All those images of people working on their laptops while sitting on white sands, sipping colourful beverages sure gets my mind wandering. And am sure it gets you wondering too if this too good to be true? Are these people rich? Are these the workings of a trust fund? But have you thought that perhaps this kind of life is totally do-able, for you and for me? Say hello to the life of digital nomads.
I come from the belief that you make your life to be exactly what you want it to be. If you want to live a life on the road, then its totally possible, with a whole lot of planning, a consistent drive and authentic goal setting. Of course, it’s not easy in the least but anything worth having never is, and that’s another story, for another day.
So if your job doesn’t need you to be in an office and you want to explore different corners of the world, beyond the usual sightseeing, then digital nomadism just maybe the thing for you!
Who is a digital nomad?
The simplest way to put it is, that she is someone who has a location independent job and can work out of any corner of the world with a laptop and decent internet speeds. So one can be a nomad and yet have a well-paying job/jobs! No this does not necessarily mean a backpacker or a blogger. It’s just a person who makes a living while not having to be in one specific city/country for it.
How to choose a place to call home?
While choosing a city to be your base as a digital nomad for a few months or a longer period, you will need to have a few considerations that go beyond it being picturesque or a great cultural city to be in. A few pointers you could consider can be:
Visa: You don’t want to choose a city where getting a visa becomes a concern. Or if there are various levels of documentation which you may not pass through due to your current freelancer status. Some countries have stay limitations on tourist/ visitor visas. One needs to take all of that into consideration while choosing a city to work out of as visa runs are quite likely to be a monthly/ quarterly component of your schedule and budget.
Cost of living: Rents, groceries, transportation, eating out, beers, fitness, all these factors add up to your expense in your temporary home. Because it is a long-term stay and not a vacation, sustaining a comfortable life with enough left behind for socialising and saving is important.
Safety: As a solo female traveller, this is one of the key deciding factors while choosing a place. Also carrying around gear, living in the rented apartment needs to be a safe and secure experience for everyone, irrespective.
Wifi: A location may have the best sights, the best food and may score really well on the other factors, but if the wifi ain’t great, then that poses a problem for most digital nomads.
Community: Visiting a city for a few days/ weeks is different than actually staying in it. And if you start a remote stint in a city, it is great to have a community of other travellers who are also there for the same purpose. It gives one a sense of belonging also helps build a community around it.
Keeping these pointers in mind, here are:
Top 8 cities for a digital nomad in 2018
Chiang Mai, Thailand: Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a lot different from it’s the cooler kitschy cousin, Bangkok. But again, it depends on what is cool for you. Built around a remainder of walls and moats, the old city is historical and is sprinkled with beautiful temples. The old city boasts of leafy boulevards and is mostly pedestrian. Cafes and bistros await you and to distress you can go for a Monk Chat session where you spend time in the company of monks of the many temples in the city. While in the city you can opt for plenty of experiences like leisurely massages, night markets, Muay Thai boxing matches, join cooking classes or head off for a 2 hour zip lining adventure in the outskirts, yes for real!
Rents are approximately $200-306 /Rs 13500-20000 for a furnished studio and a basic lunch with a beverage will cost you about $2 / Rs. 160. There are many cafes offering fast Wifi’s and the city has some best Co-Working spaces too like Punspace, Addicted to work and MANA all of which guarantee a great community for digital nomads to catch up with.
Berlin, Germany: Berlin is for the dreamers. The poets, the adventurers. The ones who want to weave beautiful stories and map it out in this edgy, colourful city with a burgeoning nomad-scape (if there is a word like that). It is at par with the major cities of the world like London, Barcelona, Paris but is slightly easier on the pocket and with more social and cultural splendour than the others. No wonder, apart from digital nomads, the city is home to artists, musicians, writers and the likes. With great underground talent, street art, nightlife, cultural explorations and a picturesque old city, this becomes is a top favourite with digital nomads everywhere. Graffiti art classes, bicycle rides, explorations of the remnants of the Berlin wall, dance classes, food invitations, this city has it all. And to that add a very tightly knit digital nomad community, which will make your stay here heartwarming.
Rents of a studio apartment range from approximately $490-765 / Rs 32000-50000 and lunchtime bill will come up to $8-11 / Rs. 500-700 which includes a beverage. After Asia, yes this will seem a tad steep, but it is still a whole lot cheaper than the west European cities. Coworking spaces like Betahaus, Agora Collective, House of Clouds will cocoon you into a tight community space which will help you find your first set of friends surely as a digital nomad.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: This kitschy main city of Vietnam is everything that an active traveller is looking for, to call home. The city has a historical centre and diverse neighbourhoods to cater to various nationalities who have called this city their home. With access to the Mekong Delta for the culture vulture, Chu Chi tunnels for a course in Vietnamese war history and is a 3-hour drive from the beaches and sand dunes of Mu Nei this city has plenty of options for those looking to get away. Night markets, cycle tours, bike tours, ceramics class and plenty of food adventures will be a great way to spend your months within this eclectic city.
Rents for digital nomads or long term travelers here range from $291-459 / Rs. 19000-30000 for a furnished studio apartment and a lunchtime meal with a beverage will cost you $4 / Rs. 250 in a café in the old town. The city has co-working spaces like START Saigon, WORK and Dreamplex with varied levels of quirkiness and character. For those looking for a more formal space to work out of Dreamplex should do the trick.
