Wow. What a month and a half. On July 31, I arrived in Lisbon, Portugal to kick off a year of traveling, working, living, adventuring, and generally badassing around the world with Remote Year, which I’ve been describing as an international mobile coworking program. Every month for a year, 75(ish) of us “digital nomads” move together to a new foreign city where we live, work and explore. Five of the travelers in our group are full-time employees of Remote Year, everyone else has their own job. Some people have full-time employers who embrace the remote working mentality; others (like me) are freelancers or contract workers; and a few are entrepreneurs using this year to focus on launching a new business. We paid a downpayment of $5,000, and for the next 11 months pay a monthly fee of $2,000. In exchange Remote Year provides us the following:
We’re guaranteed our own private room (sometimes our own bathroom, too), often sharing living, kitchen and dining spaces with 1-4 (sometimes more) Remote Year housemates. Our accommodations will always have wifi, though the strength will vary depending on the local infrastructure. In Lisbon, our connectivity was super strong; in Rabat, Morocco, not so much. Oh, Africa.
The other amenities in our homes will vary. In Lisbon, our group of 75 were split between two different university student housing dorms. Each of us had our own dorm room and private bathroom, a shared kitchen on each floor, and a large shared living space. My dorm also had a large communal kitchen/living room on the rooftop where we often had family-style meals. It was an ideal setup for the first month because I didn’t even have to put shoes on to go down the hall and run into new friends. There was always someone up for whatever you wanted to do: go sight-seeing, grab Chinese takeout, do yoga on the rooftop, trouble-shoot a work issue, dance until morning at a beach club.
Believe it or not, we all do actually work, and Remote Year takes care of arranging a workspace with strong and reliable fiber-optic wifi within a 20-min commute of our accommodations. As much as possible, RY sets us up in a local coworking organization, but when that’s not possible, they create a pop-up coworking space for the group. For our first four months at least, we have been/will be in an established coworking spot. Our Rabat office, 7AY (pronounced “hay”), is amazing. The owners, Ilham and Hassan, are movers and shakers in the community, and they make us feel so welcome. The space is large, bright, and has a variety of workspaces: traditional cubicles, private offices, open-plan tables, couches, outdoor standing stations and even a traditional Berber tent on the rooftop. The amazing location makes it easy (sometimes) to forgive the fact that every once in a while the internet connection drops.
Since we change cities each month, Remote Year takes care of all our door-to-door travel arrangements. We know the general details a few months in advance (whether we’ll be going by train/bus/ferry/plane), including any applicable flight numbers, but we don’t get complete details until the Wednesday prior to our weekend departure. We always travel on a weekend because the week is for working, of course. Since we’re only 7 weeks into this grand adventure, we’ve only had one travel day, which earned a post all its own. It involved an airport strike, the most epic line I’ve ever stood in, disobeying airline gate agent orders and discovering a bone in my airplane food. Let’s just say I’ve never been so thankful that someone else was coordinating everything on my behalf.
Networking and Social Events
Remote Year has an employee dedicated to programming that travels with each cohort, plus local staff in each city destination also focused on planning events to help us discover the local culture and connect with our fellow Remotes and with locals. Everything is optional, but they run the gamut to appeal to a variety of interests and schedules. Here’s a sampling of a few of the kinds of events we’ve had the chance to do:
• Welcome and Farewell parties in each city
• Museum visits
• City walking tours
• Soccer games (both playing and watching)
• Open night mic at a pub
• Scavenger hunt around the city
• Sight-seeing outings and day trips
• Networking meals with locals
• Speaking event with local business students and professionals
• Concert/Music festival outings
• Henna tattoos
• Arabic lessons
• Arabic calligraphy class
• Cooking class
Sometimes these events are included in the cost of RY and sometimes they’re an extra charge. In addition to the RY-planned functions, members of our group also plan events like language lessons, yoga, potluck dinners, workshops on productivity and creativity and volunteering opportunities. When you have 75 diverse, motivated and fascinating people living and working alongside each other for a year, the cross-pollination of ideas and inspiration is inevitable. Which leads me to…
The people on this adventure with me are without exception amazing. Yes, I could probably work remotely abroad on my own at a cheaper monthly cost, but I know with certainty that it’s going to be these new friends who will make this epic year the “epic-est” it can be. As a whole, the group is curious, adventurous, friendly, welcoming, brilliant and encouraging. Jobs range from marketing to computer programming to finance to health care to project management to UX design. We skew slightly more female than male, and ages range from 24 to 56, with most people being somewhere between 28-35. Our homes span the globe, including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Finland, Ireland, Spain, Estonia, Croatia, India, Ghana, Cuba, Columbia, Bolivia, Singapore, Russia and probably more I’m forgetting right now. What I won’t forget is the outpouring of positive support, energy and excitement that is generated when we’re together.
I really can’t wait to see what this year brings. If the first seven weeks are any hint, it’s going to be life-changing in the best way possible.
Also published on Medium.