The Miguelito Awards | Nominees
My attempt at answering your #1 question…
“What was your favorite city?”
Without a doubt, the most common question you get from friends and family once you return home from Remote Year.
This question is trickier to answer than you might think. When I get asked that question, my first thought is:
“Favorite city for what?”
Workspace? Experiences? Cuisine? Track Events?
You see, when you’re living somewhere for a month, there are so many different factors that go into your experience, that I personally have a hard time picking just one favorite.
When I try to, however, my brain branches the question off into a bunch of different categories that, for me, helped make cities particularly enjoyable.
Naturally, I decided to write about it and turn it into a two-part award show like the Oscars — only these are much more prestigious.
These are the Miguelitos!
In this post, we’ll be covering the top four nominees from categories that I either find most important in terms of how much I enjoyed a city, or just thought were a funny part of the Remote Year experience and thought might bring some self-deprecating lolz.
The categories are broken down into four larger themes:
- The City Stuff
- The Warm n Fuzzies
- The Miscellaneous Favorites
- The Granddaddy of Them All
I hope that by the end, once this stuff is all down on paper, my brain will be able to use the data before me to pick my favorite city.
And the nominees are…
THE CITY STUFF
- Split — WiP Split
Besides being great for naps, WiP was pretty much our everything space in Month 1. We worked here, we worked out here, we ate here, and we partied here. WiP is basically where we grew up together on RY.
- Prague — K10
The former ambassador’s mansion turned workspace had it all: a private chef, a snack room, cold brew, weird meeting room names like “Toilet,” and, most importantly, a lush backyard perfect for practicing handstands.
- Kyoto — Space Karate & AndWork
If you need to focus and get sh*t done, you’ll go with the immaculate and productive Space Karate. If you want to find out what happens when you combine work and a (couple) bottle(s) of wine, I’ll see you at AndWork.
- Medellín — Selina
Selina was a workspace, hostel, and gastropub all wrapped into one colorful, graffiti-covered package. Besides that time a branch busted through the roof and almost decapitated Aashima, it was just lovely.
Lisbon — WiP Lisboa
Sofia — SoHo
Bogotá — WeWork
No roommates, daily room cleanings, and a brand new Japanese-style toilet with more buttons and doodads than the Millenium Falcon to ensure sure that your whatsit stays clean and dry.
- Chiang Mai
Everyone lived in the same complex, I had a shower that was bigger than most bathrooms I had this year, and it was located across the street from a 7/11 ICTE (In Case of Toastie Emergency). That 7/11 saved lives.
Killer view of the city, five-minute walk to the workspace, weekly apartment dinners, daily roomie breakfasts, nightly Rick & Morty viewings, and two of my favorite humans for roommates.
The most cookable kitchen I’ve had all year, a great roommate who appreciates breakfast food as much as I do, and an RY unicorn: the illusive clothes dryer.
Favorite track events
- Prague — Operation Anthropoid
What’s cooler than seeing a recent movie about WWII that took place in the city you’re currently in? Going to the actual places where it all actually happened afterward!
- Prague — Pilsner Urquell & Raven Brewery Tours
After touring Pilsner Urquell and dranking that unfiltered, golden nectar straight from the crusty, old barrels, we kept the party going at Raven microbrewery. All before the infamous “Five Story Club Night.” RIP us.
- Chiang Mai — Ladyboy Cabaret
A truly mind-blowing experience that you must see in person. My visiting friend, Ryan, being pulled up on stage by Rihanna really cemented this track as a nominee.
- Kuala Lumpur — Bird’s Eye View
This high ropes course was one of the most fun and physically intensive tracks I did all year. We climbed ladders, we swung from tree to tree, and we rode bicycles in the air. It was awesome.
Split — Sunday Sailing
Chiang Mai — Sticky Waterfalls
Bogotá — Salsa №5
Favorite side trip
- Lisbon — Tour de Morocco
Wandering through the blueness of Chefchaouen, avoiding The Purge in Fes, riding angry camels, and sleeping under the stars in the desert. This trip was a growth experience unlike I had ever had until this point.
- Kuala Lumpur — Bonus month in Cape Town
For the absurdly low cost of $120, I effectively added CPT as city 13 on my itinerary. It was visually the most beautiful city I had ever seen, I went on a bougie ass safari, and had the best group. The only downside was leaving.
- Lima — Being outdoorsy and sh*t around Cusco
From Cusco, we wheezed our way to Rainbow Mountain, climbed up the side of a cliff to our pods in the sky, and bused our lazy asses to Machu Picchu. Each day I asked myself “what are our lives?”
- Bogotá —The Caribbean
Cartagena served as the hub for our tropical jaunts to Casa en el Agua, Carnaval de Barranquilla, and our sail to the San Blas Islands of Panama. We basically spent two weeks living inside screensavers.
Prague — We were staying in Paris…and Normandy
Sofia — Rome, Nation House in Pisa, and Aperol. So much Aperol.
Chiang Mai — Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan ft. “Dope Ass Villa”
Favorite day trip
- Split — Krka Waterfalls
Our first remote-lead excursion had it all: group transportation, people missing said transportation from sleeping through their alarms, beautiful waterfalls, icy cold swims, and obnoxious amounts of acro yoga.
- Kyoto — Hiroshima
I hopped on the Shinkansen and headed southwest to the devastatingly beautiful city of Hiroshima. I watched the sunset over The Great Torii of Miyajima and learned all about the history of the A-Bomb. Also, I helped sooo many Japanese school children with their English. This day trip was chilling, informative, and the alone time that I desperately needed.
- Lima — Huacachina
This day trip took us on a boat ride to some sea lions on fancy rocks, to a pisco distillery, and to the desert oasis of Huacachina. Riding buggies over sand dunes is what pure, unadulterated joy feels like.
- Medellín — Guatapé
From a home-cooked breakfast in the mountains to a live musical performance in our van to jumping off of a bridge to scaling La Piedra de Peñol (again) to a delicious dinner cooked in the back of the said van, this day was actual perfection.
Split — Plitvice Lakes National Park + evening in Zadar
Mexico City — Hot air balloons + pyramids of Teotihuacán
Favorite *month* (no, not favorite city)
- Month 1 — Split
There is nothing like that Month 1 energy on RY. It was so intense in the best way possible. You go out almost every night, you go on your first side trips, you figure out how to work remote, and you meet the people who are quickly going to become some of your best friends.
- Month 5 — Hanoi
The first month in Asia was huge for me because I had no idea I was going to love it so much. I went into it a little nervous and left craving more — more chaos, more culture, more banh mi.
- Month 9 — Lima
I barely had time to unpack after Cape Town before I was packing again for Cusco. The rest of the month was spent riding dune buggies, drinking pisco sours, and celebrating the holidays with my favorite people.
- Month 12 — Mexico City
It took me 12 months, but I finally found the perfect balance of routine and funsies. Month 12 had everything (no, literally everything) — Luis Fonsi, returning Kaizens, honorary Kaizens, tacos, spin classes, mezcal, hot air balloons, farewells, sweat lodges, mansion parties, and much more.
Month 4 — Sofia
Month 7 — Kyoto
Month 10 — Medellín
Most surprising city
The colorful buildings, idiot-proof public transit, and overall amazing weirdness caught me off guard at first, sure, but what really surprised me was how by the end, I felt like I could live here. Like, live live here.
Sofia was bound to be on this list. It was the biggest eyebrow-raiser on the itinerary and turned out to be way cooler than I imagined. There was something about it that, to me, was extremely endearing.
Crossing the streets in Hanoi is still one of my favorite things to do in the world. Hanoi always drew a “meh” from me when I’d look ahead on our itinerary. Now, it draws a “HELL YEH!” I’ll be back for you soon, bae. 🛵 ❤️
- Mexico City
I had no idea Mexico City was going to be as lush, pretty, and affordable as it was. It surprised me as being, in my opinion, the most livable of the cities we went to.
Favorite non-Remote Year city
- Hanoi — Hoi An
This small town has its fair share of tourists, yet somehow finds a way to maintain an authentic feel. The city lights up at night — literally — thanks to the hundreds of beautiful lanterns hung from every ledge in existence.
- Kyoto — Tokyo
This place is so weird that it warms my heart just to think about. From the Robot Cafe to the manga porn to the super kawaii photo booths in Harajuku, this place is certified bonkers and I love it so much…dudududu.
- Kuala Lumpur — Cape Town
I remember our first night in CPT when we were watching the sunset on a restaurant patio and I was smiling like an idiot because I already knew I loved this place.
- Bogotá — Cartagena
I was in Cartagena three separate times, and each time I saw something new that made me love it more. From the vibrant old town to the street art to the Caribbean vibes, this place just flat out feels good to be in.
Prague — Normandy
Sofia — Rome
Lima — Cusco
Favorite local cuisine
- Hanoi — banh mi, spring rolls, bun cha, coconut coffee
I would do literally anything for a coconut coffee from Kalina Cafe right now. Literally anything.
- Medellín — bandeja paisa, empanadas, limonada de coco, Aguardiente
My favorite meal of the entire year was bandeja paisa. I loved it so much that I made the below picture of it my desktop wallpaper. Sometimes I’d pull it up on my phone and just admire it for a minute or two.
- Kyoto — katsu, gyoza, buns, convenience store food, Strong Zero
Omg Japan made me so (much) fat(ter) but I loved every juicy, porky bite of it.
- Rome — pizza, pasta, Aperol Spritz
Ok, technically Rome shouldn’t be allowed on this list, but let’s be real… have you ever tried an Aperol Spritz in Rome? Literally the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my entire life.
Split — corn, tortilla mexicanas, more corn, coconut magnum bars, pelinkovac
Lima — ceviche, pisco sours, chicha morada
Mexico City — street tacos (gringas!), tamales, anything with mole, mezcal
- Hanoi — Xofa
The coconut coffee from Xofa is truly a work of art with the way they incorporate the soft serve coconut milk with the already delicious Vietnamese coffee. The coconut shavings on top are just showing off.
- Chiang Mai — Rustic & Blue
This place unabashedly caters to the expats frolicking around CM and I unabashedly ate it up…everyday. Coffee is served on little wooden paddles with biscuits, the smoothies in mason jars, and everything is delicious.
- Bogotá — Canasto Picnic Bistro
I want to call Canasto “The Rustic & Blue of Bogotá,” but that’s doing it a disservice. While the vibes are similar, Canasto is worthy of standing on its own. I’ll be back to reclaim my rightful throne as Mayor on Swarm.
- Mexico City — Enhorabuena
The ladies at CE knew my order (cold brew con leche de almendra) and even taught me the Spanish word for straw (popote!). I spent many an afternoon here writing, working, and creeping on visiting dogs with Liz.
- Split — Pub Jazbina
This dungeonous smoke box was the only place open past midnight and somehow always just appeared whenever we needed it most — which is why we affectionately referred to it as The Room of Requirement.
- Prague — Vzorkovna aka “Treehouse”
“It’s like a Soviet war bunker meets modern art exhibit meets highway underpass where homeless people drink.” — Zach Boyette
- Lisbon — PARK Bar
Beautiful sunset views and delicious cocktails atop of a…parking garage? Yup. The aptly named PARK Bar was a fan favorite.
- Kyoto — Bar Kazu
This hard-to-find, candlelit bar in Kyoto is best described by the following review on Google: “So hidden that I don’t know if writing a review is doing it a service or disservice… if you can dig it up, it’s worth the effort!” Couldn’t agree more, Vincent Tran.
Split — Plan B (RIP)
Chiang Mai — Zoe in Yellow
Favorite obnoxious thing you find yourself doing on Remote Year that makes you cringe and kinda hate yourself
- Posing for “candid” pictures
There is no such thing as a candid picture. I swear, people will just slowly and silently walk away from the group, stand on some elevated surface, and hope someone will pull out their phone and capture it (guilty️).
- Wanting to be reposted by Remote Year’s Instagram
People will deny it, but you bet your ass they want to get reposted by @remoteyear. Some people will go as far as to sabotage you if you’re having too much success… *coughMilenaValeShelbicough* Sorry, had a tickle.
- Feeling obligated to come up with clever Instagram captions
The pressure to come up with clever Instagram posts is real, it’s tangible, and it can ruin your afternoon. You should see the revisions and peer editing that goes into every clever caption you see on #remoteyear. I’ve spent more time editing a caption than I spend editing my blog posts.
