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Q&A: Emily Mitnick on Remote Year’s ‘life-changing’ first month in Split

Stylus’ New York-based strategic account director talks us through month one of her year-long working adventure around the world, which began in sunny Croatia.

One month ago, Emily Mitnick, one of Stylus’ New York-based strategic account directors, travelled to Split, Croatia, for the beginning of a year-long adventure.

It’s called Remote Year, and it involves exploring one city every month for a whole year. There’s just one small caveat: participants must continue working full time.

As she prepares to leave Split for Prague, Emily told us how working next to the beach can be bizarrely similar to New York, why Split is a perfect Spring Break destination, and how Remote Year is already opening personal and professional doors.

Month one is nearly done and dusted. How’s it been?

“It’s been amazing so far. Remote Year has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. Every day is exciting and I’m genuinely loving my new life.

“Our office in Split is a beautiful co-working space and actually feels a lot like our WeWork office in NYC. When I’m plugged in working, it feels weirdly familiar and my entire group is extremely driven so I feel right at home. The pulse in the office feels like NYC. Then I look outside our window and we overlook the beach. It’s so bizarre.”

You’re working full time in a tourist destination, so how have you found the work-life balance?

“It’s a challenge and I’m definitely working hard to balance it all. I’ve learned that in order to work remotely, especially in a tourist destination like Split, you really need to be very disciplined and motivated to manage your time properly.

“In New York, I had to commute 45 minutes to work each day. Now I’m spending my mornings differently; I go for a long walk, take a dip in the ocean or actually make time to sit down to eat breakfast and people watch.

“I have to carve out time to explore and play a bit, otherwise why I am doing Remote Year? But I have found that I maximise my play time on the weekends or in the early mornings when my clients are still sleeping. Instead of having a lazy Sunday, now I take a day trip. The other day I woke up and took a bus to Bosnia for the day.”

Are you getting sick of people saying “I’m jealous” yet?

“Admittedly, no, not yet. It reminds me how special this all is. I’ve found a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I made it happen. I’m proud of myself for the first time in a long time. So sure, you can be a little jealous!”

How have you found working alongside the other Remote Year participants?

“We are a group of 58 humans; we’re all different ages, come from different walks of life, have different goals and professions. Everyone though is so supportive and willing to collaborate – there are some seriously talented people in my group and it’s been very inspiring. In many ways this first month has reminded me of that first week of college, where you’re excited, nervous and confused all at the same time.

“Professionally, things have really started shaping up this week. We attended a meet up the other night for local entrepreneurs and then a few of us got invited to attend a Croatian entrepreneurship conference called Summer Jam.

“The organisers squeezed in a 10-minute slot for our Remote Year group to introduce ourselves and our companies. It’s very serendipitous that the last day we’re in Split, the group of us who are super likeminded and work in similar industries get to attend this awesome event and close out our first month in this way.”

You must have done well to get selected if only three are going?

“I think when people hear about ‘trends’ they’re generally always intrigued. Being in this business, we think and breathe the research every day so we can forget how unique and valuable Stylus actually is to different organisations.

“Concepts like entrepreneurship, innovation and trends still seem quite new here in Croatia – it’s an exciting time for the country and there are a large group of folks out here who are driving this change. I’m just excited Stylus and our Remote Year group get to be showcased as leaders in all of this.”

What do you like most about Split?

“Good question; there’s a lot to love here. It’s a beautiful beach town with the most incredible sunsets, delicious fresh fish and gorgeous islands – but spending time with the locals has left the strongest mark. It’s also August which is their high season so most of Split is on vacation. It was nice to feel an entire city collectively slow down and just enjoy the day.

“As part of Remote Year we are assigned regional group leaders, so the group in Split showed us their favourite restaurants, shared personal stories about the history of Croatia and most recently the Bosnian War. If you just talk to people you can learn a lot and I think my time in Croatia reminded me to put my phone down and have a new conversation.”

With all the exploring, networking and socialising, has doing your Stylus day job been challenging?

“Actually my daily work hasn’t changed too much – my schedule is just more fragmented. The other night for example I had back-to-back calls at 11pm and midnight, which isn’t too common in NY.  So in that sense the time zones are a bit challenging, but it’s doable.”

Presumably the company is happy with how you’re getting on?

“I hope so; I actually closed a deal during my first week! I’m really hoping my team trusts me and knows they can count on me to do my best work wherever I am. I actually feel like I’ve been working smarter and harder than ever.”

You’re off to Prague on Saturday. Have you had time to prepare?

“The beautiful thing about Remote Year is that all the travel plans are done for you. I received an email two days ago which said, ‘Emily, here’s your flight info, there will be a taxi picking you up at 11:30am from your apartment to bring you to the airport.’ I never have to lift a finger – I just need to make sure I’m packed and ready to go.

“Our group organically suggests and organises side trips for the weekends and we post our ideas on our Slack portal. For example there’s a trip to Auschwitz that is starting to shape up and I’ll most likely go to that. There are always multiple travel ideas circulating and typically I just jump into the trips that I find most interesting.”

After Prague, Emily will be heading to Lisbon, Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Lima, Medellin, Bogota and Mexico City.