Never Normal Newsletter

“I live a lot better here than I did in the U.S.”

CNBC’s MakeIt profiled Jesse Schoberg, an American digital nomad living in Bangkok these days. As the CEO of a small tech startup, Jesse earns about $230,000 per year.

With that much income, he could afford to live well just about anywhere in the world, but Jesse chooses to live in Bangkok, because he enjoys the quality of life there.

Makes sense to me. Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in the world.

But some nomads were practically apoplectic at the fact that Jesse spends about $8,000 / month living very well in Bangkok, a city where he could live for a lot less.

Never Normal Newsletter

Best Places to Live, Bulgarian Delight, and Remote Government

Hello again!

Last week, writing about American remote workers moving to Europe, I included a list of The world’s most liveable cities for 2022 (compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit and shared by CNN).

Michael replied to point out how strange some of the choices on that list are. Cities like Calgary and Frankfurt. Cold. Expensive. Perhaps they’re good for business, but no fun for living.

He’s right.

Virtually all of these “best places to live” lists are the same. They almost always rank the most expensive cities in the world at the top of their lists. Cities in Australia, Austria, Canada, Switzerland, and Northern Europe.

The people compiling these lists assume you’re earning a fat paycheck from Citibank and spending your days in a high rise office building. They might as well title their lists:

Which cluster of soulless glass towers should you choose?

But what if you’re a location independent freelancer, remote worker, or entrepreneur, and you can earn the same income regardless of where you live?

What if you prioritize living a good life over having more work opportunities? Then where should you go?

Never Normal Newsletter

Move to Europe?

Long time no see!

I skipped sending a newsletter the last few weeks to spend more time with family (finally able to visit us here in Spain after 2.5 years of planning).

I also took a super short trip to Lisbon too see some friends/colleagues.

The summer of travel continues here in Europe. It seems like half of America has descended on the content in the past month.

Speaking of going from the US → Europe, a few weeks ago Peer Richelsen asked Twitter:

The tweet struck a nerve.

Over 6 million views in just 3 days. And thousands of replies filled with patriotism, peanut butter, and assertions about of the quality of life across the Atlantic.

I’m not surprised.

Many people are proud of their homeland, but Americans in particular don’t like hearing that life might be better somewhere else.

So where is the best place to live, in the US or Europe?

Six of the ten “most livable cities” in the world are in Europe. None are in the U.S.

The conventional wisdom is that America is better for making money and climbing the socioeconomic ladder, while Europe is better for enjoying a more relaxed, healthy life.

But now, in the era of remote work, your economic opportunities are far less constrained by your location. You can live it up sunny Spain while writing code for a Silicon Valley startup or save a ton of money living in Bulgaria while working for a Boston-based company.

So Peer’s tweet brought to the surface what lots of people were already doing or thinking about.

Travel bloggers Brent and Michael just wrote about their decision to leave the US (“it seemed like a country in rapid decline”) and become digital nomads traveling around Europe.

Fellow Americans Dan and Ian just recorded an entire episode of their Tropical MBA podcast on “The Europe Question”.

And now all of a sudden, I think these questions aren’t so much what does the digital nomad who’s this edge case traveller want to do, we’ve got this entire graduating class of the mainstream, who are asking themselves the digital nomad question: why don’t we live in Europe? It’s so nice. They have public transportation. Why haven’t we been there yesterday? Why don’t we move here this year?”

Hanging out in expat and nomad forums online, I often see Europeans and Americans who have the opportunity to move asking:

Is life really better across the Atlantic?

As someone who holds both passports, grew up in the US, and has lived in Europe for a few years now, this is something I think about often, and feel pretty well-qualified to weigh in on.

First, the usual caveat: It’s hard to generalize. America and Europe are both big places, each with diverse cultures and climates, and populations in the hundreds of millions.

The most general answer I can give is that, most Europeans and Americans are probably happier living in their home countries.

My American friends and family find Europe charming, but they like having more open spaces, big houses, big cars, free refills, friendly customer service, and more disposable income to spend shopping online and in big box stores.

All things that they would sacrifice to some degree by moving.

Europeans enjoy America’s national parks, higher salaries, and sunnier weather, but they prefer their own safer cities with better public transportation, labor-friendly laws, and universal healthcare.

All of this is another way to say, the best place to live depends on your priorities. If you’re really thinking about moving somewhere else, consider making a list of what you value, and then find a place lines up with your values.

