How do we decide where to live next?

So many cities, so much to do! So how do we and other digital nomads figure out where to travel to next?

Bangkok, we'll miss you terribly
Bangkok, we’ll miss you terribly

The question “How do we decide where to live next?” should quite rightly be prefaced and postfaced with “#niceproblemtohave #firstworldproblem”. Because let’s face it: we’re in a ridiculously privileged position to be able to ask that question – and we try really hard to remain aware of that fact.

Plenty of soon-to-be-nomads and people-who-are-just-curious wonder the same thing though, and it’s understandable really. After all, we have the opportunity to go anywhere, and – again, not that we’re complaining – that’s a pretty daunting range of options.

When we first started with this lifestyle, it actually wasn’t that difficult to decide: we’re not the travel-crazy type with an endless bucket list, and we had very little money to throw around – which shortened the list still further.

After we’d visited all the places on the list, we turned to Skyscanner’s “Everywhere search” tool – which presents you with a menu of flight options to countries in price order. That was massive fun: we travelled to cities we hadn’t really considered (Madrid, Sofia, Macau, Penang…) very cheaply and with mixed yet interesting impressions.

We also made use of the recommendations and whereabouts of fellow nomad friends. Through those methods we found ourselves living in places like Budapest, Valencia, Barcelona, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Berlin and Prague.

Today, our bucket list is far longer than it used to be: seeing more of the world has stoked a desire to see yet more. And we’re constantly meeting people who’ve been to other places that we just know we’d love (Split, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo, Austin, Copenhagen, Tallinn…).

There’s also the matter of wanting to return to so many of the cities that we’ve already lived in and loved. And our businesses are off the ground now – which means we’re in a better financial position to discover (or rediscover) some of those places.

But at the same time, we have more restrictions than before: our UK-based business (Yellow Lettings – which we started up last year) requires at least a few overlapping working hours with wherever we happen to be. We also need to return to the UK at least once every few months for the business, meaning we can’t just take a series of small steps to different places around the world until we come full-circle: we have to actually fly back to the UK in between.

On top of that, we know that we’re going to be working particularly hard on Yellow Lettings over the next few months as we hire and expand. We need to be living somewhere reliable – where the wifi won’t conk out on us as we’re about upload a few gigabytes to Dropbox, and there won’t suddenly be a street riot during our Skype call.

Those are the practical restrictions. The mental/emotional restrictions also need some consideration. I don’t want to say that we’re tired of hassle, but some cities require much more of a mental and logistical adjustment than others.

Take Bangkok. I LOVE it there: I feel comfortable and at ease, I enjoy all the madness, and I’m actually beginning to know my way around. I love the people, and I adore the city’s street food so much that I’ve just made my tummy rumble thinking about it. And yet it’s not an easy place to live. The effort and preparation involved in getting around and really experiencing it takes time – and bucketloads of sweat.

Or take Georgetown, Penang. Walking down the street takes about twice as long as any other city we’ve been to, due to the surprisingly massive gutters in the road and the petrifying traffic. Going for a wee when out and about demands a certain level of tolerance for stench and squatting, and the lack of apartment rentals means there are limited options for comfortable, large accommodation with decent wifi. Again, we enjoyed pretty much every second of our time in Penang. But would we go back? Not right now, because we just want things to be a bit easier – at least for the time being.

So we’ll be spending the rest of the year in Europe. And not even “up and coming” or “must go if you’re a digital nomad” places like Tallinn or Wroclaw or Prague. Nup: first stop is The Netherlands for a couple of months. The plan is to spend two weeks in Rotterdam, followed by ten days in Utrecht, followed by a few weeks in we-haven’t-decided-yet-but-it’ll-be-a-very-short-train-ride-to-get-there.

While we’re there, we’ll learn the basics of their language and then rely gratefully on the fact that they all speak English. We’ll hire bikes and cycle everywhere – on flat, flat, wondrous flat land where cyclists are held in higher esteem than motorists. We’ll go to local supermarkets and cook food in the humongous kitchens in our apartments. We’ll take walks by the canals, and we’ll work from many of the fantastic cafes (after making sure they’re definitely work-friendly cafes rather than the “other” kind of cafes, of course).

After The Netherlands, we’re not sure. But we’re on the lookout for somewhere just as convenient – possibly somewhere we’ve already lived. The goal is to make everything as hassle-free as possible.

In 2016 our priorities will change – and we’re hellbent on making it to Seoul and/or Taipei at the very least. For the remainder of this year though, “ease” is the main factor in determining where we decide to live.

And the great thing about this lifestyle is that we can step it up a gear – or go slow and steady – whenever the mood takes us. Being a digital nomad isn’t about galloping around the world to see it all and do everything. It’s about having the freedom to move as quickly or as slowly as we want or need. And it’s about choosing to live in places as crazy or laid back as we like, whenever we like.

Resources for deciding where to go next

  • Use Find A Nomad to see where other digital nomads are hanging out around the world.
  • Numbeo has a handy cost-of-living comparison tool, which you can use to compare the prices of various products, food, accommodation, etc. of any two cities in the world – useful if you’re budgeting.
  • Use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere search” tool for inspiration: in the “To” field, write “everywhere” (and in the “From” field, write the name of the city from which you’ll be flying). Skyscanner will then present you with a list of destinations in price order.
  • You can do the same using Rome2rio: type “direct flights” into the “TO” box and your city/airport of origin in the “FROM” box to show all the direct flights from that city/airport.
  • Nomad Forum is a great place for asking questions and receiving really detailed answers about places you’re thinking of visiting. (There’s also a large archive of other people’s Q&As for you to look through.)
  • If you enter your starting point into Low Cost Airline Guide, it’ll show you a list of destinations which you can reach with one direct, non-stop flight on a low-cost airline. The site includes airlines that don’t feature in the search results of flight aggregator sites like Skyscanner.

Where are you going next – and why?

Let me know in the comments!