The “Remotel” Work Excursion – An experiment in productivity

Common: Compromised productivity due to daily distractions and responsibilities.

Uncommon: When it comes to producing quality, creative, and inspired work, I consistently hear 3 common complaints: “I just can’t get uninterrupted, quality time,” and “I try to focus, but there are too many distractions,” and “I have too many daily chores and obligations to focus on what I really want to do.”  … I wish I could just live in a hotel!

These are very real challenges for most for us in the modern the world so when expat-entrepreneur and friend, Darren Olstad, mentioned an unusual life-experiment he was about to undertake, it immediately caught my attention.

What would happen if you left your usual work environment behind and moved into a hotel?

Darren sought to answer this question by booking himself into a hotel for 60 days straight.  Two months later, Darren has found the remote-hotel working experiment (a concept we have appropriately coined: “The Remotel Work Excursion”) so liberating, he has extended his stay for another 30 days. If you’re serious about drawing more from your time and creative faculties, this may be your solution.  Here is Darren’s story…

Enter Darren Olstad:

Darren Olstad Kent Healy

KH: What inspired you to shift your work-life into a hotel for an entire month?

DO: Growing up, I noticed everyone raving about their hotel experiences so I thought more about what people appreciated most about a quality hotel. I came to the conclusion that there were 4 primary components:

  1. Your living space is renewed each day. Bed sheets are changed, the floor is cleaned, and fresh towels are out.
  2. Better sleep. Quality hotels are in the business of R&R, so they spare no expense on the sleep experience. They consider the linens, aromas, mattresses, and acoustics.
  3. Environmental simplicity. Hotel rooms are typically quite sparse, but not desolate. The balance is just right: Homey, yet clutter-free.  Hotels also force you to leave your “junk” at home – and it is surprising how this equates to mental clarity.
  4. Service. Without a doubt, one of the most delectable factors of a quality hotel is excellent service. They take care of you, address your concerns, offer campus amenities such as a gym, pool, and patio area, and perhaps best of all, room service.

KH: What does a day in your remotel excursion look like?

DO: After breakfast, I often start by the pool in the sun working on my laptop and making calls.  Then I head up stairs, shower, dress in my usual business clothes (to trigger the psychology of professionalism) and work in the room.  Since I currently live in Costa Rica, the air-conditioning is a huge bonus.

When making calls I find myself walking the manicured grounds of the hotel.  This keeps me active and feeling alive.  In the evening I typically remain on-task work if I’m not booked for anything else.  When I do have plans I feel no guilt in dropping everything, grabbing my room key, and leaving… sometimes for 2-3 days at a time.

Each day I work roughly 10 hours because when I work, I work hard, and when I play… I play.  I am careful not too waste productive time when I’m at home in the hotel because I like extremes: extreme work contrasted with extreme play.

KH: What do you feel is going well in your “remotel-working excursion”?


DO: Strangely, the word “yes” comes to mind. Let me explain. The hotel staff here are trained to say “Yes” whenever possible – they are solution oriented and willing to help.  It’s a very relieving environment to operate in.  One evening I felt the need to rearrange my living room. One phone call later, I had a coffee table, TV stand, and Plasma TV. The staff rearranged my room and I immediately felt much more at home.

Outside of the hotel, I would have dealt with a car full of stuff and had to carry/set up each item.  In this case, the staff was almost begging me to allow them to send my items up to my room and not to worry about those details.

Each day I learn about a new guest-benefit. I feel like a kid in the candy store without a parent to say “no.”

Another bonus is being surrounded by exceptional guests.  At nice hotels the networking is excellent and so is the social climate.  It’s akin to a party… there when I want to participate, but free of any social obligations.  When I desire privacy, I can leave at any time to work in peace and quiet.  The variety inspires my workday and helps me maintain a high level of energy.

KH: I agree, variety is important, but how do you prevent yourself from favoring the more enjoyable, but less productive, activities?

DO: Before the remotel excursion began I thought about this, but I had set the intention in advance to focus on results and build my business. I would feel guilty if I didn’t remain productive. After all, it’s not cheap living here. The only payoff comes if you leverage the opportunity for productivity.  To be candid, I don’t encounter many outside distractions either.


KH: What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you combat them?

There were elements from my daily life I did not want leave behind.  For instance, my health and diet preferences. However, within two days the staff had located and purchased my rarer desires and then offered to store my protein and green-drink powders in their fridge. I even trained the room service staff how to prepare my unique health drinks.  It worked out better than I could have expected. I will have a hard time making the drinks myself again.

I was also concerned that I might feel somewhat claustrophobic living in a hotel room, but I came to the realization that the room is a small part of a massive estate that I could call my own.  I have 12 tennis courts, golf courses, 6 swimming pools, and an executive lounge right outside my bedroom door.

