Never Normal Newsletter

The Accommodation is the Destination

Last week I wrote about Airbnb’s new nomad policy and the accommodation affordability crisis affecting digital nomads.

As expected, this past week Airbnb unveiled their Summer 2022 Release, which they describe as “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade”.

In short, there are three main changes:

  • new search and browse options based on “Airbnb Categories”
  • the ability to book “split stays” (one trip split across two homes) and
  • an improved support program for guests (AirCover)

Watching CEO Brian Chesky’s announcement video, it’s clear that the company sees the new Categories feature as the most groundbreaking of the three.

Instead of simply searching for “a place to stay”, Airbnb now emphasizes (and allows users to browse and search) all of the different categories of homes available on the platform — from houseboats to vineyards to urban lofts.

With this new feature and announcement, Airbnb isn’t simply allowing customers to search for different types of homes, they’re actually making two bold statements about travel and their business:

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Airbnb’s New Nomad Policy

Howdy 🤠 This issue of Never Normal is all about Airbnb — the company at the center of the ongoing transformation in work, life, and (especially) travel.

Full Disclosure: I’m a (small) investor.

Airbnb’s New Nomad Policy

CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter that Airbnb has adopted a new remote work policy.

We’re already over two years into the mainstream adoption of remote work, but Airbnb’s new policy is notable, because the company now explicitly condones employees working from other countries and they pledge not to adjust compensation based on the employee’s location.

In other words, now you can get a job working for Airbnb, making Silicon Valley money, while hopping between Mexico, Bali, Budapest, and Lisbon (or wherever you want).

Plenty of remote workers are already traveling while working, but this is the first time I’ve seen a company the size and stature of Airbnb make such a flexible policy. I suspect that more tech companies will follow suit.

Spend It Where You Earn It

Of course, Airbnb stands to benefit the most from such policies.

After all, where are all these workers going to sleep if they move out of their homes to travel and live all over the world?

Its already happening.

Airbnb released their latest earnings statement this week. The numbers are up. Big time:

Revenue of $1.5 billion increased by 80% from Q1 2019, and by 70% from Q1 2021—demonstrating the strength of the travel rebound.

The comparison with 2019 is especially interesting, because it shows how the company has grown relative to where they were before the pandemic. The included letter to shareholders explains:

Two years since the pandemic began, a new world of travel has emerged. Millions of people are now more flexible about where they live and work. As a result, they’re spreading out to thousands of towns and cities, staying for weeks, months, or even entire seasons at a time.

Where have you heard this before? 🤔🙃

Perhaps most interesting of all, the shareholder letter also teased “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade” to be announced on May 11.

But there’s a downside…

As I’ve written about over the past few weeks, it’s become significantly easier and much less of an extreme lifestyle choice to travel and live all over the world these days.

And as more and more well-paid workers become digital nomads, competition and prices for Airbnbs in desirable locations is heating up:

ADR [average daily rate] averaged $168 in Q1 2022, representing a 37% increase compared to the same period in 2019…

As a result, seasoned digital nomads have started talking about Airbnb prices the way Brits talk about the weather. It’s the single biggest threat to our lifestyle. Especially for the many (most) nomads who don’t have a cushy Silicon Valley salary.

The accommodation affordability crisis is most acute in Europe at the moment, thanks to a perfect storm of the summer high season, pent up demand from American travelers, and constraints on vacation rental supply (imposed by local governments whose residents complain they can’t afford to live in their own cities anymore).

All of this has prompted some nomads to abandon Airbnb in favor of alternative platforms and strategies for finding cheaper places to stay.

More on that next week…

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The Never Normal Schoolhouse

Howdy regular readers and new subscribers just joining us!

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve written about how being a nomad is becoming less of an extreme lifestyle choice and about nomad families traveling with kids.

A common response to the idea of nomad families is “you can only keep it up for the first few years until the kids reach school age.”

Presumably because not putting your kids in a normal school would be detrimental to their future 😱, right?

Not so fast…

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The emerging nomad economy

I wrote last week about what we should call ourselves (and leaving America). Whether you like the term or not, one thing is clear…

The number of people who are digital nomads or interested in becoming digital nomads is growing.

In 2015, Pieter Levels famously predicted that there would be 1 billion nomads by 2035. We’re not there yet, but the MBO Partners® 2021 State of Independence research study found that “15.5 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, increasing 42% from 2020 and 112% from the pre-pandemic year 2019.”

This rise in the number of digital nomads is an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs — a new market that’s often not well served by existing products and services.

That’s why I got excited when I heard about Genki a few months ago from one of their investors (who also happens to be married to my cousin. It’s a small world. Also #familymafia).

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What should we call ourselves? (and leaving America)

I’ve noticed over the last few years that, as the term “digital nomad” has become more common, so has the resistance to being labeled as a digital nomad.

