A new year means a new start – and that means it could be time for you to take the plunge and try a “workation”. Because the rapid increase in freelance and remote working – particularly among millennials – has seen the “workation” or “mini-life” trend really take off. It’s when “digital nomads” pack up their laptops to live in the world’s coolest cities for a few months at a time, running their businesses online from co-working spaces or cafes all over the globe.
Modern conveniences have helped make this dream a reality – on demand services like Airbnb and Uber make settling into new cities even quicker and, if you pick wisely, you could be spending less time at your “desk”, and more precious moments actually exploring the world. We look at five cities that have become flames to the mini-lifer moth.
Lisbon has become something of a digital hotspot in the last few years, often hosting digital nomad events and digi-industry conferences that attract Silicon Valley types. There are plenty of Airbnb rentals (try Alcantara for a hipster-on-a-budget vibe) and for those who need to be in contact with the UK or US, the time zone is ideal (there’s no difference between Portuguese and UK time). When it comes to food and drink, Lisbon is eternally welcoming to those who want to pay less and eat well. Great bottles of wine cost a few pounds and drinking while lounging in a park on a warm night is positively encouraged. You won’t be alone.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Perhaps the capital for digital nomads, Thailand’s northern city has long been associated with the freelance, free and easy lifestyle that comes from knowing you’re living well for a fraction of what it costs back home. And because there are so many nomads or freelancers in town, a well-established network of events, socialisers and support groups exist (they’ve even had their own TEDx talks). This might be your idea of hell, but if you dream of running a start-up, dirt-cheap cocktail in hand – Chiang Mai is ground zero.
If you’re thinking of kicking off a whole new career during your workation, perhaps you need a new perspective. Hubud in Bali, a gorgeous bamboo co-working and networking space, certainly offers a beautiful way to ease yourself into the freelance world. Don’t be surprised to find entire dev teams beavering away on beta testing and CEOs sat looking over the paddy fields while running their businesses. They even have a “soft landing” package where they’ll introduce you to your new “downshifted” life in Bali, finding you a place to stay, arranging a scooter to rent and even turning up at the airport to greet you, new sim card in hand.
Cape Town, South Africa
With the exchange rate not working so much in our favour, living costs are something to factor in. Hello, Cape Town. The South African party town is a bastion of low cost, Western-style living for British travellers. Set yourself up in a co-working space in City Bowl (which has the best broadband), book an Airbnb in affluent Sea Point or gentrifying Woodstock and get out there. You’ve got wine tours, diving and kite-boarding, safari tours and beaches all on your doorstep. The challenge will be turning on the laptop.
While South America isn’t as easy to run a global business from as South-East Asia or Europe, it is possible and Medellin in Colombia seems to be the city of choice for most modern nomads. Co-working spaces, cool cafes (try around Parque Lleras in El Poblado), plenty of short-term rentals and fast internet are all ticks and a standard visa gives you three months to explore the country. There’s a Facebook group with over 1,000 digital nomads and online guides to how to move and operate in the city as a freelancer.