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Q&A: Emily Mitnick on working in a different global city every month for a year

Our New-York based strategic account director is about to start Remote Year, which promises its participants an “unforgettable year of personal and professional growth”.

On July 29, Emily Mitnick, one of Stylus’ New-York based strategic account directors, will wave goodbye to her city for 12 adventure-packed months. But this will be no gap year; rather, she’ll carry on doing her job as normal – from a different global city each month.

Emily is one of the lucky few to be accepted into Remote Year, a programme that sends 50 to 80 professionals, entrepreneurs and freelancers on an “unforgettable year of personal and professional growth”. But how does it work in practice? And how confident is Emily about doing her job in seaside Split and chaotic Kyoto? We sat down with her to find out.

So aside from getting to travel the world and meet lots of amazing people, why did you apply to Remote Year?

“I actually found out about it through Stylus. We were covering digital nomadic work trends and programmes like Remote Year just seemed too good to be true. I’m a huge, huge traveller – it’s in my system – but I didn’t want to sacrifice all the hard work I’ve put into building my career.

“For so long I’ve had an itch to travel, to buy that one-way ticket and just go – but I was also apprehensive because I’m at an age where all my friends are married and having kids and I’m just not there yet. So when I found out about this programme – well, it just had my name all over it. You shouldn’t have to choose between work and travel, and this seemed like the perfect solution for me.

“Part of why I applied is that I also just wanted to challenge myself and switch things up a bit professionally and personally.”

How supportive was Stylus in your application?

“Oh, hugely. When I originally pitched this to my boss, I was extremely nervous. But I went into the initial conversation prepared and with the mindset that this is not a vacation; this is something that could truly help the company grow and add value to the business. I created a dorky PowerPoint that explained a list of Remote Year’s benefits and the value-add for Stylus – also from an HR perspective in terms of offering future employees the flexibility to work remotely, which is a unique benefit these days. Stylus was completely on board with it and I’m so grateful for that.”

Was it difficult getting accepted into Remote Year?

“I think there were upwards of 30,000 applicants, so I guess it’s not that easy! But it’s a rolling programme, and I think about four groups go every year.”

You’ve done pretty well, then!

“I guess so, but I think it’s a testament to Stylus as well. Working for an innovation company where we track and analyse trends is pretty intriguing and unique – it probably gave me an edge.”

Your first destination is Split, Croatia. Do you know how it and the other 11 cities were selected?

“I think the itinerary is based on having a diverse mix of emerging and more established urban cities. I guess Split might seem a bit more remote, but there are some bustling cities like Kuala Lumpur, Kyoto and Buenos Aires on the list.

“I’m sure Remote Year has a method behind which city follows the next, and certainly in terms of flight connections, cost of living and the opportunity to engage in local activities. But beyond that I’m not sure if there’s much rhyme or reason.”

Which city are you most looking forward to visiting?

“Good question! Probably Kyoto. I’ve never been to Japan. I’ve travelled extensively in Spanish-speaking countries, and I feel like Japan could be the biggest culture shock for me.” 

Are you concerned about the language barrier? (Though obviously not in the Spanish-speaking countries, seeing as you’re fluent!) 

“I’m definitely nervous. I’ve travelled in the past and also worked for a language and cultural consulting company for five years before joining Stylus, so I know language barriers are certainly a thing! But am I worried about it? Not really. I’m just going to keep an open mind and try to learn as much as I can.  

“I have also always felt that throwing yourself into change and feeling those real moments of discomfort is always good for personal and professional growth.

“Remote Year does also offer something called cultural tracks, whereby you learn, say, Japanese by getting immersed in local activities the programme organises. I’m definitely hoping to get involved in that somehow.”

What are your thoughts on doing your job day-to-day alongside travelling?

“Thoughts right now; yeah, I’m nervous! But I’m confident that I can fulfil my current role remotely, otherwise I would never have applied. A lot of the time, I’m not at my desk because I work in sales – the company encourages me to travel and meet clients face-to-face.

“Also, Stylus was really flexible in changing my role a bit. I will be taking on a more hybrid position – continuing my sales role but also getting more involved with our content, contributing to the Stylus Curve blog and our Stylus Instagram, which I’m really excited about.”

Have you planned where to take your annual leave? 

“Of course! I have a huge list of places on my bucket list, but between Christmas and New Year I’ll be in Malaysia, so I’m thinking of visiting Bali – and I won’t have to pay for that long flight from New York! I’d love to get to the salt flats in Bolivia as well – I’m really into photography so this is all definitely worth getting excited about.

“But honestly, it’s difficult to think about vacations right now. In these final few weeks before I head out, I’m just focusing on getting organised, spending time with my family and friends and packing up my life in NYC. It’s an exciting time but also extremely overwhelming!”

After Split, Emily will be heading to Prague, Lisbon, Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Lima, Medellin, Bogota and Mexico City – and Stylus Curve will be tracking her progress every step of the way.