Personally, I love living in safe, dense, walkable cities that also have lots of parks and public spaces for people to gather. Ideally, I like having a beach nearby.

The longer I stay in a place, the more I care about having lots of sunshine year-round. And having easy access to travel around to other regions / countries.

So living in a city on the coast in Spain works really well for me, and I’m not alone in feeling that way. But I still get itchy feet to move on and explore somewhere new 🌞

That’s all for this week! More soon…

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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:

Never Normal Newsletter

Summer of Travel, Guide for Nomads, and the Next Best Thing

It is officially The Summer of Travel 🌞

Hardly a day has gone by over the past few weeks without a friend messaging me to say, “I’m planning to head to Europe, and I wanted to see if you…”

I wouldn’t be surprised if this summer breaks records for travel in Europe. There’s a ton of pent up demand from people who weren’t willing/able to travel because of the pandemic.

And I think some people are also traveling now “while the virus isn’t too bad, because who knows what will happen in the fall” (Germany is reportedly considering bring back indoor mask requirements every year from October to Easter).

On top of that, the rise of remote work means that lots of people are able to travel for extended periods and work as they go.

Guide for Nomads

Never Normal Newsletter

The Future of Remote Work, the History of Pizza, and How I’m Going to Educate My Children

Merhaba from Turkey 👋

Last week I wrote about… nothing.

I took a week off from writing this newsletter (for the first time) to travel here and celebrate my daughter’s birthday. 🎉

I’ve traveled much less over the past couple of years due to the pandemic. This trip has reminded me of a few timeless travel lessons — things that I had learned before, but that were no longer top of mind:

Never Normal Newsletter

Home-as-a-Service? Living in Airbnb vs Buying a House for 1 Euro

Airbnb co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky, tweeted: “Starting today, I’m living on Airbnb. I’ll be staying in a different town or city every couple weeks.”

As longtime readers know, this is something that I started doing in 2012. Since then, I’ve lived in Airbnbs (as well as other short-term rental apartments and the occasional hotel room) in hundreds of cities across 50 countries.

Never Normal Newsletter

Become a Digital Nomad, Pursue your Dreams, and Connect with More People

Last week I wrote about the self-tenured class, the pursuit of wealth, and working on what you love.

This week I’ve got a three new podcast interviews related to becoming a digital nomad and launching new ventures to share with you (plus a crazy love story).

What’s it like becoming a digital nomad these days?

In the past, one of the biggest challenges of becoming a digital nomad was finding a way to make money without being tied to a single location.

Now, since the pandemic hit and remote work has become much more common, there are new challenges and opportunities for those who want to go nomadic.

But at least one thing remains the same…

Never Normal Podcast

Becoming a Digital Nomad with Justin Gary (Episode 017)

What is it like becoming a digital nomad these days?

Over the past year, Justin Gary ditched his office, moved out of his apartment, and got rid of his car to become a digital nomad. Now Justin runs his businesses while traveling and living around the world. 

Justin Gary is an award-winning game designer and entrepreneur.

He started his career in gaming at the age of seventeen when he won the Magic: The Gathering US National Championships. Justin then escaped from NYU Law School to pursue his dream of becoming a professional game designer (we discussed Justin’s journey in a previous interview on Never Normal).

He’s since made games for global brands including Marvel, DC, World of Warcraft, and Bakugan. In 2010, Justin founded his own publishing company, Stone Blade Entertainment and released the hit deck-building game, Ascension. 

 Justin has also taught creativity principles at the Wharton School of Business and to companies including Twitter, Zillow, and Google.

Earlier this year, Justin and I launched Quality Questions together, where we collect and send questions that help you apply the key lessons from self improvement books and lectures to your own life. 

Justin’s latest project is the Level Up habit journal

In this episode we talk about:

Never Normal Newsletter

Moderate Hedonism, Peter’s Mystery Box, and the Self-Tenured Class

How I got wealthy without working too hard

This “here’s how I did it” guide written by a pseudonymous Italian software developer advocates “a sort of Moderate Hedonism”:

If you are a Software developer, it’s easier than ever to become a millionaire. What most haven’t figured out yet, is how to become wealthy without working too hard.

It’s full of life, career, and investment advice, plus little gems like this:

Money is literally defined as exponential so, don’t sit on your linear ass.

