You should read this article if:
- You’re interested in joining a travel & work program like hackerparadise.org
- If you want to become a digital nomad but don’t have anyone to travel with or don’t know where to start
- If you’re sick of solo traveling
- Having the ability to work location independently
- You’re an open-minded and interesting person
I’ll preface this article by saying that Hacker Paradise is the only coworkation that I’ve attended. That being said, the main reason I haven’t tried other programs is because I enjoyed my experience with Hacker Paradise so much that I’ve chosen to go back multiple times rather than looking elsewhere for a better experience. Take from that what you will.
This review is based on the three trips that I attended in Chiang Mai, Jeju, and Bali each for one month. I’m going to break this review down based on value for money, community, productivity, and overall experience.
Value for Money
I paid $4,715 for three months in Asia with Hacker Paradise (flights not included). The price of the program varies depending on how long you spend with them, and if you include housing or not. I had accommodation included, and I signed up for all three months, so I was paying a little less than $400 (USD) per week.
Here’s what was included in the price:
- Planned and pre-booked housing — all I had to do was show up and check in at the front desk.
- A membership to a coworking space for the duration of my stay.
- A well-vetted community of remote workers, developers, designers, and interesting people.
- Free group lunches every Monday.
- Access to a slack channel to communicate.
- Workshops, language lessons, and talks.
Most locations in Thailand, like Chiang Mai, hold a reputation for being very affordable, so when most seasoned nomads see a price tag of $1,500/mo for a coworkation program, they may think it’s overpriced. One of the main things that nomads pride themselves with is their savviness for location arbitrage and living in places much cheaper than their native soil. For the most part, yes Chiang Mai and other places in South East Asia tend to be on the cheaper, more affordable side but you’re not paying for just the place. Yeah, you could go to Chiang Mai or other cheap places by yourself and book your housing, coworking space, etc. and save some money. With Hacker Paradise you’re paying for more than a location, you’re paying for an experience. I’ve done a lot of solo traveling, and although it does have its benefits, I don’t feel like it’s as fun as doing HP.
It tends to be cheaper traveling solo or with a few friends, but I don’t mind paying a premium to have a community to experience a new place with. I value experience and friendship more than money, so for me, Hacker Paradise was well worth the investment. I have gained tremendous value from the program and have developed lifelong friendships on the trips.
I find that traveling can be lonely at times and it’s not always easy to get close friends from home to leave their normal lives to travel with you for an extended period of time. HP allowed me to show up and immediately be welcomed into a community of people who are interesting, like-minded and excited to collaborate.
When I traveled in Asia with the group there was a fair mix of nationalities, genders, and skill-sets in the group. The mix of people that join the program made it really easy for me to meet people from different backgrounds that I wouldn’t normally be able to spend so much time with. Hacker Paradise does a great job of organizing community events to help facilitate networking for the group members. Anyone in the group can also organize their own events, dinners, parties, trips or workshops if they’d like to.
The scheduled events include:
- Monday lunch; everyone meets at a pre-planned local restaurant and enjoys a free lunch on HP’s dime.
- Tuesday reciprocity/ demos; for reciprocity, the whole group sits in a circle and gives a problem that they need help with and people raise their hand and say if they can help with the problem. For example, “I need help creating a newsletter for my online business” then people with newsletter marketing experience will raise their hand and their names are entered into an excel document that is shared in Slack. Demos is a similar concept but with smaller groups. Demos is goal setting where your group holds you accountable. Demos and reciprocity alternate every Tuesday.
- Wednesday Potluck; everyone meets at a pre-planned location and brings food or drinks to share with the group. By the end of the night, everyone is well fed, had a bunch of good laughs and most are quite tipsy.
- Thursday Talks; people from the group volunteer to give a presentation about a topic that they are knowledgeable. Talks is also followed by show and tell where people from the group can show what they’ve been working on. A few of the talks given in Asia were; how to get acquired, how to hack your body language and how to become an Airbnb superhost. The talks are usually well prepared but also casual and laid back since the audience is a group of your friends. It’s a great environment to exercise your public speaking muscles with low stakes.
When scheduled events aren’t happening people often organize to meet for dinner on Slack as well as trips to local attractions, beaches and bars. Someone will post on Slack something like “Heading for ramen in 15 mins, who’s down?” then 15 mins later five or more people will stand up in sync at the coworking space and walk out together. Slack is where the majority of communication within the group happens so if you aren’t active on Slack you’re likely to miss out on activities.
The best part about the HP community is that after joining you have access to an entire network of people who can help you with literally anything or just people to meet up with during your travels. I have met up with HP alumni in almost every place I’ve traveled to. I’ve also spent extended periods of time traveling outside of HP with people that I met in the program.
After an HP trip, everyone from the trip is added to the HP alumni Slack chat where you’re given access to a network of everyone who has ever attended one of Hacker Paradise’s trips. This is another great perk of the program because if you need help with anything you can simply send it to the Slack channel and chances are there’s an expert that will be more than happy to give you tips and advice. People often ask in the Slack things like “I’m going to Budapest next week, will anyone be there? Any suggestions?” People are always happy to meet up or give suggestions for a good coffee shop to work from. Even if you’ve never been on a trip with someone you’re still connected through the HP community so they will be glad to meet up if you both happen to be in the same city at the same time.
Productivity can be tricky because everyone on the trip has a different work schedule. Some have set hours and need to work from certain times during the day while others have more freedom and can get work done at their own pace. This occasionally creates an imbalance within the community because you’ll have someone post in Slack at 1 pm on a Tuesday “going to the beach, who wants to join?” Then there’s the resulting FOMO (fear of missing out) and I have to decide whether I should join that fun activity or continue working.
In my opinion, Hacker Paradise isn’t the most productive option if you are taking on big projects or are planning to work for 10+ hours per day. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to work long hours, there are plenty of people who do on the trips. However, it does require an extra level of self-discipline and if you’d like to get the most out of the experience working long hours will force you to miss out on a large chunk of the fun.
There tends to be more social and networking opportunities than career building ones but there is a fair mix of both for those who are interested. My main interest in joining the program was to meet people and collaborate with them, build relationships and have a good time so HP was a great experience for me.
Joining Hacker Paradise was an interesting experience for me because I hadn’t traveled before or joined a remote work program so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I went into the experience with an open mind and tried to be enthusiastic, hoping that HP would exceed my expectations. Looking back on the experience now over a year later I can truly say that joining HP was the best thing I could have done at that point in my life.
I met so many interesting and open-minded people during my experience and learned things about myself that I couldn’t have anywhere else. The melting pot of creativity and knowledge that is present within the group is something that has helped give me a new perspective and approach to my work life. I met people from different walks of life and learned about new cultures and places with a supportive and inspiring group of people who were always open to trying something new or weird with me.
I look forward to going on another Hacker Paradise trip again soon!