Got wanderlust? Now you can go without leaving your job

Cassie Utt is about to spend an entire year traveling the globe, a trip that will include month-long stops in 12 exotic locales like Dubrovnik, Croatia, and Ko Tao, Thailand.

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To get ready for her world tour, the 24-year-old has donated her couch and her bed, put the rest of her stuff in storage, and turned in her car that was coming off lease. She’s worked on visa logistics, figured out a mobile phone plan that will let her stay in touch worldwide and tried to reassure her somewhat nervous parents.

But one thing she hasn’t done is say goodbye to her company.

For the next 12 months, Utt, a project manager in the hydraulics division of Eaton, will continue working for the big manufacturing company through a new outside program called Remote Year.

“Quite a few of my friends are going through this right now, where they’re taking a year off to travel,” she said. “To have me come along and say I’m going to travel the world and keep my job? It’s hard for them to believe.”

The brainchild of 26-year-old entrepreneur Greg Caplan, Remote Year is something of a tour operator for professionals with wanderlust. Or as one participant described it: “like Semester at Sea, but for grown-ups with jobs.”

The program, which just kicked off its inaugural trip on June 1 in Prague, is evidence of the evolving landscape of work. Increasingly, professionals with dreams of traveling the world have options beyond applying to a huge global company with offices everywhere or quitting their job for a gap year. As working remotely has become not only more technically viable but more professionally accepted, a growing crop of travel operators have tapped into this new market opportunity.

Remote Year, for example, runs participants $27,000 for the year — $3,000 paid upfront, and then $2,000 each month. In exchange, it books and covers the cost of housing in each city as well as travel insurance and travel logistics between the year’s 12 stops (though participants buy their flights to and from the first and last cities). The program also secures work hubs with wi-fi in each locale, and plans events and meals to foster a sense of community among the 75 participants.

Utt and her fellow “remotes,” as Caplan calls them, include entrepreneurs, plenty of software developers and designers, freelancers, and corporate employees who received blessings from the likes of Microsoft, HP, Polycom and Google to take their jobs on the road. Perhaps helping their case: Unlike traditional travel companies, programs like Remote Year have a strong element of professional selectivity.

Caplan said the early pool included some 25,000 interested folks, who went through an initial screen for income feasibility and past experience with remote work. Roughly 1,500 turned in formal essay applications, and Caplan and his small team interviewed nearly 300 to whittle the pool down to the final 75. They looked for people who would add diversity to the team and would have a high likelihood of success working remotely from all corners of the globe, since full-time work was a prerequisite.

“We didn’t want to take people who just wanted a vacation,” Caplan said. “We were looking for people who wanted to advance their careers with new experiences. That’s a really important difference. They are all committed to growing professionally.”

There are, of course, plenty of digital nomads living “location-independent lifestyles” who have found their own way to work while traveling the world. Jay Meistrich, for example, left a job at Microsoft and then built his own start-up while jumping from one global outpost to the next, taking walking tours and lunching near castles in between software development sessions.

While such do-it-yourself arrangements have also become more viable, thanks to technology, there are those who prefer a more structured, coordinated experience — one that feels less like a solo quest and more like a global professional rotation they can pitch to their employer.

Hacker Paradise, which just started its third “batch” of trips less than a week ago in Tallinn, Estonia, provides co-working spaces and optional accommodation logistics for the roughly 30 tech workers, freelancers and entrepreneurs who compose its month-long trips. Others are planned this summer for Barcelona and Berlin, and participants pay a program fee of $850 for a month in one location, which does not include housing or travel costs.

Part of what it offers traveling professionals, in addition to help with the logistics of working from another country, is some sense of career support once they get there. Hacker Paradise has weekly lunches for participants to share their productivity goals, presentation days, and workshops on topics like negotiating or shaping a business idea.

While none of those sessions are mandatory, their aim is to motivate or hearten people who suddenly find themselves without the usual office routines, familiar time zones or cultural touch points. “It’s just enough structure to know you’re not just out there by yourself,” said Alexey Komissarouk, one of the co-founders.

That kind of structure isn’t just attractive to remote workers, but to the companies that agree to let them go. While many of Remote Year’s participants are self-employed or work for companies with fewer than 10 people, Caplan said 35 of the 75 attendees come from larger companies.

While some employers were surprisingly keen on the idea, others remain a harder sell. Both Hacker Paradise and Remote Year have seen a few candidates bow out because they ultimately couldn’t get corporate approval, whether from their own bosses or from HR and accounting. Others, though they finally got the okay, had to go through a long process of company box-checking.

“We didn’t want to take people who just wanted a vacation. “We were looking for people who wanted to advance their careers with new experiences.”

Knowing Utt wasn’t going to be the one responsible for details like finding reliable wi-fi service or a quiet place to work, however, was reassuring to Bonnie Smith, a senior vice president at Eaton who supervises Utt’s boss. The clear professional orientation of Remote Year, as well as the structured access to work environments, Smith said, “offered comfort to me. She’s not going to be using work time to figure it out herself.”

