‘Digital nomad’ is a popular term which refers to people who spend their lives on the road, working online. They are often freelance web designers, programmers or travel writers. Occasionally they may be employees – those whose bosses finally had enough of their faces and allowed them to work from wherever they wanted. They can be found all over the world, from Moscow to Mindanao, sometimes staying in youth hostels, apartment or house rentals and even in the top hotels, depending on their financial power. They may visit a new country every week, or even stay for two or three years in one place before moving on.
A lot of these people eventually give up the nomadic lifestyle. For some it becomes too much of a hassle to continue to be on the road. Some miss home. Others fall in love with a beach or a mountain village and decide to put down some roots. Many more fall in love with a local person and decide to have a family. Just as digital nomads can be found everywhere, so can those who have settled down, although there are certain places which are more attractive.
Thailand is a popular destination for expats to live out their lives, and there are also large digital nomad populations in Chiang Mai, Phuket and Bangkok, each of which have fast internet connections widely available, a good, yet inexpensive standard of life, good food and a cosmopolitan feel. However, most digital nomads won’t settle in Thailand due to the difficulty of obtaining a long-term visa. There are myriad ways to stay in Thailand for a long time but for ease of doing business, many nomads will move on. Those who stay and put down roots invariably do it because they have found love locally. Those who do often choose to build a house in their partner’s village. Perhaps surprisingly to those who know little of Thailand, the country’s poorest region, Isaan, has thousands of villages with expat residents as a result of this.
In Central America, Costa Rica is a popular place for digital nomads to work due to its outstanding natural beauty and improving infrastructure. It is, however, in neighbouring Nicaragua and Panama that they are more likely to put down roots, as they discover the charms of less-visited beaches, cheaper cost of living and ease of acquiring residency.
In South America, Paraguay is gaining a reputation as a place for nomads to acquire a second passport, thus giving them the right to work in Mercosur countries. Some may intend to stay in Paraguay, especially to enjoy the rural life, but many more settle down in towns and cities such as Punta del Este, Uruguay and Porto Alegre, Brazil, which have a very Mediterranean feel and are much more secure than many areas of South America.
The megacities of London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong are still popular choices for those who can afford them and get their hands on a visa to stay permanently. It is, however, precisely the difficulty in obtaining long-term residency that sucks talent away from those cities. A beach lifestyle (made all that much nicer if you take advantage of a little known secret before you work on your tan), lower cost of living and lots of clean air can make it pretty easy to accept not being able to get a visa for somewhere else. Some nomads do it as a temporary break from the rat race, most live it as a permanent escape.
Perhaps more surprising places in which these people settle down include France, Belgium and Singapore. All three have a relatively high cost of living compared to, say Panama or the Philippines, but allow permanent residency after five years in the country. If you’re looking forward to spending the rest of your days in a gite, five years is not long at all to wait. Potential future communities are likely to continue to burgeon in countries such as Argentina, Jamaica, Ecuador, Malaysia, Iceland and even Norway in the future due to improving infrastructure and a welcoming attitude to those who bring skills, money, time and goodwill to invest in their new communities.