Remote Year: Six months later

It’s incredible to think that so much time has already passed since this all began. We are now six months into the Remote Year experience, living in Lisbon, Portugal for the month. So much change has taken place since we started out in Kuala Lumpur.When I came on this program, my goal was to pursue personal and professional growth, gain a deeper understanding of spirituality and learn how to live the remote working lifestyle.

Since then, I’ve been growing and developing an entirely new outlook on life. While forging new connections with my fellow travelers, I’ve gotten my scuba diving certification, became a certified Reiki practitioner, started learning yoga, started this blog, got my first tattoo, attempted to ice skate and learned to ride a bicycle. That last part might have been the most rewarding. There are many other great experiences that I’ve had, but I consider those to be some of the highlights.It’s definitely been transformative for me so far.

Despite all the great bonding that has happened, many of our members have already left the program for varying reasons. Some decided to leave due to family emergencies, finances and some just felt like the program wasn’t what they were looking for. Our group that started out with about 70 people is now down to 50 at our half-way point for the year. Even though the group has technically gotten smaller, the bonds that we’ve made since we began still remain intact.

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Christmas Day in Florence, Italy. Photo by: Chris Arriola

For those of us that remain, the dynamics of our group have grown even more entertaining as we’ve gotten to know each other better. We’ve become more comfortable with one another as people continue to let down their guard and reveal their quirks and odd habits. I think after having to take each other to the hospital on separate occasions and nursing one another back to health, there isn’t much point to being so reserved anymore.

Our program leaders have gained a better understanding of our individual desires and preferences now after having hammered out most of our issues while in Asia. Of course, issues still tend to occur but they have gotten better at addressing problems that arise. If you are considering applying for Remote Year, here are some things you should know.

Quality of facilities will vary

Try not to measure the worth of the program through material means. With a cost of $2,000 a month, Remote Year is an expensive travel program, and given how new and dynamic the program concept is, there isn’t much of a dependable constant in regards to its structure.  The living accommodations and workspace environment will change monthly, and the accommodation’s range of quality will vary for everyone.

There are also other dynamics like the mere fact that different countries sometimes have culturally different structural norms. How you view these differences can sort of blur the lines between an issue of quality and just living like a local. For example, on Koh Phangan, many of the accommodations we stayed in didn’t have a separation between their showers and toilets. Coming from western society, I found that very odd because it’s a norm to have that separation in our culture. I was even more disturbed when I had to learn the hard way about bum guns.

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Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo by: Erika Cunningham

Be open to new things

Getting the most out of your money comes from proactively taking advantage of the experience and the new community you’ve joined. Remote Year acts as a facilitator introducing you to networking opportunities and local events with people in each location, not just within your travel group. They mainly make sure you get to a destination, have a place to stay and then point you in the general direction of local professionals and interesting activities to do while in the location.

The thing is that these suggestions are pretty general because they are organized or selected to be presented to a group of 70 people with significantly different professional backgrounds with the hopes that they’ll appeal to the majority of the group. It’s necessary for you to be open to challenging your comfort zones because very often, the chances are the events and opportunities that are presented involve situations that are unfamiliar but if you shy away from that then you’ll really be forced to ask yourself why are you even here.

It’s a process

There will be a learning curve that has to happen between your group and your program leaders. Mine was the 7th travel group since Remote Year began and many of us came in with the assumption that the company has more experience and they’ve learned a lot from their previous groups so we’d be off to a good start. That wasn’t precisely the case. The company is still a developing start-up that is modifying and trying new things.

Despite being the 7th to launch, we were actually the first to test their expansion into Asia and the first to travel through a winter climate. Also, the company is still building a staff with the experience for this unique market. Our program leads are brand new to the job and are learning as they go along with us through the year. In general, the dynamic collection of remotes makes the learning curve unavoidable.

Each group that begins Remote Year is filled with such a wide range of personalities and professions that no two groups tend to have the same experiences. That means that in the beginning as your program leaders try to learn about your interests, both individually and as a collective, they will basically be guessing at what arrangements need to be made for you, what preferences to prioritize, etc.

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Transition day Prague, the Czech Republic. Photo by: Jason Yuhas

It’s an experience

If you haven’t caught on by now, you will primarily be paying for 12 months worth of experiences. You can be sure that there will be a mix of both good and bad experiences on this ride. Life still happens, and it won’t automatically get easier just because you’re location independent now. I think that the real benefit to a program like Remote Year comes if you’re a person that has been stuck in the same routine and actually want to do something different, make new connections and see the world but you aren’t really sure where to begin.

Also, if your finances are well enough that the money isn’t an issue, but you really want to be a part of a community while you travel then it’s a great idea. Otherwise, you should think very carefully about why you’re joining Remote Year and what you hope to get out of it. Everyone that considers this option has their own unique circumstances that brought them to this point. Just be honest with yourself about whether you think it’s worth the risk. So far, it’s definitely been worth the experience for me, and I’m still excited to see what’s left to come.

Comments

  1. Good, balanced perspective! The nomad lifestyle is definitely different when lived versus sold. Remote Year has gone through some astronomical growth and I think it will continue to grow rapidly for a while. Interesting to read a first hand account!

    Enjoy the ride!

    1. Thank you! Being a nomad definitely has it’s own challenges, but I think I can keep this up for a while.

  2. You know I hate the Cult of Remote Year with the fire of a thousand burning suns, but I love you with at least 1,000-fold more suns! Keep drifting my friend! :-*

    1. The feeling is mutual! At least you can always thank Remote Year for allowing us to meet. 🙂

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