Smith also likes the idea of Utt being exposed to tech workers from other fields. “She’s going to be working with people who surely will broaden her horizons,” Smith said. “I expect her to come back with observations of how other countries do things — things we may be able to do, too.”

Hacker Paradise’s Komissarouk said he’s even heard from a startup and a biotech company with a few hundred employees that are interested in offering his trips to workers as a company-paid perk. “Over time, we’ve been seeing more companies okay with this, by either granting them a sabbatical or letting them work remotely,” Komissarouk said. “People are willing to do [things] to retain highly qualified employees.”

“She’s going to be working with people who surely will broaden her horizons. I expect her to come back with observations of how other countries do things — things we may be able to do, too.”

Lindsay Daniels, who works in communications for San Jose, Calif.-based Polycom, said it wasn’t hard to convince her boss after she got accepted to Remote Year. Not only had she worked in California while he was based in Singapore during her first four months in the job, her company makes video conferencing and conference call equipment. “This is what we live and breathe every day,” she said.

Utt, meanwhile, thinks timing helped her get the thumbs up. She was just finishing a two-year rotational program at Eaton, and was about to start looking for her next role there when Remote Year came up. She had been interested in finding a position in Europe, but instead went to her boss with a business plan to show how her year of globetrotting could help the company. She would get a close-up view, she offered, of some of the company’s many worldwide locations by paying visits to local sales offices or plants. “And if I’m working next to someone from Microsoft or Google,” she said she told them, “it’s a way for us to see different ideas.”

For all the planning, there is still the unexpected. What happens if the wi-fi goes down? (Caplan said they have redundant Internet connections, as well as back-up hotspots.) Or if someone loses their job in the middle of the trip? (Remote Year has a $2,500 early exit fee, but hopes the group would rally to help the person find work for the remainder of the trip.) Or a laptop breaks in the middle of Vietnam? (Caplan said he doesn’t offer tech support.)

Of course, another big question is what happens when Utt’s or Daniels’ colleagues get the same idea. Smith said she was comfortable with Utt going because she knew she was a high-performing employee, and she trusted her to work the late night and early morning hours Utt will need to put in when she’s on the other side of the globe. But “can I have 80 percent of my employees doing this?” she said. “No.”

© The Washington Post 2015 

 

Cotto defeats Geale by TKO in title fight

Australia’s Daniel Geale has suffered a brutal knockout loss to WBC middleweight champion Miguel Cotto in New York.

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Geale was taller, had a longer reach and weighed substantially more than the stocky Cotto when they met in the ring, inside Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center on Saturday.

Size didn’t matter for Cotto, the first Puerto Rican boxer to win world-titles in four different weight classes.

He knocked Geale down twice in the fourth round.

Cotto’s trainer Freddie Roach said before the bout they would attack Geale’s body and that’s what happened, with Cotto connecting with 32 body shots in the four rounds.

“I caught him with a really hard left hook,” Cotto, describing the power shot to Geale’s nose and mouth that left the Australian flat on his back the first time, said.

Cotto was backing Geale up, moved forward and struck Geale with his head and as the Australian threw a punch the champion fired the trademark left hook to the face.

The knockdown came with 2:28 left in the fourth round, Geale slowly got up and let referee Harvey Dock count to eight before agreeing to continue the fight.

Geale, who was weakened substantially by trying to make it below the middleweight catch weight of 71.2kg, valiantly attempted to fight on but exactly one minute later after a flurry of punches he fell to the canvas.

When Dock got to eight in the count this time Geale indicated he had had enough.

It was Geale’s third straight loss in the US and the lopsided contest mirrored last July’s third round knockout defeat at the hands of another middleweight great, Kazakhstan’s Gennady Golovkin.

Geale has lost three of his last five fights.

Cotto has his eye on a pay-per-view super fight later this year with one of boxing’s rising star’s, Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez.

Golovkin, who was at the Barclay’s Center, is also pursuing a fight with Cotto.

“I’ve had 44 fights in my entire career,” Cotto said.

“Canelo is just going to be another one.”

Cotto replied “Why not?” when asked about fighting Golovkin.

After Friday’s weigh-in Geale, who stands 178cm tall and has a reach of 180cm, stacked on weight and in street clothes weighed 82.5kg just before the bout.

Cotto, at 170cm and with a reach of 170cm, was just 69.67kg at the weigh-in.

The 34-year-old Cotto’s record stands at 40 wins (33 knockouts) and four losses while Geale, also aged 34, drops to 31 wins (16 KO) and four losses.

Canada, Dutch win openers but fans the big winners

Christine Sinclair sent a capacity crowd at a sun-kissed Commonwealth Stadium home happy by slotting the winning spot kick in a 1-0 victory over China.

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The Dutch were also celebrating after the Netherlands made a winning World Cup debut with a 1-0 victory over New Zealand.

But the biggest winners on the day were the fans who basked in the excitement and joy the ‘beautiful game’ can create rather than dwell on the dreary details of a corruption bribery scandal that has engulfed the sport’s governing body, FIFA.

