I did not work with Noma Collective to write this review, but I came to really like what they and other remote work travel programs like them are offering, and I think you might, too!
Like so many people (possibly you!), I’ve spent the past few years adjusting to the new highs and lows that come with working remotely.
One thing I love about it? The freedom to travel with more flexibility and work from wherever I can get access to WiFi. So far, I’ve worked remotely from countries like Czech Republic, Mexico, Sint Maarten, and the Philippines, as well as states like Hawaii and Colorado.
But, let me tell you – planning a remote work trip is much more challenging than planning a regular vacation. Choosing an accommodation with decent WiFi and a decent workspace? Honestly, sometimes I dread it. I’ve definitely gotten it wrong and booked horribly impractical places for remote work in the past.
Because planning a remote work trip can be daunting, there are so many emerging remote work travel programs ready to take the stress out of it so you can simply show up, get your work done, and enjoy.
Noma Collective is one of them.
I first learned about Noma Collective on Instagram. They had just gotten their start in Belize, and I had been dying to return to the Caribbean coast and give it another go at digital nomadism (Tulum, for reference, is a much better vacation than it is a remote work destination in my honest opinion). I kept Noma at the back of my mind until pandemic restrictions really started to ease up, and in 2022, I decided this was my year. I booked a month solo in Belize with Noma and with that, I was off to the races.
With all that said, was the juice worth the squeeze? Should you book a remote work and travel program like Noma, or plan a remote work trip on your own? Is an experience like this for you?
For all these questions answered, and more, read on!
What Is Noma Collective?
Noma Collective is a remote work and travel program that specializes in curating a community of like-minded travel-loving professionals. Unlike other remote work programs with a long-term commitment, Noma is unique in that you can book on for as little as three weeks, or as long as you like, depending on where you want to go.
Each Noma Collective program is designed around work, community, wellness, and adventure. Basically, this means you can expect the following things no matter where you book a Noma stay:
- Reliable WiFi and workspace
- Community events and activities
- Yoga and other ways to move your body
- Optional weekend excursions to fuel your wanderlust help you explore your surroundings
Who Is Noma Collective For?
Noma Collective is ideal for those with flexible or fully remote jobs looking for an opportunity to change up your scenery and connect with other travel-loving professionals on the road. While there were a couple of people I encountered during my stay that were in-between jobs or simply taking a break, the majority were actively working professionals with varying levels of flexible careers.
Here are some of the professions I encountered!
Sample Careers of Fellow Noma Collective Travelers:
- Digital media sales (me!)
- Project manager
- Cybersecurity account management
- Sports publication sales
- Data and operations manager for a medical nonprofit
- Business consultant
- Grant writer for a university
And so on!
Many of the people I met were on more of a work-cation, meaning they planned a month in Belize to get out of the house and change up their scenery but planned to return back home after. But, a handful were also more serious nomads, with Belize being one stop on a months-long romp around Central and South America. One or two were also first-timers and brand new to working abroad in any capacity. It was clear to me Noma is in that ‘sweet spot’ of appealing to a wider audience.
Why? Well, Noma takes the heavy lifting out of planning your accommodation, and provides you with a built-in community to explore with as much or as little as you like. But, they do not structure every step of your month abroad (like your day-to-day itinerary, meals, or flights). This makes Noma more affordable, and is ideal for those looking for flexibility and freedom. But, it’s something to consider if structure, activities, and included meals would make you feel more comfortable abroad, because you won’t find that here.
This autonomy appealed to someone like me who is used to planning my own trips but was very happy to have someone take some of that off my plate. 🙂 Especially since I was flying solo and wanted to focus all my attention on work & play!
Where Does Noma Collective Operate?
Noma Collective got its start in Placencia, Belize.
When I booked my month in Belize, Noma was just beginning to expand beyond their home base. Today, they have Villages and Editions in several locations across the globe.
What is a Noma Village? What is a Noma Edition?
- Noma Edition: A four-week-only program that you book onto for the entire month
- Noma Village: A permanent place that you can book onto for anywhere from three weeks (minimum) to several months
The Noma Village aspect is unique because you can choose the dates that work best for you, and stay as long as you like, which really differentiates Noma from other remote work travel programs. I believe the goal is to maintain a Noma Village in Belize, which is how I traveled with Noma.
Noma Editions are more of a common format for remote work travel programs, but they promise all the same elements of Noma Village culture – WiFi, workspace, wellness, adventure, community – no matter where in the world you are.
