5 Things You Need in Order to Thrive in an Unfamiliar Environment


For the next 12 months, Zoe Weiner will be living and working remotely in 12 different cities around the world through an organization called Remote Year. As she moves to each new location and tackles new obstacles, she'll share what she learns with us here at Mental Floss. Miss her first installment? Read it here.

On my fifth day in Malaysia, I broke down crying in front of a street meat stand.

I hadn’t slept in a week, couldn’t figure out what any of the “meat ball” skewers were actually made from (and how long they’d been sweating unrefrigerated in the Malaysian heat), and was really, really homesick. Everything from eating to working to finding a moisturizer that wouldn’t bleach my skin just felt so hard. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and ready to book the next ticket back to New York.

It wasn’t Kuala Lumpur’s fault (although the stifling temperatures, impending rain, and crowded streets weren't helping). The city itself is known to be fairly easy for expats and tourists to navigate, and my fellow remotes and I jokingly called it “Asia Lite” because we knew it was by far the most Westernized city we were going to be living in during our time in Asia. But despite all of the amazing hamburgers and English-speaking taxi drivers, the adjustment still came as a complete shock.

My work hours became completely scattered, and finding any sort of balance (work/life, personal/professional, asleep hours/awake hours) felt insurmountably difficult. It threatened my productivity, and with that, my happiness—hence the sobbing to a stranger trying to sell me satays.

That was my sign I needed to take a serious step back.

In the days and weeks that followed, I reevaluated my work, life, and emotional balance, and came up with a plan to strengthen my productivity without completely burning out. I took to my journal and made a list of exactly why I was here, what I wanted to accomplish, and who I wanted to be a year from now when I was back in the U.S. Then, I asked myself what I needed to succeed and came up with a plan. So far, it’s working. Here are five things you need in order to adjust to working and living in new surroundings, from someone who learned it the hard way.


It’s terrifyingly easy to get distracted when you’re working remotely (thanks, internet), and when you’re traveling it’s 1000 times worse. It’s hard enough to get work done when there’s a new series on Netflix calling your name, let alone when there’s an entire new city outside your door, begging to be explored. Because of this, prioritizing and setting goals is the only way to ensure that anything will ever actually get done. Set yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals, and re-visit them regularly to check up on your progress. Here are a few of the ones I’m working toward this year, so the internet can hold me just as accountable as I plan to hold myself:

- Train for the Buenos Aires Marathon in October
- Write one long-form journalistic piece that is published in a print magazine
- Learn to code
- Learn conversational Spanish before I get to South America


As lonely as remote work may sometimes feel, there’s no reason you have to go it alone. In order to thrive in an unfamiliar place, you need someone you can call when you feel like you're reaching your breaking point. Even better if you have two people on speed-dial: one who will sympathize with what a hard time you’re having, and another who will tell you to “snap out of it” and take stock of the adventure you're living. Just do yourself a favor and call the sympathizer first.


As incredible as full-time travel may look on Instagram, there’s a less cheery behind-the-scenes reality: Things often go wrong. Food will make you sick, your WiFi will go down, and your phone/wallet/passport is going to get stolen at least once. Not every day is going to be the best, most photogenic day ever, and there are going to be times when you want to just give up and go home. Don’t do it. Learn to embrace the unknown, and learn from the hardest of hard days.

This applies to work, too. When things aren’t going your way, take a deep breath, a step back, and see if there’s another way to attack the problem at hand.


The idea of “wake up, go to the gym, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed” just isn’t realistic when you're in an exciting new setting. Because of this, it’s important to pick out the most important parts of your routine and make them work in your new life. For me, this has meant starting every day with a to-do list, writing in my journal every night, and trying to get to the gym as frequently as possible. Your perception of what it means to have a routine will change, but finding some normalcy will allow you to focus and be productive.


The reality of working while traveling is a lot harder and less glamorous than most of the “Get Paid to Travel the World” articles make it sound. Jobs fall through, roles change, and the balance of trying to do it all may simply become too difficult to maintain. And this is all okay. Just because things don’t work out exactly the way you expected them to doesn’t mean you’ve failed. But to avoid feeling like everything is crashing down around you each time one little thing goes wrong, come up with some sort of “just in case” plan ahead of time. No matter what—whether you have to quit a job, re-prioritize your goals, or live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet—it will be ok. I promise.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More


This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.


Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances


- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games


- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets


- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs


- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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Why You Shouldn’t 'Heat Up' Your Car's Engine In Cold Weather


When the inside of your car is no warmer than the frozen tundra outside, it’s easy to believe you need to let your engine “heat up” for a minute or two by idling in your driveway before driving away. The old adage goes that giving your engine time to reach its normal operating temperature is easier on your car than hitting the gas as soon as you turn the ignition on. One 2009 study showed that, on average, Americans believed a car's engine should be left to idle for nearly four minutes in subfreezing temperatures—but it turns out this behavior is not only bad for your wallet and the environment, but your car as well.

In 2016, Business Insider spoke with former drag racer Stephen Ciatti to get to the bottom of this widespread myth. Ciatti has a PhD in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has worked on combustion engines for nearly 30 years, so he knows a thing or two about how to best treat your car. And he says that idling your machine in the cold only leads to a shorter lifespan for your engine.

In older car models that relied on carburetors to run, frigid weather did pose a threat to engine performance. Gasoline is less likely to evaporate in colder temperatures, which would have led to carburetors failing to get the right mixture of air and fuel into the engine. This sometimes caused cars to stall out, and that's likely what led to the practice of heating up our vehicles in our driveways in the winter. But if you’re driving a car that was made in the past few decades, this is no longer something to stress over. Beginning in the 1980s, car companies began replacing carburetors with electronic fuel injection, which uses sensors to calculate the correct mixture of air and fuel to supply your engine with.

When temperatures dip below freezing, your engine is already aware of this and adjusts by introducing more gasoline into the fuel mix. By letting your car idle, you’re subjecting your engine to more gasoline-rich fuel than necessary, and this ends up stripping oil from your engine’s vital components.

"Gasoline is an outstanding solvent and it can actually wash oil off the [combustion chamber's] walls if you run it in those cold idle conditions for an extended period of time," Ciatti told Business Insider. He said this washing action can gradually "have a detrimental effect on the lubrication and life of things like piston rings and cylinder liners." So in the end, what you intend as gentle behavior toward your car’s engine could turn out to be the opposite.

Once your engine reaches a temperature of around 40 degrees it switches back to its regular fuel mixture, but idling doesn’t help it hit that point any faster. According to Ciatti, the fastest way to heat up an engine is to actually drive. But don’t take that as an excuse to go gunning down the driveway: Your engine will take between five and 15 minutes to reach a normal temperature from the moment you hit the gas. Until then, go easy on the pedal to avoid putting additional stress on your engine.

This article originally appeared in 2016.