Mattioli Woods allows employees to become digital nomads for 12 months

Infinity pool in Kuala Lumpur

A British wealth management firm, Mattioli Woods, is looking to see how effective and productive remote working can be – by allowing two of their UK staff to combine work with travel through the Remote Work programme for a whole year.

Sensibly, the company recognises that to retain key talent “we sometimes have to make things happen that are outside our comfort zone,” in the words of their Chief People Officer.  The CEO also recognises that times are a-changing: “We have these millennials who come to work for different reasons than we do and some of the things they say may actually be right.”

Chris Smith and Suzanne Walker will spend 12 months visiting 12 cities around the world, beginning in Mexico City and ending in PP,  Cambodia. The two will work in serviced offices during the day, and reserve their free time for exploring surroundings and doing their own thing.

Meanwhile, if Chris and Suzanne wish to know more about Kuala Lumpur – their October port of call – I’d be more than happy to share tips!

Estonian e-Residency a great opportunity for digital nomads

Tallinn traffic sign

An intriguing EstonianWorld article reveals that overseas citizens can apply for e-residency in Estonia and, in doing so, use its advanced digital infrastructure to not only launch an Estonian business online within one day but also manage it from anywhere in the world (among other benefits, like receiving a shiny new card).

Estonia has been a surprise success since the dissolution of the USSR (I hadn’t even heard of it until the 1990s), punching well above its weight. While it might be better known as a Ryanair weekend destination through Tallinn, the small republic has given the world Skype and established the most advanced digital society anywhere. As far as national monikers go, “e-Estonia” – as the Baltic country has been dubbed – isn’t at all bad.

Launched in December 2014, the e-Residency programme has unsurprisingly sparked an increase in interest from UK citizens owing to Brexit, especially among entrepreneurs and business leaders: average monthly applications more than doubled after the Brexit referendum in 2016.

But applicants needn’t be resident in any one country. Article author Adam Rang explains how digital nomads may register and manage their business while on the move: more than 40% of e-residency applications were reportedly to launch a location-independent business. The author adds by way of an example that the founder of a travel food blog, TripGourmets, left the UK six years ago and applied for e-residency with her partner.

At a time when some states on this planet are putting up barriers and making a lot of noise, it’s refreshing that Estonia is making a positive global impact, moving forward with the times and pioneering new approaches in a transparent way.

Anyone wishing to become an e-Estonian (and frankly, I’m giving this some thought myself), can apply online in four steps: https://e-estonia.com/e-residents/apply/ The card can be picked up from any of the 38 Estonian embassies and consulates around the world (though the collection time can take up to 3 months in Singapore and San Francisco).

KoHub coworking space puts Koh Lanta on the digital nomad map

KoHub

Ko Lanta might not be as widely recognised as neighbouring Phuket or Phi Phi, but it has become a hotspot for at least one traveller group. A picture of bliss, the Andaman island that feels like a blend of Bali and Laos (if you take away the temples) has established itself as a popular digital nomad destination. Its sweeping beaches and sunsets are fabulous, its roads are free of traffic, the crowds are mercifully absent, and there is a more mature feel about the place – ideal conditions for both chilling and getting stuff done.

Taking a few days recently to unwind on the island, I stopped by coworking space KoHub en route back to Krabi to see what it was like, having heard about it while attending the Digital Nomad Conference in Bangkok earlier in the year.

KoHubKoHub wasn’t an easy spot from the road, and I found it to be quiet when I neared the entrance, far from the hive of activity I had been expecting. But there was a good – and somewhat enviable – reason for the stillness of it all.

Greeting me at the door, KoHub’s amiable Polly explained that many of its members were out kayaking, as it was the weekend. Where else can you do that? 🙂 She then kindly took me on a tour of the work spaces and dining areas set amidst a tropical garden.

Established two years ago, KoHub has a swelling membership that comprises web developers, designers and online teachers, in addition to people passing by to connect with like-minded others (the average tenure is a month).

