Week 52: The End of Remote Year as We Know It

We spent our last weekend together in Mui Ne, a beach town on the coast of Vietnam.

The weekend promised sunset jeep rides over sand dunes, relaxing by the water, a bonfire, and one of our last chances to be together as a group.

Shortly after arriving to our awesome hostel, we were picked up in jeeps and took off into the sunset. The jeeps were Soviet-era (including Russian writing) and probably unsafe, but so fun! When we got to the sand dunes, many people rented ATVs or wandered around, while Lindsay and I chilled in hammocks with beers.

We sat atop a huge sand dune watching the sunset, feeling the comfort in each other’s company and being present in the moment. Later that night, we joined our hostel’s bar crawl around Mui Ne, chatting together and eventually dancing together. I ended up leaving early, but the stories I heard from the night were entertaining to the say the least.

The next day, I hung out for a while at the beach, worked a bit on some coaching side hustle ideas, and joined a group for a dinner in the fishermen’s village. Being on the ocean, Mui Ne boasts incredible fresh fish, and the picks we got were delicious. We chose our fish and seafood while it was alive, ate family-style, and went around sharing toasts to people in our lives back home.

At night, we had a big bonfire on the beach. We sang (well, Danielle sang “you’re my Vietnam” to the tune of Wonderwall), we laughed, we celebrated Zoe’s birthday at midnight. Some in the group went for a midnight skinny dip…

It started to hit me that this was all coming to an end, and fast.

Our last week was a blur. I had last brunches and dinners with people, I hosted the final re:work session, I finally took an Uber moto… We had an incredible trivia night with questions related to our group and the places we’d been.

Leading up to the last couple of days, I was surprisingly unsentimental about Remote Year ending. I was going to miss it all, of course, but I was also excited to come home. The last few days were different. I appreciated how special of an experience I got to have this year, not only with travel, but especially with the group. I lamented not having bonded with some of our group. I feared losing this feeling I’d had all year of unlimited potential.

In the blink of an eye, it came time for our final farewell event. We spent it at a secluded villa across the river from HCMC. Everyone was feeling all the feels, and the evening was filled with surprises. Upon arrival, we were greeted with a “gallery booklet” and told to spend some quiet time reading each other’s words and checking out the Cousteau Gallery: pictures of our memories hanging all over the walls. We were then presented with Cousteau Yearbooks. Krista had spent weeks working on yearbooks complete with superlatives, photos, and fun facts about the places we’d been all year. We did a lighting-round session of yearbook signings as the light faded. We also presented Sam and Travis, our fearless leaders all year, with a couple of surprises: keychain mementos and books full of our love letters to them.

After dinner, we had a candlelit dedication ceremony. Everyone took turns speaking about what this year meant to them, and dedicating their candle to something or someone. It was so special to hear the group being vulnerable with each other, appreciating each other, and feeling so grateful for this amazing experience. I was an emotional mess all night, as were many around me.

We ended the event much like we started our very first community gathering: with Travis singing. Travis had written us a song at the beginning, “It’s the Start of Remote Year as We Know It,” and he changed some of the words to talk about the end. We sang along, doled out hugs, and had a last toast complete with sparklers before heading back to the city.

I dropped stuff off at the apartment and joined the rest of the group out at Snuffbox for our last hurrah. We rang in Johnson’s birthday, listened to Jacek and Jeff’s sweet DJ tunes, and enjoyed each other’s company for the last time.

At the end of the night, I went around and said a tearful goodbye to everyone that was still left at the bar. I was heading out early the next morning and it hit me that this was the last time I’d see many of these people for a long time – maybe ever. I thought about how much we’d seen and been through together, and how no one but us will ever truly understand this experience…

I felt ready to go home. A year of traveling is exhausting, and I was looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family and being in one place for a while. At the same time, I worried about adjusting back to office life and balancing it with the flexibility I’ve come to love and need. I worried that very soon, this will all feel like a dream…

I’m not sure I fully appreciate yet what Remote Year has meant to me and how I’ve changed. I think it’ll take a few months of being home to have the hindsight and distance needed. I do know that it opened my eyes to so many new lifestyle possibilities, and to not needing to compromise on my dreams. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to this incredible experience and some fantastic people, but I’m excited to see what’s next.

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