The ease of being

A Mariachi Band crashing your house party – only in Mexico.

Have you ever been in South America? If so, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I highly recommend you visit this part of the world.

Four months into my remote work experience here in South America I’m having trouble imagining going back to a world with less music, less dancing and less of an easy going, chilled and laid-back attitude, not to speak about the weather.

Despite all the hardship, the obvious disparity and the resulting social and political unrest the people are facing in this part of the world, they have a much more positive approach to life than the average European has.

All of the countries I had the chance to live in for a while are struggling with a huge disparity between rich and poor. But nevertheless, they never seem to lose their smiles and optimism.

Viva la vida!

Medellin/Colombia for instance – the City of Eternal Spring – has transformed from a violent past into a hub of entrepreneurship and an up and coming tourist destination. Colombia was seen as dangerous and conflict-ridden, a country known for drug wars, violent crime, poor infrastructure and corruption. Spending a month in Medellin I have not had a minute where I felt in danger or uneasy. Colombia still has problems, no doubt, but it is rebranding itself and I would not hesitate to return to Medellin, to its music, to the incredible landscape, the variety of birds not found anywhere else on the planet, to the rich literature culture and last but not least the modern and lifestyle hub it has become. Viva la vida!

The same is true for Santiago de Chile. A city that has been making international headlines for the last few months with people taking to the streets to raise awareness about an insane disparity in income. As I learned, the minimum wage in Chile’s private sector is approximately 350,000 Pesos, less than 500 Euros, and employees in public sector companies’ bag in millions of Pesos – some senators in Chile earn more than our German chancellor Angela Merkel…

But it’s not only about the money, it is about opportunities – be it in education, health care or equality in general. A message the protesters (most of them students) plastered around the city in countless graffities. They express their anger, their frustration, but also the hope for a new Chile. A blooming and economically stable country that wants to leave the past behind, especially the not so distant past during the cruel Pinochet dictatorship and its violation of human rights, tortures and disappearances. The people of Chile are fighting for a country where dignity is a habit.

And as far as I can tell, they have not lost their hope and optimism. I’ve hardly ever came across a nation that is distant and reserved at first but once you’ve cracked their shell is welcoming and warm hearted.

357 eyes and we can still see – a strong message about pain and hope.

Pursuit of happiness

Having spent the past four months in Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Chile and now Mexico I got a taste of freedom, a taste of what is really important in life and especially a taste of what the ease of being can mean. Far away from our European or American way of life of buying things to be happy, I found my happiness in just being. Life is more lively here, there is more life to be lived there, the pursuit of happiness is not just an empty phrase.

I also have to admit that living out of a suitcase and sharing my accommodation with at least one or two other people contributed to it. I always thought that having more, is making me happier. That collecting possessions and making a lot of money defines who we are. It’s not. It is how we connect with other people, it’s the meaningful conversations, the walks in a city that you have never seen before, the experiences and the pure joy of being that makes a life happy. At least for me.

Connecting with people, having meaningful conversations and experience the world together – this is my happiness.

Remote Work – trending in Germany as well

Spending the weekend at Machu Picchu – the beauty of remote work.

As I started this new project – working remotely from South America – friends and clients alike were, to say at least, irritated. For my European clients, the concept of working for them, but not being in their office frequently was an alien thought.

But is it that different?

People’s perception is changing – also in Germany. In the end, it is the result that counts, not how you achieve it. Great work can be done from anywhere. As long as you have a stable internet connection there is no hindrance for working remotely. At least this is the experience I’ve made and the feedback I get from my clients.

Recent surveys show that the concept of remote work is getting greater support by the minute in Germany. The motivations for the so-called new work model are multifaceted: Be it the dream to explore the world, following your partner who works abroad or having to take care of your loved ones at home without losing your job. “New work” means more flexibility and freedom for a workforce that puts a greater emphasize on work-life-balance than previous generations.

