Google may call people back to the office, but many other companies – not to mention entrepreneurs – continue to advocate remote working.
From Croatia to Barbados, destinations offer very different experiences to foreigners looking to work on new shores. The weather is usually better (excluding hurricanes) and the cost can be cheaper (excluding imported goods).
But life isn’t an Instagram photo, warned a digital nomad who spoke to CNBC Global Traveler about living and working abroad.
Name: Jubril Agoro
After more than a decade of living as a digital nomad in Thailand, Colombia and Africa, Agoro came to Bali in December 2020. He chose the Indonesian island for one reason: the people who live there.
“The people of Bali are some of the friendliest, calmest ghosts I’ve ever met,” London-born Agoro told CNBC. “Plus, the cost of living here is about a quarter of what I paid for a similar lifestyle in Miami.”
Agoro and four members of his team run a travel documentation company called Passport Heavy out of a large mansion manned by a cook, a personal trainer, a housekeeper and a mansion manager.
“We have all of these people so we can really work efficiently and not really have to go,” he said.
Agoro gave two examples of monthly expenses remote workers can expect:
1. Budget or solo lifestyle
- Nice apartment – $ 500
- Scooter – $ 70
- Gas – $ 10
- Eating out – $ 300
- Gym Membership – $ 40
- Entertainment – $ 200
- Weekly massages – $ 7
2. “Six-digit” lifestyle
- Villa – $ 1,000
- Improved motorcycle – $ 170
- Gas – $ 20
- Eating out – $ 600- $ 700
- Nicer Gym Membership with Group Classes – $ 150
- Entertainment – $ 1,000
- Weekly massage – $ 30
Although Bali is still closed to international tourists and there is no official program for remote workers, there is a community of digital nomads in Bali, some of whom arrive on investment visas or at the invitation of the government, Agoro said. Others are finding ways to circumvent immigration rules, according to Singapore’s digital newspaper Today.
Shipping isn’t ideal (“there’s no Amazon Prime”) and can be expensive, said Agoro, who paid $ 85 to get a replacement credit card shipped from the US. Nevertheless, he loves Bali’s balanced lifestyle and its reserved manner.
Ubud, Uluwatu and Canggu are popular with remote workers in Bali, said Agoro, who chose Canggu for its “many cafes, beach clubs, great internet, fantastic restaurants and gyms.” [and] Yoga studios. “
Courtesy Jubril Agoro
“You can’t tell the difference between someone who has $ 10 million and someone who has $ 482 in their bank account,” he said.
He warned people not to get “bogged down” by Instagram highlights, and said most remote workers “sit on laptops and tweak things … work as hard as people around the world.”
Agoro originally planned to stay a year but will likely stay two, he said.
“I’m like most people who come to Bali,” said Agoro. “I’ll stay here as long as I can because I’m living my best life.”
Name: David Esposito
From: New Hampshire, USA
When his employer switched to remote working for the whole of 2021, Esposito decided to apply to live in Barbados even though he had never been before.
Seeing “a golden opportunity”, he applied for a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp, a process he describes as very straightforward. The application took no more than 15 minutes and it was approved about 10 days later, he said.
He arrived in February 2021 and lives in an “amazing Airbnb apartment” in Atlantic Shores, a residential area on the south end of the island. He said the people (“super accommodating and friendly”) and the island itself (“beautiful”) were the highlights of life there.
Esposito, a consultant to a software company, lived in Manchester, New Hampshire before moving to Barbados.
Courtesy David Esposito
However, island life in Barbados isn’t cheap, Esposito said.
“Having lived in Boston and Denver outside Barbados, I did not find the same level of ‘sticker shock’ that many warned me about my arrival,” he said. “Rental prices are similar to what I’ve seen in the US, but taxes on imports are high!”
Food is “expensive as hell,” Esposito said, and items aren’t always available. He also relies solely on taxis for left-hand drive problems, issues with drunk drivers, the unpredictability of local buses, and rental prices.
“I’ve seen what it costs to rent a car – no thanks,” he said.
Esposito said he arrived with no expectations, but the only thing he wasn’t prepared for was the local attitude towards dogs that are not considered pets.
“I was definitely not ready for all of the sideways glances, avoidance, and aggression that I experienced while walking my dog,” he said.
Even so, he said he would “like to stay here as long as possible – it’s a wonderful place!”
