The way we work has shifted significantly, and there are some terrific new options for how we work, when we work, and even where we work. Digital nomads are embracing these new options. They are landing jobs which are all-remote or remote-friendly and taking their work on the road—choosing to work wherever they please—because they can.
If you’re a digital nomad or thinking about changing it up in terms of where you work, you’ll want to know where it’s best to go, and what to consider when you’re planning to work from anywhere.
Best locations for digital nomads
A new study by Reviews.org used key criteria to rate the best cities for remote work. They analyzed tech capabilities (including download speed and number of free Wi-Fi hotspots), cost of accommodations, airport availability, climate, and outdoor experiences (nearest national park and recreation areas).
Based on their criteria, the top ten cities for digital nomads are:
- Seattle, Washington
- Portland, Oregon
- Chicago, Illinois
- Atlanta, Georgia
- San Jose, California
- Washington, D.C.
- San Francisco, California
- New York, New York
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Denver, Colorado
Among these, San Francisco and San Jose stand out for having nearly 300 recreation areas each—while Portland and New York City had the lowest-cost options for accommodations. Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia boasted the best download speeds.
And which cities may be your worst bets? Of the 100 cities assessed, Mobile, Alabama; Albany, New York; and Portland, Maine, scored lowest on the criteria on which were judged.
The search for a “happy place”
Another factor you may want to consider as a digital nomad is happiness. If you’d like to go where people are happiest, you could look to a study by Amerisleep, which judged the happiness of states, based on combined metrics of residents’ health, education, number of working hours, safety, and the like. In their study, the happiest state is North Dakota followed by Vermont, Nebraska, South Dakota, and California. The same study says the least happy states were Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Nevada, and Ohio.
The digital nomad lifestyle
When you’re deciding to become a digital nomad, you’ll want to consider a few key things about yourself and your work:
- Consider, of course, whether your work lends itself to being away. If you’re working in a test lab and need to perform hands-on product analysis, obviously becoming a digital nomad may not be in your immediate future. But if you have the type of job in which you can work from anywhere, go for it. You’ll want to give deeper thought if your job requires some work in the office. Are there seasons where it’s more important to be in the office during which you could avoid travel, for example, but get away during alternate time frames? Or could your employer handle your being away for 6 to 12 months if you commit to a longer period with the company after that? Think creatively about how you might be able to meet the requirements of your job in order to strike out.
- Consider your career. Give thought to how being a digital nomad will contribute to or detract from your career goals. If you want to advance in your company and it’s a face-to-face culture, getting on the road may be career limiting. But if your company is open to remote work, and if it’s the kind of culture in which breadth of all kinds of experience is valuable—or if your advancement will occur in other organizations—then digital nomadship could be a good option for you.
- Consider your timing. Some digital nomads are opting to move from city to city every month or every quarter for the foreseeable future. Others are choosing to take 6 to 12 months and get out there for a set period of time. Decide what level of commitment you want to make and communicate with your employer about your intentions.
- Consider your transiency. You’ll also want to give thought to how much breadth of experience you want to embrace. Do you want to be in 3 cities in a year, or 10? The amount of movement you plan to make will dictate whether you choose short-term apartment leases, temporary housing, or hitting the road in an RV.
- Consider your reach. Decide whether you want to stay in the U.S. or whether you want to branch out to other countries. Determine if your interest is primarily in experiencing all the Pacific Northwest has to offer, for instance, or whether you want to hit as many regions as you can—from the South to the Midwest and beyond.
- Consider your goals. Do you want to experience different cultures? How important are a variety of climates and natural environments? And how much do you want to plug into the local community? All of these should be on your radar screen in considering where you’ll want to go.
- Consider your people. You’ll also want to reflect on your relationships. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll have more flexibility; but if your partner has differing job responsibilities or career goals, that will matter. Or if your children need more structure—or less—that will be a consideration. Also, give thought to where your distant friends may be. As a digital nomad, you could make plans to reconnect with all your college buddies across eight states, for example.
Of course, your choices will depend on your personal style. You may just decide on your first destination and leave your options open from there; or you may create a plan based on certain criteria for your experience.
The bottom line is that you have plenty of options and plenty of good choices—and it’s a new day for the way you can choose to work. Start with your own goals for your career and your work and then develop a vision for the kind of experience you want. As the saying says, life shrinks or expands based on the adventures you’re willing to embrace.
Tracy Brower is a sociologist focused on work-life happiness and fulfillment. She works at Steelcase, and is the author of two books, The Secrets to Happiness at Work and Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work.