Going to work can be a bummer.
Sure, some days your job is fulfilling and you have a good laugh with coworkers by the water cooler.
But other days, you’re bored with your surroundings. You daydream of living a less conventional lifestyle.
If this sounds like you, I have some good news.
You don’t have to sacrifice your wanderlust for a paycheck. You can have a career and travel the world at the same time.
You can become a digital nomad.
What Is a Digital Nomad?
To put it simply, a digital nomad is a person who travels while working via the internet.
They travel freely while still maintaining a job.
Digital nomads come in all forms. You could be a writer, designer, editor, photographer or online teacher. And that’s just the beginning. Frankly, the options are endless.
You might decide to work from a jungle in Southeast Asia or from an ice cabin in northern Alaska. Well, provided you can get internet there.
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How to Become a Digital Nomad
By following this lifestyle, digital nomads are able to do two things.
First, build and maintain a successful career.
Second, travel the world with relative freedom.
But you should know the lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as the internet gurus selling you digital nomad courses make it seem. It still takes a lot of hard work.
First, one of the most important pieces of the digital nomad puzzle is finding the best location. Choose a place that incorporates adventure, excitement and a hospitable working environment.
Second, learn the language. You’ll have the time of your life taking in a new culture if you can communicate with locals! Sign up for FluentU to learn with real-world videos, like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks. You’ll be impressing the locals in your co-working space in no time!
And if you hop around from country to country as a digital nomad, you can access all FluentU’s languages with just one account.
Third, if you want to move around a lot, find a steady source of temporary homes which will help you foster both personal and professional growth.
And while the internet world is abuzz with recommendations to go to Chiang Mai in Thailand and Berlin in Germany, there’s so much more out there! There are developed but relatively unexplored lands that offer great working environments for digital nomads.
The 10 Best Places for Digital Nomads That Are Off the Beaten Path
Best Places for Digital Nomads in Asia
1. Tainan, Taiwan
Best co-working spaces in Tainan: Hour Jungle and planett
Taiwan is technically part of China, so most wouldn’t think digital nomads could thrive there. China’s known for restricting residents from using Blogspot, most social media websites and all Google-affiliated sites, among others.
But Taiwan has autonomy from China. This status extends into the realm of internet, and Taiwanese residents don’t have to follow the Chinese government’s restrictive internet policies.
In fact, Taiwan is highly developed, making it an ideal environment for digital nomads.
Tainan is the oldest city and former capital city of Taiwan. It’s chock-full of cool architecture and cultural artifacts.
The cost of living is pretty low and the food culture is one of the best in the world. There are plenty of nighttime activities, street markets and entertainment outlets for expats.
When it’s time to actually sit down to work, there are cafes and convenient co-working spaces.
But be warned, the English levels in Tainan are not the best. It’s helpful to become conversational in Mandarin Chinese, as well as to learn traditional Chinese characters.
2. Jeju Island, South Korea
Best co-working space in Jeju Island: J-Space
When it comes to technological prowess, South Korea is one of the most advanced nations on Earth. It’s constantly leading the world in fast internet, smart cities and digital innovation. Along with Taiwan, it’s one of the Four Asian Tigers noted for its rapid advancements in modernity and growth.
Jeju Island is off the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula, right between the southern coast of Japan and the western coast of China.
Because Jeju Island is in the south, the weather is more tropical than the rest of South Korea. The area is not only known for its beaches but also its volcanic formations that make for breathtaking hikes through craters and lava tubes.
The Wi-Fi is blazing fast, and you can access the internet for free in most parts of the city.
Because Jeju Island is a vacation hub with plenty of resorts, there are many modern amenities that will make digital nomads feel comfortable.
But while it’s cheaper than the rest of South Korea, it still isn’t cheap compared to some of the countries on this list. And like Taiwan, even though South Korea is a modern country with a lot of political ties to the West, the English levels in Korea aren’t great. It’s helpful to know some Korean to get around.