Name: Melissa Paul
From: Southern California
When Croatia started accepting digital nomads in January, Paul was the first person to be accepted into the program.
She came to Croatia in 2014 as a marketing consultant for the wedding and event industry and lived on the island of Krk near Rijeka, an experience that she found “too remote”. Paul now lives in a house she bought in the mountain town of Labin in western Istria.
The Croatian program, which allows stays of up to a year, works for so-called “slowmads” who prefer to “visit a country slowly over many months rather than jumping from place to place,” said Paul.
Courtesy Melissa Paul
“I’ve learned how cold, lonely, and strange things can be when they’re not prepared,” she said. “Now I know what I need to be comfortable.”
Paul names Croatia’s safety, technological infrastructure, and beauty – including its beaches, islands, waterfalls, and national parks – as some of the best aspects of living there.
“Add to that the friendly people, the handicrafts, the delicious, high quality, locally grown gourmet products like olive oil, wine, truffles, pasta, honey, etc … it’s an incredible place to live,” she said.
Paul describes Croatia as “massively cheaper” than her former home in Los Angeles. She estimates that $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 a month ($ 1,180 to $ 1,770) is a “good standard of living.”
By owning her own home and car, she pays less than $ 950 a month for utilities, groceries, gasoline, health insurance, coffee, and a few dinners, she said.
Last year, more remote workers moved to Croatia due to Covid-19 and political turmoil caused by the last US presidential administration (the latter known locally as “Trump Refugees”), Paul said.
Courtesy Melissa Paul
A two-bedroom apartment in smaller villages costs less than $ 450 a month, she said. This could more than double in coveted city centers like Zagreb and Split.
The only thing that is expensive: food that gets more expensive during the tourist season, Paul told CNBC.
Aside from missing her parents in Maryland, Paul finds no challenge in living in Croatia, even though she wishes she had learned Croatian and Italian before arriving.
“The lifestyle is wonderful and in normal, non-covid times the ability to travel regularly to neighboring European countries is amazing,” she said. “I’ve learned to use the time difference to keep appointments so that I can go swimming in the afternoon, take a long walk in the country, or go to the beach for a coffee with friends.”
Many remote workers on their way to Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain stay longer in Croatia because “they fall in love with the country like me”.
“If anything, I would say that the longer I stay, the richer my life gets,” she said.
Name: Sheryl Nance-Nash
From New York
Nance-Nash’s little house on Long Island, New York, was fine before the pandemic because she often traveled to work.
“With the pandemic, that immediately came to a standstill,” she said. “I started going crazy and really felt cooped up.”
She moved to Robin’s Bay, Jamaica in September 2020. Even if life becomes “normal” again, she assumes that she will continue to live in Jamaica for at least part of the year.
One of Nance-Nash’s primary clients is that anyone can work from home (previously they didn’t), and she uses Zoom and WhatsApp to conduct an interview for her work as a travel writer.
“Now that I’ve done this remote thing, I can’t imagine staying in one place 24/7!” She said. “Life is short; I want to enjoy every minute.”
Nance-Nash and her husband live in Robin’s Bay, Jamaica, an area she describes as rural and off the beaten path.
Courtesy Sheryl Nance-Nash
“I literally stare at the ocean all day while I work,” she said. “I hear the waves. It has done wonders for my health – mentally and physically.”
Nance-Nash lives in a house she built with her husband, a Jamaican national, in a rural part of the country. Life there has “adapted” and is fraught with internet and electricity problems, especially on stormy days during hurricane season. The grocery store is 30 minutes away.
“Paradise is not perfect!” She said.
The costs are mixed. Imported products like groceries can be high, while local groceries, alcohol, and transportation can be inexpensive. Long cab rides can cost as little as $ 5. “However, you probably have other people in the taxi.”
“I’m going to a wonderful place for a mani / pedi that includes some hot stone pampering and a glass of wine, and it’s about $ 35,” she said. “I certainly didn’t understand that in New York!”
Unlike other Caribbean islands, Jamaica doesn’t have an official remote worker program, and Nance-Nash said the process of staying is difficult but worth it.
“The beauty, the rolling hills, the mountains, the ocean and the tropical greenery were more breathtaking than I imagined,” she said. “Seeing this every day means feeling incredibly blessed.”