Finding a location to base yourself in for a while is not always an easy thing to do when you’re travelling and working overseas at the same time. Indeed, the one thing I learnt from my time wandering across Europe and Asia as a so-called ’digital nomad’ is that it’s rarely apparent from the outset which destinations will float your boat and which ones are likely to get your back up.
However, it is fair to say there are a number of guidelines which, if you follow them carefully, can at the very least improve your chances of discovering a place that will compliment your disposition and circumstances.
So what kind of guidelines am I referring to? Well, while the list of ’necessities’ I have compiled below is by no means exhaustive, I found it to be a very helpful checklist to keep in mind when endeavouring to determine whether or not the next place I drifted into would be a five-day pitstop or a one month-plus home from home.
Then let’s start with most basic necessities first.
1. Is the weather nice?
While it may seem a little unnecessary to highlight this, there really is very little point in basing yourself somewhere where the weather is less than appealing. Truly, what is the purpose of spending time in a town or city where inclement temperatures or extreme weather events are the norm when you have (within reason) practically every location on a continent to choose from. Unless you’re a winter sports enthusiast, you will probably be keen to kick back in a place where the days are long and pleasantly warm/hot. Fortunately, many of the most competitively priced accommodation options (see below) are to be found in the Tropics, so you can often kill two birds with one stone if you’re savvy enough to avoid the rainy season and/or scorching heat of the high summer months.
2. Is there affordable and accessible accommodation available?
While staying in a hostel or B&B with free Wi-Fi is often the best way forward for wandering online workers who don’t want to stick around in one place for very long, this can often work out to be a less than conducive (and sometimes less financially sound) option than renting a cheap furnished apartment (if not a serviced apartment) when you’re keen to stay on for a number of months. With this in mind, a good overseas destination for digital nomads is undoubtedly one which has plenty of affordable and accessible accommodation available, preferably at short notice. Needless to say, expensive ’world cities’ like London, New York and Tokyo fall short in spectacular fashion in this respect.
3. Are you legally entitled to stay there for an extended period of time?
Away from the European Union nations and the reassuringly bureaucratic Anglophone countries of the world, the ever-fluctuating nature of visa requirements can sometimes make life a little complicated for wandering online workers with extended stays on their mind. While some countries aren’t so strict about visa regulations (requiring you to do nothing more than buy a cheap one upon arrival and then renew it at a consulate or border crossing ’as-and-when’), others issue only Tourist Visas which permit visitors to stay for a maximum of just 2 to 4 weeks. Moreover, the rules governing visas can change with the wind in some parts of the world so even countries that are generally quite accommodating to wandering Western travellers can employ ’clampdowns’ seemingly out of the blue. Simply put, a good digital nomad destination is generally one which can be relied upon to let you to stay for at least 60 or 90 days - and get an extension beyond that - without any fuss. Up-to-date information regarding visa regulations can be found on the UK Government Travel Advice and US Bureau on Consular Affairs websites.
4. Is there reliable Internet access?
Needless to say, you need to be able to get online in order to thrive as a wandering online worker! Fortunately, the wide availability of the Internet ensures even remote places normally have facilities available which will enable you to upload your work and keep those all important reddies rolling in. The thing to remember is that these facilities don’t just need to be available, they have to be reliable as well. This means that you need to ensure your destination doesn’t endure rolling blackouts caused by intermittent power cuts or suffer with sketchy Internet access during bouts of inclement weather. You will also need to be aware of any access limitations and censorship policies – such as the ’Great Firewall of China’ - which certain countries maintain to protect their citizens from Western influences (although these can often be circumvented by using a VPN).
As mentioned earlier, these are just a few necessities which can help you to determine whether or not the newest place on your travels will be up to the task of accommodating you for more than just a one week hiatus. To be sure, other potentially important aspects, such as the availability of English language resources and the presence of an expat scene, are also likely to have a large bearing on just how much you’ll want to stick around for a prolonged period of time. That being said, if you’re able to say “yes” to most – or even all – of these checklist questions whenever you wander into a town or city for the first time then chances are you’ll have stumbled upon a place which will be worth laying your hat in for more than just a little while...
Image courtesy of Getyourbackpack.com, backpacking in Busan