Meet Brad Wolf, a world traveler who happily broke from the typical 9-5 job in search to see how other people live and work around the world. Spending a good chunk of time bouncing from hostel to hostel, Brad settled down in Florence for a few years and worked for FlorenceForFun. Now turning his passion for travel into a career, Brad is redefining the typical “workplace” as an Admissions Counselor for Remote Year, a work and travel program for business professionals.
Brad describes Florence as a community, a common characteristic that we all love and that has shaped us during our time here. He says Florence’s community not only helped him feel at home, but has helped him rediscover his love of music.
Brad and I discussed the impact travel has had on him and his career and offered some valuable advice for students unsure of where they want their career paths to take them. As we continue these “Where Are They Now” articles, we hope that students, post grads, and viewers realize that their career paths can be completely unconventional and still adventure and fun filled!
You didn’t study abroad when you were in college, how did you end up working for a travel company in Florence?
Not studying abroad in college was easily one of my biggest regrets so I always knew after school, when I got the opportunity to travel I was going to seize it. I was fortunate enough to start my career off working for a thriving start-up in Silicon Valley and after a few years we were acquired by Google. So I spent a year at Google and was in a place where financially I was finally able to afford to take off for a while, and also had the safety net at that point of a great resume knowing that I could always return to Silicon Valley and find work in my field when I returned. So it seemed like the right time to get up and go. Soon after my year anniversary at Google, I quit my job, sold everything I owned, other than what I could fit into a backpack, booked a one way ticket to Europe and took off for 12 months throughout Europe, Australia and SE Asia. When I was in Europe towards the beginning of my year on the road, I came to Florence and was introduced to Anna through a friend and former FFF employee. Anna and I became friends and stayed in touch and after I wrapped up my time in SE Asia at the end of my trip, I came back to Florence to visit and we started talking about me working for FFF. After spending a year living out of a backpack and moving from hostel to hostel, the idea of settling down in one place and working for a fun, vibrant travel company in an amazing city like Florence was a no brainer.
Working for Google sounds like a ‘dream job’ what was your motivation/reason for leaving?
Google is a great company to work for and I have nothing but wonderful things to say about my time there. That said, I was just in a place in my life where I needed to know more about what was out there other than our “standard” way of life in the States. Graduate from school, get a good job, get a wife/husband, move to the suburbs, have children, work, repeat. While non of this sounded bad to me, and I was perfectly on track, I just needed to take some time for myself and explore how other people lived around the world so I could better understand what other options there were for me and make an informed decision about how I wanted to live my life. Turns out, there are plenty of alternative lifestyles to what we know and see every day and I am living proof. 5 years later, I am still traveling and loving all that life has to offer.
You lived in Florence for 3 years, use one word to describe what Florence means to you?
Community. I found a home in Florence not because it is the most convenient place to live (it has its struggles as we all know), or because of the surrounding beauty or incredible food, but rather because of the people. There is a thriving community of open minded, forward thinking students, expats and locals, who are all passionate about something. Whether its art, or music, or fashion or dance or food, or whatever, this city is filled with incredible people focused on developing themselves in an incredible setting. The small size of the city center in Florence inherently creates an opportunity for these amazing souls to collide on such a consistent basis and it allows for the natural formation of such a strong community of friends and family. It is like living in a small town in rural Alabama where everyone knows each other, and everyone looks out for each other, but you take that kind of small town feel from a personal level, and throw it in a setting like Florence combined with the types of people who are here and it makes for an incredible vibe.
You have left us (Florence) now, what would you say was most influential or what impacted you the most about living and working in Florence?
Honestly I think it ties into a lot of the above regarding the community but Florence helped me re-discover a lost passion I have for music and in a big way. I always played guitar and sang and wrote music but somewhere along the line with my busy work days and life just getting in the way, it only became a thing to just dabble in every now and again. In Florence that all changed and music became the center of my life. I was fortunate enough to meet some amazing people in the music community in Florence who welcomed me into their little community and inspired me on a daily basis to make music. By the time I left I was playing anywhere from 2-3 shows a week on a consistent basis and writing and recording more music than I ever had. Florence is an easy city to find inspiration in, especially being surrounded by so many talented people in different areas of the art scene. Having now left Florence and being back on the road, I have made it a goal to play live music in every city that I travel to and I have been fortunate enough to play live shows now in countries like Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal, Argentina and Peru, just to name a few in just a few months since leaving Florence. That drive to play and make music will stick with me forever now and I definitely attribute that to my time in Florence.
