Hacker Paradise Review — Lima 2017

After I joined the remote workforce at Zapier, I now have the means necessary to travel the world. So I started looking for remote travel programs. I that would allow me to work and travel at the same time. Yes, I could’ve traveled on my own and it’ll be a heck of a lot cheaper. But I wanted someone else to take care of housing and co-working space. This way, I can focus on work and have fun traveling and be with a community of like-minded people.

I applied to Remote Year, Pangea196, We-Roam, Hacker Paradise (HP) and B-Digital Nomad. I was not expecting to hear anything from HP. Though luckily for me, Ashley was already joining them in Buenos Aires. She then connected me with Spencer! After a few back and forth emails and an interview, I was in! I could only join them for 3 weeks in April as I had before already committed to We-Roam for 7 months beginning May.

HP Cost & Flexibility

So I signed up for 4 weeks, thinking I could go back-to-back jumping from HP to We-Roam. Then We-Roam got back with the final dates with actually 1 week earlier than I expected. I also already paid HP $1980 in full. Contacted Spencer and got a new deal for 3 weeks. Spencer was very kind, helpful and understanding of my situation. He agreed to give a partial credit! He didn’t have to, but he did it anyways 🙂

Also, did I mention that there’s no need for a deposit with HP? The catch is you’ll have to arrange logistics for yourself. You’ll be responsible for your own flight tickets and airport transfers. It seems scary at first, but they don’t worry! They provided a detailed pre-arrival doc with all the tips you need on getting around. Also, you can get a deal from Flystein (15% discount with HP).

Pre-Arrival

HP works slightly different from other “full-service” programs. Since I have to arrange logistics for myself, it’s good that HP provides an in-depth travel guide.

I’ve done a fair bit of traveling in 2016. The thing I dreaded the most, checked luggage! Airports are so slow in handling them. So for this year’s trip (and the foreseeable future), I challenged myself to go with only 1 backpack. No checked luggage, no other carry-ons. How? I’ll cover that in a separate post later.

Flight

I recently got the Silver membership with Emirates Airline. I didn’t fly with them though. They didn’t have an optimized route to Lima and it was super crazy expensive. I could’ve chartered my own private jet!<

HP recommends using Skyscanner, Momondo and, KiwiSo to get the cheapest flights. After monitoring for several weeks I bought a multi-city ticket with American Airlines.

Apr 8: Kuala Lumpur > London > Miami > Lima

Apr 29: Lima > Miami > Madrid > Barcelona

Total Cost: USD 1252

In hindsight, I could’ve saved some money with Flystein. I was so excited that when the time to book for flights came, I forgot about them!

Arrival

Landed at the Jorge Chávez International Airport before midnight. I waited for a fellow Hacker so we can get an Uber together. While waiting, I exchanged 100 USD into Peruvian Sols. I tried to get Sols back in Malaysia but it was impossible. So I came prepared with a few hundred USD and EUR.

I finally met up with the Hacker and the customs security line was crazy long. Luckily, both of us stood out of the crowd and we looked like tourists! A customs officer approached waived us through, skipping security and baggage check. This is what I call “positive discrimination”.

It took us awhile to figure out how to get an Uber. The drivers actually park the cars at the parking lot. So they were actually on foot outside of either the arrival or departure terminal. When you get assigned a driver, you need to find the person outside the terminal. The best way is to immediately let them exactly where you are standing with a call or text.

Accommodation: Parque Miraflores Apartment

https://www.limawheretostay.com/

There are a few options on what type of place you want to get. If you wanted a studio apartment, pay more. I didn’t care as long as I have my own room.

The apartment was in a very upscale location, Miraflores. I arrived at the apartment sometime after midnight and met Sandra who gave us the keys to our apartments. Mine was on the 1st floor and it was a 3 bedroom apartment with 2 other Hackers, a Slovakian and New Yorker. I got a room with 2 single beds.

The unit has all the usual comforts such as a full kitchen, washing machine, living room and wifi. There’s also a full-service laundromat that only cost 27 Sols and you can pick it up after 4 hours.

Co-Working Space: Residencia

http://residencia.pe/

Residencia is open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week for us to use. It is a ~10-minute walk from our apartment. We work in the main open area where there aren’t reserved spaces.

I wish I had pictures of the workspace! It’s a pretty nice place to be productive with your work. They have 3 floors. The ground floor has an indoor space with a couple of call booths and outdoor garden space. The 2nd floor has a couple of air-conditioned meeting rooms. The top floor has a small indoor call room and cute mini garden.

On-boarding / Orientation

I arrived late Sunday night and missed the group dinner that day. We all met the next day for the official onboarding in Residencia and meeting all the new people. Spencer & Dale went through a few rules, codes of conduct and general tips about Lima. They also gave us a quick rundown of the day-to-day program. Not forgetting all the essential online tools such as Google Maps, Uber, Slack, etc.

The part which everyone was most excited about was sim cards! Let’s face it, everyone needs the internet. HP provided us sim cards for free! It came with 9GB data and a few minutes of talk time enough to make restaurant reservations, etc.

