Today I’d like to get away from the usual blog posts I write (which, as you know, are very focused on WordPress) and share something a little more personal. Specifically, I want to tell you about my experience living in the US for three months and what my absence meant for the Nelio team and me.
Adventure Time in the US!
In the middle of this summer my wife told me that, as part of her MBA, she was considering an exchange program with an American business school, the Babson College. I thought it was a great idea, since being able to complement your studies in another country is always very positive, and even more so if we take into account that the opportunity she was given was awesome: it’s one of the best schools in one of the best states (in terms of education) in the United States: Massachusetts.
I had never visited the country before, and I had always wanted to live abroad, so the idea of living in the US for a while sounded great. And that’s exactly what we did: from August 20, 2018, to November 17, 2018, I became a citizen of Boston.
Leaving Spain for three months to live in another country is not easy, especially when we take into account that you have your own company and you’re leaving two partners “behind.” But we’ll talk about work logistics later on. Right now, let’s focus for a moment on the fun part of the subject 😁
I lived many fun adventures during my stay in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” But the one I remember most fondly was my arrival on American soil.
As soon as you get off the plane, you have to pass the border and customs security check. Usually, the interaction with the officers there is pretty straightforward: they look at your passport, ask you what you’ll be doing in the States and how long you’ll be there for, and… that’s it! You’re good to go. So when it was my turn that’s what I did: I told them I was going for “leisure” and that I intended to stay three months and return to Spain.
“Are you traveling alone?”
“No, I’m with my girlfriend,” I replied.
“Do you have a job in Spain?”
“Yes, I’m self-employed.”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a computer scientist.”
“And who do you work for?”
“I have my own company. It’s just a couple of partners and me.”
“OK. Just wait here for a moment. Another officer will come to get you and ask a few more questions. And don’t worry about your passport; I’ll give it to my colleague when he gets here.”
What? 😥 Why? Almost everyone gets through this security check smoothly, and I just didn’t!
Anyway, I waited for 20 minutes until the second officer arrived. He took me and a few more passengers to a separate room, where several officers were interrogating travelers and their reasons for being in the US. Oops! 😖 At that moment I was already a little nervous because I didn’t quite understand what was going on. Honestly? I thought they might send me back to Spain in the next flight…
“David Aguilera,” someone called.
“So, you’re here with your girlfriend, right?”
“And she’ll be in a University?”
“Yes. She’s studying an MBA at Babson.”
“You have your own company with two partners… is that correct?”
“Do you have a business card?”
“No, I don’t. But you can take a look at the website.”
“And you’ll be here for three months, on vacation?”
“And what do they partners think about it? Are they OK with the idea of you being on vacation for… three months while they’re working?”
Aha! So that was it! That’s why they pulled me aside and wanted to ask me more questions about my stay…
“Well, I plan to work remotely while I am in the United States. I’m a computer scientist, and a laptop is all I need to work.”
“I see… Do you already have your return flight?”
“Do you have some cash with you?”
“I do. $1,500.”
“Good. OK, then. Here you have your passport. Have a nice day!”
And that was it. Welcome to the USA!
During my stay in the United States, I took the opportunity to travel as much as I could: Boston, New York, Chicago, Washington, and Las Vegas were the cities I got to know. More or less, one city every three weeks 😊 Obviously, I would have liked to see many more, but I had to slow down because, let’s be honest, flying and looking for a place to sleep is anything but cheap.
Being in the US for three full months gave me the opportunity to not only visit cities but also meet a lot of people and live a different culture. One of the things I liked the most about my time there was Halloween. It felt like being in a movie!
And now that you know how much fun I had, let’s get back to business, shall we? What is it like to work remotely? How has my experience been during these three months? Is it easy or difficult? Well, I hope to be able to answer all these questions 😇
The first thing you should keep in mind when considering whether or not you can work remotely is the type of work you have. If you have a job where you need direct contact with clients, then maybe you can work from home but not go to another city or country. But if you’re a computer scientists like I am, you can probably work remotely and have no trouble. After all, all we need is a computer and an Internet connection, right?
In my case, it was clear that I could work remotely, but I needed the approval of Ruth and Antonio – going to the United States was not only a change of location but also a change of working hours. Luckily, they both thought it was a great opportunity for me and were happy to “let me go.”
When you’re going to work abroad, you need to make sure you have the tools you need with you. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that digital nomads can work anywhere around the world, looking at spectacular landscapes and living unforgettable experiences… What if you end up in a place where there’s no Internet connection?
When we were looking for a place to live in the United States, I knew it had to be a flat or a house where I had a desk in my own room. I needed a quiet space, away from the other members of the family. And a good Internet connection, of course! In the photo above you can see what my “office” was for three months: I had neither the best chair, nor the best table, nor the best light… but, hey, I had everything I needed!
Synching Schedules with Barcelona
A significant part of working remotely is your compatibility with the rest of the team. Even if you can work most of the time autonomously, you’ll have to schedule a meeting or a Skype talk from time to time. And since you’re the one that’s abroad, you’re the one who’ll have to adjust his schedule to the others’.
Luckily for me, the time difference between Barcelona and Boston was only 6 hours, so my working hours in the morning were Antonio and Ruth’s afternoons. Thanks to this, the deferred work worked perfectly: we could chat with each other daily.
I have to admit that my staying in the United States was even more positive than it first seemed! As we have already mentioned in the blog, most of our customers are American, so suddenly, for three months, Nelio‘s support schedule coincided perfectly with that of our customers. Thanks to this time difference, we were able to cover more support hours: from 8 am in Spain to 6 pm in Boston (that is, 12 pm in Spain). Cool!
What About WordCamp Barcelona 2018?
The only thing that made me especially angry about my American adventure was that it coincided with WordCamp Barcelona 2018. As you know, the three partners of Nelio were participating as organizers of the event. In my particular case, I took care of the website, promoting the blog on social media, and designing and ordering the swag.
A couple of weeks before WordCamp Barcelona arrived the workload just skyrocketed. There were a lot of tiny details to fix and polish, and we were all slightly overwhelmed: boost ticket sales, organize sponsor packages, manage the swag… but I was abroad!
As I just told you, one of my responsibilities as an organizer was to order the swag. Specifically, I had to place the order and validate the designs of the prints. The schedule was extremely tight, so I had to make sure that my conversations with our provider were smooth and fast. The problem was, as you can imagine, the time difference: they were in Barcelona, and I was in Boston…
What did I do? Adapt my schedule to theirs, of course! For a couple of days, my day started at 3 or 4 in the morning, just to make sure I was available during the working hours of our provider. It wasn’t ideal, but that’s what it takes!
And this was my experience living and working in the United States for three months. I hope you enjoyed my adventures and you learned something from my experience. If you’re wondering whether it’s a good idea to live such an experience: it is. If you’re ever given the opportunity, and you can afford it, go for it. You’ll have to adjust your schedule and routines with your partners’, but it’s worth it.
If you have doubts or are interested in knowing anything, don’t hesitate to ask me; I’ll be happy to help you!