Remote Workers Discuss International Living
Earlier this year, I asked my friend Yesenia Gonzalez to travel with me to San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato, Mexico. While I’ve been to Mexico several times with my family, I hadn’t explored this city before. Yesenia and I were enchanted with the hospitable people, clean city, cool climate and artistic use of decor.
While there, we reconnected with colleague Lisa Marie Barocas, who lives in San Miguel de Allende and works for an agency based out of San Antonio, Texas.
She’s one of two PR pros I know who relocated from the United States in recent years. I spoke with Barocas and Sarah Douglas, who runs a social media agency from Puerto Rico, about their experiences.
What inspired your move?
Barocas: In 2017, I visited San Miguel de Allende with my adult daughters. As we drove into this magical town, I was moved to tears. I knew, one day, I would come back and stay permanently.
Douglas: During the pandemic, my husband and I realized we weren’t living out some of the dreams we had originally, and our work changed from in person to virtual. That changed everything for us. We chose Puerto Rico because it was a Caribbean island, still a U.S. territory and Spanish was the primary language.
How did you approach work internationally?
Barocas: A year after my first visit, I was offered an opportunity to house-sit in San Miguel for a month so I tested how I could manage working from afar. It didn’t matter if I was sitting in my living room in San Antonio or San Miguel.
San Miguel offers strong internet connections and, since I primarily work off my computer, there was no change. If I ever need to handle an event or a media interview in person, then I simply hop on a flight.
Douglas: Zoom is the number-one tool I use and keeps me connected to anyone around the world. My team (who are based in SA) and my clients were understanding. We went on with “business as usual” when I left.
How did you prepare for being remote from your work team?
Barocas: San Miguel is in the same time zone as Texas, which makes life easier. My GDC work team knows when I’m in Mexico and, together, we plan in-person meetings with our clients and plan accordingly.
Douglas: I left my computer and Google calendar in Central Time and keep my phone updated with local Atlantic time so there’s less confusion about which time zone things are happening at. I usually work a little later now because of the time difference.
How important is knowing Spanish to live in your new area?
Barocas: I’m fluent in Spanish and that helps a lot. Many of the local people understand English; however, you will have a richer experience if you learn the language, heritage and culture where you are.
Douglas: It’s one of the reasons why we wanted to move to Puerto Rico. Both my husband and I want to learn Spanish and we now use it daily.
Where is your client work? Will you try to do public relations where you live now?
Barocas: The clients I manage for GDC are in San Antonio, but I would love to expand our portfolio into Mexico.
Douglas: It’s mostly in San Antonio but we also have clients in North Carolina and D.C. I’m open to finding clients here in Puerto Rico but the pricing for our services might have to change slightly.
What kind of cultural education have you gained since your move?
Barocas: The local people are very chill and enjoy a great conversation. They’re not constantly looking at their phone, and they don’t talk about materialistic things. They are more into living in the present and making connections. It’s a beautiful thing.
Douglas: The biggest realization that I’ve embraced is that it doesn’t matter how beautiful your home, car or business looks; what matters is the person behind it. Strangers talk to each other; they value relationships and helping each other out.
Did anything surprise you about working abroad?
Barocas: The fact that it’s so easy to work abroad is surprising.
Douglas: How much we can adapt and handle change.
What advice do you have for U.S.-based pros considering an international move?
Barocas: First, rent a place for at least one month and see how it goes. There are tons of living abroad Facebook pages in each community, and people who are a few steps ahead of you are usually happy to answer questions.
Douglas: Consider if where you want to live has strong internet connections and the culture or environment that you like. If you’re a business owner, can you run your business 100% remote from U.S. clients? Or, if you’re an employee, can you work in another country?