Becoming a digital nomad or remote worker? Tips to find the perfect location to live and work abroad

Hi there again, 2020. Some of us finally have the guts to face you, stand up, and get creative again! I believe the following guide to find the perfect place to live and work abroad for new digital nomads or remote workers may be the first major step in the right direction for many in an otherwise daunting year.

If there’s a master lesson we were taught in the past several months, it’s the importance of our “base camp”–whether we are a digital nomad or a 9-5 worker. Many of us experienced a really powerful shift in our day-to-day routine, in our priorities.

What do I really need inside these four walls?

How far am I from the places and people I love?

Where can I go safely, while also experiencing a sense of community?

Where do I find my mind wandering to?

digital nomad in Costa Rica working from the beach

To me, it was the beach and yoga. The connection to the ocean and the calmness and centering of the mind and soul that outdoor yoga delivers are all I really needed. With most relatives always afar, that slice of socially-distanced paradise became a sanctuary to my husband and I (oh yes, I got married. More on that on a future post!).

And I’m not alone: the silver lining of this crisis has been that a lot of us find ourselves working remotely full-time, digital nomad or not. This means an increased flexibility to go out there and find a haven you can call home temporarily–perhaps even escaping strict lockdowns and crowds.

If living and working abroad has always been a dream of yours, seize this moment!

Today’s guest writer Aaron is a dedicated yoga teacher I met back in 2014 while on a yoga retreat in Costa Rica. Blue Osa, the sacred land he calls home, transformed my mind and soul in ways that I can barely explain, so it is with great pleasure that I present to you his detailed guide. He will share useful tips on how to pick the best remote worker location and see if living and working in Costa Rica is right for you.

Aaron and Blue Osa, take it away!

living and working from Costa Rica yoga retreat

The once-elusive digital nomad job title is now recognized worldwide as a legitimate way to live, travel, and work remotely. But not all exotic locations are great places to live as a remote worker.

As a temporary resident, there are many factors to consider in order to ensure a smooth and successful transition.

When deciding on a location to live and work abroad, you should focus on what could make or break your experience, such as amenities available and community. It’s easy to think you want to be amid the hustle and bustle of a city–until you find you’re unable to sleep at night because of nightlife noise.

On the flip side, you may think you want to live on a remote beach to escape the chaos that this pandemic has stirred–but may be worried about being isolated again.

Enter Costa Rica: the happy medium you may be looking for!

living and working remotely in Costa Rica, things to do

Costa Rica. a digital nomad hotspot

Costa Rica is a place where the jungle meets the beach, with beautiful weather year-round and plenty of fresh food, interesting sightseeing, and adventurous activities to offer. From hundreds of miles of unspoiled beaches and a stress-free pura vida lifestyle to adrenaline-pumping rappelling, zip lines and scuba diving, it’s no wonder this Central American country is becoming a digital nomad hotspot.

Furthermore (and perhaps most importantly), Costa Rica has the infrastructure to accommodate the growing numbers of travelers and remote workers. A perfect example? High-speed Wi-Fi availability, even in seemingly-remote beach towns.

However, many new remote workers make “rookie mistakes,” forgetting to think beyond beautiful surroundings and Internet connectivity when choosing a base camp to travel, work, and live in.

Factors you should consider as a digital nomad or remote worker

A productive environment

Any seasoned digital nomad will tell you how important it is to create a productive environment to work in. If you work from your accommodation, that means ensuring you have a dedicated working space. If you like to go out, you’ll want to choose a location with various coffee shops and unlimited WiFi, plenty of cable ports, and desks. Likewise, if you enjoy participating in local events and networking, you’ll want an area that has a lot going on.

living and working in Costa Rica, community

A community of like-minded people

Working in solitude might be the most productive environment for some. Still, you’ll likely want to collaborate and meet like-minded people every once in a while. As a digital nomad or remote worker, you are away from most things that are familiar to you, including friends and family. Thus, building a community that shares your interests is a great way to feel connected, be inspired, and have fun.

A range of leisure activities

Speaking of fun, you should also strive to create a healthy work-life balance in your new base camp. As many of us have found out, working remotely blurs the line between clocking in and out, so it’s imperative to set up a rough schedule to walk away from your desk. You didn’t jet out to sit at your laptop all day!

Whether you like to go whitewater rafting in the morning or neon rollerblading at night, it’s wise to build some social activities into your daily routine and try something new while living abroad. Remember: having fun and staying healthy is just as important as making money.

Language and culture

If you are reading this, you have a huge advantage over other non-English remote workers. Most locations that become digital nomad hotspots do so because they have plenty of English-speaking locals and services.

While these are great locations to start your journey, it’s still a good idea to learn the language and familiarize yourself with the culture of the country you plan to travel to and work from. Understanding and respecting the customs and traditions of your temporary home will enrich your experience.

working remotely from Costa Rica, warm climate

one of the best parts of living and working remotely from Costa Rica? Year-round warm climate! However, its high humidity is not for everyone.

Climate

When deciding where to go on holiday, it seems the popular choice is ‘the hotter, the better.’ However, if you’re looking to work and live abroad, you want to ensure the weather meets your personal comfort and is conducive to productivity. Can you work in humidity with nothing but a fan? Do you feel more comfortable in a cool shade?

Cost of Living

You may have a secure full-time remote job–or you may be a freelancer in between gigs. Either way, most people become digital nomads and/or decide to live and work abroad because of the low cost of living compared to their home country.

But not all locations are as cheap as you think.

Moving abroad can be costly at first, especially if it’s your first time dealing with currency exchanges and “paying the foreigner tax” (i.e. being charged a higher price than the locals or ripped off). It’s always best to underestimate your monthly salary and overestimate your expenses until you get accustomed to the local currency and cost of living.

