Casey Hekker ’11 is among the growing number of professionals who prefer to use technology to work from anywhere in the world.
By Madison Mackenzie ’18
Growing up in a family that enjoyed travel, Casey Hekker ’11 developed a love for exploring the world at an early age. That passion deepened when she came to Elon. “I did two Winter Terms and a full semester abroad,” says Hekker. “I was obsessed with it. I got the travel bug and took advantage of everything Elon had to offer.”
After graduation, Hekker, a strategic communications major, couldn’t shake her desire for traveling and moved to Paris for a year to serve as an au pair before moving to New York City to begin working in advertising and advertising technology. Although she hoped to one day go abroad again, she was not sure when or how. That’s when she stumbled upon a Facebook ad for a program called Remote Year that simply read, “Get paid to travel the world!” “It just seemed too good to be true,” Hekker recalls. “I applied not thinking it was real and never planned on hearing back from them.”
To her surprise, she was selected from among 30,000 applicants from all over the world for one of the 75 spots available. Remote Year was launched in 2014 to provide a training ground for digital nomads—that growing number of professionals who prefer to use technology to work from anywhere. It equips participants to work remotely for a year while visiting dozens of locations. More and more companies are adopting programs that allow employees to choose when and where they work in efforts to improve productivity and retention—two of the main benefits attributed to this work shift. According to a report by technology market research company Forrester, it’s expected that 63 million U.S. adults will work remotely in 2016 as technology continues to make it easier for people to stay connected.
As part of Remote Year, participants travel the world as a group, learning and experiencing as many cultures as possible. For a fee, the company takes care of all the logistics: arranging transportation, living accommodations, working spaces, activities and other amenities needed to live and work comfortably abroad. All Hekker needed to do was make sure her employer was going to allow her to work remotely for a year. She made a presentation to her boss explaining what Remote Year is and how it would help the company with global expansion and networking, while allowing her to become a better businesswoman with wider global perspectives. “My company loved the idea and they gave me the go-ahead,” says Hekker.
Her contingent left in March and spent the first few months in South America. They then headed to Europe before finishing the year in Asia. The constant travel and change of scenery makes Remote Year a very appealing opportunity for anyone who is willing to go with the flow and experience the world, Hekker says. “We felt like it was the start of freshman year because none of us knew each other and we were so excited to get to know everyone, see all the amazing experiences we were going to have and how we were going to grow as people,” she says.
Hekker still works her New York office hours, so while in South America—with a time difference of only one hour—her schedule has not been difficult.
But as she heads to Europe and Asia she knows it is going to be much more of a challenge. Still, she wouldn’t change a thing. “Being able to keep the job I have with a company I love in New York while being able to travel the world and have a paycheck is the best case scenario,” she says. “As I am sitting in my Cuzco apartment [in Peru] with my roommates, it does not feel like reality.”
Follow Hekker’s progress at caseyhekker.com.