I’ve always enjoyed escaping the cold of winter by heading to a tropical digital nomad or “location independent” hub. Whether at Vallarta Cowork in Puerto Vallarta, MX or Hubud in Bali, I find I’m far more productive and efficient in warm weather. There’s just something about sun and flip flops vs. polar vortexes and long underwear.

Sure, I admit there’s plenty of privilege in that statement. The fact of the matter is, it’s a privilege more and more are choosing for themselves. Like many others, the first foray into this concept for me was in 2007, reading The 4 Hour Work Week  when I was a Store Manager at Starbucks.

First Off, What’s a Digital Nomad?

There’s a lot of debate about what “term” should be used; similar to the never ending argument: “What is Coworking?” Personally, I’ve begun to embrace the term “Tech Tourism”. But then again, some would argue: “Remote Work”… 🤷🏻‍♂️

Sure there are folks out there that are full time “nomads” who move around every 3-4 months (or however long their visas will last). But, for me, life and work still involves travel (dictated by clients) throughout the US and abroad. Even if it wasn’t for work travel or visiting family, if asked, most of my friends would say I wouldn’t be able to stay off a plane for that long of time.

Anyone who’s upwardly mobile: good work ethic, an in demand skill set, the ability to do your work via laptop or conference call can achieve a remote work lifestyle. Mind you, I didn’t preface whether or not you have a college degree. Neither did I include race, gender or work experience.

Why Be a Digital Nomad?

So how does a Store Manager at Starbucks go from slinging lattes to swinging in hammocks? Well, it took 5-6 years of hard work, sacrifice and pure unrelenting determination. Oh, and many mistakes, some financial miscalculations and even heartache.

As stated above, people are CHOOSING this type of work style. Sure it could be that you want to live in warm weather. Or, maybe you’re looking for adventure outside that of a concrete jungle? Perhaps it’s to reduce cost of living to find a cheaper place to raise a family or just not spending $4,000 a month on a studio apartment.

For me, the goal was to control my destiny by working for myself. That’s what came first.

In fact, I struggled with the concept of also working remotely. I needed to first achieve stability in owning my own business before I jumped into living remotely and primarily abroad.

What Makes For a Good Digital Nomad Hub?

So imagine the difficulty in building a stable business and complications of moving abroad. Multiply that when struggling to find a great space to work, even if a location seems to be a great place to live. Sure, who wouldn’t want to live in Tulum, Mexico? Or anywhere tropical that’s beautiful and affordable. Good luck, however trying to run an online business with dial up internet speeds. Until 2018, Tulum didn’t have a fiber internet infrastructure.

A lot of places will also say they have internet. Again, fiber and dial up are both still internet. For many in these remote and tropical destinations, they’re happy to just HAVE internet. There are so many airbnbs, hostels and hotels that “have” WiFi, but don’t or can’t provide speeds necessary to work remote.

There are digital nomad hotspots like Ubud, Bali or Chiang Mai, Thailand that for years have been havens that now suffer from a new form of gentrification. Supply and demand. The more folks there are, the more expensive things get. Secondary markets are quickly growing, attracting those who are looking to escape the remote work sprawl. Towns like Bansko, Bulgaria and Playa Del Carmen, Mexico which were primarily tourist destinations are welcoming location independent folks from all walks of life. You might also want to consider impact of time zones on your work or 36 hour air travel on your sanity.

Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Digital Nomad Destination

For me, there are FIVE main criteria for a good digital nomad destination:

  1. INTERNET
  2. COWORKING
  3. WALKABILITY/TRANSIT
  4. COST OF LIVING
  5. AIRPORT CONNECTIVITY

Of course, you need internet. A coworkaholic like myself is also going to suggest that your destination of choice have at least a coworking space. Besides the productivity and fast internet, there’s a built in community for which to socialize and engage with.

Walkability and easy transit is also key. Even if you’re renting a bike or moped, you want to do without a car. I cherish any chance I get to have a walkable “commute” not only for the savings but also the health benefits.

Cost of living is key. The first three items could be found in any massive city, but then you’re stuck working a grind just to pay your rent. Last, but not least (for me) is airport connectivity. Look for a happy medium of getting anywhere in the world in less than three flights and not having to restrict your options based on peak/off season.

The post What Makes For a Good Digital Nomad Hub? was first published on Coworkaholic.

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