Yesterday we talked about building your location independent business by leveraging the power of geographical arbitrage. If you haven’t read that yet, please do so before continuing.
Today, we will get into the nitty-gritty of finding the perfect place for you to call home for the next 3-6 months as you start your journey to location independence.
With 195 countries in the world, you may be thinking to yourself, “where in the hell do I start?” Which is a very valid question if you don’t know what you are looking for. That’s why I am here to help, to narrow down that list of 195 countries to 1 city, the perfect fit for your wants and needs, your dream working and living environment.
First, we need to define your goals. What do you want to get from your experience abroad? Is it to purely save money and live as cheap as possible? Or to practice a particular language that you have been learning and want to become fluent in? Or maybe you are merely looking for a home base to do plenty of side trips to neighboring countries? We all have goals in mind and we need to write them out before moving forward. In your dream environment, what 5 qualities would you want your country to possess?
For me, my goals in looking for a country when starting my journey as a travelpreneur were the following:
- Spanish-speaking: I have a near fluent level of Spanish already after living and traveling around South America for a year, but I really want to take it to the next level and say that I am completely fluent.
- A developed city, but not too crowded (1m-10m population): I enjoy having plenty of activities and gatherings to attend, but don’t want to feel overwhelmed with the overcrowdedness and pollution that comes with a massive city like Tokyo, Jakarta, Delhi, or Manila, where the population is 24-38M. With developed cities also comes fast internet (>15 mbps), which is important in running a business from your computer.
- Low Cost of Living (<$1,000/mo): For my apartment, food, transportation, and other daily living expenses, I did not want to pay more than $1,000/mo. Seeing as my apartment in the States was nearly this much, it is a huge cut in my expenses.
- Moderate Weather Year-round (18-30C/65-86F): I like living in places where there is plenty of sunshine, but not like on the coast where it is nearly unbearably hot and humid. I like to vacation on the beach, but not live there. I’d rather have a nice mountain breeze than an ocean breeze. Spring time back home in the States is my favorite climate, so if I can duplicate that year round I’d be happy.
- A Community of Other Travelpreneurs: Since I am just starting out on my journey of working remotely, I thought it would be best to surround myself with other like-minded individuals that have already been there and done that, a support system to learn from their successes and failures. Some of the most popular “digital nomad” spots are in SE Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe, with the cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand being by far the most popular in the world.
By using these criteria, I went to one of the greatest free resources there is on the internet for travelpreneurs/digital nomads, called the Nomad List. This resource was created on a whim by tech entrepreneur Levels.io after asking his audience a few questions and then taking action on their responses. It has since grown into a living and thriving community of nomadic entrepreneurs. It is a great starting point in narrowing down a large list of countries and cities to a select few, where you can do further research.
By using my goals above, coupled with the fact that I wanted a Free Visa for at least 30 days as an American citizen, I was able to narrow down my list to the following six cities in South America, where I feel comfortable from my past travels:
You can also sort your filtered cities by clicking on the List option, which gives you a sorted overview of the results, and I like best. There is also a map option available if you are unaware of the geographical locations.
From there, you can dig down deeper on the positives and negatives of each city by clicking on them individually. It gives you an aggregate “NomadScore” based on all the factors that make it intriguing to nomads. The top result returned for me was Quito, Ecuador, which I know very well after a 5-month study abroad program during my time in university. Although I love Quito and Ecuador, I have already travelled the entire country and city, so I would rather try something new.
By clicking on the “Info” tab, you are given a breakdown of the best times of year to visit based on the temperature and seasonality, the country and region, the population, the top utility providers, the internet speed, religious background, and humidity level. I’ve never been to Argentina and have always wanted to go, but it is currently transitioning into winter down there and 9°C/48°F in June does not sound enticing. I’ll have to reevaluate this option in the future.