Since my time in Belize, Noma has launched a ton of drool-worthy new editions that I’m personally dying to check out for myself.
Upcoming Noma Trips Include:
- Bali Edition – September 9 – 30, 2022
- Panama Edition – June 11 – July 10, 2022 (sold out)
- Kenya Edition – July 2 – July 31st, 2022
- Belize Edition – anytime between September 3 – November 20, 2022
Now that we’ve established what Noma is, I’ll share a bit about what my experience was like in Belize earlier this year on my solo Caribbean work-cation.
My Personal Experience with Noma in Belize
Why did I choose Belize? And why Noma?
After the past two years of travel restrictions, I really wanted to give myself a month-long trip that felt like a true vacation, even if I was still going to be working remotely throughout. I was also super curious about this new remote work travel program trend, and how it would take some of the logistical effort (like finding WiFi, having a place to stay) off my plate.
Noma’s Belize Village looked like the perfect solution for me.
Flying into Belize on my first long solo trip since pre-COVID, I was definitely kind of anxious. That anxiety edged a bit once my plane’s shadow traced the bright teal Belize River and descended into the dense jungle of Belize City. As the country unfolded below me, I had a good feeling about what I was getting into. I know I come alive in tropical weather, but it wasn’t until I hopped off my smaller Cessna flight to Placencia and arrived at Umaya – the hotel Noma operates out of AKA the Noma HQ – that I really felt this whole “community” thing that Noma promises put my worries at ease.
Within seconds of walking into the lobby, I was greeted by several people, many of which already knew I was coming because of the Slack groups I was incorporated into weeks before. Drink in hand before I was even shown to my new home for the month, the lobby was alive with people after an event Noma co-hosted about an hour before I arrived. Before I knew it, I was laying out on a dock above the Caribbean Sea, stargazing with strangers I’d soon get to know very well over the next four weeks.
This spontaneity, this built-in community, this cheesy but very real joie-de-vivre spirit felt by everyone just for being in Belize on this crazy trip we all took the plunge on – it was a defining characteristic of the rest of my month.
I quickly fell into a rhythm of comfort and ease in Placencia that offset my busy workdays.
A Typical Day in the Life of Working Remotely in Belize:
- 8 am: Wake up early (my room faced the lagoon, and it was really a dream to wake up to)
- 8:30 am: Join a free yoga class
- 10 am: Bike to the grocery store or the fruit stand with whoever wanted to join
- 11 am: Work for the rest of the day from my living room or patio
- 4 pm: Head out to the beach for sunset or for group volleyball
- 6 pm: Cook or try a new local restaurant
- 8 pm: Join a Noma group activity, like game night or movie night
- 11 pm: Back to my room to finish up a bit more work or video call friends / family, then off to bed!
When I was feeling wild, I’d sometimes even book a massage onsite at the hotel, or rent a golf cart to drive 20 minutes into Placencia town. Once a week, I would grab a (free) hotel paddleboard and head out on the water in the early morning before the waves began to roll in.
This lifestyle was really something else.
I distinctly remember how the first week in Belize felt suspended in time, and then immediately after that, my month completely zipped by. Honestly, I got exactly what I wanted out of this trip. I made a ton of new friends, and I successfully worked remotely throughout the month without any major hiccups.
It was a work trip after all, but it felt like a daydream.
But, that’s just me. Every traveler will have different preferences and needs. Here are some additional things you should know about this experience to help you evaluate whether it’s what you’re looking for.
The Application Process
With Noma Collective (and many other remote work travel programs), you need to apply before you are able to book. They do this to ensure you’re a good ‘community fit’ and that you’re in their target demographic of career-minded professionals looking to have a good time and meet other travel lovers in the process.
That may sound daunting, but really it’s just to vet that you’re excited about the idea of working and traveling abroad, and to answer any questions you have about the process or the program.
To kick it off, you simply fill out their form on their site and the Noma team will reach out from there to schedule a WhatsApp or Zoom call.
Noma’s Belize Village is located in Placencia, which is a pretty idyllic, but isolated, sliver of land in southern Belize. This peninsula is one of the most popular places to visit in the entire country because of its beachside accommodations, scuba diving, snorkeling, and proximity to visiting nearby cayes.
Placencia itself is a small, seaside fisherman’s village about 20 – 30 minutes from the Noma HQ. On the flipside, it’s about a 30-45 minute drive to get from Noma back onto the mainland. Renting cars on the peninsula seemed super inconvenient and I wasn’t able to get one when I was there, but there is a public bus system that runs between Placencia and Hopkins that stops right in front of the hotel.
