An ever-growing trend across the globe is that of digital nomads: professionals that work remotely from anywhere in the world, regardless of where “home” is. Though this concept is anything but new, 2020 brought us a fresh round of reminders that sitting at a desk inside a big office building for 40+ hours a week is no longer an essential part of a productive, successful, and satisfying career.
As long as there’s reliable WiFi access, most of us can carry on as usual, whether it’s from a bar at the beach, a co-working space on another continent, or from the comfortable bed of our most recent Airbnb rental. The future of work is here and it’s digital, it’s flexible, and it’s overwhelmingly remote. Millennials and centennials have long since tired of the stuffy 9-5 routine; outdated structures and hierarchies have given way to new ways of working and collaborating, opening up a completely new horizon of possibility.
No longer tethered to a desk, they’re contemplating the idea of packing their bags and exploring the world – without quitting their jobs. Thus, the digital nomad was born. Many are freelancers or self-employed, but dozens more have steady full-time jobs with companies, especially in the realms of tech, design, and marketing. The numbers speak for themselves: according to a study carried out by Irish company Blueface, by 2025 remote work will rival – or perhaps surpass – employment in fixed office environments.
Home is where WiFi connects automatically
Working from abroad isn’t the same as going on vacation. To make sure the switch to a digital nomad lifestyle is seamless, there are a few key factors to consider. Cost of living, cultural offerings, and variety of co-working spaces are just some of the items on the list to review. Some people prefer to be close to other big cities; others want to be as far away from the hustle and bustle as possible (without sacrificing a quality internet connection, of course).
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the digital nomad experience, but doing your research is fundamental.
The website Nomad List is one of the top resources for those looking to go 100% remote and dive into the digital nomad way of life. There you’ll find information on cost of living, what neighborhoods are ideal, and which co-workings are the best. Each city on the Nomad List is scored according to different criteria, ranking on a scale from 1 to 5 (5 being the most nomad-friendly).
Here are some of the top-ranked destinations for digital nomads.
Bangkok, Thailand (4.60/5)
Bangkok is one of the most in-demand cities for digital nomads given its low cost of living, incredible food, quality internet, and for a plethora of co-working spaces. Don’t discount the important of this last point, as being able to access a comfortable, connected, and convenient space to get work done is essential for digital nomads. A great co-working space lets you connect with other people in a similar situation, making it easier to both network professionally and personally.
Thailand’s capital city is just minutes away from some of the world’s most spectacular beaches, where turquoise waters and white sands abound. Who wouldn’t want to set up shop there?
Bali, Indonesia (4.52/5)
Another all-time favorite of digital nomads, Bali (to be more precise, the area of Ubud) is ideal for those that want to combine a healthy dose of the great outdoors with their working and social lives. The list is long: Co-working spaces that have jaw-dropping views, beaches that are the definition of island paradise, and plenty of activities like surfing, hiking, and other water sports that make your downtime even more enjoyable. The cost of living is low and what’s more, there’s a great offering of nightlife that is sure to keep every party animal on her toes.
Budapest, Hungary (4.32/5)
Within Europe, Budapest is an excellent option for digital nomads in search of something a little different and very affordable, but without sacrificing a high quality of life. Its climate is pleasant year-round and this capital city is known for its fantastic nightlife – especially in the summer season. Budapest has plenty of cool housing options that won’t break the bank and its co-working spaces are just as great.
Berlin, Germany (4.02/5)
One of Europe’s most cosmopolitan destinations – it’s been called the Silicon Valley of EU start-ups – Berlin has long been a favorite for digital nomads, party people, and anyone looking for an out-of-the-box adventure. Its weather might leave plenty to be desired, but its multicultural diversity, street art, music scene, and (most importantly) low cost of life make it downright drool-worthy. Berlin is one of Germany’s most affordable cities, but it also boasts one of the highest qualities of life around the globe, too.
More and more development companies, tech brands, and design firms are setting their sights on Berlin and its hundreds of start-ups that are founded there each year. Thanks to this, there are more than enough choices when it comes to a co-working space, and you’re guaranteed to come across a mix of interesting projects, people, and possibilities.
Buenos Aires, Argentina (3.89/5)
What’s not to love about Buenos Aires? This South American capital city has long been lauded for its vibrant culture and nightlife, friendly locals, and ridiculously affordable cost of living. That’s right: any digital nomad traveling with dollars or Euros is bound to live like royalty compared to many other cities. Buenos Aires has a thriving start-up culture, with innovative professionals and companies collaborating across a global network; there are dozens of co-working spaces that offer strong coffee, good WifFi, and plenty of networking opportunities to boot.
Lisbon, Portugal (3.8/5)
Once the best kept secret of Europe, Lisbon has reached rock star status in recent years, especially among the digital nomad community. Its impeccable climate, delicious food, proximity to beaches and nature, low cost of living, and abundant co-workings make it one of the most popular destinations for remote workers.
Like Berlin, Lisbon is home to dozens of start-ups, and the community continues to grow. Digital nomads will find plenty of networking opportunities, industry events, and community connection here.
Mexico City, Mexico (3.8/5)
Mexico City has exploded with popularity among American digital nomads and young professionals due to its low cost of living and proximity to the United States. Its multifaceted cultural offering, world-class food scene, proximity to beaches, and buzzing nightlife, D.F. is rapidly becoming a leading destination for both work and play.
Barcelona, Spain (3.51/5)
Who hasn’t dreamed about living in Barcelona, at least for a minute? This Spanish city is considered something of a Mecca for many travelers, and increasingly more so among digital nomads. If you need a refresher, here’s why: the beach is a quick walk or subway ride away, the nightlife options are endless, the culture and food are some of the best in the world, and the weather is fantastic. What more could you ask for?
While it’s not an expensive city per se, Barcelona is pricier than some of the other places on the list. It can be tough to find cheap accommodations given its popularity as a tourist destination. Combined with recent increases in rents, honing in on your dream living situation might be a little tough.