3. Koh Lanta, Thailand
Best co-working space in Koh Lanta: KoHub
With world-famous cuisine, friendly locals and inexpensive everything, Thailand is a typical hot spot for digital nomads and expats.
But most people never venture outside the typical tourist circuit. It should be noted that Thailand is a massive country with a lot to offer in terms of things to see and places to go.
One of those places is Koh Lanta, an island in the south of Thailand.
While still frequented by tourists, Koh Lanta is a much less traversed area than the nearby hubs of Krabi and Phuket. That said, when you want to go to either of those places or to another nearby island, you’re only a short ferry ride away.
Apart from sporting some stunning Thai beaches, Koh Lanta is home to waterfalls, mountains and a national park.
The Wi-Fi on the island is decent in some places, but if you need fast and hyper-stable internet, you should check yourself into KoHub, the co-working space that Forbes called one of the best of Asia.
But because it’s not a well-traveled place, Koh Lanta doesn’t have many of the modern amenities that some expats seek. Remember that you’re on an island in Southeast Asia!
Best Places for Digital Nomads in the Americas
4. Whistler, Canada
Best co-working spaces in Whistler: The Network Hub and Space
Canada is a large, beautiful, modern country. As such, it has a lot to offer its digital nomads.
Whistler is a famous ski town in British Columbia that caters to people from all over the world looking to hit the slopes of the famous Whistler Mountain.
If world-class skiing is your thing, then Whistler is one of the best winter spots in the world.
Apart from the skiing, this area of British Columbia is known for its radiant beauty and diverse wildlife. Even in the warmer months, Whistler offers unparalleled access to the great Canadian wilderness in the form of camping, hiking and other outdoor activities.
Whistler is a short drive away from the bustling metropolis of Vancouver. It’s also just a short ferry ride to the largely uninhabited and equally fascinating Vancouver Island.
In Whistler, everything is cheaper than the average Canadian city, and the Wi-Fi is better than average Canadian Wi-Fi.
But even though everything’s cheaper, that doesn’t mean everything is cheap. In general, Canada is on par with the United States in terms of cost of living.
5. Quito, Ecuador
Best co-working spaces in Quito: IMPAQTO, WorkingUp and Buen Trip Hub
Ecuador is usually known for being the home of the Galapagos Islands, but that’s only when people don’t know about Ecuador’s rich culture, amazing food and breathtaking natural diversity. Many tourists skim past the capital city as a kind of transportation hub.
But Quito has some distinct digital nomad advantages over elsewhere in South America.
Quito is visually stunning. It offers incredible views of the Andes and is the gateway to the diversity of the Amazon. In Quito, you’re never more than a taxi or bus ride away from world-class mountain climbing, hiking and wilderness exploration.
Aside from the natural landscape, the architecture reflects a stunning and interesting cultural history that isn’t found anywhere else in South America.
The cost of living in Quito is cheap and most expats can get by comfortably with very little. The Wi-Fi is good and comparable to many other South American digital nomad cities.
But while it’s a relatively modern city, English levels are typically low among locals. Learn as much Spanish as possible to make the most of your time in this city.
6. Cali, Colombia
Best co-working spaces in Cali: El LAB and Casa O
Many digital nomads come to Colombia, a country known around the world for its decent internet and low cost of living. Then they head straight to the digital nomad hot spot of Medellín.
But because Colombia is such a large and diverse place, there are other cool places for internet workers to hang out.
One reason digital nomads love Colombia is because it’s cheap, and Cali is cheaper than most other Colombian cities. Cali also offers some outstanding scenery that highlights the natural beauty of Colombia moreso than a big city like Medellín or Bogotá.
And the Wi-Fi is usually pretty solid, especially in one of its cool co-working spaces.
But because it’s less popular for expats, English is also much less commonly spoken. Knowing some Spanish will definitely make your time here easier and more fun.
Best Places for Digital Nomads in Africa
7. Nairobi, Kenya
Best co-working spaces in Nairobi: iHub, Nairobi Garage and The Entrepreneurs Hub
No one typically associates the internet economy with any place in Africa. That’s because large swaths of Africa don’t have internet access.