“It was an amazing atmosphere to kick off this World Cup in front of 50,000-plus fans, I’m so proud of our team,” said Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt, who was named player of the match. “There was never a doubt that game was going to get away from us.”

While the World Cup got off to a rousing start, it is unclear if the scandals and controversy have had an impact on the tournament that will conclude with a championship game on July 5 in Vancouver.

The Canadian Soccer Association announced that close to a million tickets had been sold for games at the six venues across the country and while it remains an impressive number, it falls well short of the 1.5 million organizers have targeted.

The biggest event in women’s sport, the World Cup was far from the only show in town.

While the sporting world stops for the men’s World Cup, for the women’s tournament it barely slows down.

The Formula One Grand Prix of Canada, a Stanley Cup playoff game, a Triple Crown winner in thoroughbred racing and golfer Tiger Woods’ nightmare round all grabbed a chunk of the Saturday North American sport spotlight.

A superb Champions League final in Berlin between Juventus and Barcelona also satisfied much of the football appetite.

With the wider football world caught in the grip of a corruption and bribery scandal, grabbing attention has proven a challenge for the women’s showcase.

The Women’s World Cup has not been touched directly by the scandal but the questions and media’s search for answers hung over the tournament buildup like a dark cloud.

A controversy over the use of artificial turf that triggered a lawsuit and claims of discrimination by a group of unhappy players also lingered as Canada and China took to the plastic pitch.

In the end it was a column by Globe and Mail columnist Cathal Kelly bashing Edmonton as an unfit venue for the prestigious kick off that provided the greatest outrage in the host nation.

But scandals big and small evaporated in the roar of the largest Canadian crowd for a national team football game as 53,058 filled a sun-kissed Commonwealth Stadium, topping the 51,136 that watched the Canadian men draw 1-1 with Brazil 21 years ago in Edmonton.

“Three points, Canada is on a roll,” beamed Canada coach John Herdman. “Good start, three points in the bag, exactly where we want to be.”

(Editing by Ian Ransom)

Aiken stars for Firebirds

Star goal shooter Romelda Aiken has starred for the Queensland Firebirds, who overcame the NSW Swifts 55-44 in the Australian conference final of the trans-Tasman netball competition.

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The Firebirds overcame a first-quarter deficit to register their 11th straight win in an at-times physical contest on Sunday.

Aiken, the Australian conference MVP, finished with 36 goals from 39 attempts, outpointing Swifts goalkeeper Sharni Layton in an absorbing one-on-one battle.

Firebirds skipper Laura Geitz said Aiken was absolutely outstanding in the goal circle.

“There’s a reason why she’s the MVP for this competition and it doesn’t matter to her whether she’s got two defenders on her or one,” Geitz said.

Geitz herself was close to best on court – finishing with a game-high five deflections defending in combination with Clare McMeniman and Rebecca Bulley.

Underlining their status as the best defensive unit in the competition, the Firebirds held the Swifts to just 18 goals across the third and fourth quarters.

Coach Roselee Jencke said the side would gain confidence from the win in front of a 5,175-strong home crowd at the Boondall Entertainment Centre.

“To be able to finish off they we did was excellent, to now get a home semi-final with our crowd and just how loud they were is fantastic,” she said.

The Firebirds will host the loser of Monday’s New Zealand conference final between Northern Mystics and Waikato Magic for a place in the grand final on June 21.

Seemingly showing no ill-effects of Friday’s extra-time victory over West Coast Fever, the Swifts took a 13-10 lead at the first break and increased their margin to six goals early in the second.

However, a 17-13 second quarter saw the Firebirds take a 27-26 halftime lead.

The Swifts must now regroup for an away clash against the winner of the NZ conference final.

Australian climber criticises Malaysia quake rescue

An Australian climber has savaged rescue efforts in the wake of a deadly earthquake that jolted Southeast

Asia’s highest peak.

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Malaysian authorities say 13 people died when a 6.0 magnitude quake rocked the area around Mount Kinabalu on Friday.

Six others remain missing in the wake of the disaster, which caused landslips on the peak and sent huge boulders hurtling down its slopes.

Vee Jin Dumlao says she and other stranded climbers had to wait nine hours for help, despite fog and difficult conditions clearing after the quake.

“Fog was quoted as the reason for not rescuing the climbers, that was certainly true earlier in day. But the sky cleared beautifully and the air was still by 4pm,” Mrs Dumlao has told the ABC.

She said the rescue effort was a farce, and had it not been for guides travelling with her group, they may not have made it out.

“It was decided that even though the tremors were still continuing, they were not as strong and we just had to take the risk and make our way down the mountain with the guides’ help,” she said.

“The mountain guides were the heroes. They risked life and limb and made some difficult decisions that ultimately saved our lives, and had neither help nor recognition from the authorities.”

Sabah state’s tourism minister Masidi Manjun has said rescuers brought 137 hikers, including two Australians, to safety.

Malaysian media have reported that the victims include children from a Singapore primary school who were on an excursion to the mountain.

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