But the idea that stuck out to me the most is this:

When making life decisions, going in the direction of more money can be wise. However, we must keep in mind that when we choose money, we don’t choose much. We just decide to decide later.

That’s a really good way to frame it. Reminds me of the “deferred life plan” Tim Ferriss wrote about in the Four-Hour Work Week.

That kind of logic also reminds me of this bit from Family Guy. It’s silly, but: How often do we make ‘mystery box’ decisions in our own lives?

Rise of The ‘Self-Tenured’ Class

Sam Lessin tweeted a mini-essay highlighting The Power and Scale of The Crypto ‘Self-Tenured’ Class.

In academia, tenured is shorthand for “unfireable.” In this case, Sam is pointing out that there is now a big group of young and very smart people who have made enough money in the last few years (thanks to building or betting on crypto) that never need to work again.

That gives them the freedom to work on whatever they want to, without worrying about pleasing a boss, hitting quarterly numbers, or needing to make a profit ever.

When I read the phrase self-tenured, the first person who comes to mind is Elon Musk. The story goes that after Elon netted $180 million from selling PayPal to eBay, he invested $100 million in SpaceX, $70 million in Tesla, $10 million in SolarCity, and had to borrow money to pay his rent.

Looking back with the benefit of hindsight, you might say that those were obvious/easy investments to make, but at the time, they were anything but.

I wonder what interesting things will the new self-tenured generation will build?

Which Should You Choose? Advice from a Billionaire…

You could read the two sections above as somewhat conflicting advice about work and wealth.

One is saying, “don’t waste your life working too hard, just earn enough to live well” and the other is saying, “if you make enough money early on, you can spend the rest of your life doing whatever you want.”

So which should you choose?

Enter Ray Dalio (billionaire and head of the world’s largest hedge fund).

In his best-selling book, Principles, Ray encourages us to, “figure out how you can have as much of both as possible”:

How can we apply that logic here? In this case, choosing both means:

  • Working on whatever you want to work on
  • Earning enough money to live well, and
  • Having enough time outside of work to enjoy life

Doesn’t that sound like the ideal work/life plan?

(see also: my chat with Paul Millerd and post on time millionaires)

Think it’s too good to be true?

These People Chose “Both”

Ryan Hoover, founder of ProductHunt, recently asked on Twitter:If money was no object, what would you do with your life…

It’s fascinating to read the responses. Especially the number of people who said something along the lines of, “the same thing I’m doing now.”

What would you do?

If money was no object, what would you do?

If your answer is something other than what you’re doing right now, then:

a) Good for you for being honest
b) Good for you for having some ambition, and
c) You should ask yourself: Is there some way I can do that thing now?

Even if you can’t magically flip a switch, closing the gap between how you spend your days now and whatever you’d like to do instead should be at the top of your to do list.

Is there something holding you back?

Send me a DM and let me know. I’d love to hear from you. Maybe there’s some way I can help…

That’s all for this week. More soon!

Featured images courtesy of SpaceX

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:

Never Normal Newsletter

Mozart’s Farts, Becoming a Better Dad, Tensegrity, and American Anarchy

Last week I wrote let’s meme the world a better place. This week I’ve got a new podcast episode and an assortment of related things I’ve been learning, listening to, and thinking about.

It all starts with a tiny push

Even though you know exactly what’s going to happen, it’s still pretty amazing to watch this short video (dripping with high school science class vibes), and see that it actually works.

Beyond the physics, there’s an important lesson here about the power of taking action — even a very small action — that kicks off a chain reaction.

Can you apply this to your life or business? What’s the first domino that you need to knock down on the path to achieving your goal? 🤔

BTW – If you like thought experiments like this, check out Quality Questions. Speaking of asking lots of questions…

Essays Never Normal Newsletter

Let’s Meme the World a Better Place

The world has changed, and we have a choice to make:

Should we focus on the bits or the atoms?

I’ll do my best to explain what that means and how it ties together my nomadic lifestyle, the metaverse, crypto, cows, and a radical plan to buy the constitution.

Never Normal Newsletter

Exploring the “Pathless Path”, Time Millionaires, and Antiwork

Last week I wrote about how to solve shortages, sell $3B in a few hours, and have your most productive day ever.

This week I’m excited to share a new episode of my Never Normal podcast with Paul Millerd.

In 2017, Paul decided to leave his successful, predictable corporate consulting career (working for the likes of BCG and McKinsey) behind to embark on what he calls “The Pathless Path.”