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How I Embarked on My First Digital Nomad Journey

On Saturday, March 23rd, 2022, I sent this email:

“Happy Saturday Guys,

In 2021, I used my sabbatical to wander around France and reunite with my family. Thanks to GRAYBOX, I connected with some of the most influential people in my life. It's crazy to think I met them after 36 years.

My longing to spend more time with them is incredibly strong. I managed to secure tickets to Paris for Britta and me on Christmas day. The dates are flexible; we depart from Portland on April 28th and return on June 10th. I aim to enjoy time in Europe without compromising my impact at GRAYBOX and upholding the quality that matters most to me.

The biggest challenge will be the time difference. It's 4 pm in France when it's 8 am in Portland, so there will be overlaps. But it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I'll also be more aligned with the team in India, meaning Jeya won't have to meet with me at 10 pm for a while – I'm sure she'll appreciate that news.

In short, my goal is to utilize some PTO while remaining available and not impeding the progress we're all working hard to achieve. I don't want this to negatively impact the changes we're striving for.

Week 1, Paris: 10 to 20 hours - Week 2, Lyon: 20 to 30 hours - Week 3, Valréas: 20 to 40 hours - Week 4, Dénia Spain: 20 to 30 hours - Week 5, (undecided): 10 to 20 hours - Week 6, (undecided): Minimal work, but definitely meeting with Jeya every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and following up on projects as needed.

The above numbers are tentative; I'll adjust and prioritize GRAYBOX's needs above all else. Let me know your thoughts.

I also contacted David to see if he wanted me to meet with other agencies or potential Partners once I'm there.


I got the green light, and nothing went according to plan! It went a lot better.

I thoroughly enjoyed working abroad, and I wasn't even counting my hours. Here's the result:

Week 1, Paris: 36 hours - Week 2, Lyon: 35 hours - Week 3, Valréas: 35 hours - Week 4, Montpellier: 37 hours - Week 5, Perpignan: 32 hours

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After landing in Paris on Friday, my girlfriend and I enjoyed family time, explored museums, and leisurely strolled along the Champs Elysees. Then Monday arrived! Rising around 7 am, we kicked off work at 8 am, and I was pleasantly surprised by the tranquility. You know that typical Monday morning vibe, whether at the office or home – the rush, the coffee machine hum, the dread of a packed schedule. But in Paris on a Monday morning, it is still Sunday night in Oregon. The office remains quiet, offering a peaceful environment to prepare for the week ahead without the usual Monday morning stress. And when you have a fantastic restaurant reservation for lunch, the day only gets better. After a delightful meal, we returned to our workstations early, treating our first US workday with seriousness. After a leisurely hour or two exploring Paris, we indulged in a quick nap before gearing up for work – my advice is to behave as if it was the morning, shower, and dress up for work. The workday flew by from 4 pm to 9 pm, fueled by espresso, chocolate, and the excitement of another great dinner reservation. We wrapped up our workday with champagne, enjoyed a late dinner, and took a “close to midnight” walk, savoring the feeling of a fulfilling day – a feeling reinforced by the deep, restful sleep that followed, a rare treat.

By the end of our inaugural work week on Thursday night, it became evident to me that there are numerous advantages to dividing one's day into two distinct halves:

Mornings are characterized by tranquility, facilitating productivity and concentration.

A span of 4 to 6 hours during which one can bask in daylight and pursue personal activities.

Reserve meetings for the latter portion of the day while emphasizing focus during the first half. Being outside the US time zone ensures uninterrupted mornings, compelling colleagues to maximize evening efficiency. This alteration holds significant value in our Zoom-dominated routines.

Cap off the day with a late-night excursion when restaurants still have available tables. This provides an opportunity to revel in the day's accomplishments and strategize for the day ahead.

The second week made it clear it is possible to work better abroad. Lyon is the city where my parents are from, I, therefore, have most of my family around there. This is the part where I tell you that it is important to say “no”. The paradoxical fact to me was that I was expecting myself to be the biggest problem in this adventure, because I thought that I could not resist the temptation to go to one more museum, to eat one more ice cream, to drink the one last glass of wine. But in fact, I was very much motivated to return to my desk because I did enough in the morning to know that it would be an impactful night and that my presence was needed. In fact, the potential problem that I encountered was family, it is hard to say “no”. Picture an uncle, and his two sons, your cousins, that you have seen twice before, that live forty-five minutes away, and want to have lunch with you. You get there, have a ton of fun talking about your dad’s childhood stories, and your uncle asks you to come to his place to show you some old letters and pictures of your dad… You know that you can’t make it work with your schedule, and you want to go there and see all those memories that you so eagerly want to be a part of, but will never be able to. Well, it is not complicated; there is always tomorrow to do that. It is hard to say “no”, but it is sometimes necessary.

In the third week, I started to feel like I was getting good at this, and my colleagues were as well. The meetings were great, the agenda respected, and the notes concise and precise. The organization of my new workdays seemed increasingly evident, helping some common organizational challenges. Between my lone work time in the morning and the beginning of my night meetings, I had the entire day to think about potential gaps and grey areas that could be polished. See, I am a native French, English is my second language, and I am the QA director at GRAYBOX; QA can be perceived as conflictual, and did I mention that I am French… Half an hour before the first meeting, I would adjust my Jira tickets, notes, and directions to suit my audience. This, combined with the time restriction, made those meetings so much more efficient and pleasant.

