Okay, you have a meeting on zoom this afternoon, a number of emails to get out to colleagues at head office a good few thousand miles away, calls to make regarding a new project… And all that from a table on the terrace by the pool. What does that make you (apart from lucky)?

Sitting in a shady garden in Loulé, I have my iPad on my lap doing some paid work for my boss in London. This is my usual lifestyle but does the fact that I’m working while abroad make me a digital nomad or a remote worker? According to a recent study carried out by Dave Cook and a team of anthropologists at University College London I am in the second category.

In order to qualify as a true Digital Nomad:

  1. You must have a continuous flow of digital tasks to complete on your laptop. You will be working freelance, salaried or for your own business. Almost certainly you will write a regular blog but that is not compulsory.
  2. You must have the desire and ability to work and travel simultaneously.
  3. You must make your own free choices about destinations without any external work pressures guiding your selections.

Right here
One of the most popular destinations in Europe is Lisbon: a Digital Nomad Visa has been established in Portugal since October 2022 and the country is ranked fifth best in the world for digital nomads.

Lisbon has a lower cost of living than most other large European cities, enabling people to avoid the worst of inflation at home.

Worth knowing is that there are suitable places for digital nomads to stay in temporary Co-living / Co-working accommodation. Many apartment blocks in Lisbon are becoming de facto hotels, which unfortunately is driving up the cost of rental accommodation for the locals; there are well-known areas for digital nomads to congregate where social life revolves around advice and recommendations about other suitable destinations.

Cook’s observations (& anomalies)
In 2023, monthly arrivals of digital nomads in Lisbon, population of half a million, amounted to 11,000. In the same year, monthly arrivals in Mexico City, population of nine million, amounted to 8,000. Popular destinations in South East Asia where the cost of living is low are Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand and Canggu in Indonesia.

Following the pandemic, the arrival of digital nomads has boosted economies without creating the backlash that has happened in Lisbon.

Report compiled by European workers
This report questioned digital nomads on subjects such as happiness, cost of visas, cost of living and healthcare. Internet speeds were also taken into consideration.

The top three countries were Norway, Germany and Hungary. The score out of ten for Norway was 7.79 with an internet speed of 114 Mbps. Portugal scored 6.70 despite having a faster internet score of 132Mbps. Russia, Ukraine and Brexit Britain were excluded from the survey due to lack of data.

The European Workers survey summed up Portugal like this: “Portugal scores consistently well across all categories. It’s one of the safest countries on the list, with good internet and a cheap cost of living. Portugal is known for its fantastic weather with over 300 hours of sunshine each year. It’s also well known for the warm welcome given to Expats living in Portugal.” 4 You must travel to at least three destinations per year. (Generally, staying with friends and relatives doesn’t count.)

Top bloggers’ warnings
It’s not enough to be a great freelance writer bubbling with ideas. Look firstly at the section entitled ‘About Me’ featured in any digital nomad blog. They confirm that it’s a hard life to get started and not much easier when you’ve reached the top.
But oh the joys of being part of the big wide world.

Words: Carolyn Kain

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