Between June and December of 2016, two GitLab developers traveled around the world visiting team members and working remotely. Be sure to read Around the World in 6 Releases for more background on the trip.
For the first part of our trip we were lucky enough to have Emily join us for
three of the six cities in the US, and because she knew we were too
busy working, she wrote a blog post for us
detailing those stops.
Unfortunately we couldn't convince her to join us for any other legs of the trip (and we desperately needed her planning and organizational skills, if not her penchant for listening to Dolly Parton's entire discography), so we lost our favorite unofficial biographer, but I'll do my best to fill in.
Mexico City, Mexico (2016-08-07)
After joining us in Vegas, John went back to Nashville to grab his passport so he could rejoin us in Mexico City.
Originally we planned to spend two weeks there, and then two weeks in Rio de Janeiro, but when our Brazilian locals said they could only come for the second week, combined with all of the (overblown) stories about the dangers of Rio during the Olympics at the time, and the fact that we were enjoying Mexico City so much, we decided to stay for a third week.
Staying in one place for an extended period of time was a nice change of pace after we'd gotten used to being in an airport every Sunday to fly to a new city, and we took the extra time to see more of the city and to meet more locals outside of GitLab. We really started to feel like we were living here rather than visiting.
Working on the rooftop garden of John's hotel in Hipódromo
As people would hear about our trip, common questions we got were "Which city has been your favorite so far?" and "Which city has had the best food?", and people were usually surprised when, without hesitation, we'd say "Mexico City!" It's probably not surprising to hear that the city has fantastic Mexican food (and it does – we ate tacos al pastor at El Faraón seven times in 10 days), but we had the best steak of our lives at MIT, the best mac & cheese of the trip at Balmori Roofbar, and were introduced to the amazing deliciousness of the Mexican carajillo.
We spent one Saturday climbing the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon at Teotihuacan, and another lazily floating down the canals of Xochimilco.
The Pyramid of the Moon, from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2016-08-29)
While we don't have any team members living in Rio, we were joined there by Douglas from Lavras, and Felipe from Goiânia, who shared an apartment with us for the week, situated directly between the Ipanema and Copacabana beaches. Since we were all in the same (air-conditioned) spot with stable internet, we preferred setting up our office at the dining table every day.
Marcia joined us later in the week to work and enjoy the Rio nightlife. I discovered the deliciousness that is Amarula and may have invented a drink (Amarula and espresso, shaken, garnish with fresh ground cinnamon; try it, it's amazing).
We paid a visit to (a very foggy) Cristo Redentor, and spent our last day in Rio relaxing on Copacabana beach, and enjoying a nice dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse by the water.
Right: Felipe, Marcia, Douwe, Robert, and Douglas
Sofia, Bulgaria (2016-09-19)
After two weeks in our respective homes to see our families and adjust our packing strategies, we flew out to Sofia to begin the second half of our six-month trip around the world.
We don't have any team members in Sofia, but it was the chosen location for the EuRuKo 2016 conference. Zeger-Jan joined us for the entire week leading up to the conference, where we were later joined by Adam, Axil, and Dmitriy. It was the first conference I'd ever been to, and being approached by random people recognizing our GitLab shirts and wanting to talk about the company was a new phenomenon for me that never got old.
Dmitriy, Zeger-Jan, Douwe, Robert, Adam, and Axil at EuRuKo's after-party
We're looking forward to EuRuKo 2017 in Budapest!
Warsaw, Poland (2016-09-25)
We got an apartment in the beautiful Old Town neighborhood, and for the first two days we worked from a cafe next door with a nice view of the Mały Powstaniec memorial.
Warsaw local Kamil joined us for dinner and drinks on multiple nights, while Tomasz and Grzegorz took trains from Olsztyn to meet up with us on separate days. Grzegorz even stayed with us for one night and got to experience the worst sleeping accommodation we had for the entire trip. Sorry about that, buddy!
We spent one afternoon working from Google's Campus Warsaw and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it had the best connection of the trip.
Nice, France (2016-10-02)
While the original trip itinerary had us staying in Warsaw for two weeks and then going to Madrid, not booking everything in advance allowed us to make changes on the fly, and we cut a week off of Warsaw in order to make a detour to France to rendezvous with Rémy. We loved walking around Nice, and having a local willing to play chauffeur for a bit allowed us to see Antibes and Cannes as well. It turns out the French Riviera is stunningly beautiful – who knew?!