In my opinion, the Noma Belize Village location is absolutely beautiful and definitely nails the ‘tropical getaway’ assignment, but it’s undoubtedly removed from much else outside of the resorts that surround it.
So, while great for a short vacation, you might begin to feel a bit isolated if you don’t make the effort of getting off the peninsula every once in a while.
Noma currently partners with existing hotels by booking out room blocks specifically for Noma guests, and works with the hotel to ensure amenities like WiFi and workspace are up to spec for their community’s needs.
In Placencia, Noma partners with a property called Umaya Resort & Adventures, or Umaya for short.
The resort itself is pretty large, with a lagoon on one side and the ocean plus a pool on the other. Onsite, you have access to all hotel amenities, like their restaurant and bar, spa, pool, beach bar, beach volleyball, free kayaks and paddleboards, and room service.
I had the option of booking a private suite or a room in a shared two-bedroom suite, and I opted for the latter to save a little money. I ended up adoring my roommate (a fellow salesperson in tech!) and our work schedules were super compatible, so it worked out well. The rooms each have their own ensuite bathrooms, and collectively we had a kitchen, living room, and private patio which were all pretty simple but spacious.
All in all the location was beautiful and the accommodation felt like a proper resort, which was unique for a work-cation. But, the hotel demographic felt a little different from the Noma crew (Umaya was more geared towards families) and the service was a bit slow at times.
Again, things you might not notice if you are there for a couple days. But it can add up if you’re there for a month or more.
During my month in Belize, there were anywhere from 18 to 30 fellow Noma travelers onsite with me at any given time. While most people were between the ages of 27 – 40ish, there were definitely younger and older folks in the group as well.
Most were from the US, but also from Canada, the UK, and even Europe.
With any group travel experience, you’ll always find varying degrees of compatibility with the other people you meet along the way. There were people I became super close with and want to keep in touch with for future travels, and people I respected but probably wouldn’t go out of my way to keep in touch with post-trip. At no point did I ever feel unsafe or like I couldn’t be myself, which I know is sometimes a concern for larger group travel programs.
What surprised me the most was that, while everyone was up for a good time (yes, there was a fair amount of partying, obviously!), everyone was also very serious about their work. During the day, most of us would be on zoom calls or ferociously sending emails, and in the evenings, we’d unwind with Belikins on the beach.
It was refreshing to be around others who took their professional lives as seriously as having a good time, and who didn’t make you feel guilty for skipping out on something because you had work to get done. I felt right at home!
The Communication and Noma’s Alumni Group
All Noma comms are handled through Slack and email. Once you’re booked on a Noma experience, you’re added to a couple Slack channels that give you access to weekly updates, onsite chats, and location-specific resources (like, guidance on how to take local transportation, or phone numbers to call for local food services).
One thing that’s a bit unique is that communication is different for the hotel vs for Noma. So, depending on your needs, you’ll need to know whether to direct requests to the hotel’s front desk or to your Noma community manager. Fortunately, you go over the differences in an orientation once you arrive, which is helpful.
Prior to your trip, you can introduce yourself in Slack and start to get to know – and plan adventures with – your peers. Noma also adds you to an #Alumni channel where you can keep in touch and network with the hundreds of former Noma travelers across the globe after your trip.
I’ve seen trips get planned, travel photos get shared, job openings and resumes get exchanged, and career / personal milestones get supported in the Alumni channel since joining, which is really special and a huge value-add.
Need a future travel buddy? A remote-friendly job recommendation? I’m sure you can find all that and more in this group.
The WiFi & Workspaces
Every location will have different workspace scenarios, but Noma does guarantee reliable WiFi connection no matter where you book.
In Belize, we had enough space to comfortably work in our rooms as well as in common areas throughout the hotel. The beach palapas were also outfitted with modems, and I actually really enjoyed working from the beach at the end of the afternoon when I was done with meetings.
There is a community space above the restaurant dubbed as a coworking space (pictured above), but I think more work is needed there – it’s really more of a rec center or a banquet hall, and it was not the most comfortable for working. I only ended up working there once in my entire month.
As far as the WiFi goes, it wasn’t the fastest but it was definitely reliable and could hold my video calls 9/10 times. In the rare event of a power outage (which can happen from time to time on the peninsula), Noma provides MiFi portable WiFi devices to use as backup which I thought was a nice touch, though I didn’t actually ever need to use it or the ethernet cord I brought with me. For any other urgent WiFi needs, it did seem like Noma had a technician that could provide onsite support.