Slack

About 1 month before the trip, I got invited to their Slack team. This helps with getting familiarized with the different channels. With the many Slack channels, I started to go through the history. I wanted to get an idea of side trips people are planning and also ask for suggestions.

HP Slack is setup so anyone can create their own private or public channels. This may seem counter-intuitive as people can go crazy with so many channels. But I felt this is the perfect setup! If you ever used Slack before, Group Conversations are a headache on mobile. So having actual Channels makes everything more organized.

So how does HP handle all the unlimited channel chaos? Simple, by having an official read only #_announcements channel. This is where everything HP official lives. Every Monday morning, a summary of upcoming events for the week were posted. As we progress through the week, updates were posted on the same channel and we’ll emoji for RSVP when needed.

There’s also #_general which acts like a catchall channel and Hackers can all chime in when needed. Also, the rule of thumb is to always use @here instead of @channel. This keeps unnecessary notifications to a minimum<

All other channels are a free for all and optional. Depending on how involved you want to be with the program & community you are free to join and leave as you wish. Here are some of my favorite channels:

  • #eats
  • #fine-dining
  • #shit-dining
  • #learning_spacnish
  • #explore_lima
  • #breakfastcaps
  • #nightcaps
  • #nightlife
  • #potluck
  • #random
  • #sunset1912
  • #stalker-photos
  • #swimming

A smart thing that HP did with their slack is setting up custom Slackbot responses. So whenever someone mentions “maps” or “print”, a Slackbot will reply with the details. This is super helpful as the free Slack channel has 10,000 messages limit. The limit makes pinned messages useless.

Weekday Programs

Part of the draw of HP is they offer personal and professional development programs. Here’s the rundown of what we did on weekdays:

Monday: Weekly lunch with the group and HP pays for it. This is one of the best times to bond with other Hackers over a free lunch. HP will pick a restaurant and we’ll RSVP a few days prior. Weekly language classes at Peruwayna Spanish School was done in the evening and all paid for by HP.

Tuesday: Demos & Reciprocity. We split out into 2 groups, led by Dale & Spencer. The objective of this session is to discuss what you are working on, set some goals and find ways to help each other. This check-in sessions also helps keep everyone accountable. If you have the skills to help someone from your group, volunteer. Others will volunteer if you need help and HP will also reach out to the Alumni group if need be. It can either be professional or personal, the goal here is to have a win-win situation.

Wednesday: This is reserved for game nights, potluck dinner, or other fun events. The first week I was there, we had a social meetup with other groups from Remote Year & Wifi Tribe.

Thursday: Talks / Workshops. In the evening, this is where people in the group present on topics they are experts in. Anyone can volunteer to be a speaker. If you need it, HP will even help brainstorm on what topics to present on.There will usually be 2–3 talks each week. If there’s enough demand, Spencer & Dale will organize extra workshops in the mornings. Once a month, this day turns into a networking event. This is when we partner with the local tech scene so we so we give some talks, others give some talks and then we mingle.

Friday: This is reserved for farewell dinner or party for those who are leaving HP. We celebrate and give that someone an awesome send-off!

Weekends / Side Trips

The first week I was there, I was already researching for side trips. I posted on Slack asking for suggestions and recommendations. A few hackers kindly shared with me their full itineraries. Also found out a 2 other new Hackers also wanted to go to Machu Picchu. Then I found a group that’s actually going to Machu Picchu on the coming weekend.

The group already had their flights, accommodations, and permits to Machu Picchu. They kindly shared us their full itinerary. We booked the same flights, got the permits to go up to Machu Picchu and booked hotels. We got everything figured out within a few days. I’ll cover what went on the trip to Machu Picchu in a separate post.

Spencer & Dale was usually off for the weekend. But one of them would always be there for us. They would also often suggest some fun or nightlife activities. Hackers also sometimes hosted Breakfast / Brunch. There was always something to do with the group. With everyone very active and transparent on Slack, it’s very easy to “jump on the train”.

Final Thoughts

Best. Decision. Ever.

Hacker Paradise (HP), contrary to popular belief is not only for people in tech but everyone is welcome! From anthropologists to lawyers, HP has a very diverse group of participants. HP has done an excellent job of screening people. We had a very diverse and cool people from around around the world. My group of Hackers came from:

  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Malaysia (I was the only one!)
  • Moldova
  • New York (You know who you are!)
  • Philippines
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Russia
  • United Kingdom
  • USA

Hackers also come from different levels of the professional ladder. We have Founders, C-Level, Directors, Freelancers and many more! You get free personal and professional advice that’s invaluable. Sometimes the advices may even be worth hundreds and thousands of dollars.

It felt like we were the United Nations of Hackers. Forging long-lasting friendships and connections. We built a community of smart people passionate about what they do. And we will go above and beyond to help others change the world.

HP will always be special to me and I will join them again very soon. FYI, they recently announced 2 new trips: Cape Town (Sep-Dec 2017) and Southeast Asia (Oct-Dec 2017). Also, we have an HP Berlin Meetup (15th July 2017) coming up!

Travel the world. Build cool things. Meet awesome people.

Originally published at asadzulfahri.com on June 19, 2017.