On our last day we were dismayed to find out that some of the restaurants along the Côte d'Azur have WiFi and that we could have been working from the beach all week. Oh well, lessons for next time!
It was in Nice that we decided it would be fun to have souvenirs from this trip, so we started buying a refrigerator magnet at each stop. We're still in the process of getting magnets from the cities we visited before Nice, but thanks to our syndicate of team members all over the world, we're en route to having the whole set.
Madrid, Spain (2016-10-09)
We planned our stop in Madrid to coincide with Conferencia Rails, where we got to see Adam again, this time as a guest speaker.
We met up with local Chris P. and had the honor of being the first team members he'd met in person. Pablo drove down from Zamora one afternoon to show us Segovia, and its stunning aqueduct:
Madrid is an amazing city that felt alive even at four in the morning, and the food was a definite highlight – it took the honors for best burritos, best tacos*, and best sandwiches.
Braga, Portugal (2016-10-23)
At previous locations, we would usually move around to a different place to work each day, but on our first day in Braga we found a restaurant with plenty of open tables, good food, reliable WiFi, and a beautiful view, so we set up a temporary office there for the week.
We were joined by Filipa, Kamil, James L., Pablo, Pedro, and Tiago for Rubyconf Portugal, which had a great lineup of speakers, and a lively karaoke party at the end of the first day.
We had a great time at the conference feeling like very nerdy rock stars as we were constantly being approached by people recognizing our GitLab swag and wanting to talk about the company, open source, and working remotely. Being able to tell people about our trip as we were on it and while we had so many wonderful colleagues around us was a great testament to the effectiveness and appeal of a remote-only company like ours.
James L., Robert, Douwe, Pablo, and Kamil at Rubyconf Portugal
Finally, after hearing about this dish all week, we went to Taberna Belga to try francesinha, which is a sandwich with multiple kinds of meat, smothered in melted cheese, and served with a mountain of french fries, and it's delicious. With a description like that, I can't believe the US hasn't adopted it yet.
Lisbon, Portugal (2016-10-30)
From Braga we took a short train ride south to Lisbon to see Job for the single day he was home between the Amsterdam and New York stops of the GitLab World Tour.
Doing the daily team call from Job's apartment produced one of my favorite moments of the entire trip, when he silently popped in behind me as I was doing my weekly update. Seriously, I cannot overstate how happy this GIF makes me:
Pedro was nice enough to play tour guide for us the rest of the week, including taking us to Pastéis de Belém to satisfy our newfound pastel de nata obsession.
Robert, Pedro, and Douwe
Edinburgh, Scotland (2016-11-06)
From the lovely climate of Lisbon, where I was comfortable walking around in shorts and a T-shirt, we arrived in Edinburgh to temperatures around 7 ℃ (44 ℉). This was the only stop in our entire trip that was going to be cold, and we weren't prepared for it: the warmest piece of clothing I had with me was the GitLab hoodie. Layering would prove to be key!
We bundled up each morning for the walk to Sean M.'s coworking space, stopping for coffee along the way, mostly just to have something to keep our hands warm. We were joined in Edinburgh by James E.J. and Sean P. from London, and Nick from York. We had maybe just a bit too much fun having the six of us on our daily team calls, trying to get as many people into the background of each of our camera shots as we could.
Left (clockwise from left): Douwe, Sean M., James E.J., Sean P., Nick, and Robert
The bitter cold finally got the best of me towards the end of the week, and I ended up with a sinus infection for the second time of the whole trip, spending that Friday resting at home and working as I felt up to it (thanks, remote work!). As I was recuperating, Douwe, helpful as ever, sent me a picture of a gigantic hamburger-for-four that he, Nick, James, and Sean M were going to eat.
I've been assured they finished it, but have no photographic evidence. Saturday morning, still miserably sick, I let myself get talked into climbing Arthur's Seat, the city's main mountain. Despite Wikipedia describing it as "relatively easy to climb," doing so with a sinus infection in the wind and near-freezing temperatures wasn't one of my most enjoyable moments of the trip. But the view from the top was worth it:
Tel Aviv, Israel (2016-11-13)
Back to shorts weather! We arrived in Tel Aviv just in time for Rails Israel. Yorick arrived the night before, gave a talk, then jetted off back to the Netherlands the next morning. As with the other conferences we'd been to, it's always heartening to see the enthusiasm people outside the company have for GitLab. Yorick was surrounded after his talk by people asking questions and looking for shirts and stickers.
