Travel startups help digital nomads wander the world

On a recent afternoon in Medellín, Colombia, a group of 22 out-of-town ers gathered to brainstorm and meet locals. They weren't on vacation. Nor had they met by coincidence. They were participants in a programme run by Unsettled, a startup that organises 30-day co-working experiences around the world for professionals seeking to combine work, travel and redefining themselves.The company is one of dozens of new work-tourism programmes that aim to help digital nomads navigate living and working in far-off places.

"If we could be somewhere, experiencing the world in a beautiful setting while working, challenging ourselves, growing professionally , enjoying a community of like-minded people and connecting locally, what's stopping us?" said Michael Youngblood, 32, who founded Unsettled with another digital nomad, Jonathan Kalan, 29. Stacey Chassoulas, a digital marketer from Johannesburg, joined Unsettled's programme in Buenos Aires last fall "to change the rhythms of daily life" with her partner, Tyrone Niland. Both are 36 and love to travel, but wanted to keep their jobs and home.



Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research, an independent research and consulting firm, attributed the increase in the number of remote workers to improved technology, a changing job market and inexpensive flights. The two main groups fueling it, he said, are millennials interested in taking time off from traditional work and aging baby boomers who have financial resources and flexibility.

Resources helping digital nomads work on the go include Nomad List, a website that ranks destinations that are accommodating to digital nomads, based on factors like cost of living, internet speed and weather; and groups like Remote Year and Hacker Paradise. Johannes Voelkner, founder of Nomad Cruise, organises two-week networking cruises for digital nomads twice a year. "A lot of people think, 'I wish I could do this.' But they make it too complicated - they try to change their complete lives instead of starting with a short test," Voelkner said.

Roam, a network of co-living properties in Miami, Bali, Madrid and London, is geared to remote workers "who need a reliable base in different cities," said Bruno Haid, the company's chief executive. Each location has communal living areas, with meeting rooms, a co-working space and fast WiFi, and offers social activities, often unique to the locale. Most guests are "freelancers, authors and creative industry types," he said, but "we do increasingly see employees" from companies like Google or Boston Consulting Group.

Low-cost locations like Bali and Chiang Mai, Thailand, have long attracted digital nomads, but now other destinations are reaching out. "It's one of the trends we need to understand if we want to be relevant," said Signe Jungersted of Wonderful Copenhagen, the region's tourism organisation. When highly skilled people stay for extended periods, it not only promotes tourism, but also attracts business and touches off innovation, Jungersted explained. "Travel has changed," she said. "Everyone wants to be a temporary local."

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