One of the biggest adventures associated with remote living and working is meeting your co-workers.
For all my ability to roam solo and talk the talk, I’m not much of a ‘people person’ so to speak. Don’t get me wrong, I like company. I like nothing more than sitting back at the end of a long, hard day and having a glass of wine and a laugh with someone. I like meeting new people and hearing their stories. Backpacker lounges are a fun, easy haven for me, especially when doing things on my own. They give the chance to meet other travellers and maybe find a buddy for a day of exploration. I also have no qualms walking into a bar, whether it be a cocktail lounge in London, a dive in Hungry, a Rock bar in Japan or a pub in Perth, on my own. I’ll either meet some amazing people if the crowd is right, or at least have time to cool off, refresh and maybe even get some work done.
Back at home in the city (a place that I have come to refer to as ‘reality’) I have friends. They come and go, transient as I am, and in today’s world of work and play, I mostly see them through social media. I often couldn’t be there to celebrate their big day, or their special event but my thoughts and participation was only a Facebook thumbs up away and a string of hastily typed comments on amazing photos. We made do and maintained a relationship that was as close as it was distant.
There is generally always an exception to every rule and my best friend falls into that category. The other half of me – though only sometimes the better half – she was the one who time would always be found for despite conflicting schedules and a decent drive between our houses. Maybe I wouldn’t sleep on a Sunday if that was the only day we both had off (I went through a stint of working night shift where I’d sleep during the day) or maybe she’d pull up a little worse for wear on a Wednesday morning if it meant we could catch a movie and drink wine out on the balcony.
We made it work through mutual sacrifices and, on occasion, mutual disregard for acceptable behaviour on a work night.
So this constant string of new people and places when working remote can be as exciting as it is tiresome.
I have met and worked with some truly amazing people in both my travels and my career. I hold many of them close to heart to this day and with the wonders of Facebook and Instagram and good old fashioned email, sometimes it feels like distance isn’t even a thing.
Of course not everything is rose tinted and golden, and sometimes people can be absolutely lovely but you just don’t click.
I have just had one of those experiences tonight.
I’ve been in my new location for just over a week now and it has been flat out at work since the moment I stepped off the plane. Sleep is a rare commodity, solitude has almost been unheard of. Yet still, when there was a knock on the door to my staff quarters (affectionately referred to as ‘The Dungeon’) and the opened doorway revealed two woman from another department, I jumped at the chance to get out and get to know them.
They invited me back to their shared flat – a type of accommodation that I have on the horizon – for drinks and nibbles. They had wine and honey soy chicken wings and a view of the ocean. What more could I, with my one little window, my tiny bar fridge and my pending alcohol purchasing license ask for?
I followed them into the residential flats with all the excitement of a child heading towards a candy store.
While there was wine and yes, there was thankfully fresh cooked food, the night was anything but a hit.
I thought I chose a safe opening topic. Sitting there watching the sun set over the ocean was beautiful and I commented on the sky while getting comfortable and lifting my glass in a Cheers to the other two.
Boy was I wrong. What followed was nothing like what I expected. While no one wants to talk about the weather at an evening wine session, I thought we’d all meet the visage with appropriate ‘ohhs’ and ‘ahhhs’ and move on once the ice was broken.
Instead a phone was thrust into my face, blocking what I thought to be a perfect sunset (and the first I’d been able to sit back and watch since getting here) and instead I was shown a plethora of heavily photoshoped and filtered images of <i>other</i> sunsets. And I got the stories to go with them, tales that stretched way past the setting of our perfectly lovely sunshine.
I was so caught up looking at mirage photos and trying to concentrate on which stretch of sea was which island, all previous places of this ladies employment, that I didn’t even get the chance to capture my own snap of my first Northern Sunset.
The rest of the night followed in much the same way and, I can safely say, I’ve never been happier to make a hasty exit after spending an appropriate amount of time wondering if I would survive jumping off a third story balcony.
Pro tips for awkward first sessions.
Don’t just talk about yourself. I know the entire life story of one of these women now; I’m talking work history, kids, age, previous hook-ups, and religious beliefs. Everything. I am a good listener and there are times when I would much prefer to listen to someone else talk then try to formulate sentences for myself. This particular time I walked out of there knowing that I’d hardly said more than three things about myself and, oddly enough, felt nervous that they may have found me boring considering I was so quiet.
We all have our favourite things and in this modern age, most of it can be found online. I have a number of YouTube channels that I absolutely love, but there is a time and a place for introducing people to those hobbies. And, if you do find that time (and sunset wine really isn’t it) then either talk about it and suggest a look it up once home, or show your favourite clip and leave it there. Don’t inflict half an hour of viewing on someone, especially if they’re not laughing during the first minute. It became so bad tonight that I had to force myself to laugh just to make the videos stop.
Needless to say, it was an experience that I am not looking forward to repeating again. It has, however, left me with the burning desire to spend my next day off locked in my little dungeon with my laptop and music where I can hide away from the world. Keeping one’s personal batteries charged is very important and sometimes a little solitude is the best way to do just that.