For the rest of the week we met up with our local Eliran, mostly working from The Streets, which has reliable WiFi, great food, and is open 24 hours a day – basically everything we want in a workspace.
Taipei, Taiwan (2016-11-20)
Our flight to Taipei left us a little jetlagged, so we landed, made it to our apartment, went to grab lunch around the corner, then slept for about 15 hours. Our gambit worked, and we woke up early the next morning, fully adjusted to the time change and ready to work.
We met up with our local Jen-Shin and spent the week working from the offices of Cardinal Blue. The employees there were fantastic hosts, and graciously included us in a delicious Thanksgiving lunch, and in their "demo day" at the end of the week, giving us a chance to talk about GitLab and our trip.
We got to meet some local developers at a dinner, and one of them was nice enough to spend his Saturday as our tour guide, taking us to an amazing hiking trail along three waterfalls, and to the Houtong Cat Village.
Robert, Douwe, Jen-Shin, and his girlfriend Wen
Bali, Indonesia (2016-11-27)
Bali was the second location that wasn't part of our original itinerary. Originally we were going to visit Chris W. in Melbourne, Australia, but he had started his own trip while we were on ours, so we crossed paths here.
Maybe not surprisingly, the internet infrastructure isn't great, so working from random coffeeshops wasn't really an option. Luckily Chris had been there for a few weeks by the time we arrived and had joined a coworking space called Outpost that offered day passes (side note: not enough coworking spaces offer day passes. Get it together, people!)
Working in Bali, from Outpost, was an amazing experience. The place is filled with other remote workers from all over the world. The building is two floors, with the air conditioned lower level enforcing a strict library-like level of quiet, while the upper level is open-air and a bit noisier. There were nearby cafés where we'd order food (including fresh coconut water served right out of the coconut) and it would be delivered to our desks while we worked.
We did make some time to visit a black sand beach where we destroyed our feet on the coral bed while trying to body surf, then retreated to the pool to relax. We also visited the famous "monkey village" which, true to its name, is filled with monkeys.
Sydney, Australia (2016-12-05)
As we started the final week of our trip, it really began to dawn on us that this amazing adventure was almost over. But we still had another week until we'd be on vacation in New Zealand, so it was right back to work.
Right away we found a coffee shop near our apartment called The Q with good food, coffee, and WiFi. I think our drive to find a new place to work every day had fully worn out by this point, and we ended up working there all week.
When our local Julie finally met us there at the end of the week and asked what we'd seen of Sydney so far, and what we'd been up to every day, I think she was at least a little disappointed in us when we made a feeble "you're lookin' at it" pantomime.
That was a common experience throughout the trip. We'd rattle off the list of cities we'd been to and were going to, and people would ask what we'd done and seen, and we'd have to explain that most of each week was just working, exactly as we would at home. We still had to pay for the trip, after all.
When you've worked at GitLab for a while, it's easy to take for granted what an amazing perk this whole "remote work" thing is, and how much of a foreign concept it still is to most people. I can't fault anyone for hearing that we were traveling around the world for six months, working when and where we wanted to with no oversight, and thinking it was a vacation, but it wasn't. We worked 10-14 hours Monday through Thursday so that we wouldn't feel guilty taking Friday off to do "touristy" things. On Saturday we'd try to see more of the city, or catch up on sleep, or just relax after a long week, and on Sunday we'd be at yet another airport to move on to the next city.
The tourism and traveling were never the main goals of the trip. The true value for us was meeting these people we usually only talk to over video or text, seeing where they call home, meeting their friends and families, and spending time with them outside of work, and in that sense, the trip was a resounding success.
While our trip is over, other team members have grabbed the baton and are taking full advantage of being able to work from anywhere in the world. Chris W. has already been in Indonesia, Taiwan, Hawaii, Guatemala, Mexico City, Dallas, and the Cook Islands, while Mitchell has been traveling all over the US, living and working in different cities for a month at a time.
If working while traveling all over the world appeals to you, or if you have no interest in leaving your home, but just like the idea of being able to work when and where you want, check out our open positions!
This post is one in a series about this particular trip. Check out part 1 and the summary!