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.
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?
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.
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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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.
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:
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.
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.
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: