The first trip run by Remote Year, the service for professionals who want to work while traveling, is underway and that means the company’s Instagram account is on the make. And boy is it.The images hue closely to the company line: Upwardly and actually mobile people enjoy drinking together in various locals; MacBooks sit poolside; Polish co-working spaces with raw wood floors. But do these passport-touting Python-jockeys represent the beginning of something or the fin de siecle? Is someone going to come for these decadent Skype credit hoarders with non-digital pitchforks? Are they gonna spill Stella on their laptop and ruin the whole trip?
Remote Year deserves the double takes it inevitably gets. The company, founded by Groupon alum and LinkedIn-identified “Dreamer” Greg Caplan, is aimed squarely at the highly mockable digital nomad set, that delightful demographic that totes their own private economy around Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia in a rollerboard. But there is normally plenty of space between mockable and contemptible. The problem with Remote Year is that it pushes the two closer together.
Let’s really focus on the Instagram. It is both “brand defining” and seemingly authentic. It is, in short, fraught with meaning. And what it actually shows, if you swipe past the hypersaturated snaps of Frank Gehry apartment buildings, is a group of likeminded people on an internet-enabled tour of the world’s outlet adapters. The problematic word in that last sentence: “likeminded.” The weirdness here is that these people wanted to go abroad but didn’t want to leave either their job (fair enough) or their culture (umm…).
Remote Year offers, at a rate of $UNDISCLOSED for a month at a time, the opportunity to explore new places without actually understanding them.
Maybe that’s okay (the program does incorporate speakers, including Liberland’s Vit Jedlicka, who is trying to form a micronation that uses a crypto currency within the EU) but the idea that startup/digital/Google-ized corporate culture can exist apart from actual culture(s) is dangerous at best. The program is all about disconnecting from normal life. Period. That’s the end of the thought and it’s not a very nice thought.
Is Remote Year destructive or offensive or reprehensible? No. But it is profoundly silly, a quick and clean cop out for people who want to make a change and don’t have the courage to do the thing that you’re supposed to do after you cut ties, which is make other ties, is a different place with different people. Getting exposure is never bad, but this isn’t that. Remote Year presents the opportunity to step into an Instagram feed. The folks splashing out on this are having a very similar experience to the one you’re having looking at the embeds in this article. It’s all surface.
Or is it? Just think about this “Remote Beer.” Really think about it. Consider what it represents.
Ne c’est une IPA.