It is fair to say that the future of many jobs is remote work. The cost savings are clear for companies and the benefits to employees are clear too.
But is Remote Year, the service that organizes a year away working from different destinations, the future of remote work?
If we have to one word answer this, then no. No, Remote Year, in our view, is not the future of remote work.
We’d argue that services of this type are terrible value for money (you will spend nearly $20,000 more than you need to) and are, mainly, sold for 2 reasons: a level of near-imaginary convenience and for to reassure the truly socially inept traveler.
However, let’s take a deeper look before you decide whether you agree with our conclusions or not.
What Is Remote Year?
The idea is not a bad one. Remote Year allows you to pay a monthly fee (which is, in fact, an annual fee paid in installments) to travel the globe with them.
They do not include transport between locations in the fee.
In exchange for your money, they provide a “co-living experience”. That is, accommodation in a shared home with a decent Internet connection and a co-working desk.
Now, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it?
And if you go to the Remote Year website, that’s exactly the pitch.
You’ll also notice that they’re missing one key component of their pitch. If you want to learn how much it costs, you’ll need to pony up your e-mail address so that their aggressive sales program can kick in.
It needs to be aggressive because incredibly, they charge $27,000 for a year’s accommodation.
Yes, for house sharing in some of the cheapest locations in the world – they want more than $2,000 a month out of your pocket!
This fee is broken down as a $3,000 non-refundable deposit (a form of legalized theft in our book) and $2,000 a month while you’re moving.
Now, that’s not to say that all of their destinations are cheap but most of them are.
Where Does Remote Year Go?
Remote Year covers 12 cities as standard:
- In Latin America, they go to Mexico City in Mexico, Medellin in Colombia, Santiago in Chile and Lima in Peru.
- In Europe and Africa, they cover Lisbon in Portugal, Split in Croatia, Valencia in Spain, and Cape Town in South Africa.
- In Asia, they go to Kyoto in Japan, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Hanoi in Vietnam, and Chiang Mai in Thailand.
What Would It Cost To Find A One Bedroom Apartment In These Cities By Yourself?
So, if you were to organize this trip yourself using Airbnb or other means to source a 1-bedroom apartment, how much would it cost?
- Mexico City – $800/month (you can get cheaper, but this budget seems to deliver an excellent standard of accommodation)
- Medellin – $700/month (this can get you something perfectly located and of a really high standard)
- Santiago – $650/month (definitely cheaper than the other two LatAm destinations and again this is a budget for a good place not the lowest you can pay)
- Lima – $600/month (lots of choice at this price point, lovely places, by the beach)
So, 4 months in Latin America with Remote Work is $9,000 for your desk and a room in a shared home.
Or you could spend $2,750 and organize it yourself. Then you get to have your own home. Your own Wi-Fi connection and $6,250 to spend on having fun. That’s quite a lot of extra cash to build a social life upon.
- Lisbon – $700/month (this gets you a decent place in a decent location – it’s possible to spend a little more if you want)
- Split – $500/month (in fact, you can get some really nice places for less money than this Split is really cheap)
- Valencia – $700/month (we’re a bit unimpressed with the quality of accommodation available in Valencia but it’s not expensive)
- Cape Town – $600/month (for this you can get a huge place with a pool)
So, 4 months in Europe and Africa with Remote Year is another $9,000 for that desk and the room in a shared house.
But book it yourself and you get total privacy and spend only $2,500! That’s $6,500 left to spend on having fun.
We thought that this was going to cost more than Latin America when we started to look into it but no, it’s cheaper.
We regularly stay in 3 of these cities and are using the prices we’d pay for accommodation in them. We’ve not been to Kyoto, yet – so those we looked up.
- Kyoto – $1,000/month (this is, without doubt, the most expensive destination of the Remote Year – however, it’s worth noting that shared accommodation is always cheaper than an apartment)
- Chiang Mai – $500/month (and we’re being generous, you can get a perfectly acceptable place in Chiang Mai for $200/month including your bills)
- Hanoi – $400/month (this is what we’re paying as I write this and not only do we get an apartment in a great location, but they’re also throwing in breakfast and bills for this)
- Kuala Lumpur – $800/month (and we’re assuming you’re staying within walking distance of KLCC – the Petronas Towers – otherwise much, much less)
So, again Remote Year is going to set you back $9,000 for the 4 months you spend in Asia. They give you a desk and a room in shared accommodation for that.
