new ways to meet people.
Here’s some links to websites & apps that have made my life considerably easier:
💵 Revolut - The best mobile bank for travellers.
🤝 Meetup - Find local events that interest you and meet new people.
🌍 Nomad List - Discover the best cities to remote work from. With over 100,000 remote works around the world in their community, there’s always someone to answer your questions about any given place. I love the members-only Slack channel, which has a channel for every popular destination with a constant flow of daily discussion in each. This is my first port-of-call whenever I need to work something out.
✈️ The podcast Zero to Travel has some great episodes that may inspire you, check it out here or search for it in your favourite podcast app.
And here’s a few places you can look for jobs that you can do remotely (most sites are very tech heavy, but don’t be put off. Non-tech roles do come up often. I would suggest registering for alerts and/or sticking the site in your bookmarks bar to check each day. You could also get creative with Google Alerts to catch a role before someone else finds it.
➡️ Remote OK - https://remoteok.io/
➡️ Remote.co - https://remote.co/
➡️ We Work Remotely - https://weworkremotely.com/
Six months in, I’ve hugely enjoyed the move to remote working, and have had one of my best summers yet. We’re comfortable in Barcelona for the near future, but who knows where we’ll end up next. I’m sure it won’t be long until we’re ready for a new adventure.
Are you working remotely from somewhere incredible? Afraid of making the jump? Drop me a line on Twitter: @marty. You can also catch me on Instagram: @marty.jpg
PS: If you'd like to chat to us for our Work Anywhere series - hit us up firstname.lastname@example.org