At home in the world: One woman’s remote year

Friends & Family

How often do you get to say “Hi” from the Sahara Desert, atop a large mammal you’ve nicknamed Clarabelle?

“She’s a good little camel,” Caro Griffin says, mock-casually. Because this camel Polo is epic. Caro shared it with us to illustrate the joys of working remotely – really remotely – while using Marco Polo to stay in touch with colleagues, clients, and family.

A dream job, a workable reality

Before accepting a position as Director of Operations for the fully distributed tech education company Skillcrush, Caro remembers thinking, “I’m not sure I want to do this remote thing.”

But she loved the company’s mission, and the job otherwise felt tailor-made. So she plugged away from her studio apartment in Chicago and hoped the restlessness would settle.

Until an epiphany struck: this job was remote. She could do it from literally anywhere.

Caro undertook a self-described “solo-travel obsession,” remaining employed full-time while eating up experiences around the globe: Machu Picchu, New York, Lisbon, Morocco.

When ever-changing logistics put her at risk for burnout, she signed on with Remote Year, a program that develops and coordinates itineraries for groups of adventurous professionals who want to see the world but keep their day jobs.

Built-in companionship kept Caro from feeling lonely anywhere she traveled; Marco Polo created a vital link to the work and people she loved back home.

Connecting across the globe and across generations

Having lived in different states for more than a decade, Caro and her family were accustomed to long distance. But she knew that frequent moves and changing time zones would make communication much more complex.

She worried particularly about her grandfather, whose Alzheimer’s Disease had progressed to the point where he couldn’t really talk on the phone. She wondered how they’d connect.

Marco Polo became essential. Caro could send Polos any time and from everywhere without having to schedule a live call or video chat. Caro’s mom always responded with support, enthusiasm, and gratitude – and always made it a point to share Caro’s Polos with her grandfather.

“Marco Polo has made it so much easier to talk with him in a way that means something to him,” Caro says.

Sometimes you just need your mom

As much as Caro enjoyed sharing big events like the camel ride, she grew to love Marco Polo more for the way it helped her share everyday moments with her mom. She’d Polo the layout of her newest apartment, the local parking situation, or dinners with her Remote Year cohort. (At Caro’s suggestion, most of them started using Marco Polo, too.)

Caro’s mom sent her precious scenes from the home front. The weekly family dinner, hugs from her grandparents, the occasional reminder to bundle up. “The weather report says it’s supposed to be cold in Prague tomorrow!”

“Traveling is easy and pretty when you filter it through social media. But in reality, I’m working so hard every day to figure out new languages, cultures, and routines. Some days I just want to hug my mom and cry on her shoulder like a kid,” Caro says.

“Instead, I can send her a Polo. Even if I know she won’t watch it for another 10 hours, sending that Polo just makes things better.”