When working across time zones, on Friday evenings at 8 p.m., I still had plenty to do. My co-workers were in different time zones and I had to hang in there until all of our days are through, even if that meant staying up ten hours later than I typically would.
A crazy work schedule became typical for me. When I began working as a freelancer with people from different continents, I expected it to be a challenge. At the end of most days the challenge met my expectations, and at times it left me feeling exhausted.
But it also helped me learn more than I’d ever imagined. And every day I woke up grateful. But after thanking God every morning, the feeling returned that something was missing. That something was my family back home. They were my motivation.
They were my drive to seek means to travel; move freely about the planet.
How I boldly decided to go to begin with is a story unto itself. However it occurred, I ended up living for a time as an expat in Egypt. That was the beginning of my remote work life.
Egypt, unlike how the news portrays it as scary and dangerous, was a haven for me. It wasn’t always easy to live in a challenged country, but it made me see things in a way that I’d never seen them before. In developing countries like Egypt, the difference between the lower and the upper classes is extreme; painful to observe.
I realized it’s important to work as smart as possible and get as far away from poverty as one can be. I became determined.
With challenges stacked against me like being outside of my own country, language barriers, not having a degree, and the local currency value plummeting, I needed to find my value quickly.
And so, I learned the power of outsourcing.
According to the Google dictionary outsourcing is:
gerund or present participle: outsourcing
obtain (goods or a service) from an outside or foreign supplier, especially in place of an internal source.
“outsourcing components from other countries”
contract (work) out or abroad.
“you may choose to outsource this function to another company or do it yourself”
synonyms: contract out, farm out, subcontract, delegate
“maintenance jobs are outsourced”
Companies benefit by outsourcing work to developing countries where living costs are extremely low and salary expectations of workers are in turn also very low. It benefits the people in the developing countries if they’re paid in the foreign currency which goes a much longer way – in turn, they’re able to afford a much better lifestyle.
Taking advantage of this and using my perfect English, I found companies back home were willing to hire me no matter where I was. They paid hourly rates as low as $5.00 USD hourly plus commissions.
I would never have been able to afford to do this in the US. But in Egypt, this was a management level salary and I was able to do a lot with it. I continued seeking out more opportunities, and with the new opportunities that $5.00 an hour grew and increased far beyond my expectations.
As I started to achieve things I’d never believed were possible, I started to see how patience and humility are true strengths.
Most people wouldn’t dare work for $5.00 an hour, but I did so without worrying about a thing except making progress. I just needed to get started somewhere. Then, there was faith and persistence — I made a renewed effort toward success daily, and not the superficial, or fleeting kind.
Furthermore, every time I looked out of my windows I was filled with inspiration. A stark reminder of how far away I was from where I wanted to be, the Great Pyramids of Giza made it clear to me on that anything is possible.
I missed the smell of Florida, my home, the smell of rain and fresh cut grass. Both are oddities when you live in the desert. I also missed the sight of low-hanging white clouds against a bright blue sky; an impossible sight in a city where haze from pollutants and endless mountains of sand dim the sunlight.
I missed our wildlife; beautiful large birds and little geckos that live to surprise you everywhere when you think you’re alone. I missed the swampy marshes along busy roads and the hanging moss; being surrounded by it and loved ones on days out in the park. Being away from it all made me realize–my home is a paradise.
But I thanked God for Egypt. It’s a place where even if you know no one, you find there’s rarely a dull moment. And it isn’t at all lonely.
In addition being so focused on work, there’s too much distraction for homesickness to fully set in. The sounds of neighbors, street merchants’ voices, music blaring, and horns honking at any time of day break into any sad thoughts.
If sounds from other humans aren’t heard, howls of cats and dogs instead fill the air. By no means am I a quiet person, but I went through a period of barely being able to tolerate Cairo’s chaos and thought that if I couldn’t get some peace and quiet, I was sure to have a nervous breakdown.
But somehow one day, without any effort whatsoever, I found peace and harmony with it.
It stopped unnerving me when the milk man came down the street right before sundown screaming LABAAAN! ISHTAAA! ZABAAAAADEEEEEE!!! at the top of his lungs like he was alerting the city of impending disaster. (After all, he was really only selling milk, cream, and yogurt).
And instead of getting annoyed I was able to get a chuckle out of the gas man pounding on our door like he was going to break it down every time he came to read the meter. And other parts of daily life I’d previously found to be unacceptable also made me laugh.
Traveling, working remotely, and working across time zones, I’m amazed at all the progress I’ve made.
The experience forced me to struggle and it forced me to learn.
And I’m glad it made me realize that all the time before, I’d been thinking way too small.