Budapest, Hungary: This beautiful city on the banks of the Danube brings together Buda and Pest, the two sides merge to create one helluva city. A beautiful old town, old world mineral baths, spectacular architecture, marvellous sculpture sprinkled around the city and a funicular to take you to the highest point of the city. Castles, Grand Parliament buildings, elaborate bridges and the works, this city spells Grandeur in capitals and to spend a few months here working out of cafes and its coworking spaces will be nothing short of a delight for a digital nomad!
Rents in the districts close to the river will range from $413-597 / Rs 27000-39000. A lunchtime menu with a drink will be close to $7 / Rs 450 a head and public transport is cheap. Coworking spaces like impact hub, Kaptar and Kubik with central locations will steal your heart away if the many old world cafes don’t. This city with umpteen vintage charm is sure to steal your heart away to prepare to stay back for longer than planned.
Medellin, Colombia: Famous for being home turf to the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, it is a far cry from its days of drug and guns culture. A beautiful mountain town in Colombia, it is fast becoming a favourite with the digital nomads, especially from America as its closest to home. It translates to the “city of eternal spring” and with super friendly locals and plenty of outdoor activity to keep a nomad busy apart from his time at work. Colombia is one of the most creatively inspired countries in Latin America second to Chile and this city is sure taking it to the next level.
Rents for a 500sq foot apartment range from $306-612 / Rs 20000-40000 and a lunch with a beverage will set you back by $5 / Rs 300. Coworking spaces like Atomhouse and Epicentro will surely give you a headstart in the nomad community.
Belgrade, Serbia: Located at the meeting point of the rivers Danube and Sava, it is a picturesque riverside city boasting of marvellous architecture, a great sense of history and exciting nightlife. Locals are super friendly and the digital nomad culture is coming up recently with a few co-working spaces that have opened doors and the nomads are flocking to this city due to its creative vibe and its relatively cheap cost of living. The café culture of the city is something particularly worth mentioning. Quit the co-working spaces and park yourself in these wayside bistros to work away at that assignment and yet keeping an eye on the daily life that surrounds you and passes you by like a dream.
Rents range from $275-459 / Rs. 18000-30000 for a 500 sq. feet furnished studio. A lunchtime menu with a beverage will set you back by $11 / Rs. 700. Co working spaces like Startit Centre has been home to several start-ups and also boasts of an expansive library that can be used. Nova Iskra, Impact hub are other notable centres to work out of an office environment.
Ubud, Bali: Located in the heart of Bali, it is a beautiful town surrounded by rice fields and waterfalls. Amazing cafes, yoga houses, meditation classes, it is definitely a great place to go into a zen mode. I fell in love with the town and spent most of my time in Bali in this town here. A burgeoning nomad population will give you plenty of good friends and its co-working spaces are phenomenal like Hubud and Outpost. I also went to an anniversary pool party of the latter and it made for a fabulous evening. The best thing about the town was that it served as a great muse for me. Every morning I would wake up to birds and butterflies and the calm around me gave me a much-needed center.
Rents here range from $306-612 / Rs. 20000-40000 for a studio to call your own and most accommodations come with access to a pool and views to rice fields which is always great! Penestanan is a great hub for most expats and you have everything here, markets, fruit sellers, yoga classes and Ubud centre is a 10-minute bike ride away. Like Chiang Mai bikes are the best form of commute and you can look at a month-long hire for close to $53-69 / Rs. 3500-4500 while a basic lunch will cost you around $4 / Rs. 200 with a beverage. I heart Ubud so I am a little lenient to this tiny town, this will definitely be my home for a while next year, for this was my inspiration for the digital nomad life!
Also read: 10 reasons to fall in love with Ubud
Tallinn, Estonia: Tallinn is surely but steadily climbing the startup charts and thus its allure to the digital nomads. Estonia is one of the few countries to consider WiFi a basic human necessity. The city is stunning! Fairy-tale like spires will greet you in most places and no matter where you live you can never be further than 30 minutes from the centre. With forests, parks and mansion of the President a lively old town with a sprinkling of beautiful cafes and alleyways, it sure makes for a picturesque stop on your digital nomad adventures. The locals are not very forthcoming and in-your-face-friendly, but culturally they are a little shy. They are extremely friendly and warm by nature but it takes a while for them to open up and welcome you in. Cathedrals, old cobblestone streets, main squares, old world pharmacies and parks to walk around in. Frankly for me, it was the pretty spires that did the trick and the quaint European city vibe, without it making a hole in your pocket. Whats not to love?
Rents for a 500sq feet house will range from Rs 26000-38000 and a lunch meal outside will set you back by $11 / Rs. 700. Coworking spaces like CoWorking Space Tallinn, Töökoht, , Lift 99 and Spring Hub will make your stay warmer with its hosting top startup talents and other digital nomads from all over the world who have made Tallinn their home for a while. Quick facts, that Skype was born in Tallinn, so you can understand why and how the startup culture is so vivid in this old city.
Lisbon, Portugal: Deemed as Europe’s next Berlin, this beautiful city with its dreamy tram car rides, an emerging tech scene yet with a strong local spirit- is fast reaching to be one of the hubs of the digital nomad populace. Great weather and sunny days will keep you company for most of your time here, terraces to chill post work offering sprawling views of the city, a great food and culture scene and proximity to the beaches are big draws. The city also has a strong start up community and it was chosen to be the host of the Web Summit conference in November 2018. Think cool co-working spaces, hikes and jogs, beach days , good startup community base and there, you have a winner in this capital city of Portugal.
Here are 8 great cities to call your home in 2018, so where will you be joining me?