This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, and I can guarantee you I’ll be updating it a lot in the future. I’d also like to feature lists of some of my digital nomad friends, if I can get them to agree to it.
Traveling the world as a digital nomad is a uniquely interesting and challenging thing, because your needs are so different than what they are when you’re traveling as a tourist — in fact, in many cases, your needs will be the exact opposite!
A piece of necessary background info before we start: humans are different from one another. And so you, being a different human than me, might have different human needs and desires. So this list is more to give you ideas to evaluate your own needs with, rather than to just copy-and-paste into your human life.
So let’s dive in!
Things I look for when picking a destination
This list is about when picking a new city to go to. For what I look for when picking a place to stay in the city, look to the next section.
Activities I enjoy
For me, this means that I need to have at least one of: yoga, climbing, diving, pottery studio, or surfing. I don’t particularly enjoy going to bars or clubs — I plan to get more comfy with it but it’s not my bag currently — and so having at least one of these things available for me to get out of the house and go do is really important.
Ability to easily meet people / make friend (or have friends already there)
The above list of activities I enjoy ties in with this one. It’s common for me to make friends at the climbing gym, dive center, etc., so having that helps here. But beyond that, being in a city that’s tech-oriented enough to have meetup groups helps a lot. And going to a city with a sizeable digital nomad scene makes this easier, and also increases the chances of me meeting people that fluently speak English.
Nature / peace
I want to be able to easily get to a park, at the very least. It’s probably the Coloradoan in me, but time in nature is necessary for me to maintain my sanity.
This one’s pretty obvious, but yeah… The city needs to have reliable, good-or-better wifi. As much as I loved my time on Pulau Weh, power outages every few nights, coupled with terribly slow wifi & 3G, did not exactly enable me to crush it with work. 🙂
Cafes to work from
I tend to prefer cafes more than coworking spaces, for whatever reason. And usually, the presence of cafes is not a problem, and it wasn’t until I got here to Porto that I realized how important it is for me to have a fallback cafe (that’s climate controlled with free wifi) to work from if I can’t/don’t want to work from home
This one is almost certainly the Coloradoan in me. I’ve spent some time working from both Manchester and London, and in both instances I often found myself longing for something other than overcast weather.
AKA somewhere that’s not cold. Which is a bit ironic because I have such a low heat tolerance. So really, somewhere hot with A/C, or somewhere that’s a perfect temperature ALWAYS. Haven’t yet found that place yet, but Chiang Mai came close. (If only it ticked more of my other boxes)
Things I look for when picking my accommodation
Alrighty, so let’s say I’ve picked a city. The first thing I like to do is learn about the neighborhoods in the city, and the locations of the things I care about, (like yoga, climbing, coffee shops, etc) and then try to get a cheap place, in a good neighborhood, that’s close to the stuff I enjoy. Note: when I say “close,” I define it as a 5 minute walk or less. Obviously I will walk more than that, and I don’t have an aversion to walking, but anything that’s more than 15 minutes away doesn’t really feel close anymore, as it’s a bit of an ordeal to get there, vs. just being able to pop over quickly.
Cheap (relatively speaking)
“Cheap for the area” might be a better way of labeling this one. Generally when I’m staying somewhere for at least a month, I can find airbnbs that offer steep monthly discounts. (It’s not uncommon to see places that offer 40 or 50% off when you stay for a month) Something I plan to do soon is build the skill of booking an airbnb for a week or so, and hitting the pavement to find a flatshare or something like that so that I can pay more around what a local might pay. Even a cheap airbnb is going to cost 2 or 3x what it would cost if you were leasing it as a local, I’ve found.
Close grocery store & ability to cook
As I’ve been taking better care of my body, I’ve been cooking more. As such, I want to be able to do that.
…or at least close (healthy) restaurants
In lots of parts of Asia, it really is just more practical to eat out, in my experience. But then, when I was in Asia, I wasn’t really cooking, so……… maybe that’s not apt. Let’s put it this way though: when you can step outside and find yourself surrounded by delicious food that costs under $5/meal, it is easy to not feel so motivated to cook.
I pretty much always get a local sim card when I travel now, if I’m going to be somewhere for more than a couple weeks, but it’s still good to know that the place I am staying has good wifi. It’s hit and miss though, and is often difficult to get a speedtest.net screenshot from airbnb hosts, so that’s why it’s important to have that backup coffee shop in my pocket.
Desk or workspace
I like being able to work in my room, and a desk helps me to do that, obv. I will often settle for a place with no desk in the room if it has a gorgeous living room/kitchen where I can work, or something like that.
I don’t like working in places where I don’t get any natural light. I think that’s pretty reasonable. If I’m right next to a cafe where I’ll always be working, I don’t care so much about this, but if I plan to work from home, this is a must for me.
Space for my yoga mat
A huge part of my self-love/self-care regimen is giving myself the space to be still & present. Sometimes, there might not be a yoga studio nearby, or they might not have classes when I want, or whatever. And in these times, it is really great if I have the space in my room (Or better yet, a terrace with a view!) to do some yoga and meditate.
Easy to get to the city center
I like places that are walkable to city center where all the hip stuff is happening within like 10 minutes, or are at least within a 5 minute walk of public transit. Of course, the trade-off here is that the closer you are to the city center, the more expensive the place will be. (As a general rule)
Like I said, I will be updating this post a bunch in the future. I just wanted to get the damned thing written. It’s worth noting that a lot of these needs — most of them, actually — were only realized when they were absent from my life and I noticed how much their absence bugged me. If you’re embarking on the nomadic lifestyle, I’d encourage you to keep a list like this for yourself, using a tool like trello, so that you can make sure you pick places that work for you.
If you’re a nomad, I’d love to hear about your list of needs! Feel free to post your list in the comments, or contact me if you want to submit a guest post.
Last updated on 7/25/16