- Speed testing wifi everywhere (even when you’re not trying to work)
This has become a full-blown addiction. I don’t need to know, but I have to know… you know?
*is in the ER with a broken arm, pulls out phone with good arm*
“30 down, 10 up. Not bad, we should come back and work from here.”
- The awkward check in/check out windows for hotel/hostel/Airbnb when you don’t know what to do with all of your stuff
No, this is not a problem specific to RY, but the frequency at which you experience it on RY is. The number of times I’ve left my passport unattended in a bag behind some shady desk and hoped it’d just be there when I got back is not okay.
- 8 am weekend track events
A universal struggle for all Remotes. The best tracks are always on weekends at 8 am. Know what people do on weekend nights? They go out. The things we’ve done and seen while hungover is impressive. Some people plan their entire vacations around the very tracks we take for granted and we’re just standing there next to them trying not to puke and asking our poor City Teams “how much longer we got?” I’m only kidding. Not all of them are like that…sometimes we just sleep in and miss them entirely (see Kaizen Kuote #3 below). 👼
- Splitting bills at group dinners
I would go into further detail, but my doctor told me it would be bad for my blood pressure. Sry.
- Having to air-dry your clothes
At first, I really disliked air drying clothes because it’s slow and makes your clothes feel all crunchy. But once you realize that you got fat and a dryer will make most of your wardrobe unwearable, you embrace the crunch.
Being disappointed at having to spend two months in Colombia
Dropped calls whilst being a digital douchebag
The graveyard work shift in Asia
Favorite regularly used Remote saying
- “Do you just want to credit card and Venmo?”
- “Did you check me in (on Swarm)?”
Gotta get those coins! I’m not entirely sure why, but I need them, darn it!
- “That’d make a good 1 Second.”
1 Second Everyday changes everything.
- “Have you done a Speedtest?”
Am I planning on working? No, I JUST NEED TO KNOWWWWW!
“What’s the wifi?”
“I don’t have cash, can I Venmo you?”
“Can you Airdrop that to me?”
Favorite Kaizen Kuote
Miguel: “Are you going camping tonight?”
Milena: “No, I’m going to Italy.”
We have reached peak Remote Year.
[In response to finding out we’re doing another event that people have died from]
Miguel: “Seriously guys, why do we have to put out lives at risk every time? I’m f*$%ing serious! I just want to go f*$%ing for a walk!”
This kuote was a moment of genuine distress, I wish you could have heard my voice. Why can’t everyone just be cool for once!?
[Wakes up hungover on Saturday morning]
Rud: “It’s 11:42… my track starts at 09:00… think I can make it?”
I’ve been laughing about this kuote since it happened in November.
Ian: “Remote Year: traveling the world so that we know what to do next time when we’re here and not hungover.”
I wish this was less accurate.
Aimée: “Working Asia hours is tough!”
[two hours earlier]
Also Aimée: “Ya, I’ve been working like 2 hours a day in Japan.”
She is a true (inter)national treasure.
THE WARM N FUZZIES
Favorite lesson learned while traveling
- I’m not as introverted as I thought I was
Turns out I like hanging out with people! Who knew?
- Age does not matter
We had people aged 23–44 and it never freaking mattered.
- Your adult life does not have to be a linear trajectory up the corporate ladder — I feel like I can do literally anything right now
Contrary to popular belief, there is a life outside the cube — and it’s freaking awesome! I truly wish everyone would experience it at some point while they’re still spry enough to truly enjoy it. Doesn’t have to be a year, either.
- Remote Year is not really about the cities on your itinerary, it’s about the people you’re stuck traveling to those cities with
99% of Remotes polled say that the people are what made their year most special.*
*Made up (but probably true) statistic
This lifestyle is way more doable (and addicting) than I thought it would be
Things, as in material objects and possessions, are the devil
We are so fortunate to be where we’re from for a million reasons
Biggest #growthzone experience
- Lisbon — Week-long tour through Morocco
Morocco was my first exposure to chaos, absolute sensory overload, pretty severe poverty, and a religion I knew very little about — all at once. I felt like I returned back to Lisbon a leveled-up traveler.
