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  • Matthew Young

How to find a Nomad Friendly City- 6 point checklist for remote workers

Another blog about nomad life! Fret not, I hope you'll find some level of value from my well kept checklist I use when finding a Nomad friendly city. But for all you noobs out there, you’re probably completely lost and have no idea what this post is even about so first things first.

What does working remotely mean

It’s kind of self explanatory, but basically, it defines how you go to work! Most people are commuters, some of us realized that sitting 3 hours a day in traffic quite literally sucks the soul out of you and opted for something else. Que remote jobs, the newest awesomest option for those of us day laborers. You can and pretty much already do everything on the internet already. Why not make your living there too?

“The estimated rise in the percentage of people opting for regular work-at-home is 173%. It’s not only around 47 times faster than the growth in self-employed workers but also 11% faster than the noted growth in the rest of the workforce, which is 4% and 15%, respectively.” (Global Workplace Analytics) For more info on remote work stats, check out this article from Office Arrow.

Once you’ve been liberated, the world is now your oyster, shuck away! You may call yourself a Digital Nomad (throws confetti). But where to start you ask? “Every great journey begins with a single step.” In a modern translation, Use the Google.

1. Affordability (a.k.a. Best cheap places to live)

Yes this is where all decisions really start, affordability. You’re probably living in a developed first world with bills like insurance, a car, rent, etc etc. No more young ward, you have shaken your chains of the western life and can now spend money where you want, not where you have to. In all honesty, unless you’re a software developer or solopreneur, a remote job is not going to pay you loads of money. But that’s okay! You’re new life is going to be a lot cheaper. For example, $30k in Thailand goes as far as $60k does in the states, before taxes ;)

I always start my hunt for a place to live based on the local cost of living. Nomadlist does a great job collecting data for some key points. Mine start with the necessities.

Rent: Airbnb will give you a good idea what the month to month looks like, just search for 30 days at a time and you’ll see most hosts offer a 20-40% discount. Best part, no lease, no obligations, stay as long as you want.

Cost of living: this is your weekly spend on the necessities. At home I was spending $90 per week on groceries, $100 on social outings (we’ll leave that there) and $40 on gas and tolls getting around. This takes a little trial and error, but when I can beat those averages, the city gets the point for me.

Average price of a beer. Very important. If I can’t find a reasonably drinkable beer for $2.00 a pint, I’m out. $7+ for a pint is a crime against humanity, I don’t care how hoppy your craft is Timmy Brew master that needs a beard trimmer. Flavor savor my ass.

2. Remote work ready

This is rather important. If there isn’t a coworking space near by, you’ll have to resort to a cafe, or Allah forbid a Starbucks (shoot me now). So if the town is nomad friendly, there should be plenty of low key places to set up and work for the day. Common courtesy, if you plan on sitting for a few hours, at least buy some food. Trust me I get it, $30 per day for a desk in a coworking space is rough when you’re starting out, but cafes are a small business and need to operate. If there is food and beverages available, spending $10-$20 per day will balance out their margins and pay for the wifi and AC you so desperately rely on. Treat the economy and the economy will treat you!

Piggybacking off of point one, and better than the airbnb, check out coliving spaces. They are epicenter of nomad communities and instantly connect you to other folks living and working remotely. It’s crazy to think there are other people who think like you, maybe you should meet some.

3. Cities with great public transportation

Yes something us in the states have really missed out on. Public transportation cuts down the commute time, and drastically puts your time back in your hands. 3 hours a day in a car (yeah fuck you Miami) could be 3 hours reading a book, or learning a new language, or working to make more money and escape this hell hole that is the Dolphin Expressway! So to make the most of a city with great transportation services, look into the local routes and schedules and see how long it takes you to get from one side to another. Por Examplé, one point of Barcelona is never more than 30 minutes from another. Their infrastructure allows for half of the transportation on the surface via car and bus, the other half via metro. It’s perfect, fast, and only costs $50 per month to ride. What did you spend in gas this month?

4. Cities with a vibrant local culture

The world is grand and every shrinking. It’s easier now more than ever to hop and a plane and see some of that National Geographic stuff in real life. This is the true reason we travel; to discover how our fellow humans have found solace in their own region of the globe. Only through full emersion can you understand how people live, love, and grow in their daily lives. local cuisine and customs will show just that. To be a nomad friendly city, the people need to be friendly themselves!

Food is the epicenter of a culture in my opinion. Too many cities have tourist traps that serve your standard pizza, sandwiches, hamburgers combo. Why!? Your goal should be to make some local friends, and have them cook for you. If not, get lost in the streets and look for the hole in the wall. Some of the best food I’ve eaten in my life was from a street car or nearly abandoned building. The worse the atmosphere, the better the food is...sometimes.