Noma Collective offers optional activities on a weekly basis as an opportunity for you to mingle and get to know other people on your trip.
Some of these weekly activities in Belize included:
- Yoga (free)
- Family dinners ($)
- Game nights (free)
- Beach volleyball (free)
- Community-led workshops (free)
- Volunteering within the local community (free)
The community-led workshops are a really special thing Noma facilitates, where they encourage their community to volunteer to share their unique expertise with fellow Noma peers while on trip. Workshops have consisted of everything from crypto, to journaling, to body positivity.
I taught a salsa dancing workshop, which I NEVER expected I would do!
I also led a beach clean-up, which I definitely knew I’d do and which the Noma team helped coordinate.
On the weekends, Noma provides optional activities you can pay extra to join, which are curated to provide the ‘best of’ experiences for that particular destination. From catamaran rides to nearby cayes, to expeditions in the world-famous ATM Cave archaeological site, the Belize activities were the exact kinds of things I would’ve booked myself, so I ended up signing up for most of them.
If you’re more keen on planning your own weekend adventures, there’s a lot to do in Placencia and beyond. From snorkeling, to scuba diving, to island hopping, to hiking, adventures are endless. I did a discovery dive with some fellow Noma friends, and it ended up being a highlight of my month.
All Noma Village and Edition trips are priced as either single (private) or double (sharing) accommodation unless otherwise stated. In general, the prices are $65 – $80 USD/night for a shared accommodation, and $80 – $110 USD/night for a private accommodation.
That comes out to around $1300 – $1700 USD per three-week trip (excluding flights, food, etc), which I consider pretty reasonable for the offering. It’s no doubt a lot of money, especially if you’re also paying a rent or a mortgage back home, but there’s a lot to be said about paying for the value-add of remote work logistics handled, plus having a community and weekly social calendar built in.
A couple other costs you will want to plan for include:
- Groceries and Meals: $75 – $200 / week, depending on how much you eat out vs. cooking for yourself
- Transportation: Taxis can cost $5 – $20 per person locally in Placencia. Shuttles and domestic flights can cost anywhere from $50 – $300 per person, depending on where you’re going and how big your group is.
- Additional Noma Activities: Weekend activities (which are not included) can cost anywhere from $75 (for day trips) to $300 (for overnight weekend trips). From time to time, there may be optional bonus activities that Noma will help coordinate, but not pay for, depending on group interest. Things like mini golf, or cocktails in town, or family dinners, are examples of this.
My code, OFFDUTY150, will also save you $150 off any Noma trip! 🙂
What’s My Final Rating?
All in all, I give my Belize remote work experience an 8.8/10!
- 8.5/10 for work
- Why: it was definitely more comfortable and reliable than some of the trips I’ve planned on my own, but you are working from a tropical location and not a city at the end of the day
- 8/10 for the location
- Why: it absolutely beautiful, but a bit too remote for day-to-day convenience if staying for more than a month. I found a month to be the ideal time for Placencia
- 10/10 for the community
- Why: for a newer company, they do a fantastic job of making you feel included, rallying the troops for group activities, and providing other added value like their alumni slack channel
Is It Noma Collective Worth It?
It’s no secret I am the biggest believer in work-cations.
Whether you need a quick change of scenery or desperately want to see the world without using vacation days, work-cations are a fantastic way to recharge and see what you’re capable of. Noma Collective fits the bill of being well-loved by both newbies and seasoned travelers. It can be a great ‘entry point’ into digital nomadism, or simply a nice retreat from the grueling work of endless logistics planning for those constantly on the road (like me). A tropical work getaway is something I wanted so badly for myself this year, and I feel like Noma Collective really gave me that, and more.
If you have the means and a career that allows you to work remotely, I say go for it. Who knows, you might even turn your remote work travel experience into a lifestyle 🙂
Are you considering a remote work and travel program like Noma Collective? Do you have any burning questions I didn’t answer in this post? Where are you planning to go? Let me know below!
Read This Next:
- Your Complete Guide to Working Remotely from Belize
- Essential Remote Work Tools for Successful Work Anywhere
- 18 Careers That Allow You To Work Remote
- How to Find a Coworking Space You’ll Love
- Where to Stay in Belize: Gaïa Riverlodge