- Sofia — 10 day solo trip through Spain
I was released back into the wild after three months in the cushy RY bubble. It took me a while to find my social footing, but I ended up making some great friends who traveled with me throughout the trip.
- Hanoi — Trekking through Sapa
Easily the most frustrated mental state I was in the entire year was the start of this trip. After having a reality check talk with myself, my attitude cleared up and so did the weather. Ended up being an amazing trip once I pulled the plug on my personal pity party.
- Lima — Climbing up the side of a cliff to the Skylodge outside Cusco
I love heights but they scare the bejeebus out of me — especially when you’re hanging off the side of a cliff and your life is in the hands of two freaking carabiners.
Sofia — Bungee jumping from a shady bridge
Mexico City — Skydiving
All — Having roommates again
Most impactful and interesting history lesson
- Prague — The European Theater of WWII in Prague and Normandy
I came into RY riding a WWII binge. The only side trip I knew I was going to do this year, without fail, was to Normandy. Learning about Prague’s involvement was a hugely unexpected surprise.
- Hanoi — Vietnam War in Hanoi
I didn’t realize how little I actually knew about the Vietnam War until I got to Hanoi. Learning about Vietnam’s intense past — especially pre-Vietnam War — was extremely eye-opening. Despite the history with Americans, the Vietnamese people couldn’t have been more welcoming.
- Kyoto — Pacific Theater of WWII in Okinawa and Hiroshima
I had just started learning about Okinawa and the Pacific Theater just before RY started. Hiroshima was on another level and is a must-see for anyone traveling through Japan.
- Medellín — Impact of Narco Trafficking and Pablo Escobar
I became obsessed with learning about the complex (and shockingly recent) conflict in Colombia. What was most impactful here was talking to people who personally lived through much of the violence.
Favorite regular thing to do in a foreign country
- Going to the barber
I went to the barber a ridiculous amount of times, highlighted by my three visits in our five weeks in Chiang Mai. This quickly became a hobby of mine because each visit was so unique and memorable (no, really).
- Getting massages
I am a firm believer that massages should be part of everyone’s weekly routine (daily, when in Asia). They’re so cheap and good overseas that not getting them a couple of times a week would be irresponsible.
- Going to the movies
I love going to movies abroad. It is just the right amount of “normal” to make you feel at home, but it’s just a little bit more memorable. I will never forget seeing IT in Chiang Mai with our group. HI GEORGIE!!! 🎈
- Workout classes in different languages
This year I took yoga classes in Czech, Spanish, and Thai and I took crossfit and spin classes in Portuguese and Spanish. Way easier to follow than you’d think and served as nice little language lesson to boot!
Shopping malls — turns out those are still a thing!
Favorite animal encounters
- Lisbon — Riding (and eating…oopsies) camels in Morocco
My camel riding experience was especially memorable as I was paired with the super pissed Miguelito Jr. Riding these guys through the Merzouga Desert was one of the most memorable things I did all year.
- Chiang Mai — Feeding and bathing elephants
I will never forget the terror I felt when like, ten elephants came waltzing towards us as we stood there still, holding their lunch in our hands. Feeding and bathing these guys was the best intro to Thailand possible.
- Kyoto — Playing ‘Lady and the Tramp’ with the deer of Nara
The literal opposite of Miguelito Jr, the deer of Nara are so polite that they bow to you before you feed them the little wafer cookies.
- Kuala Lumpur — Walking with lions on safari in Cape Town
We went on a walk. With two lions. I don’t even know what else to say.
Kuala Lumpur — Shark cage diving outside of Cape Town
Lima — Photo ops with the alpacas (goats? sheep?) in Cusco
Favorite X-TREME activity
- Sofia — Bungee jumping from a sketchy bridge
Easily one of my favorite memories from the year for so many reasons: the ease at which I was able to get people to agree to this, watching friends conquer their fears and JUMP, and Chloe’s blood-curdling scream.