KH: Your requests appear to be uncommon of most guests. Do you think hotel staff at all/most hotels would be equally as accommodating?  If not, how would you suggest selecting the best hotel for a remotel work excursion?


DO: In my experience, the staff of quality hotels are keen to help in anyway they can. The only caveat is that that quality of service is usually correlated to the quality of the hotel.  In other words, I don’t think Motel 6 would offer all the benefits of the Hilton, etc.

KH: What are the key specific benefits to living and working in a hotel?

DO: There are numerous benefits, here are some:

  • Waking up in a ultra quiet room on an excellent bed with quality, fresh linens
  • 24/7 access to a spa
  • Full poolside breakfast buffet every morning
  • My bed is made and room is cleaned before my return from breakfast
  • 24/7 access to staff who willingly handle my concerns and requests
  • 24/7 room service
  • Having a Bellman on call
  • Intriguing and international guests (There was an international modeling contest here last week)
  • If you leave town on business or vacation, you don’t have a burn-rate while away (the hotel will look after your belongings)
  • Healthy balance between living alone and having a social environment outside your door
  • Full laundry service and all my shirts are hung up and ironed each morning
  • Each time you walk through the main entrance your family at the front desk is happy to see you. You are always happy to be home.
  • Last but definitely not least, it makes work an enjoyable process.

KH: Would you do this again?  Why or why not?

Absolutely. In fact, I don’t ever wish to go back to living below this standard of efficiency.  The premise is simple: do what you do best (ideally your profession) and find others who can help you with the rest.

As you mention in your “Invoice Yourself” post, I know that general housekeeping, laundry, running errands, putting things away, emptying out the car, washing the car, cooking meals, making teas & protein shakes, doing dishes, buying groceries, vacuuming, etc. is not the best us of my time.  This entire experiment is based around this question: How would your life be better if you spent more of your time focusing your core competencies and passions?

KH: What do you think will be the greatest challenges others face in creating their own remotel work excursion?

The greatest barrier I think most people will face is a psychological one. I imagine most people will say, “Well, this isn’t realistic. I can’t just leave my life behind to live in a hotel.”  I assure you, this is exactly what I felt.  But once you take a step off the edge and cut the umbilical cord of familiarity, a new world appears.  It’s an incredible feeling to realize that many of our daily “obligations” are self-appointed. You can’t be scared of treating yourself good and what I once called “living large” now feels so normal, its actually not even exciting anymore, its just “normal”.

I don’t feel it is necessary to live in a hotel for 1 or 2 months to get value from a remotel work excursion.  A week can do wonders.  But I will bet that once you take the plunge, you will see how powerful and easy the severance from you old life can be.


  1. Freedom: Obviously this is quite a bit harder to accomplish if you have a conventional 9-5 job that requires your presence in an office. However, that does not mean this exercise cannot be accomplished.  Making this happen is another post in and of itself, but if you would like to learn more on how to do this, Tim Ferriss, author of the Four Hour Work Week, offers some great advice on increasing freedom and flexibility while maintaining a conventional-type job.
  2. Cost: Many people will likely say that the cost of such an excursion is high. It certainly can be so you must weight costs and benefits for your situation. You may consider staying in a hotel in a neighboring country that is less expensive or one in which you can capitalize on the exchange rate.

KH: What would you do differently next time?

DO: Wow, good question.  I would make some immediate changes for extra-comfort right out of the gate.  Some examples:

  • Location of the room. I would be sure to get a room that: was at the end of the hall, away from foot traffic, away from elevators & icemakers, and had an excellent view.
  • Meet key staff. I would locate the chefs, bellhops, and housekeepers and build a positive rapport.
  • Request key appliances and furniture. I would ask for the right furniture, desk lamps etc.
  • I would begin the excursion with greater sense of calm knowing it’s actually not such a big deal – it’s simply an experiment. I would remind myself that at any time, I could always end it.

KH: What parting advice would you give to someone who is considering implementing this remotel work excursion?


DO: First of all, it is 150% worth it.  If anything, it will offer a healthy reality check and urge you to reassess the value of your time.  Also note that some of the most important lessons are found in this “process”.  It’s a personal revelation to see what happens once that long list of daily trivial to-do’s is immediately chopped in half.  We don’t “need” to do everything we think we do.

This remotel excursion was my desperate attempt reclaim what is very valuable to me: Time.  I estimate that the “daily grind” wastes at least 50% of our productive time – even if we pride ourselves on maintaining a high standard of efficiency.  When you don’t have to commute, make your bed, cook good meals, clean the house, do laundry, grocery shopping, etc. you will undoubtedly discover new world of possibility. For once, there is plenty of time for important and passionate work.