A recent survey of flexjobs.com highlighted personal freedom and an increase in the health of people who did work remotely. Companies like SAP, Deutsche Bahn or several German startups realized the benefits it has for their business as well. In a very spirited job market, companies that offer flexible working structures are much more competitive than companies with a conservative structure, not to speak about the boost in productivity, reduced turnover, and lesser organizational costs. A recent survey by “Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW)”, support these statements.   

Embrace remote work

In the US remote work is almost common nowadays and most of my fellow remotes do have full-time jobs with US companies. It is a growing trend, 43% of US employers said they plan to allow their employees to have more remote working opportunities over the next year. Only 9% said they plan to offer less.

One explanation for this is highlighted in recent research of Harvard Business School. Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor in the Technology and Operations Management Unit at Harvard Business School, and fellow researchers who compared the outcomes of flexible work arrangements at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Read the full story here.

Let’s talk about Germany and some companies that embraced remote work and its benefits again. As an example, for Mirco Hellekes, HR-Manager at Giant Swarm GmbH offering remote work is a huge competitive advantage. “We can hire the best talents from across Europe”, he says. For him, this kind of flexible work is the future and they have practiced it for five years already. He continues “Remote work for us means that all our employees create the work environment that makes them happy and successful”.

Speaking from my own experience, I can live and work from places I might have never been able to see. I can explore the world while working full-time and so far, my clients are happy with the results. To me, this adds true value to my life and even more so to the work I’m doing for my clients. I enjoy getting up in the mornings and starting my workday because I know that I’m able to see Machu Picchu at the weekend, go for a lunch break in a traditional restaurant in Chile or go out in the evenings to improve my Salsa skills in Colombia.

Digitale Nomadin – Traum oder verrücktes Wagnis

Screenshot von der ohfamoos Webseite.

Sonja Ohly und ohfamoos – Voll das gute Leben haben mich zum Thema Remote Work interviewt. Hier der Link zum Interview. (https://www.ohfamoos.com/2019/11/digitale-nomadin-traum-oder-verruecktes-wagnis/)

Digitale Nomaden, New Work, Work-Life Balance. Alles Schlagworte, die in letzter Zeit immer häufiger auftauchen. Aber was steckt wirklich dahinter, was bedeutet es ortsunabhängig zu arbeiten und warum macht man das? Wir haben jemanden getroffen, der genau das ausprobieren möchte. Marion Englert bereitet sich auf ein Leben als Digitaler Nomade oder so genannter Remote Worker vor. Seit ein paar Tagen ist sie in Südamerika. Gemeinsam mit einer Gruppe Berufstätiger wird sie nicht nur die Region erkunden, sondern auch ihrem Beruf nachgehen. Traum oder verrücktes Wagnis?

Trouble in Paradise

Precious moments at Pedra do Arpoador.

What can I say… after South America greeted me with some amazing impressions and a fabulous time in Rio de Janeiro I had an email in my inbox that quite upset me. My trip to Santiago has to be postponed due to the unrest there and my first Remote Year stop will be Medellín in Colombia. While I understand the reasons for the change, it still got me. I was so much looking forward to my stay in Chile. But it is what it is, and Santiago has to wait just a little bit longer.

Anyways, my first impression of South America is a fabulous one. Rio de Janeiro is definitely a must visit spot – and not just for the Carnival. It’s a city of contrast with a beautiful landscape and greenery beyond belief for a place with a population close to seven million (almost 13,5 million including the region). The versatility and the life loving attitude of the people really won my heart.

And hey, despite not speaking a word of Portuguese, I got along. With my basic Spanish and a lot of hand and feet talking it was even fun to navigate my way around the city. I spent hours strolling up and down Rio’s famous beaches Copacabana and Ipanema, enjoyed marvelous views from the mountain tops and of course gazing open mouthed at the Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado. Fascinating street art, live bands, bohemian neighborhoods and the general optimistic and somehow carefree vibe of Rio made my stay.

To be continued. I’m already in love with South America.