Believe It or Not, This Is an Excellent Time to Try Out the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
Some days are just made to write about. Like today, for instance.
I woke to blue skies and mild temperatures here in Prague. Because the city is fully open again, I strolled across the street to my favorite coffee shop for an iced latte and a cinnamon roll, then spent the morning editing a script for an online client at one of the freelance sites where I pick up extra work. Just after noon, I walked the 20 minutes or so that it takes me to reach Old Town Prague and wandered languidly through a French festival, noshing here and there on quiche, oysters from Brittany, and pastries, while sampling small-production French rosé and Riesling. Then, I walked to my favorite beer garden, up on a cliff overlooking the city, for a small glass of my favorite Czech beer while I write this column in the breezy, afternoon warmth.
This day, to me, encapsulates what the freelance life is all about: Balancing the need for income with the desire to live life slowly and enjoyably.
And now is a particularly appealing moment to pursue such a lifestyle, whether in the U.S. or overseas (and, yes, overseas is pretty much off limits to Americans at the moment, but that will change).
In the U.S., businesses are adopting a new work-from-home mindset amid the pandemic, as I predicted they would and as I’ve written about several times. In that work recalibration are numerous opportunities for anyone with skills and talents that are marketable online. And that’s a long list—more than 8,000 skills across 70 job categories, according to research I’ve referenced before from freelance site Upwork. One could easily pick up and relocate their life somewhere else in the U.S.—the mountains, the sea, a lake, a farm—even if temporarily, just to experience the digital nomad lifestyle for a while and to figure out if it’s really for you.
But now, countries are joining the game, too. And that, to me, is the more interesting opportunity.
Right now is an excellent time to test-drive the digital nomad lifestyle abroad without concerning yourself with work permits and long-term residence visas, both of which can be a bear to obtain, depending on the country.
Maybe you saw the headline recently about the Caribbean nation of Barbados now offering a “12-Month Barbados Welcome Stamp.” You can move to the beach and live and work for a year with just your U.S. passport. No visas to apply for, no residence paperwork hassles. (Barbados is one of the countries that is currently open to Americans.)
Better still, Barbados, unlike many countries that offer digital nomad visas, imposes no minimum income requirement. As long as you can afford to pay your Caribbean cost of living, you’re welcome to call Barbados home for a year.
Here in Europe, meanwhile, Estonia is launching a new digital nomad visa that will give you up to 12 months of living and working in the Baltic nation just south of Finland. The application process opens on Aug. 1, and, apparently, there’s no limit on how many visas the country will hand out. You will, however, need to prove monthly income of roughly $4,000.
I’ve been to Estonia. It’s a beautiful, Nordic country with a very Game of Thrones ambiance, particularly Tallinn’s Old Town that dates back at least 800 years. It was one of three countries I seriously considered when I moved to Europe in 2018 (Estonia, Czech Republic, Spain). But that was before the digital nomad visa was a thing, and Estonian immigration determined that a freelancer who could write from anywhere in the world had no specific need to write from Estonia and, thus, politely told me to skedaddle.
Other countries aren’t specifically playing up any new visa options these days, but they offer useful visa opportunities as well for anyone who wants to road-test the digital nomad existence.
Mexico’s Visa de Residente Temporal gives holders the right to live and work inside Mexico for between six months and four years. You need monthly income of about $1,500, or proof of liquid assets of just under $95,400.
France has a relatively easy freelance visa tied to a long-term residence permit. You’ll need proof of about $1,700 a month in income, as well as proof of local accommodation and some sort of self-employment. Beyond that, it’s a fairly easy one-year visa to obtain…and once you have that visa, you can renew it indefinitely, which is a great way to live and work in Europe (when Americans are once again accepted), assuming you want a French lifestyle.
Portugal and Spain both have freelance visas, though there are more involved processes for obtaining those. Same with Germany and here in the Czech Republic.
Chile’s TE6 visa, meanwhile, requires passive or freelance income of just $1,000 a month.
The point here is that if ever you’ve given thought to a work-from-wherever life, now is a particularly opportune moment to, maybe, follow through with those thoughts. The world of work is especially primed for freelancers now, and countries are increasingly making it easy for you to obtain the necessary visa.
If nothing else, think of it as a year-long exchange-student program. You show up in a place like Barbados or Estonia or Mexico and you have a year to live these perfect, digital nomad days, where you’re earning a living even as you’re living a richer, more casual, more enjoyable, less-hectic life.
You might soon realize these are the days you want permanently.
By Jeff D. Opdyke