Everything You Need To Know About Remote Year: Review
Hi there! If you’re reading this, it likely means you’ve been Googling what Remote Year is and if it’s worth the $$$. I did the four month program (called Kahlo), and the itinerary was Peru, Colombia, and Mexico. I’ll give you an honest review of Remote Year and you can decide if this is something you should try in the future (the answer is YES).
So first of all, what IS Remote Year?
It's a travel program you apply for which allows you to work remotely and live in a different country each month. Applicants already have a job or freelance work going into the program. So no, Remote Year does not supply you with income or a job. I still worked at BuzzFeed and wrote about travel. Some people worked in advertising, some in HR, some in art design, etc (all different companies). Each RY program usually has anywhere from 20-70 people per group.
How much does it cost?
Prices vary depending on which itinerary you choose. The 12-month program is a $5,000 down deposit and $2,000/month. The 4-month program is a $3,500 down deposit and $2,250/month. In rare cases, you can ask your company to pay for it! You’d probably have to present a really good reason to get covered, but it can be done. More than likely though, you’ll front the money and hope your employer gives you the green light to work remote and travel abroad. I know it’s a lot of money, but you’re basically just paying for rent and flights — I definitely saved money while abroad since New York living is more expensive anyway. Here’s more info on Remote Year programs and pricing.
What does it include?
The down payment and monthly cost includes program consultants, housing, a workspace, local adventures/events called Tracks, and flights in between each country (you pay for your initial flight out and your flight back home). Since I was on the Latin America itinerary, we also got free Spanish classes! After you complete Remote Year, you also get a benefit called Citizenship — it’s essentially alumni status that allows you to pop in and out of programs or cities for way cheaper. I’ll get more to that later!
What are accommodations like?
Everyone gets a private room! You will always live with Remote Year roommates and each apartment includes towels, linens, cooking supplies, and sometimes laundry. You can make special requests to your Program Leader (women only, request a washer and dryer, no couples, etc), and you’re always located in a good area within 20 minutes walking distance of the workspace. You get a complimentary cleaning once a month, and some countries also have doormen (every apartment I stayed at in Latin America had security services). I also requested to live with certain people, and every city has a local team that can help with any operational issues (if the oven is broken, if the hot water runs out, etc). Overall, I was impressed by all my accommodations, and while some had issues, it was nothing you couldn’t handle for 30 days.
What’s the workspace like?
Every city has a different workspace, but they are all 24/7 access. In Bogotá, Colombia, we had a WeWork, in Medellin, Colombia we had a cool space at Selina (a hostel), and in Lima, Peru and Mexico City, Mexico, we had a workspace similar to WeWork. You’ll always have phone booths, bookable rooms, and reliable WiFi. I actually liked working out of cafes as a way to explore different neighborhoods, but most people seemed to like the workspaces.
What exactly are Tracks?
Tracks are weekend side trips planned by the local team in your city. You usually get to choose between two options, and the activity is typically adventurous. In Lima, Peru, we went to Huacachina, which is a desert oasis about four hours out. We went to a pool, then rode dune buggies in the desert, and went sand-boarding. It was AMAZING. In Medellín, Colombia, we took a day trip to Guatapé and explored a colorful town and climbed a giant rock to get an epic view of the area. The Tracks are a special part of the program and I highly recommend you take advantage of them.
Are you with the same people the whole time?
Yep! You are with your group for however long your itinerary is, and you’ll become your own little family. You’ll have a WhatsApp group, best friends, people you don’t love, and everything in between. The community is amazing and you’re with a network of peeps who love to travel as much as you do. I still talk to some of my closest friends from Remote Year on a daily basis. I even met up with some of them in Portugal. You might never see some people, you might see some people every day, and you might even try to avoid some people (like any job, tbh). Overall though, we all have each other’s backs and have this invaluable shared experience.
Do you get to choose your itinerary?
Absolutely! You can choose between four months, six months, or a full year. I personally did the Latin America route, but you can do Europe, Asia, or all of the above. Here’s a full list of Remote Year itineraries.
What is Citizenship?
This is a benefit that I totally underestimated and didn’t fully appreciate while on program. Once you complete your Remote Year journey (you must pay every month and finish), you become a Citizen (alum). You will have continued access to Slack (an internal chat system that connects you with all Remotes around the world), which is a great resource to get travel tips, look for jobs, and meet people in other places. You also have the opportunity to join another Remote Year program at a discounted rate. AND if you don’t want to do a full program, you can hop into one month at a discounted rate. So for example, back in March, I joined Remote Year Kuungana while in Lisbon, Portugal, and stayed with that group for two weeks for $500 total. That included my private room accommodations, workspace, and a Track. Usually you’re supposed to join for at least one full month, but I got two weeks since they needed to fill space. I met some cool people from a different group and got to experience their dynamic.
How do side trips work?
If you want to take a side trip on your own, you are totally free to do whatever you want! I would go on day trips, weekend trips, and even international trips. Besides the Track event included, Remote Year also often sets up Plus Events (which you do pay for) that are uniquely local and cool. My favorite Plus Event was doing sunrise hot air balloons over the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico City. The good thing about being on the program is that you’re likely to find at least ONE person willing to travel with you to other nearby places.
How do you pack for Remote Year?
Good question! I was told to lay out everything I want to bring, and then cut it in half. I ended up with one medium Away suitcase, one Weekender backpack, and a purse. You will be with the same group of people for either four or 12 months, and you'll all see each other in the same clothes. You'll lose stuff, throw shoes out, buy new shirts, etc. You will unpack your stuff in one city, and then you'll have to re-pack everything in 30 days to move to another city. You'll want to pack as light as possible and really only bring essentials. I also suggest bringing clothes that are relatively basic and you don't mind getting ruined or getting rid of.
How do SIM cards work?
With Remote Year, you can sign up for a monthly SIM card ($30/month) and get a new number in each country. The amount of data given depends on each place, but overall it’s always reliable and easy to add more data for cheap. You can’t make phone calls with it though, but if you conduct meetings through the internet like me, then it doesn’t really matter. It IS a pain in the ass to get a new number every 30 days, but as long as you download and connect Venmo and WhatsApp in the US before you leave, you should be ok.
What are the downsides?
Besides obvious things like financial burden and language barriers, I’d say healthcare. I had to go to the hospital in Colombia and it was a mess. And then trying to understand my insurance while abroad, and trying to coordinate with HR in the US — it wasn’t ideal. Another thing to remember is that you are traveling A LOT. With that comes stress, anxiety, and unexpected finances. I had the most amazing time while doing Remote Year, but I had moments where I just cried for hours. Sometimes I hated people in my group, other times I loved everyone so much that I’d drink a bottle of wine with them and wake up with a raging hangover. The city teams are usually very informed and well-trained, but you might have some leaders that are slower to respond to your requests or disappear for days on end (but that’s not as common).
Remote Year, in many ways, changed my life. I am not the same kind of traveler I once was. I have an entire network of people at my disposal — all whom love to explore on a whim. I made some really close friends that I still talk to daily. And I had the opportunity to explore countries as more than just a vacationer. It was honestly the best and if you have the time, money, and ability to go, I highly recommend it. You will not regret it!