It was dusk as I pulled up to the luxury condo building in Playa del Carmen. I was supposed to arrive two days earlier but my flight had been canceled. So, instead of arriving early I had arrived late. There were already over a dozen people congregating around the outdoor lounge area. I would have preferred to be one of the first people there seeing as how I had no idea what I was embarking upon.
It turns out that was an understatement.
The group that I joined that night was my first WiFi Tribe Chapter. It was my first experience with a remote work community, though I had heard of communities such as these before.
A few months earlier a serendipitous moment occurred. I was posted up on the second-floor balcony of the Selina Bocas del Toro in Panama. It was a great spot, with an amazing view of the calm Caribbean Sea. I had my laptop out, applying to jobs in Canada. Of course, I didn’t want to go back to working an office job, but I didn’t know how to translate my experience into remote working.
There I sat at my computer, sending out applications while wanting nothing more than to be working remotely in the beautiful sunshine. There was only one other person up in my area of the balcony. He was on the phone, talking somewhat loudly. I couldn’t help but overhear his side of the conversation. After several minutes I gathered that he worked for Remote Year. I’d heard of them before. I’d seen ads on Instagram and Facebook. But I didn’t work remotely, so they weren’t a good use of targeted advertising – even though I wanted to join the program more than anything. I waited for a break in his calls and approached the young man.
“Hey,” I said. “I couldn’t help but overhear that you work for Remote Year. I’ve heard of them. What are you doing here? Is there a group here.”
The bearded man smiled. “No, I’m just here working remotely, working directly for Remote Year. I sign people up to join.”
I couldn’t believe my luck! Maybe this was my chance to keep traveling and work from all these exotic, sunny locations.
“Can you sign me up?” I asked.
He looked over at my computer perched on the ledge. “Sure. You work from your computer there?”
“No,” I said. “I’m actually applying for jobs.”
“Ah,” he said. “Well, you need a job already to be a part of the group. But there are a lot of resources to find remote jobs. What do you do? Is it anything that could be done remotely?”
“I used to write environmental policy articles for a think tank, and I was a blog writer for my last company. I basically could’ve done those from anywhere.”
“Perfect,” he said. Then he asked for my email. “Check your inbox,” the friendly man said with a smile. “You should be able to find something on one of those sites.”
Thus began my search for remote jobs.
It eventually led me to WiFi Tribe and my first Chapter in Mexico.
When I pulled up in that taxi and saw all the people gathered outside our accommodations for the month, I still didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to work remotely for the freedom and the adventure of traveling whilst working.
What I discovered was so much more.
I found a tight-knit community of like-minded individuals and new friends. They were all remote workers, freelancers, and digital nomads – and they were all amazing people. Some were full-time travelers, while some were part-time, spending the majority of their time in the office while using their remote status to take working breaks. Members were from all over the world – Poland, Nigeria, Dominican Republic, Australia, Sweden, Chile, Denmark, United States, Romania, Germany, and Canada – and they all brought something special to the group.
We frequented coffee shops together and kept each other accountable for morning workouts. We met up for evening swims after work and took weekend trips together to Cozumel, Tulum, and even Belize. I experienced the camaraderie of having coworkers without the confining walls of a traditional office. I learned about the wonders of using Slack and learned about the benefits of coworking spaces. But, most importantly, I found a sense of community that I didn’t even know I was lacking.
It’s hard to quantify the importance of community. In North America, it is something that is often lacking for anybody that has finished college. It’s a very important aspect of everyday life all the way through grade school into university. But after graduation, the community that many people took for granted mostly disappears. And many of us are not prepared for the sudden shift in our social life. Work is not school – it rarely provides the same type of environment that satisfies our need for belonging on a deeper level. On top of that, if one wishes to work remotely, the social benefits of the office, however significant, are nonexistent.
The thing about groups like WiFi Tribe is that they provide the camaraderie and community of a university campus at a stage in life where people need it – usually without realizing they need or even want it. I always say a WiFi Tribe Chapter is like college except that everybody has money and enough life experience to appreciate how special it is. to be a part of a group of like-minded, amazing people. And even though people within the group work in different fields and don’t work on the same projects, the level of collaboration creates an incredible work environment.
But beyond the tangible things – the location, the workspace, and the surrounding environment – the backbone of any remote work community is the people. So far, every group that I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of, from Mexico to Colombia and everywhere in-between, has been full of amazing people. And I don’t use that word lightly. Seeing some of the things these people are capable of doing, and how much fun they are to hang out with, is nothing short of amazing.
I’m sincerely grateful that I stumbled upon the importance of community, and that I was able to begin working remotely.
Sometimes you don’t find what’s important.
Sometimes it finds you.
Looking to connect with others while working from home during these difficult times? The community vibes at WiFi Tribe are alive and well with our newly launched Online Chapters! If you’re interested in joining or simply want more info on this or our future Chapters, you can apply to become a part of the Tribe and a team member will be in touch shortly.