Currently you’re working for Remote Year, a travel company specializing in working remotely around the world, wanna explain what Remote Year has to offer and why it’s becoming so popular for work professionals?
Remote Year is a work and travel program designed for communities of around 50-70 working professionals to travel the globe together, spending one month as a group in a new city, every month for the length of their journey. Remote Year provides its participants with transportation, accommodation, 24-7 access to a collaborative co-working space with high speed internet that serves as the office in each city that we travel to, along with a multitude of very rich, local and cultural events and networking events that take place in each city along the program. While Remote Year is popular amongst entrepreneurs and freelancers, it is actually full time employees who make up the majority of participants on program and they work with Remote Year directly to help them work with their companies to transition their roles into fully remote roles, allowing them to travel on RY. I think there is a huge trend right now regarding how, when, and where people want to work. People want flexibility in how they work and the traditional 9-5 office routine, is far from appealing for a lot of people who value new experiences so greatly. With advances in modern technology, it is becoming more and more true that great work can be done from anywhere.
For me, I was fortunate enough to be in the financial position when I left Google to do an around the world trip without having to work, and my experience changed my life. People would say to me all the time, I want to do what you did so badly but I just can’t up and leave my job or lose focus on my career, and that was valid. Now, a program like Remote Year comes along, designed specifically for people to share in these incredible worldly experiences, while maintaining full focus on their work and careers at the same time. It really bridges that gap for a lot of people and provides the ability for them to experience what the world has to offer without having to give anything up in terms of their work and focus.
What type of people travel with Remote Year? What would you say to people deciding whether to take on the journey or not?
Remote Year brings together super diverse groups of people from all different walks of life, personally and professionally. Whether that is country, culture, background, profession, age, travel experience, etc. you will find an extremely diverse community of people participating in our programs. That said, within that diversity there is a lot of commonality. People who participate on Remote Year are open-minded, motivated, explorative, and life long learners who are looking to shake things up in their day-to-day routine and grow while gaining knowledge of different ways of life. The special thing about Remote Year is that you get that growth not only just from the countries you visit and interacting with locals in unique settings, but also from the community you travel with which truly becomes a family over the course of program.
You seem to have found your true love of travel and blended it with a career, do you have any advice for students and recent grads who aren’t sure want to do with their career path?
One of my favorite modern philosophers, a guy by the name of Alan Watts used to ask a question to university students getting ready to graduate to provide them some perspective and advice for their upcoming careers. The question he would ask is “If you had all the money in the world and money meant nothing to you, what would you do all day?” Basically, the point of this question is to say, ask yourself what do you really love to do, how do you really like to spend your time, and go do that. Eventually you will find a way to make money and put a roof over your head and food on the table. If you love surfing, go surf, and keep surfing, and perhaps you find your way into working as a surf teacher and save enough money to start your own little shop somewhere teaching surf lessons. Do you love to travel? Go travel and keep traveling, and take odd jobs along the way or start a blog and create content to make money but keep doing it until you’re good enough that its a career. It may seem like a mountain to climb, but I truly believe that if you are dedicated enough, and passionate enough, you can always find a way to make money doing what you love. Don’t worry about your paycheck, just worry about having a smile on your face and eventually you will become an expert in your field because it is what you love, and you spend your time, and you will find a way to support yourself. That’s the idea at least and I believe that to be absolutely true, but you have to really want it and be willing to work for it and struggle to get there.
Favorite place in Florence? The FlorenceForFun office just hanging out with Anna and Evan and the crew, duh…Do I get some brownie points for that?
How many countries have you been to? I believe it is 34 now but don’t fact check me on that. +/- 2 there.
What is your favorite city or country that you have traveled to thus far? Cambodia is the best place ever. Go there.
2017/8 bucket list destination? Japan
Roses are red, violets are blue love is… a fickle bitch…JK it is not, it is a beautiful thing but that is a shoutout to Anna.
Life advice in one word according to Brad Wolf? Smile
Favorite snack food? Bisteca Fiorentina…yea I am counting that as a snack ladies and gents.
Don’t leave home without: Underpants
Song of the day? Anything by Derek James Mattuchio
One website you can’t live without? Spotify