For this month’s solo travel insight, I look back on my eight years as a digital nomad and hope to inspire you to take a leap of faith if you’re thinking about it too.
I'm writing this month's insight from Madeira, a Portuguese island known for its Madeira wine, black sand beaches and more recently for its attraction for digital nomads. It feels so good to be back on the road and free to continue my digital nomad journey.
During my eight week recovery from jaw surgery, I could only dream of boarding a flight again. As soon as I was given the all-clear, I booked a flight and earlier this month I was back in the Catalan capital of Barcelona after 18 months of not being able to visit my former home.
The pandemic has obviously been a challenge for those of us living a nomad life but whenever restrictions were lifted, I took the opportunity to get back out there.
in September last year, I left the UK for Greece where I saw so many people with laptops in coffee shops, including a middle-aged couple working from a beach cafe where I was staying on one of the Greek islands. I then headed to Norway when Greece began to lockdown to spend nearly 6 weeks in this Nordic country. In Norway, although co-working spaces weren't open to non-members due to Covid restrictions, I was able to work from cafes (social distancing of course).
Don’t think that remote working or being a digital nomad is just for younger people either. Yes, there are co-working hostels that attract a younger crowd but as more companies are giving employees the flexibility to work from home (‘wfh’), remote working is one of this year’s trends, for all ages. And to cater for the demand, more and more countries are trying to attract remote workers with digital nomad visas.
If you’re thinking of embarking on your digital nomad adventure, you may be wondering where you can go. In this post, I share a summary of the destinations that I have visited which are now good for nomads. I hope this inspires you.
If a digital nomad lifestyle is for you, I recommend The Nomad Escape, a week-long nomad retreat in Madeira
I really enjoyed my month in this Greek capital. There are cafes that encourage remote workers and meet up groups so you can meet others. One of the advantages of living in Athens is that you island-hop on the weekends, and visit a new island. Piraeus Port is in the city and you can reach the Saronic Islands or even further afield from here. I really felt as though the lifestyle in Athens gave me a lot of freedom and I was able to get by in English.
There is something about Barcelona. This Catalan capital is not only beautiful with wacky, arty architecture but it's also a walkable city meaning that you can co-work in the city in the morning and walk to the beach in the afternoon before drinking cava in one of the many bars in the evenings. Public transport is cheap (you can buy a metro card for 10 uses for approx €11) and food and wine are cheap too with some cafes offering a ‘menu del dia,’ a set lunch menu for less than €20.
The only downfall is the cost of accommodation due to its popularity with expats. But the quality of life, the networking events and the many meet up groups and co-working spaces make living here a top destination. What I love about it is that although it is a city, it's very easy to bump into people that you know here so there's a tight expat community.
Bermuda is gorgeous and the fact that they are enticing nomads is exciting news! You may feel as though you're far from everything here though but to say that you've lived in Bermuda is very cool! Pink sand beaches and names such as ‘John Smith's beach' really appeal. I visited the island years ago when I worked on a cruise ship and recommend it.
Tallinn is an up and coming destination for digital nomads. I spent a few nights in the capital and really enjoyed my time here. For a small city there is a lot of nightlife and you can learn more about its history and do unique tours such as a ghost and legends tour or explore its tunnels. You can also explore the rest of the country from here too as nowhere is that far. And you can take the bus to Latvia and be in Riga in less than 5 hours, or take the ferry to Helsinki in Finland. The hostels are really sociable and arrange evening tours so it’s easy to meet people. The personal development platform, Mindvalley has even moved its headquarters here!
The city of Tbilisi is incredibly cheap. There's great nightlife and the capital is a good base from where to explore the rest of Georgia on day trips or on a weekend. English isn't that widely spoken though. Fabrika Hostel seems to be the place to be and has co-working facilities and well as accommodation and restaurants (they also arrange bar crawls) making it a good starting place for arriving in the city, until you get your bearings. I visited the hostel and it looks fab!
The Canary Islands are cheap to get to from Spain and the UK and with the promise of sunny weather in the winter months they offer a warm escape from a cold European winter. I visited during the month of January and the weather was surprisingly cold (which was not normal). Although the climate can't be guaranteed, I can see the appeal of this island.
There are various co-working spaces, and you have that island, holiday feel. It seems to have more of a Latin vibe than a European Spanish one, which I really liked. The beauty about being here is that you can explore the rest of the Canary Islands too. Tenerife is the main hub but you can reach La Palma, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura during your stay.
Lisbon is fab! It may not have the Mediterranean weather that you're blessed with in Barcelona, but it has the same sense of community amongst those living here and those passing through. There are co-living and co-working spaces such as Selina Secret Garden, plus comedy nights and lots of different activities through meet up groups. Accommodation is cheaper than in Barcelona and food and drink is reasonable too. (and it's on the same time zone as London).
The only downside to Lisbon is that it is hilly. Built on seven hills, you do need good walking shoes to navigate your way around the city. There is a good metro system but it doesn't take you everywhere in the capital so expect to walk a lot or to hop on a bus. I really loved the Impact Hub here. Everyone was so inspiring and wanting to make an impact in the world. And you can get by as an English speaker although there are several Portuguese language classes to learn the lingo.
Malaga in Spain didn't grab me as much as I thought it would. I could try out a co-working space for a day but there wasn’t much interaction and I felt as though I needed to speak Spanish. But Malaga is a nice city and you are close to Marbella and Gibraltar and can hop across to Morocco for a long weekend.
I had heard good things about the digital nomad hub in Malta and was planning to visit the island to check out the co-living scene before the island went red last year. I have been to Malta before and really liked the island. People here also speak English and there is a lot of history on the island plus you can dive in Gozo, the smaller island. Coco Hub has a community of nomads here and because the island is reasonably small, I imagine that it is a tight-knit community.
I personally love Marbella. To me, there is something so magical about this coastline with the red mountains as a backdrop and the giant rock of Gibraltar in the distance (on a clear day). I spent my days cafe hopping and trying out the best co-working space. My favourite was Our Space, which is designed on a natural environment to inspire creativity. My commute was a gorgeous hour-long walk along the beach, past the ocean and palm trees!
I also tried We Work and attended an evening talk about following your passion. We Work have co-working spaces all over the world and as much as I liked the space, it was located too far out of the city for me. There were meet up groups here too but as a woman moving here alone, I wasn't sure if the size of the community would be enough for me.
If there was a city that I could stay in forever, it would be Medellin in Colombia. Having lived here for a total of 1.5 years, I fell in love with this city known as the City of Eternal Spring. What makes a city for me is the people that you meet and the Paisas (people in live in Medellin) are the friendliest people and really welcome you into their city. The quality of life here suited me. The temperature was always at least 20 degrees Celsius and I lived in a penthouse (in 2016) which was less than £200 a month sharing with three others.
I could explore the rest of Colombia whilst I was there including the charming Colombian town of Guatape, I used to work from Pergamino Cafe in El Pobaldo is the area where most ex-pats and Colombians hang out. Since I’ve left, there are now plenty of co-working cafes and spaces in the city to try out.
These are just some of the destinations that I have personally been to and recommend as a digital nomad. I hope it inspires you to try remote working from a different destination. If you are considering becoming a nomad, it's important to get insurance that covers you when you're living a life on the road. Safety Wing is a good option for digital nomads. As for me, I'll be writing a post on my current nomad experience in Madeira soon! Find it here