But that doesn’t mean that Africa isn’t home to areas prime for technological growth.
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, is one of these cities.
Nairobi is a growing digital hub for all central and east African entrepreneurs and startups. It’s a fun city that’s easy to walk around and navigate.
Kenyans also have a high level of English-speaking abilities, so getting around is pretty easy.
There’s low cost of living, decent internet and a close proximity to some of the most amazing wildlife and wilderness activities in the world. It’s also home to a slew of co-working spaces and tech incubators.
But while Nairobi is a modern and innovative hub, it’s still located in a developing country. Kenya isn’t particularly known for being the safest place, and poverty is still rampant in the capital city.
8. Port Louis, Mauritius
Best co-working spaces in Port Louis: Coworking Port-Louis and The Ground
Most people are unaware of this tiny island nation off the east coast of Madagascar. It’s known for its beaches, coral reefs, lagoons and mountainous interior. It also has a little-known but thriving expat scene.
Apart from the picturesque beaches, warm ocean waters and tropical weather, Port Louis also contains a growing number of expats who live and work via the internet.
Because it’s more developed as a tourist spot than a lot of other places in Africa, the modern amenities offered to its residents are typically higher than the average African nation. This includes decent Wi-Fi and modern amenities, complete with a good amount of co-working spaces.
It also helps that the two most most widely spoken languages are French and English, so communication is typically easy for westerners.
But island life has its struggles. Poverty and unemployment are high among locals, so theft and petty crimes are relatively common problems.
Best Places for Digital Nomads in Europe
9. Timisoara, Romania
Best co-working spaces in Timisoara: Cowork Timisoara and Startup Hub
The Eastern European nation of Romania is notable for, among other things, being cheap. This makes it attractive for digital nomads. But being cheap doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t modern.
One great example of a modern Romanian city is Timisoara, a city near the Serbia-Hungary border.
Timisoara is a historic city with amazing architecture and cultural artifacts. Being the third-largest city in Romania, it has a well-defined infrastructure, so you’ll have no trouble getting around.
The city mixes its historic roots with a modern feel, complete with great internet speeds and hip co-working spaces. And the cost of living is still very low, especially when compared to the rest of Europe.
But while it’s a modern place to live, some older people and non-educated locals won’t be able to understand English. Knowing Romanian or one of the other local languages such as German or Hungarian can only help you.
10. Tarifa, Spain
Best co-working space in Tarifa: La Cocotera
Spain is one of the crown jewels of Europe. With its beautiful cities, distinct culture and noteworthy landscapes, people from all over the world come to Spain.
Nestled on Spain’s south coast lies Tarifa, a tiny town famous for its kite surfing beaches.
If you’ve ever wanted to go kite surfing every day after work, Tarifa is your place to go.
This beach community is cheaper than most other Spanish cities and the Wi-Fi is usually stable and decent.
It’s a small, walkable city. From the center of town, you can walk to the beach in only 15 minutes. There’s already a thriving expat community here and it’s becoming more and more popular as a community for digital nomads.
But since this beach town is still developing, modern amenities might not be as readily available as elsewhere in Spain. And as with elsewhere in less touristy areas, some local language skills will be very useful.
Being a digital nomad is a serious commitment that takes a lot of willpower, patience and persistence. But if you put in the work, you can definitely build a successful digital career.
And if you travel outside of the typical digital nomad routes, you’ll have amazing experiences that less adventurous nomads will never even know existed.
This list is only the beginning. There are hundreds of places for digital nomads that will help you live the work and travel lifestyle.
All you need is some courage to take that first leap. So get out there and explore all the less-traveled places for digital nomads this big world has to offer.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your new home!
Eric Michelson is a nomadic, philosophizing, peace-minded pluralist. He hopes to help bridge the divide between the diverse factions of the world by exploring various perspectives brought on by personal experience. You can follow Perspective Earth to learn more about him and his work.