However, if you book it yourself then you can get the whole thing for $2,700.
Kyoto drives the price of this third of the year up too. Pick another destination in Southeast Asia, instead, and you could make this the cheapest third of the year.
However, assuming you stick to their itinerary you can keep $6,300 to party with!
In total a year with Remote Year costs $27,000.
A year that you book yourself not only gives you private accommodation (which has a higher dollar value than shared accommodation in real terms) but it saves you an incredible $19,050!
That makes Remote Year abysmal value in our book. And it’s not “convenient”.
It takes less than 5 minutes to book a place on Airbnb or Booking.com. Take an hour to book these things yourself and it will be the highest paid hour of your life.
But What About Wi-Fi?
It’s 2019. With the exception of really underdeveloped countries (none of which are included on the Remote Year program) then Wi-Fi is available pretty much everywhere now.
With personal experience of the European destinations and most of the Asian destinations – I can assure you that you don’t need Remote Year to ensure that the Wi-Fi is on.
And should it break down? That enormous $6,000+ surplus for the 4-month window in each area, you can afford to get a taxi to a co-working space for a day while it’s fixed and work from there.
But, in nearly 20 years of travel, I can count the number of times this has been necessary for me on the fingers of one hand.
I can guarantee that you won’t spend $20,000 on taxi fees and co-working during a one-year trip.
So, What’s Left For Remote Year’s Offering?
The only thing Remote Year has going for it is that it comes with a built-in social life. Now, this is fine if you are one of life’s joiners who enjoys being thrown together with a bunch of people and being forced to share a home with them.
I’m not and I think many digital nomads are not that kind of person.
Apart from the obvious safety risks of having things stolen in a shared home (and it happens everywhere, when I worked in Saudi Arabia, we caught a Project Manager who was earning $500,000 a year stealing a phone from a colleague’s desk), it’s tedious to share a roof with strangers.
The only way to make it work for everyone is to impose a bunch of strict rules on how you behave which severely curtails the way you want to live your life.
It’s OK to get in at 3 a.m. and sing to yourself in an apartment that you share with no-one. You are a monster to do this in a shared home when all your housemates are asleep, for example.
You’re better off going out and making friends like other digital nomads do than living like this.
Organized fun is often no fun at all for many people.
However, Remote Year also provides a local support team, and we hear positive things about these folks.
However, we still wouldn’t pay $20,000 a year for a chirpy representative from a company that isn’t providing anything remotely like value for money.
A Disturbing Truth: Remote Year’s Hidden Theft Clauses
Remote Year does allow you to cancel in an emergency and end your contract early. Though, in a non-emergency situation – they need 60 days’ notice. You will note that if you book your accommodation on Booking.com, most places need a couple of days’ notice to cancel without penalty.
With Remote Year, you need 60 days to opt out and you still don’t get that $3,000 deposit back.
However, the emergency clause requires Remote Year to validate whether they think your situation is really an emergency. As one Remote Year customer discovered, your mental health isn’t important to them.
Then there’s also all those lovely events and activities that Remote Year organizes for you. They’re not actually included in your $2,000 a month. Yes, they do occasionally throw in a freebie. But for most of these things? They’re charged on top of your $2,000!
2023 Update: Remote Year’s Disgusting Pandemic Behavior
After the pandemic, Remote Year looks like an even worse proposition. Incredibly, the company just ditched everyone they were responsible for during the pandemic and left them stranded at their destinations, sometimes, with no facility to arrange other accommodation, etc.
Yes, that extra $20,000 a year you pay doesn’t even extend to a helping hand in a global emergency.
The company is now under new management, but if you trust them any more than the last management? More fool you.
If Remote Year was the future of remote work, we’d be pretty depressed. You pay for a local liaison officer and the chance to make friends but at a ridiculous cost of nearly $20,000 more than you’d pay if you just organized things yourself.
With $20,000 you could join tons of clubs and societies, take part in tours, and generally get involved in life in your destinations and still have money to spare. These places are all cheap, that’s why Remote Year visits them.
You don’t need to worry about Wi-Fi in the places you go and the “convenience factor” of Remote Year is massively over-stated. We give Remote Year the thumbs down and so should you.
And finally, if you still have that $20,000 sitting around in your bank and a global pandemic shuts the world down again? You’ll be able to fly home in business class rather than being dumped on the streets in whichever country Remote Year took you to.