Safety and security

A location with a low cost of living might also come with a hidden price tag: lack of security/safety. Once you find the country you’re interested in, do your due diligence online by reading expat blogs, destination guides from digital nomads already on-site, and local forums. This will help you zero in not only on a particular town, but also specific neighborhoods that match your interests and security concerns.

Also important: speak to locals once you arrive for up-to-date advice.

Accommodation types

accommodation for digital nomads and remote workers

where should I stay as a digital nomad / remote worker? 

The 3 accommodation types that most digital nomads and remote workers go for at the beginning of their journey are:

hotels

Hotels are the initial go-to, as many of them offer easy online booking, free unlimited WiFi, private room and bath, breakfast, and other amenities that’ll take care of most of your needs. Moreover, most hotels don’t require a minimum stay or a contract, allowing you to get a feel of different neighborhoods before committing to a specific area.

The flip side? Privacy may come at the price of isolation.

Hotels are less homey, plus it’s uncommon to have access to a communal kitchen or shared spaces with other travelers and digital nomads, making it harder to meet people. It’s also the most expensive of all options–and it’s unlikely for you to be able to book longer than 30 days online. This means you’re limited to short stays unless you speak with the hotel staff in person and arrange an extended stay.

However, if you’ve already decided on a specific location, staying in a hotel for a few nights while you find a more permanent place is a sensible option. Being on the ground means you get a feel of the area you’d be living in, plus you can talk to owners to get the inside scoop and strike better deals.

hostels

If you are an adventurous remote worker and want to meet new people while living on a budget, a hostel is a great accommodation option for you. Usually, hostels provide dorms with shared bathrooms and, in some cases, they may provide private bedrooms and bathrooms.

Hostels are also non-committal and more flexible. You can stay anywhere from one night to 50– it’s entirely up to you. You can expect to meet many new people, as the guest turnover is much higher at a hostel than at any other accommodation type.

The best part of staying in a hostel? They are designed with sociability in mind, offering a variety of activities during the day and other social events at night. If you’re not an outgoing person or you’re someone who likes a lot of personal space, perhaps a hostel isn’t for you.

Additionally, keep in mind that hostels cater to short-term travelers first and foremost. As a remote worker, this means you’ll need to be proactive about setting a work routine and finding quiet spaces to work.

Another issue to remember when living and working at hostels is security. You’ll need to bring a high-quality padlock to lock away your valuables and work equipment when you aren’t using them.

co-living for digital nomads and remote workers in Costa Rica, Blue Osa

co-living spaces and residential programs

Co-living spaces and residential programs are somewhere between a hotel and a hostel. They typically offer many of the amenities you are used to at home, while sharing some of the living spaces with other like-minded remote workers. You can expect to share a kitchen and other communal areas, all while still enjoying a private bedroom and en suite bathroom.

Another benefit of choosing a co-living space or residential program is that you may snag some great deals when booking long-term stays. This makes them more cost-effective than staying in a hotel, while still being able to enjoy many of the same amenities and some sense of privacy.

While there are many different types of co-living spaces and residential programs, the one thing they share in common is the focus of connecting like-minded remote workers and digital nomads.

There is a sense of community and shared purpose in all co-living spaces.

This type of accommodation option offers you the social life you’d enjoy at a hostel, while the focus of most of the residents is on networking and collaborating instead of partying.

Of course, you may choose to work hard and play hard, too! But you’ll at least always have a quiet, private space to retreat to whenever you need to.

co-living in Costa Rica, Blue Osa residential program

Why choose a co-living program

‘Community hubs’ and ‘expat haven’ are excellent terms to look out for when deciding on a location. But if you know what you like and you plan to stay 1-2 months in one place, going for a co-living or residential program is a wonderful option.

Sure, living and working by the beach while living in a cute Airbnb is great. But living, learning, and retreating with like-minded people is one of the top benefits of being a digital nomad or remote worker abroad.

Whether you’re into yoga and establishing a spiritual practice or building a tech startup and looking to make work connections, there is a co-living program out there for you.

a co-living program in Costa Rica

Why not combine your working schedule with your holistic needs and seek answers to life’s big questions?

Blue Osa, a retreat and spa located in the lush jungles of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, also functions as a co-living residence. Its residential program for remote workers offers private bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, 3 healthy meals a day, high-speed WiFi, and a variety of holistic activities such as yoga classes, meditation, and nature excursions. The experience has been designed to meet digital nomads’ needs beyond the usual sense of community, internet connectivity and other amenities.

Some of the benefits of the Blue Osa Residential Program:

  • Live and serve in a community of like-minded people dedicated to serving others
  • Take breathtaking daily beach walks at sunrise
  • Enjoy the companionship of three dogs and four cats
  • Have access to guided yoga practices
  • Enjoy discounted rejuvenating spa services

Is it safe to live, work, and travel to Costa Rica right now, though?

Costa Rica is positioned as an ideal destination post-COVID “thanks to the successful management of the pandemic and robust health system.” By nature, its remote jungle location allows for semi-private, boutique tourist experiences that are perfect for observing current precautions without adding many hindrances.

Specifically, Blue Osa currently adheres to the COVID guidelines of social distancing and other precautions. Better yet? This retreat is located in an open-air facility on the beach. The continuous ocean breeze, spacious grounds, and secluded private beach–combined with social distancing–make this Costa Rican haven the perfect place to live and work from.

live temporarily in Costa Rica, digital nomad destinations

Come to a safe space where you can wake up every day in a tropical destination and sink deep into an understanding of who you are–all while propelling your career forward and meeting like-minded travelers and remote workers. Live the balanced life you have always wanted!

For more information about Blue Osa’s residential program, click here.

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