One of the most important factors, for me, when searching for a new home base is the “Cost of Living.” This information is vital in planning your travels and budget to make sure you will be able to afford your new environment. The “NomadCost” is significantly higher because it takes into account that you will be staying short term for up to 3 months, sleeping in cheap hotels/hostels near the city center, and eating out for all 3 meals per day. The middle end of the spectrum is the “Expat Cost,” which assumes you will be there for a few years, renting a long-term accommodation like an apartment, and both cook at home and eat out on occasion. At the bottom end of the cost scale is the “Local Cost,” which factors in that you are from the city, live away from the center, and cook at home for nearly all meals. Based on my way of travel, by staying in a particular city for 3-6 months, finding a local room for rent on the outskirts of the city, and balancing both eating out and cooking at home, I would average the Expat and Local cost of living to arrive at $1,200/mo budget for myself in Montevideo. Based on the higher cost of food in Uruguay ($9.61 for a basic meal) and the fact that I would be arriving during winter (13°C/55°F in June), I will have to pass on it for now.
Having a network of like-minded travelpreneurs/digital nomads is quite important when trying to build a business abroad. From the moment you land, you realize you are in a foreign environment and on your own. At least with the community on NomadList, you can ask questions and receive valuable feedback from those that are either in the same situation as you currently are or have been there before. The community aspect is free to follow along, but it will cost you $65/year to join and contribute in the Slack chat forum. Is the chat worth it? Yes and no, some cities have a greater value than others with a larger community and more contributors, but if you plan on living the nomad lifestyle it could come in handy as you hop from place to place. I made the investment, but have yet to be an active user. Personally, Buenos Aires falls into the same boat as Cordoba at the moment, too cold for me but would love to visit in the near future, especially due to the Argentinian peso being extremely affordable for those with Dollars since the new president introduced a policy change in December.
If you have any questions or concerns about a particular place, the “Questions” tab is a great way to reach out to the community for help. From questions about laptop security, to where you can purchase a new MacBook, to the overall lifestyle in the city, and more can be found here. Santiago has gradually solidified itself as one of the central hubs for technological advancement and investment in Latin America, with startup incubators like StartUp Chile growing in popularity and prominence. The cost of living in Santiago, coupled with the fact that their are a lot of smart and driven entrepreneurs make it an interesting place to look at, but being so close to the Andes mountains and too far south of the Equator, winter does not sound like a motivating factor for me, maybe in Dec-Feb it would be a better idea.
By clicking on the “Trips” tab, you can take a look at other nomads that are planning on being in the city and when, which give you an opportunity to network and make friends before ever even arriving to the city. You can also publicly list your trip on the board for others to see and contact you about.
Another great feature that this platform has is the ability to find and rent coworking spaces, community working spaces dedicated to entrepreneurs to provide them a quite area with good internet to get stuff done. As you can see below, prices range from $3-8/day for access to these “clubs.” Not only do they offer a great place to work from, but also are a fantastic social environment to meet other like-minded individuals and to brainstorm on new ideas and to solve mutual problems.
After doing a thorough analysis on NomadList, based on my 5 goals, and asking the right questions to fellow travelpreneurs, I made the decision to make Medellin my home base as I start the exciting journey of location independence.
Medellin is a magical place, a developed but yet still affordable metropolitan city nestled in between the mountains of Antioquia ,with an eternal spring like climate of 29°C/84°F year-round. It is everything I was looking for and can be reached from Florida for less than $100 one-way flight.
Gone are the days of Narcos running through the city like maniacs, the local people are proud of their city and will do anything to make foreigners feel welcome and accepted, making safety outside of petty theft a non-issue. The majority of the population is solely Spanish-speaking, so knowing the language is a huge help, although the younger generation of under 35 year old will more than likely know English. Even though the internet speed is listed as “Bad” at 5 mbps on NomadList, the internet at my apartment is at least 10-15 mbps and I have no problem performing Skype calls and browsing the internet, which can be found out by asking a fellow nomad that has been there before instead of relying solely on the data provided by NomadList. All in all, Medellin is my paradise and will be my home for the next 3-6 months barring any surprises. I’m thinking Argentina will be my next destination sometime around October, as I am very intrigued by Cordoba and Buenos Aires, and have been dying to visit Patagonia, but who really knows as a travelpreneur where we will end up next?
Question of the Day: What city in the world would you like to make your next home base while you build your location independent business? and why?
Comment below, I look forward to hearing your choices!