Remote Momentum

How a digital nomad learned a valuable lesson in being present

“It's the immeasurable things that make this experience remarkable.”

A dream for many of us — especially those who have worked in offices — was to leave that sea of desks behind and earn a living while traveling the world. That’s what Marlene Quade and her partner had done for the past 13 years, with their daughter in tow for the past eight.

But what happens when former digital nomads are issued stay-at-home orders? Quade describes her experience below.

Who are you and what do you do?

I'm Marlene Quade, co-owner and director of communications at Prime Mutual, a company dedicated to helping people find financial solutions to end-of-life expenses.

How have you conducted business in the past?

My partner and I started our business 13 years ago specifically for the freedom that comes with working remotely. We aimed for the ability to conduct business from anywhere so we could travel the world and raise a family on our terms. Now we own several websites and rental properties that we've operated from over 40 different countries and all 50 states. All we need to operate our business is our laptops, an internet connection, and a little peace and quiet. The latter is in short supply while in lockdown as our spunky 8-year-old bounces around the house.

What immediate effects did stay-at-home orders have on you?

The stay-at-home orders have not had much of an effect on our business, just the amount of time we have to work since we are now homeschooling our daughter. Our family has canceled a lot of travel plans and is using this time to refocus our energy and reconnect in more simple and meaningful ways — all while accomplishing huge personal goals.

What changes did you make to adapt to our current situation?

Like most families, we set up a schedule, use online teaching tools and Zoom for playdates and extracurriculars, and found creative ways to spend family time. But we still desperately needed a social outlet. After being completely isolated for several weeks, we created a cohort with two other families that share in our extreme lockdown measures. This allows us to socialize, share in parenting responsibilities, and even enjoy date nights. We take turns hosting dinner parties, game nights, and playdates. Sometimes we all get together so the adults and children can mingle with our peers. Other times we drop off the kids at one home so two of three couples can have uninterrupted time to work or relax. It really does take a village.

The Quade family.Marlene Quade

What were the challenges in implementing these changes?

Our cohort works because we have frank and honest conversations about how we keep our families safe. We have been on the same page from the beginning of the lockdown, making it easy to agree on things like ordering groceries online, using curbside pick up, having "decontamination zones" in our homes, wearing masks when out, and self-quarantining after traveling. With a cohesive core, the only challenge is to work out logistics. With a new school year on the horizon, we're discussing rotating homes so our children can learn together and parents can have dedicated work time while not hosting school hours.

What have been the results?

The results have been refreshing. Rather than drudging through each day, we've accepted this new normal and are trying our best to embrace it. On paper, we're meeting all our work and school goals. But it's the immeasurable things that make this experience remarkable. We've learned a lot about ourselves, developed deeper connections with our friends, and have reconnected in more meaningful ways within our family.

What have you learned through adapting to a remote environment?

I've learned to be more present in my life and embrace simple joys. Before the stay-at-home orders, I was consistently on the move. If I wasn't buzzing around the community, I was at home planning our next adventure, whether a date night next week or traveling abroad next month. I was always amping up for the next big thing. Once I accepted that my innate wanderlust would be indefinitely postponed, I started to slow down, find calm, and appreciate the beauty that daily life offers.

What advice do you have for others who are trying to figure out this new way of working?

Mindset is the most important factor in finding success in this new reality. From the onset of stay-at-home orders, our family discussed how we would look back at this time. What story would we write? Did we embrace the challenges and come out stronger in the end? We were determined to do so and figured out a plan. My advice is to examine your mindset and embrace this slower life. It won't last forever, and we just might miss it later.