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How to prepare yourself:


First, be motivated, and consider your work results the most essential part of this experiment. If it is your first time, keep in mind that if it works, you will be able to do it again.

Consider your personal time secondary. You are lucky enough to have been granted the opportunity to do this. Respect that, and do not forget that back home, you sit in a chair for a full day, five days a week.

Be open to negative feedback; if your colleagues are raising potential issues, you are the one who will need to adjust; you are the one doing things differently.

Look out for opportunities to change things. Now that you have changed your daily routine, you will notice what was wrong with your regular one, take notes, and implement changes.


At the very least, spend a few days back home testing your gear before departure.

Beware of internet issues. I was with Google Fi, and my phone saved me for at least half of my trip. I could get 5G and at least a 50mbps connection in most places in France and Spain. Some Airbnbs and even hotels had seriously problematic internet connections.

Think light, but think smart. You will not want to bulk your luggage with heavy electronic products, but prioritize a good set of chargers, AC adaptors, and at least a mouse (trust me, game changer).

Have some backups. An AC adapter for the US can be hard to find depending on where you are, and proprietary cables, etc. Do your research and bring some extra if needed.

Software verification. Do not log in to your VPN for the first time after you land; you might have some unpleasant surprises.

Try out some portable screens and a good webcam.

Family and friends

Tell them that sometimes you will not be able to meet them due to your work schedule.

Send them your hard schedule in advance and print it for the least savvy ones.

Explain that you are not on vacation and that you will behave just like they would on a regular work week, aside from the unusual work time.

How to schedule:

Travel time

Allow some extra time to get set up, shower, prepare and make coffee.

Do NOT trust your friends and family, they will not care about your hard schedule as you do, and who can blame them?

Assume that there will be change. I was set not to work on Fridays for my whole trip, and for instance, one Friday I had to be there to meet a Partner that could not do otherwise.

Remember that you are not the only one with a complicated schedule, some of your coworkers will have conflicts, so go the extra mile to make people happy.

Block your schedule for your personal time and disconnect completely. The first week was a bit complicated for me, as I would think about working all day and taking notes on my phone, it is not healthy.


Start the morning and night shifts as two different short workdays rather than one, after walking and eating all day, trust me, that shower helps.

Be organized and methodical. Set your workplace, even if it is a corner of the dining table as comfortable as you can. Prepare everything you need, including coffee, tea, and snacks.

Be flexible, your work is your priority and should be, if you miss an hour of personal time on Monday for a good reason, it is fine, take it on Tuesday.

Hard stop if you can. As for the extra coffee with Uncle Pierre, it is hard to say “no” to a colleague who needs some of your time at the end of the day, but by this time, it might be extremely late for you. It is better to schedule a meeting for tomorrow and be fully involved than paying half the attention at midnight.

Personal time

Remember that you still have weekends. Move your must-do commitments to the weekend so you never have to rush those.

Priorities easy. Think about the travel time, the lines, and the public transportation delay. During your workdays, try to value more practical options.

Take naps. Honestly, coming back home a bit early and taking a thirty-minute nap can significantly change your work night.

Say “no” when you must, even to your best friend. Again, the weekend is around the corner.

If you end up in a situation like mine, where you travel to another city or country weekly, or more, try to travel on Sunday. The transportation means are less busy, and your Airbnb host will be able to check you in early. Check-in, usually at 3 pm, can be a real pain if you start work at 4 pm.

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What would I do differently?

I would buy a portable screen, trust me that fourteen-inch laptop screen will become smaller and smaller as the night goes by.

I would bring a mouse pad, it sounds dumb, but you have no idea of the desk or table surface you will have to use.

My take on this experiment:

It is not for everyone. Depending on your work, you might need to overlap with your colleague. Part of our QA Team is in India and Portland, so being in France I could overlap with both, and turn the time difference into an asset. Discipline, discipline, discipline. If you are easily affected by FOMO, do not do it.

If you do not enjoy your work, I think this could lead to complications when you have the choice of staying in this beautiful park in Provence, maybe enjoying some wine, or going back to your hotel to log in to your VPN.

It is a lot easier than you think. If you respect the fact that you are working during the week, you can do it. Saying “no” is not that hard if you are upfront.

Enjoy the opportunity rather than moments during the week. If you cannot finish the museum on Wednesday, you could still return there on Saturday.

Frankly, it is more pleasant to work hard knowing that I will be able to visit a city that I have never visited before or spend time with a friend I have not seen in years than just coming back home to feed my cats. I miss my cats.

In short, if you can differentiate between being on vacation and working remotely, you can do it, and furthermore, you and the company you work for can benefit from this. You will need to be organized and efficient, and so will your coworkers; no more looking at each other for 5 minutes at the beginning of the meeting; get to it and get it done; you only have so much time. At the end of the day, you must remember that you still must respect a full day of work and that your personal time is secondary during those days. Say “no” to the extra monument, say “no” to the extra coffee with your family, and everything will be great.

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Reflecting on the past year and a half spent on the road (I decided to go full-time nomad in November 2022) traversing Portugal, Italy, Spain, Germany, Malta, and now Athens, I find myself filled with immense satisfaction. Amidst experiencing improved performances and embracing a lifestyle that resonates with me personally, it's essential to acknowledge that this nomadic journey isn't without its challenges. Nonetheless, I cannot emphasize enough my happiness with the decision to embark on this experiment.

Jacques Desormiere

Director of Quality Assurance

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