Travelling to Asia? Stop! Why Europe is #1 for digital nomads

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Last night I was at a roof top party in a Spain, with a group of amazing entrepreneurs and digital nomads from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Italy & France.

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We had a beautiful BBQ overlooking the Atlantic, drank way too much rum and started a really interesting discussion on the best places in the world for location independent entrepreneurs to work from.

We swapped places we had visited and over the course of the evening we figured out the criteria needed to find a great co-working space for digital nomad types:

1. Great internet access.

There’s nothing worse that being somewhere beautiful and stressing out because you haven’t been in contact with your team in 3 days and you KNOW it’s costing you money & slowing down your business.

Internet access in Europe is a lot cheaper than the US and I’ve never had too much hassle getting great wifi.

2. Nice weather.

OK listen, I live in Ireland. I love it – in the summer :) In the winter it gets pretty dark, grey, wet & miserable for a few months, and its not a whole lot of fun. Escaping the winter and living somewhere else for those few months at the least, is a dream that I think nearly everyone has, whether they are self-employed or working for a company. Add in a pool or a sea-side location for bonus points.

In the winter, there are a secret number of small islands off the coast of Africa. In the past, these were the refuge of towel hugging Germans, Spanish natives and sun burnt English, but in recent years these have started to become winter refuges for digital nomads from all over Europe.

3. Access to a community of people who are running successful businesses.

This is the real value I think. I won’t mention names, but I know at least one major city that runs a lot of start-up / business / entrepreneur events. They make me cry.

Everyone is enthusiastic and excited (great). But no one has earned any money from what they are discussing, and there is not a lot of proven knowledge about. The old saying ‘if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room’ applies. I would love to hear your top places in Europe for meeting & having a beer with other successful entrepreneurs. Let me know in the comments below.

4. No / limited visa problems.

Ah Visas :) Possibly the bane of every digital nomads life. You can only stay in Bali for 30 days unless you jump through a lot of hoops. Australia will kick you out after 3 months. America? Those dudes require your whole identify before they even let you step into the country & they don’t like to see you too often either.

Based on your nationality, being able to stay somewhere without the headaches is pretty major. If you are European (or have an Irish great grandmother – check it out & get your Irish passport!), literally you have a magical continent on your doorstep waiting to be explored.

5. Just cos it’s the cheapest doesn’t mean it’s the best.

Asia is great, and I know some people love it. Google digital nomads and you’ll see lots of people singing the virtues of how you can live on $2 or similar a day and work from paradise. Yeah I get it. Earn $2000 per month in dollars, and live like a king while spending bahts.

But there’s downsides too. Parts of Asia can be incredibly crowded & polluted. Traffic can be nuts! The humidity and bugs can be manic and its a long way from home for longer term stays. If you love it, great. But I’d argue that Europe has a lot to offer as well for digital nomands.

6. Visit beautiful inspiring places..

Forgive my bias but I think Europe is one of the prettiest places in the world.

These areas are amazing… as are these places. If you want adventure try here, and if you are looking for beaches, these shouldn’t be missed either.

Over to you…

So.. I’d love to hear from people who have worked in Europe running a location independent business.. what places do you recommend?

Do you have any travel hack tips for share (like how to get compensation on delayed flights?). Let me know in the comments.

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Elaine Heney is the CEO of Chocolate Lab Apps, #1 Bestselling Author of "The App Escape Plan". Elaine has over 300 apps published with over 10 million downloads, 5 online App Development Courses, and mentors international mobile startups.

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  1. 1 gab June 28, 2014, 1:17 pm

    Elaine!

    Great article.

    I’m currently in Berlin where the start-up scene is quite big. But there’s no millionnaires. I meet a lot of start-ups but the number of entrepreneurs actually making money is little. Everything else about the city is great (atmosphere, party scene, cheap, weather… in the summer). One thing seems to be for sure : there are very little appreneurs that follow our models (either emulating or reskinning).

    I totally agree with the internet thing. You need reliable internet. Even here in Berlin my home internet sucks which is a real pain (but it pushes me to work in bars which is pretty cool).