- Hanoi — Riding motorbikes in Vietnam
For me, riding a motorbike on the streets in Da Nang was very much an extreme activity. It was also one of the most fun things I did that month. It’s like Sinatra said: if I can make here, I can make it anywhere. 🛵
- Medellín — Paragliding
Honestly, this wasn’t that scary. You basically run down the side of a hill until you find yourself running mid-air and then it’s smooth sailing. The only extreme part of this was my landing —ouch.
- Mexico City — Skydiving
Surprisingly less scary than bungee jumping, but a great experience nonetheless. That feeling of being at the door staring down still gives me chills.
Kuala Lumpur — Shark cage diving outside of Cape Town
Mexico City — Riding in a hot air balloon
Favorite scenic picture
- Kotor, Montenegro
Kotor Mountain… or Mac OS desktop background?
- Sapa, Vietnam
I earned this photo after how this trek started out.
- Hoi An, Vietnam
The most serendipitous sunset boat cruise in Hoi An.
- Miyajima, Japan
Nosy deer chose the best time photobomb in Miyajima.
- Cape Town, South Africa
Sunset and kite surfers, that’s what Cape Town does!
Favorite group picture
An absolute Kaizen staple and the Kaizen Kall’s birthday.
Would you believe me if I told you that my favorite night of the entire year happened on a Monday? Well, it did.
- Cape Town
This picture brings me back to the hysteria of trying to enjoy the sunset whilst being pelted with sand thanks to the wind.
Do you even see how amazing this picture is!?
- Mexico City
Front row at an EDM award show mixed with festival mixed with rain lead to one of the more epic nights of the year — on a Wednesday, nonetheless.
Song of the year
- You Don’t Know Me — Jax Jones
This song has served as Kaizen’s anthem from Day 1. No joke, this song came on in a workout class the other day just as I was starting to dog it, and it gave me LIFE.
- Higher Ground — ODESZA
I’m going to see ODESZA this summer and I am 83% confident that this song is going to bring me to tears.
- Despacito (THE ORIGINAL!!) — Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee
For some, this song was the bane of their existence. For the rest of us, it served as a year-long party starter that culminated into seeing The Fons perform it live in Mexico City.
- Me Rehúso — Danny Ocean
No song can take me from 0 to 60 quite like Me Rehúso. I’m convinced that if you play this song out loud anywhere in the world, you’ll hear 2–3 Kaizens start singing “BABY NO (BABY NO)” out of nowhere.
Line of Sight — ODESZA
The Ocean — Mike Perry
THE GRANDDADDY OF THEM ALL
The beach city that kicked off our year with an awesome workspace, breathtaking natural beauty, and corn. Lots of corn.
Cheap beer, fantastic public transit, and the mango margaritas from Las Adelitas helped make Prague a fan favorite.
Lizby, I gave you the cold shoulder initially, but you ended up winning me over with your incredible views, your beaches, and your G&T’s.
Unexpected in so many ways: the beautiful nature, livability, and unique architecture. Bonus points for the banitsa and being super affordable.
The perfect place to kickoff Asia, Hanoi got me hooked on its food, its friendly locals, and its fascinating history.
- Chiang Mai
CM was just the perfect laid back SE Asian experience that I didn’t know I wanted post-Hanoi. The massages, cafes, and City Team will get me back.
Kyoto was the perfect hub for a month in Japan. It was quiet, immaculate, and freaking delicious.
- Kuala Lumpur
After a stressful end to the prior month, KL provided everything I needed to relax: huge apartments, SE Asian vibes, and so much Indian food.
Home to the most consistently beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, Miraflores was a great place to call home. Not to mention those pesky pisco sours…
I get it. I get the Medellín hype. This beautiful, hilly city has the reggaeton, the complex history, and the bandeja paisa for a month well spent.
The underrated Colombian capitol has a lot to offer. Here, you’ll find a great beer scene, bomb cafes, and neighborhoods that will surprise you.
- Mexico City
Lush, walkable, and affordable. CDMX is arguably the most livable place on our itinerary and I’ve already been back since the year ended.
Did you make it this far? Wow. I wish I could hit the clap button for you. A big question deserves a big answer.
Award winners will be announced shortly — stay tuned.
So much photo credit to go around, so I’m just going to say thank you to all of Kaizen for supplying me with some of the pictures above. Some header pictures found at Pixabay and Unsplash.