If you’ve spent any time here on NomadTalk, you’ll know that we’re a lot skeptical of the “digital nomad community” and we’re adding another line item to our list of things we don’t trust very much – digital nomad programs.
There are a lot of digital nomad programs you can travel the world with including Remote Year, Co-Work Paradise, Digital Outposts, Project Gateway, Remote Explorers, Hacker Paradise, Venture With Impact, WiFly Nomads, WiFi Tribe, and Unsettled.
So, we’ll take a look at each of them and then explain why we think you ought to avoid them all.
A Selection Of 10 Digital Nomad Programs
Remote Year is by far the biggest brand name in digital nomad programs to travel the world and we’ve already taken it to pieces here on Nomad Talk.
They bring together around 80 people and they all agree to travel together for one year. You have to a $3,000 deposit plus $2,000 a month to take part. You have to give substantial notice to quit. You also have to pay for your fights on top of this $27,000 annual commitment. Given that there are 12 locations involved – that’s quite a big “hidden cost”.
If you’d like to spend more per month but commit for less time – you can try their 4 month program
OK, Co-Work Paradise offers a smaller group experience. You can join them in a villa in Bali for a month and enjoy some workshops as part of your fee.
The fee is a quite incredible $6,000 for a month but they do, at least, throw in breakfast and dinner for that price. There are also a couple of excursions included in the overhead.
If you set the minimum stay at 2 weeks, you can set your pricing at starting at $1,295 and still appear, at a quick glance, to be “value for money”. Of course, in reality, Digital Outposts is still pretty much the same cost as everyone else in this game. A full month will cost $1,995 though they will knock off $300 if you book two months or more in Bali, Thailand, Colombia or Portugal.
The cost includes all accommodation and food and drinks for your 3 weeks’ stay. It also includes a bunch of workshops and some other activities.
Remote Explorers aim to open up India for you. They are among the more reasonably priced programs at $1,499 a month but they are only 1-month retreats and there is a few days break between each one, so you can’t stay with them forever. There are only 20 people on each program for now.
Hacker Paradise is a well-known brand with an incredibly pushy website designed to lock you into surrendering your details. You can tell this is going to be a hard sell because pricing is carefully hidden on their website. They want the chance to harangue you and try to show you that $2,000 a month is great value.
They have retreats all over the world and fairly obviously from their name, Hacker Paradise is really set up to attract developers, designers, and entrepreneurs in the software sphere.
Venture With Impact
For a mere $2,100 a month, Venture With Impact, will welcome you in any of their destinations and you join a group of roughly 50 people for a month. There’s no long-term commitment.
They also ensure that you do some volunteering while you’re in the location that you select. So, the theory is, not only do you have some fun, but you do some good too.
At least you get your own room with Venture With Impact – many of these “digital nomad programs” have you sharing a room. Seriously.
Yes, you can join these guys in Bali to undertake some workshops on how to be nomadic for just $2,499 for 2 weeks! And if you’d like them to find you a place to sleep – that’s another $1,000 on top!
WiFly Nomads take roughly 30 people each time they run one of these “networking events”.
Personally, we think the opening statement on their website “Our Trainers and WiFly Nomads creator has been seen in.” says all that needs saying here and it says it badly.
We’d warn you that we’ve heard nothing but bad things about WiFi Tribe even if they have lots of “social proof” on the home page of their website. They’re also set up for the hard sell with no pricing etc. on their website. Even if you do choose a remote program – we’d recommend that you stay away from this one.
It starts at $2,000 a month (but you can spend more). Claims to bring “highly ambitious” people together. Your cash gets you co-working, a place to sleep, and workshops and events.
We can’t find anything about Unsettled that stands out really, apart from the annoying video on their website.
The 2 Novelty Digital Nomad Programs
In addition to the standard programs above which offer regular trips, etc. there are also a bunch of novelty digital nomad programs.
- Nomad Cruise – with some of the worst names in the digital nomad world leading the presentations – Nomad Cruise is an expensive way to be trapped on a boat wearing the same t-shirt as everyone else.
- Nomad Train – do the trans-Siberian railway with a bunch of nomads for several weeks, spend $1,500 minimum to do so and get umm… 35GB of data to do it on. Nomad Train sounds positively bizarre.
We think you can expect more of these novelty acts in the future.
The 6 Failed Digital Nomad Programs
We have to assume that the “B” stands for budget because B-Digital Nomad is a much more reasonable $1,250 for a month. However, we notice that at the moment – you can’t book these trips on their website and they are now linking out to a reskinned version of a standard hotel booking app. We’re guessing that they failed to get their numbers right for this digital nomad program.
They join Nomad House, Refuga, Terminal 3, and The Remote Experience on the list of “all over the internet but no longer actually doing any digital nomad retreats” companies. We are also going to add Globe Kick to this list as though they still sell vacations, they no longer do nomad-related stuff.
Why We Think These Programs Are Terrible And What You Can Do Instead
OK, I don’t think we quite managed to hide our dislike of these programs as we went through them and it’s time to look at why we don’t like them:
- They are a rip-off. You can book several months in a private villa in Bali with a swimming pool and a chef for the cost of the most expensive programs here. Even the cheapest program is charging roughly 3 times what it would cost to book accommodation separately.
- Low-quality training. 90% of the speakers and workshop presenters add absolutely no value to anyone’s life. This isn’t a slick set of operations with a proven track record, it’s a bunch of kids prattling at you to try and sell you a lifestyle.
- Meals included. It’s a nice idea but, in reality, why would you want to pay for all your meals upfront. I mean, we get having a breakfast option on-site, that’s handy, but you traveled the world to eat in the same place every day? No thanks.
- Shared accommodation. To add insult to injury, some of these programs want you to share the room that they’re massively overcharging you for.
- Networking opportunities. Networking is really useful. It’s also something that you can do for zero cost in the real world with people who are far more likely to be aligned to your business than a bunch of random people on a remote year program.
- No protection when they fail. Several remote programs have already failed and left people stranded with no accommodation and no way to get home. Even Airbnb will give you a refund if you get somewhere and the host doesn’t show.
What we recommend that you do instead, is this:
- Book your own flights and accommodation
- Arrange a co-working space if you need one at your destination
- Take the money you saved on these programs and spend it on socializing and personal and professional development
- Take the money you have left and save it for something you really want
The only real argument in favor of a digital nomad remote program is that it saves you from having to go out into the real world to socialize.
Otherwise, they are poor value for money, they offer poor training, can force you to eat all your meals in one place, may make you share a bedroom, offer low-value networking and if they fail – you’re stuffed.