I still use the term, because I don’t think there’s a better, more succinct way to describe the same idea. But I do worry that it can give the wrong impression.

People hear “digital nomad” and they imagine a 22 year old strapping on a backpack and hopping to a new country every few weeks.

But you don’t have to be 22 years old to travel the world or move to a new country. And although traveling constantly can be fun for a while, most digital nomads I know tend to slow down at some point and spend more time in each place.

Slowmad Life

Steve Tsentserensky is a perfect example. He was recently profiled by CNBC’s Make It:

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Pablo Picasso and Ben Franklin did it too

In my last email (learning like Mr. Beast), I wrote about how Jimmy Donaldson went from being a socially awkward teenager with “terrible acne” whose YouTube videos made less than $1 / day to earning an estimated $54 million dollars last year at just 23 years old.

The lessons from Jimmy’s story don’t just apply to becoming a rich and famous YouTuber…

You can use the same principles to achieve your big goals too:

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Learning Like Mr. Beast

In my last email, I wrote about why it took me five years after quitting my job to actually start my journey as a digital nomad. In short:

Making a big change is extremely difficult if you are trying to change your life in a way that makes you different from the people around you.

In case you haven’t noticed, this is something I think about often…

If you want to become a doctor, the path will look something like this:

  • Study hard and get good grades in school
  • Go to university and study biology or pre-med
  • Take the entrance exam and apply to medical schools
  • Go to medical school
  • Work as a resident
  • Get your medical license
  • Congratulations you’re a doctor! 🎉

Becoming a doctor is not quick or easy, but at least there is a proven path to follow.

And perhaps even more important — while you’re on that path, if you tell people what you’re doing, they will cheer you on and encourage you.

“Wow, a doctor! That’s great! Your parents must be so proud…”

But what if you don’t want to be a doctor?
(or a lawyer, or an engineer, or an investment banker…)

I’ll never forget Justin Gary telling me the story of how his mom cried when he dropped out of law school to pursue his dream of becoming a game designer (spoiler alert – he’s now one the most sought after, successful game designers in the industry).

I was reminded of that story again yesterday, listening to Joe Rogan interviewing Mr. Beast. There are a bunch fantastic life lessons in this 15-minute clip from the interview:

In case you’re not familiar, Jimmy (aka Mr. Beast) is one of the most successful YouTubers on the planet. Across his network of YouTube channels, he has nearly 200 million subscribers and his videos have been viewed about 24 billion times. 🤯

Forbes estimates that he earned $54,000,000 from YouTube in 2021. Not bad for a 23 year old who never studied or even brought his books home from school.

Naturally, these days Jimmy’s mom is supportive and proud of her son (how could she not be?), but there was a time when they fought constantly about his poor performance at school and his obsession with YouTube.

Jimmy started uploading videos when he was just 11 years old. But with “terrible acne” and general awkwardness, he was an unlikely social media star. Especially since, “professional YouTuber” wasn’t even a thing back then.

He spent years making videos that earned nothing. So how did he stick with it for so long when it seemed so unlikely that he would succeed?

Joe credits Jimmy’s success to his having a ‘hyper obsession’ and being willing to put in the hours to become the best at his craft.

But there was another important ingredient too…

Early in his rise to YouTube stardom, Jimmy formed a mastermind group with a few other aspiring YouTube “lunatics” who shared the same vision. They spent hours each day talking, experimenting, and analyzing popular videos.

They all went on to become successful YouTubers, including of course, Mr. Beast himself.

That’s the power of learning together in a group — you get to accelerate the learning process by effectively increasing the number of iterations / experiments you’re exposed to.

Having a group of supportive peers also provides accountability (you show up because you don’t want to let the group down) and best of all, it provides a counter to all the naysayers and people nudging you to abandon your dreams.

That’s why I decided to create a cohort-based, live course (taught by me) for people who want to become digital nomads.

The first cohort kicks off in May. I’ll share the syllabus next week.

In the meantime, if you think you might be interested, and you haven’t done this already, then please click the button below and fill out the two-minute survey.

​There’s no commitment required, it’s just a couple of questions.

Your feedback will help me make the course extra awesome, and in return, you’ll get a $100 discount if you decide to enroll later.

Again, there’s no payment or commitment yet! This is just letting me know that you’re interested in the course when the time comes.

That’s all for this week. More soon!

Not a subscriber?

I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

Want to learn along with me? Join my Never Normal Newsletter:

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Digital Nomad Getting Started Guide

In my last email, I shared five reasons to become a digital nomad in 2022.

This week I want to share my Digital Nomad Getting Started Guide with you, plus a nice surprise I just received on Twitter (at the end of the email).

