This is a guest post from Di Minardi, who lives out of a backpack. Di shares here favorite digital nomad destinations after three years on the road as she moves to a new city every month. She runs the blog: slightnorth.com.
Humans love being part of a community. We evolved that way to keep us safe (there’s power in numbers, after all) and despite entering the digital age, we haven’t quite lost that desire.That’s why, even with the whole world at our fingertips, I’ve seen many location independent, remote working travelers get drawn back to the same digital nomad destinations over and over again.
For my friends Chris and Kim, it’s Cape Town. For John, it’s Ukraine.
And for me, it’s Mexico.
I’ve lived in 11 countries as a digital nomad and visited countless more across Europe and South America, but it’s Mexico I keep returning to.
So, what makes it such a great digital nomad destination? - and which other countries top my list of all-time favorites?
My Top Digital Nomad Destinations
I’ve spent nine months in Mexico across two trips, and have lived in Playa del Carmen, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, and Puerto Vallarta.
One of the main reasons why Mexico is drawing me back for a third time in 2020 is because it’s close to home (I’m American) and I love that I don’t have to deal with the six or eight-hour time zone differences we get in Eastern Europe.
I can also speak Spanish at a somewhat-conversational level, so I can actually talk to my Airbnb host, ask our Uber drivers for restaurant recommendations, or strike up a conversation with someone at a bar without a language-barrier that plagues me in so many other countries. And, yeah, I could speak Spanish when I lived in Peru and Colombia too, but Mexico has better infrastructure - internet, buses, grocery stores, etc. - so ultimately it wins out over the digital nomad destinations in South America as well.
Three top reasons to choose Mexico as a digital nomad location:
1. The huge variety of Mexican food (obviously)
2. The super easy visa process and duration (Americans and Canadians can stay for six months at a time, as well as other country residents)
3. The beautiful natural sites like mountains, volcanoes, jungles, beaches, and ruins that I love exploring across the country.
Despite the insanely cold winters in Ukraine, and my dumb idea to move there in March, Ukraine is still my second favorite digital nomad destination to live, work and travel.
I loved it because the cost of living is low, but the country still has good internet (usually, these two things inverse each other, but Eastern European countries like Ukraine and Romania are the exception).
In Ukraine, we spent six weeks in Lviv, a Western town that was part of Poland until World War II, and six weeks in the capital city of Kyiv.
My top things to do in Lviv
It’s a beautiful town full of sprawling cobblestone streets, never-ending cafes, ornate churches painted head-to-toe in murals, amazing bakeries, tasty chocolate shops, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. From the Ukrainian dumplings (and the Georgian dumplings, and the Uzbecki dumplings), to the perfectly cooked bread and sweet cherry wines, Ukraine is a criminally-underrated foodie destination.
Check out Lviv to travel, and indulge in these foodie tours:
My third favorite digital nomad destination after three years on the road is… Bulgaria?
Yes!, don’t rule out this Balkan country!
I stayed in Sofia for seven weeks and spent long weekends in Sozopol on the Black Sea, the medieval town of Veliko Tarnovo, and in the pretty city of Plovdiv, named the European capital of culture in 2019.
What's to love about Bulgaria?
1. Bulgaria has surprisingly beautiful and easy-to-reach hiking trails and ski resorts - trails, waterfalls, monasteries, and lodges on Vitosha Mountain are only a quick taxi ride from the capital city - and, like Ukraine, the cost of living in Bulgaria is incredibly low.
2. Sofia, is definitely the best of the nomad cities because of its community of people living, traveling and working. There were always tech panels, entrepreneurship events, board game meetups, and more to take part in. I was even invited to present our blog Slight North at a ‘Travel Bloggers for Bulgaria’ meeting and have kept in touch with the blogging community there ever since.
3. And finally, Bulgaria is a great jumping-off point to explore the surrounding area. Did you know that the country shares a border with Romania, Serbia, North Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey? International travel is only a short bus ride away when you settle down in Sofia.
Why does Mexico Win Over the Other Digital Nomad Locations?
In the end, though, Mexico ultimately wins out over Ukraine as my top digital nomad destination for two reasons. The hiking and nature in Ukraine wasn’t as good as Mexico (the Carpathian mountains are beautiful, but difficult for the average tourist to reach) and the language barrier was strong.
Because I spoke and read absolutely zero Ukrainian, we could only communicate with English-speaking locals and visitors and I felt like I was never able to make a real connection with the country and the community around me.
Of course, everyone is different, and we’re all drawn to and connect with different places for different reasons and you don't have to be a digital nomad to do it. Wherever you travel to next, take the time and make an effort to connect with the community and you just might find a brand new place to love or to work and live. Not ready to travel full time? Here are some more strategies on how to travel longer for your vacations.
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