    Regarding Asia, I’ve been in Bangkok and there are a few successful appreneurs there (more than in Berlin), you just gotta find them. It’s cheap, you can find good internet (well… sometimes), loads of things happening and it’s mostly beautiful weather. You can escape to beautiful islands very easily. Everything is so easy there.

    But the “dream place” seems to be san francisco. Ok it’s expensive and it’s not easy to be able to move there but if you can get that done it sounds like the ideal appreneur place. Would love some feedback from other people though!

    Gab

  2. 2 Elaine Heney June 28, 2014, 1:27 pm

    I was in San Fran for a few weeks earlier in the year. It is absolutely a beautiful city with lots of access to great app companies but has a few major issues for long term visitor stays

    1) visas needed for non Americans & they are tricky to get
    2) the cost of renting is very expensive and is already a pretty major social issue in the city
    3) the weather in the city gets pretty foggy you might need to live outside it a little

    Def a great place to visit though I’d highly recommend. Anyone else been there / lived there? What did you think?

  3. 3 Liem June 29, 2014, 4:55 pm

    I was also down in San Francisco and traveled through Cupertino, awesome weather. North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco would be my preference. And on those foggy days, take a scenic drive up Napa Valley to the wine country.
    But Portland, Oregon is also a great place to consider. Also known as Silicon Forest, many tech companies have huge campus here and home to Nike. IOS Meetup is 117 members, with many other Meetups like Unity3D.
    And of course, WDS(hit me up for ideas outside the crowed downtown area that week)

    Less than a 2 hour drive to the beautiful coastline, 1.5 hour to great skiing. We are right in between Seattle (Microsoft) and Silicon Valley, without the high cost of living.

    Living examples:
    1) Reliable internet(coffee shops are huge here). My internet 7mb, $30/mo.
    2) Apartment rent, Pearl District 1 bedroom, $1500/mo. Metro area 2 bedroom, $1200/mo.
    3) Fuel $1.03/Liter
    4) Favorite staples: Triple shot Latte $4 , Breakfast buffets $10, Pho Soup $8, Red Bull Vodka $8

    We have four season’s here, so the downside is of course the winter, but that’s when you hit the slopes.

    Liem

  4. 4 Nano August 4, 2014, 11:27 am

    I recently move to the North west of Spain and this place is a nice place for a programmer. I live in Vigo who has a “ria” some like a bay, we call the spanish San Francisco bay.
    Our Living Examples :
    1) Internet (cable) 200 mb, 40€
    2) Apartment rent 3 bedroom : 450€/mo. Metro area
    3) Fuel (the most expensive) 1.45€ liter. bike or electric car is welcome.
    4) You can eat in a normal restaurant for less than 10€, coffee no more than 2€, and is usual that when you order a beer (1.5€) they put you a “tapa” (something to eat)
    5) Weather: Summer 25º Winter 15º you never see ice or snow

    This is the good things of our Spanish SF bay, Vigo.

    Nano.

  5. 5 Tomas August 18, 2014, 1:19 pm

    I’ve been living in Europe my whole life so just a thirst of adventure is pushing me to other continents and Asia is one of those. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Elaine :)

  6. 6 Heidi Pungartnik August 18, 2014, 3:36 pm

    Haha, I agree with all above. Mostly because I’m terrified of traveling and so there’s no way I’m leaving Europe :D And as far as cost of living is concerned, there are countries here that are pretty cheap too (in Slovenia where I’m from a pint of beer costs on average 2€).

    I shared this post with a friend who wants to leave for Asia as well. Let’s see if it changes his mind :)

  7. 7 Matthew Acton November 19, 2014, 4:01 am

    Hi Elaine,

    What a perfectly timed article! I am a Canadian/German project manager and I am looking for a virtual/remote position as will my wife and I will be relocating to Barcelona soon. We chose Barcelona because it has a combination of the key factors you mention: great internet access, a community of entrepreneurs (check out http://www.hub.com !), historically Barcelona is known as center of innovation and culture, it provides easy access to other European parts , and of course nice weather!

    While I am not starting a business, I always like to surround myself with people interested in growing and moving things forward and Barcelona seems to provide that (the amazing food doesn’t hurt either). Hope this helps :)

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