The digital nomad guide is available on my website now (totally free). Here are a few of the most popular sections:

Digital Nomad Guide Never Normal Newsletter

5 Reasons to Become a Digital Nomad in 2022

The world is reopening for travel, and there are more opportunities to work online than ever before. Here are five great reasons to take advantage and become a digital nomad now:

Explore the World and Experience it All First Hand

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Turning Passion into Business

This week I’ve got a brand new episode of the Never Normal show for you, plus 36 ways to be Never Normal, and my advice for Digital Nomads.

Vikram Seth is back to talk about turning your passion into a business. You might remember Vikram from episode 018, where we discussed his sabbatical – How to Take a Year Off and Balance Your Life.

In this new episode, Vikram shares how he approached making money without a job, and the process and struggles of turning something you love doing into a business.

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Your Alternate Reality, What I’m Building, and 0% Tax

Most of what I write in this newsletter is about how to break free from the default plan and create a life you love. And on the Never Normal podcast, I share examples and stories of people who have done just that.

But the truth is, as much as I love thinking and writing about bending the rules and changing the world, the most important changes are always in our own minds.

That’s why the first line of my journal every single day — before I get to the goals and to do lists and notes about what I’m learning — is gratitude.

“Creating a life you love” requires taking the time and making the effort to love your life.

And it’s in that spirit that I want to share this…

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Startup Cities and Loving Where You Live

Hola from sunny Valencia 🌞

Last week I wrote about home-as-a-service and living in Airbnbs full-time.

This week I’ve got a new episode of my Never Normal podcast with guest Jonathan Hillis, founder of Creator Cabins and the Cabin DAO.

Prior to founding Creator Cabins, Jon was Director of Product, Shoppers, and Marketplace at Instacart, where during the pandemic, he grew their workforce of shoppers 500%. 🤯

All of this gives Jon some unique insights into both the creator and gig economies, crypto, and where are all of this is heading.

He also recently published an excellent essay on the history of centralization and decentralization cycles in Western Civilization that we discuss in detail in the episode.

You can find this episode of Never Normal, plus show notes, links to everything we discussed, and a transcript here.

After we recorded, Jon and the Cabin DAO were featured in a New Yorker article about DAO’s:

The group created a token, which it sold to crowdfund a budget, and allowed the token holders to vote on who would be granted residencies. One attendee, Julian Weisser, later helped create ConstitutionDAO while staying at the cabin.

There are now around two hundred and eighty token holders able to vote on Cabin’s future. Hillis described the organization as a “decentralized city,” aiming to build spaces around the world and connect them through digital tools.

Jon and the Cabin DAO are not the only ones building a new city…

Startup Cities

I’ve mentioned startup cities like Telosa before. Now it looks like tech entrepreneurs building new cities is becoming a trend:

Silicon Valley is now in the business of building cities. Everywhere you look, founders are launching efforts to build new communities and entirely new cities.

Culdesac, a company building a1,000 resident walkable community in Tempe, Arizona, co-founded by Y Combinator alumnus Ryan Johnson, just announced a $30 million Series A raise. founder and Walmart eCommerce executive Marc Lore is planning to build Telosa, a 5 million resident city of the future somewhere in the American West.

Before he builds a city on Mars, Elon Musk is building a city in Texas around the SpaceX launch site. Silicon Valley is enthralled with Próspera, a new city focused partly on the remote work economy, located on the Honduran island of Roatán.

I find all of this exciting and inspiring, but realistically, building a new city is a huge, ambitious project and it’s going to take a long time. Fortunately, if you don’t like the place you live, you don’t have to build a new city…

Just Find a Place You Love

Spending time in a place that you love — a place the gives you energy instead of draining it —has to be one of the most underrated “life hacks”.

I just got off the phone with a friend and fellow digital nomad who is based in Phuket, Thailand at the moment. He was telling me that his company is thriving and he’s in the process of raising capital for a new venture.

“It’s all happening at once” and he’s “working non-stop”, but he said he doesn’t feel stressed.

“Why not?”, I asked.

“Because I’m staring at the ocean while I work. And whenever I want I can take break and go for a walk on the beach for 20 minutes with my girlfriend” (also helps that he’s doing work he loves and finds meaningful).

Want to Become a Digital Nomad Too?

I’m planning to offer a live, online course on becoming a digital nomad soon. I’ll be teaching how to take your life on the road and experience the best the world has to offer.

What questions do you have about becoming a digital nomad? I want to make sure I address them all in the course.

Take a moment now and send me any questions you have and I’ll send you a private discount when the course goes live as a special ‘thank you’.

Lightning Round ⚡

A few quick posts from social media that I want to share with you.

I love this post from Visualize Value on Instagram – clever and concise as always:

And a related thought from me on Twitter:

That’s all for this week. More soon!

Not a subscriber?

I write occasional emails to share what I’m thinking, learning, and doing. It’s all related to the idea of breaking free from the “default plan” in life.

Want to learn along with me? Join my Never Normal Newsletter: