That Place in Work-Life Balance
Updated: Jun 19, 2019
Adonis and I have always been talking about living in Greece together and traveling around the world at some point in the next 5, 6, 7 years [before having kid(s)]. Of course, it's necessary to thoroughly discuss with one another what goals either of us have and ask each other "what exactly do are we committed to accomplishing in San Francisco? " because we're both extremely independent and willing to do whatever it takes when it comes to career. We really care about creating impact on real-world things through projects, especially when it comes to the day job. For me, it was about the career path I was excited about with a company I love, located in San Francisco. For Adonis, it was about his remote work as a CTO. And we highly value flexibility and autonomy with work, too. We like to strike work-life balance this way.
How do we do this while we relish a digital nomad lifestyle?
It's simple, but it's not easy! Ever since we started dating on Halloween 2014, we knew that we both love to travel independently. We accepted the fact that either one of us will likely travel or live wherever they want, or move away from San Francisco for a job they really believe in - and that might mean being in a long distance relationship sometimes - and that's okay with us. In the beginning of our relationship and marriage, we chose SF against any other city because of its walkability score, public transit, international appeal, weather, communities and the perks of tech start up city life.
My compensation at work decreased because we reached the end of the Salesforce implementation project at work. That project was the first time I got paid a rate that allowed me to pay off my grad school loans, take care of the bill after our doctor & dentist appointments, and it made me feel like I was making a real impact on the world with a great team. When the project ended and I was told my pay was getting docked down, I told my supervisor that it would be about 6 months that I'd be able to last on that kind of compensation - otherwise, I'd become broke and wouldn't be able to continue living in San Francisco. I couldn't help but be upfront about the reality of the situation with the job I loved because I wanted to keep it.
Between October and February, my former supervisor kept pushing back the scheduled time we'd talk about a full-time position - I was absolutely done being a contractor without benefits, and I genuinely felt that I gave my all to the work I had been doing since I joined the team. In that time, I was giving heads up to my former supervisor, "Hey, thanks for meeting with me. It's been a few months, and at this lower pay rate and without benefits, I want to remind you that if I spend few more months going on like this, I'll need to move out of the Bay Area. We've been discussing bringing me on full-time for months, and I'd like to pick up that conversation where we left off." There were 5 meetings like this over the course of the middle-end of the Salesforce project and the proceeding 6 months.
I was either told that "you're too new in the role and need to prove yourself," or "it's too chaotic to discuss right now with the project going on," or "it's the end of the project, but let's wait until things settle down after Dreamforce," or "the holidays are ramping up and we should discuss this after Thanksgiving," or "we're all out of office in December, so let's discuss this in the second week of January."
Of the 2 years I spent working as a contractor for the company, I knew I had no benefits coming in, but within the 9 months on the Salesforce project as its Project Coordinator plus the 5 months afterward still having conversations about a full-time position but no movement, I needed to make a tough decision: Keep vying for an offer there, run out of money & possibly get priced out of SF or live with parents.
We chose to live with parents - more specifically, my in-laws in Greece - because the flight over here was $300 one-way, and I was about to not be able to afford rent in the city for the next month. Want to hear something even crazier? The flight to my parents' home in Ohio was $400! I told my supervisor why I chose to leave the city and assumed it was alright that I work from the London office during my super long layover there before I proceed to work from Greece (which I had done in the past 3 times in my 2 years as a contractor). He and the Head of People were against me working remotely, so that option was off the table and then I heard my supervisor say something that I'll never forget...
What if I were to offer you a job today, would you still leave for Greece?
"Seriously?" I thought. It's as if the requests I had been making were suddenly being granted, but at the most inconvenient time. This felt akin to a couple discussing taking a new path in their relationship; one partner feels like it needs to control the other in order to get what they want, yet the other partner has always been clearly communicative about what they want and need from the relationship. It hurt me to hear the question. The answer was yes; I still need to go to Greece to remain somewhat financially healthy - I'd be crazy to leave the city with literally nothing or to leave it too late or worse - run out of money and then have to involuntarily couch surf from place to place.
Adonis had been working with a funded company that informed him about the last paycheck that would be issued at the end of January - they've yet to secure more funding. This was the first time that our lives lined up - we would both run out of money around the same time, and it was an opportunity to live in Greece for a couple of months together to set up some passive income via our independent projects. We're both entrepreneurial and confident we can create something of value for people, and we would finally have the time to work on those passion projects.
While I was away, I sent the company in SF a couple decks of Black History cards to circulate around the office because it was still February; I sent them Google cardboard goggles and 360-degree videos to check out the footage I captured every 1-3 weeks in mainland Greece, Santorini and Palermo. I reached out to my supervisor upon returning 3 months later, as he instructed. Radio silence. It was very likely it landed in his Spam box, so I reached out to Head of People, as he instructed. I was eventually passed on to a recruiter who surprisingly took the first half of the call to ask me questions about how the Agency and Operations teams work. I felt concerned at this point about the company's sincerity to hire me after that.
My mom reminded me to send a thank-you email to the recruiter. It's been 5 days, and I still haven't heard back from the company or recruiter. So, I'm continuing to work on my online wedding planning course for couples who want to plan their own wedding; Adonis is working on machine learning skills and formerly finishing his degree in Math & Psychology from University of Ottawa. The other prospective job opportunities for us are dim at this time, but it doesn't mean things are gloomy for us!
We couldn't live the way we do without our family in Greece, who know where to show us around this beautiful country and help us connect with folks in the industries that appeal to our independent projects, and our communities around the globe who are generous, hospitable and connect us with their cool friends along our globe-trotting journey. This year is one for the books - we've been digital nomads for about a year solid now, and our relationship has never been better. No regrets! #MrAndMsAdventure