I’m writing this from the 22nd floor of my apartment complex in Hong Kong. Last week I was in Perth, Australia. Next week I’ll be in Taipei.
Like many of my fellow millennials, I’ve taken inspiration from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek, Rework, and the Tropical MBA and followed the call of digital nomadism. Many share the fantasy of working from a beach, but the reality is that it takes practicality and planning.
If your laptop is your only connection to the working world, you need a good connection to the internet. If you are sacrificing your high paying office job to freelance or start a business, you need to live somewhere affordable.
Below I’ve put together a list of six places that fit the bill.
*Cost of Living Index for New York City = 100
*Overall, average global Internet speed is about 5.6Mbps.
Cost of Living Index (+Rent): 31.05
Average Internet Speed (Mbps): 4.0
Bali is a classic case of definitive tradeoffs. Indonesia offers the opportunity of living in paradise, but your productivity will inevitably suffer. Internet infrastructure has gotten better, but it still lags well behind southeast Asia and most of Europe.
As for escape, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place. You can fill your days with surfing lessons, yoga sessions, and scenic hikes. Eating $3 acai bowls, days in the sun, and regular exercise will get you in the right frame of mind.
If you’re not sure how to get there, consider an internship like this.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Cost of Living Index (+Rent): 28.65
Average Internet Speed (Mbps): 9.3
Chiang Mai is ground zero for the digital nomad movement. It is crawling with expatriates from around the globe and teeming with meetups and local markets to keep you busy.
After you’ve visited an elephant sanctuary and hit the Sunday Walking Market, you’ll be ready to get down to work in one of the many coffee shops lining every block. A strong cafe culture and delicious, cheap food will give the runway you need to get your venture off the ground.
Remember to skip town in March and April for burning season. For a month and half, local farmers burn the growth off of their fields before planting new seeds. The smoke from the fires makes the city brutal to walk through and taxes your respiratory system.
Cost of Living Index (+Rent): 25.43
Average Internet Speed (Mbps): 13.2
Eastern European countries have invested heavily in their Internet infrastructure and, as a result, are on the rise as destinations for digital nomads. Romania stands out for its affordability, English proficiency among locals, and great cafe culture.
The capital of the country is a dynamic blend of yet-to-be-reconstructed communism and unbridled capitalism. If you are willing to put up with all four seasons, Romania averages in the 20’s in January and 70’s in the summer, then this extremely affordable country is worth considering.
Once you start making some dough, you can really live in style for rock bottom prices. A beautiful, three-bedroom apartment, with air conditioning and Internet, in downtown can be found for less than $600/mo.
Cost of Living Index (+Rent): 29.82
Average Internet Speed (Mbps): 12.6
Like Romania, Hungary is affordable and well-connected. Additionally, Hungary is slightly more centrally located, so weekend visits by train to Germany, Italy, and the rest of Europe is viable.
But I’m not sure you’ll want to leave this beautiful city. Architecturally, the city is a treasure trove of neoclassical, baroque, Eclectic and art nouveau buildings.
In the morning, enjoy the coffee houses and the sticky apricot jam oozing from your Gerbeaud slices. After work, relax with some pálinka, a fruit brandy, or head over to a traditional Turkish bath.
If you’re a hipster, you will want to head to Budapest before it becomes trendy.
Cost of Living Index (+Rent): 36.76
Average Internet Speed (Mbps): 12.1
Tourists flock to Portugal for dazzling art, mouth-watering food, and the beautiful architecture. When you realize how affordable it is to live there, moving starts to make a lot of sense.
Morning grinds fueled by imported Ethiopian coffee beans are followed by long nights eating tapas. A strong public transportation system can take you around the country cheaply and quickly.
Bonus; Lisbon’s craft beer scene is exploding, driven by the shop-local movement. Start off by checking out award-winner Amnesia.
Cost of Living Index (+Rent): 22.43
Average Internet Speed (Mbps): 4.5
Colombia does not usually top lists for digital nomads, but that’s about to change. Medellín is rising fast as a center for digital innovation and aims at increasing the competitiveness of the city and region.
While once a cocaine capital under Pablo Escobar, the Colombian city is now a safe, hospitable metropolis. Developers are rushing to meet the needs of the international nomad community by building high-quality work spaces with stable internet connection.
When you throw in the consistently warm temperatures, affordable living, and friendly locals, Medellín is an underpriced opportunity. Disconnect from home and tap into the outdoor activities, entertainment venues and epic nightlife. It would be wise to have a little Spanish proficiency before you go.
Wherever you end up, let me know.
Sources of Data
Cost of Living = Numbeo
Internet Speed = Fastmetrics