Then there’s the celebrations. How do people spend their free time? Some cities have festivals every weekend in the summer, others are known for their nightlife. I try and plan my trips to be in a region during at least some major holiday. San Fermin (or the running of the bulls) was on my bucket list for years. So I planned to live in Spain for a few months just so I could make it there in July, and it was definitely worth it.

5. Cities with alot of international diversity

If the local culture is vibrant, it will attract other travelers. This is by far the best surprise you’ll find on your journey. You may be in love with Lisbon, but then you meet someone from Budapest, suddenly you’re entranced by their stories and you start googling. Then you meet someone from Iran, or Russia, or Kenia and your network expands. Trips to these distant lands seem less intimidating. Soon you break the perceptions thrust upon you by our ever intrusive media and book a flight to Johanasburg. You are now worldly and making your own opinions.

Then there’s the multicultural angle. A port city more often than not will have pockets of immigrants that have transported their culture with them. Great! Now you can experience 4 countries by only visiting one!

6. Cities close to nature, preferably tropical

This point is really just for me, but I’m sure there are plenty others who would share my sentiment. Islands are great, beaches too, I like a town that is close to either of the two. Perhaps it’s the native Floridian in me but a beach day is always a remedy to any stress in one's life. And tropical living brings a whole array of activities. Biodiversity in vegetation and wildlife can give you a chance to live out your Indiana Jones fantasies and hike through a jungle. You might even stumble across a hidden waterfall.

With an ever growing threat of mental illness, immersion in nature really gives you the opportunity to reflect in a mindful practice. I won’t get too preachy but learning meditation in China gave me a tool I use often to tame the monkey in the mind. I fully advocate some time to oneself amongst the trees as often as possible.

With all this in mind, I have to recommend my two favorite cities in the world. Both I have spent considerable time in and have chosen to be more of a base camp. Meaning my business, friends, and time is spent mostly in these two areas, and I fully intend on visiting for years to come. Using my little checklist above, these spots score very highly. I am not recommending them, I am ordering you to visit.

Barcelona 6/6

Paella, Sangria, Las noches de calor, this Nomad Friendly City- 6 point checklist for remote workers has it all! As mentioned above, you are never more than 30 minutes from anything here. The Metro and train system can get you all over the city, and it’s surrounding natural treasures like Castelldefels and Montserrat. I highly recommend living in the borough of Gracia, it’s centrally located and has enough hidden gems to constitute plenty of nights out.

A few of my favorites, Bar Bodega Quimet is a local favorite for a braised pulpo, (octopus). Betahaus is a great coworking space with a lot to offer. Finally, Casa Gracia is a relatively nice hostel, with a club in the basement, super cool spot to chill at the end of the day. I can go on for another 2 hours about Baça, but I’d rather you discover it for yourself.

Koh Phangan 5/6

Have you seen The Beach with Leonardo Dicaprio? It’s kind of a colt classic I’d never seen but was asked about a million times once I started living in Koh Phangan. After watching it, I get it, I see the parallels. Koh Phangan is a little tropical island in the Gulf of Thailand we now refer to as the ying yang island. Why? Because it is geographically and culturally split in halves. To the east, you have the infamous Full Moon Party where 30,000 young rage heads flood the beach once a month for all out dubachury. While in the west, you have the conscious community; a group of yogis and quozie enlightened folks that teach and practice everything from Acro Yoga to Zen meditation. It truly has something for everyone. My favorite spots? Well, I live in the south central area called Baan Tai. Easy access to both sides and the north where the 5 star resorts are. 70% of the island is national forest so there’s plenty of trails. I love the Bottle Beach hike,Than Sedet waterfall, and Apichada View point.

Of course I have to advocate our coworking space La Casa Tropicana for it’s great view and full restaurant (shameless plug) I also work from Koh Space, Dots, and The Port, depends on the day.

If you’re wondering why I only gave a 5 out of 6, it’s due to the lack of public transport. There are taxis and ferry boats, but they don’t always get you where you need to go, or get you back. It’s pretty easy to get a scooter for cheap, but you don’t want to be driving one late after a night out. Too many accidents to the unbegotten traveler. So I advise caution here.

Otherwise, this place is perfect for a nomad looking for the ultimate work/life balance, an international community, Thai culture is amazing all on it’s own.

Cape Town 5/6

This is a recent one for me. Cape Town, South Africa is one of those cities surrounded by mountains, and on the sea. Miles of scenic beaches and trails really give you the opportunity to immerse yourself in an amazing culture, and escape into a remote setting with ease. and of course, we’re here! Come visit us at Nomadic 6 any time, we’d love to hear some of your own recommendations and stories.

Peace and love ya’ll


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