Working in a remote setting can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. In 2017 I’d been working remotely for nearly two years, and I was starting to feel isolated. The four walls of my apartment were making me claustrophobic, and I knew I needed to make a change.
I’d been strongly considering joining a travel group for remote workers as a way to see more of the world and meet people. The reality was, working from home was a comfortable and controlled environment. I had real reservations about jet-setting off to somewhere else in the world. Honestly, I was scared.
Here are some of the concerns I had:
- What would happen if the wifi cut out?
- What if the Airbnb I booked was a scam?
- Who could help me if I got robbed?
The worst case scenarios kept playing out in my mind. Finally, after thinking about it for months, I finally leaped and signed up for a group called Wifi Tribe.
I joined the tribe for two weeks in Ecuador and again a few months later for a month in Panama. During those two chapters I grew in ways I didn’t expect. Below is a recap of what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what surprised me.
I liked that it wasn’t a long-term commitment. I wasn’t sure that this would work for me personally or professionally and I wanted to test the waters. Trying this out for two weeks was a good way to do that.
The application process involved a video interview where I was able to talk to an actual person (there’s only so much you can learn from a website or an email exchange). The fact that someone from the organization insisted on investing some time talking to me was the reassurance I needed. In addition to this, I also knew that the vetting process was thorough. Both parties got a chance to see if it was a good fit and you can openly talk about any concerns you have. These small things made a big difference in how I felt before booking a ticket.
How did they know if the wifi would work? They sent someone a week or two ahead of time to scout it out and test the signal. They also had backup devices that would sync to the local towers if the primary internet source was glitching out.
Did I run into problems? You betcha.
It’s not uncommon for the water to cut out in isolated areas, such a Caribbean islands like Bocas del Torro, Panama. When this happened at our apartment, there was someone from Wifi Tribe who could speak Spanish and work with the building manager to figure out what the issue was, how long it would take to fix, and what the options were if we needed a plan B (which, we did). I had a full workload that I needed to maintain and having to stop what I was doing to deal with these issues would have put a serious damper on my trip. With my limited Spanish, there’s no way I could have effectively dealt with this on my own.
What I liked the most about being part of Wifi Tribe was the element of a community (size of the group is usually between 12-20) and that someone was there to help me deal with housing. It was an absolute relief knowing that I had someone there to handle any internet or accommodation problems if they came up.
If you’re looking for a group where you show up, and they do everything for you, then Wifi Tribe isn’t for you. It’s on you to figure out how you’re going to get to where the tribe is. For example, when I joined the tribe in Ecuador, I didn’t know where Olón was relative to the airport in Guayaquil (where I landed). They’ll help coach you through the different options but getting on a bus in Latin America isn’t for everyone. You’re on your own for the first leg of the journey, and there’s no one there to hold your hand.
You can end up paying a lot to stay in somewhat low-cost areas. The program is in USD and greenbacks have been very costly to us Canucks over the past few years. Essentially you’re paying a premium in exchange for someone organizing the group, guaranteeing that the wifi signal is strong 💪 and making sure that the place you stay isn’t a total disaster zone. I was more than happy with this exchange, but if you’re on a tight budget, this might not work for you.
You will be sharing your space. During both chapters I attended, everyone worked fairly standard business hours. Anyone who had more flexibility was respectful of that and would usually take off somewhere else while we worked with zombie-like focus. Spending time with new people in a work setting was something I was actively looking for, but again, this isn’t for everyone. It’s worth noting that taking calls won’t be the same as in your home office.
I wasn’t sure how productive I’d be or how I would feel sharing a coworking space with strangers from around the world. It turns out; I loved it. It was inspiring to learn about different industries and projects people had. I also learned a lot about different strategies people use when working remotely. Staying motivated, maintaining focus, and learning how to deal with isolation were all everyday conversation topics. Finally, remote working became something I could share with other people.
What I got out of the program from a professional standpoint was way more than I could have anticipated. I made a lot of valuable connections, learned a lot about work-life balance, and saw first hand how some people are hustling to make working remotely a reality for them.
I’ve had a year to reflect on my experience with Wifi Tribe, and I think about it regularly. If this is something you’re interested in, it’s worth exploring. Here’s a quick recap of what I learned:
- The Good: The program is flexible and you always have someone there to help you with things.
- The Bad: It can be pricey and it’s on you to sort out how you’ll meet up with everyone.
- The Surprising: Being productive is a non-issue and you’ll learn a lot professionally.
For me, this program opened my eyes to many different industries, strategies, resources, and people who are part of the remote workforce. It’s an experience I’ll always value and something I hope to do again in the future. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comments below.👇