When I first began working remotely for US-based companies in 2011, my day-to-day experiences were wildly different than today. I vividly remember holding Skype meetings with a certain high-profile gaming company from a gas station called Caltex in Cebu. They had a small donut shop and stayed open 24 hours. For some bizarre glitch in the grid, they also happened to have fast internet. As I had no internet (yet) in the house I was renting, I would drive down to this gas station at 2 am every night and plug in.
The girls that worked there thought it was a freakish novelty that this worried-looking American would show up with his laptop, ask politely for them to “turn down the music a bit,” order coffee and a donut and get to work. Often on client calls regarding creative we’djust delivered.
While I knew the work was good and I knew what I was talking about, I also labored away with a vague pit in my stomach. Drunks were stumbling past my line of sight, buying more San Mig Light to get them to the morning light. Call center workers were buying gigantic bags of Cheetos to sustain. The donuts kept coming and the incessant beats that epitomizes the late, late night in the Philippines never ended. I mastered the art of using the mute button on Skype.
I was sure I was going to get busted.
But I never did.
We got better offices, faster internet and things got regular. But now I miss those days.
The lesson is this: in the beginning, particularly if you’re working in a developing country, you will have moments of utter surreality that cause you to question your sanity. You will look around at your surroundings and say “this cannot work. Somewhere along the line, I’ve lost myself. I need to go home.”
Don’t. Break through it. Keep going. Eventually, you will make it to the next level. Now, every time I drive past the Caltex station I say to Kelly: “Look. It’s dad’s first office!”