You can tell a lot about a person based on what they prioritize on their desks. Or, “desks,” for those of us who work from home; on the kitchen counter, the coffee shop down the street, or the nearest hotel lobby.
Next week, we’ll get the chance to see how a business veteran lays out his workspace with our Chief Growth Officer, Ben Kessler. This week, though, we dove into what other employees were up to. And we weren’t disappointed.
Team member, Software Engineer, and allwhere hire #1 Isaac Swift takes hot desking to the next level — all around the world. We sat down with Isaac to figure out how on Earth (pun intended) he keeps up with his work several time zones away from his teammates on his extended stay abroad.
Hi Isaac! Who are you and what do you do at allwhere?
Hey! So about me– I’ve always been into startups. I studied environmental engineering at Yale, and started a couple of companies. One of the projects I’m most proud of is my work charitably consulting with restaurants to help them weather the pandemic. I also had a fellowship at the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, where I helped students prototype their project and startup ideas.
I was put in touch with allwhere through a friend, and I was hired on as a “startup generalist.” As we grew, I shifted into roles as needed, including a stint in product management and now being a software engineer. Some non-work related fun facts are that I love to travel (as if that wasn’t evident). I also am an instrument-rated pilot and have co-authored a published paper on the use of 3D printing in pediatric neurosurgery.
So, Work From Anywhere. Where have you traveled so far and where are you now?
First week: Traveled around the UK: London, Oxford, & Bath. Second week, I took the Eurostar to Amsterdam and picked up a converted sprinter van. I worked from various WeWork locations and lived in the van.
Next, Berlin, Prague, and Vienna.
After that, back to the States!
Does your setup differ from the one you had when working in-office?
It’s actually nearly the exact same; I’m able to get all of my work done with my regular laptop. The biggest difference is the absence of an external monitor. I know there have been some studies around how it’s the most productivity-enhancing piece of tech to have, and I definitely miss it, but with virtual desktops, you can get 80% of the way to the same experience.
What is your favorite hardware part of your setup?
My power adapter: I only needed one and I made sure it was a high wattage to charge my laptop and external battery at the same time. Power is always top-of-mind when you don’t know if you’ll have an outlet the next day or not. One of the best parts of the one I chose was also its ability to natively swap out the plug type from US/EU/UK connections without dealing with a clunky universal adapter.
What is your favorite non-hardware part of your setup?
Having an unlimited international data plan can really help you keep consistency when you’re unsure of your daily internet situation – I use Google Fi. I can also highly recommend a global WeWork membership to get a consistent office experience, but not all cities or towns have one. But something I really had to have was this app, park4night, that tells you all the places you can park an RV/van across Europe with reviews from fellow van-lifers. I swear by it.
What is your favorite non-tech part of your setup?
Definitely my bike. I had this tiny foldable bike with the van and it was really a quality-of-life improvement for mobility. Plus, I got to bike through the beautiful Dutch countryside every day!
What are your tips for someone preparing to WFA on a long trip like yours?
- Going east is always easier than going west. No one wants to work from 10pm - 6am, (Hong Kong), but working from 2pm - 10pm in London is fairly easy.
- The international data plan is much easier than getting a SIM card in each new region or paying for roaming.
- It will take a few days to settle into a routine, so I’d recommend spending 1-2 weeks at least in each country or city before moving on. Otherwise you might get burnt out or have too much culture shock.
Which country was easiest to work remotely in?
I think the bigger the city, the easier it is to reliably find a place to work. This is assuming, of course, that you’re not just working from a beachfront Airbnb with good WiFi. Speaking the language and being willing to talk to strangers will go a long way to getting recommendations for where to go.
What do you wish you would’ve known before embarking on your trip?
Van life varies widely country-by-country, even within the EU. For example, in the Netherlands it’s illegal and fairly strictly enforced to not sleep in your vehicle except at campervan parks. Paying for those parks can add up. Whereas in Germany, many campervan parking spots are free and you only pay for services.
What has been your favorite part of WFA?
Making friends and food. It’s always great to have people to hang out with wherever you are in the world. Food is so cheap and so good everywhere I visited (okay, hot take — maybe the UK was so-so!).
Would you do it again?
One thing I’d change would be to either lean into van life or exploring cities, but not both at the same time. When you have a van, you usually need to park it outside of the city, which can lead to long commute times. What van life is great for is exploring nature and moving around every day.
But otherwise, absolutely!
Looking to equip your distributed team with everything they need to work from anywhere? With allwhere, HR and IT managers get the help they need to streamline onboarding, full lifecycle asset management (deployment, replacement, retrieval, storage, disposal, and redeployment), and more for hybrid teams. To learn more, book a demo with us here.