I was told that the transience is such that digital nomads hop from one established hub to the next within Southeast Asia, seeking out locations as the seasons (and prices) change. The circuit starts in Chiang Mai in Thailand’s north, before moving south to Ko Lanta, across the equator to Bali, and North again to Vietnam. I’m guessing it’s only a matter of time before other affordable locations join as pastures along the route, from Penang to Yogyakarta (someone who can shed light on this is Dave Cook, whom as I mentioned before, is leading a study into digital nomad behaviour).

Transience aside, there is a strong sense of community. KoHub is not a coworking space alone. Members can take Thai lessons and themselves teach English at a local school, and there are eco-friendly activities like upcycling.

KoHub activities

The environmental message came out strong: outings include the aforementioned kayaking and island tours, and Full Moon parties are organised on the nearby beach (a popular thing in Koh Lanta, apparently).

Indoors fun meanwhile included a games room with foosball and movies, in a setup similar to traditional offices (I was told it’s also popular for Skype calls).

All that foosball fun leads to hungry stomachs (or maybe that’s just me), and KoHub’s food offerings looked better than average. One of the biggest appeals of living in Southeast Asia is the food, which is among the best on the planet, and Thai cuisine in particular is renowned the world over. KoHub’s menu includes familiar favourites like tom yam and tom ka, alongside curries, fruit shakes and fresh juices.

While I didn’t see many members on the day, KoHub is becoming highly subscribed to the extent that a new space on the island is sought to accommodate more people. It has come a long way in two years, and a bright future beckons if more people join the digital nomad movement. Altogether now: ko ko, there’s ko limit…

Digital Nomad Conference comes to Bangkok: reactions in social media

Digital Nomad Conference speakers

Spanning 3 days in Bangkok, the Digital Nomad Conference was billed as the place to be for digital nomads and online entrepreneurs. Judging by social media reactions and interactions with some of the people who attended, it didn’t disappoint.

The conference sprung to life on Monday evening with a pool party, with the main event – a day of talks – following the next day. The venue on the day was a charming cinema (movie theater to those across the pond) called Lido, with an even more charming cinema (Scala) providing the scene for lunch.

The range of speakers was, on the whole, reasonably balanced. Some of the names on stage offered practical advice, while others were more anecdotal, motivational, and verging on the spiritual. All drew positive feedback on Twitter from different sections of the audience, though there were critical remarks thrown in too. There was also interactivity, in the form of finding a partner, “matchmaking” with a chance to win a compelling Coworkation prize, and the odd dance or two.

At the end of the day, I was left with the overriding impression that digital nomadism was a liberating lifestyle choice (the principle of freedom is at its heart), but one that came laden with challenges. It might look plain-sailing (speaker Dave Cornthwaite commented on social media masking the “suffering” behind the scenes), but in reality a nomadic lifestyle is messy and fraught with complications, requiring unconventional approaches – acute discipline and planning, for example, pragmatism and opportunism.

We can’t all (realistically) traverse the Sahara upside-down on a hoverboard, but we can nonetheless commit to finding that formula in life which enables greater personal “freedom”, from using better tools (Natalie Sisson, Jasper Ribbers) to trying more effective strategies (Chris Dufey, Fabian Dittrich) and cultivating a different mindset (Dave Cornthwaite, Jana Schuberth, Fabian Dittrich).

But freedom also comes with responsibility. One of the more telling remarks came from Steve Munroe of Hubud in Bali, who compared – unfavourably – digital nomads to tourists. He advocated the need for “co-giving”, explaining that digital nomads wanted to connect meaningfully with the local community, rather than operate in isolation. Looking around the room and seeing mostly non-Asians, I got the sense that the digital nomad “tribe” was still largely a confined bubble – one that will no doubt evolve.

And that is perhaps the second “takeaway” I took from the event – that while there is a digital in “digital nomads”, nomadism is in essence about people – and humanity.

Speakers aside, there were brief words from Nomad Pass and British anthropologist Dave Cook, who sought participants for his digital nomad study.

Main event

Fabian Dittrich mirrored earlier speaker Dave Cornthwaite through recounting his adventures around the world, before picking up a guitar and crooning:

Fabian’s thoughts on luck appeared to resonate with the audience. Serendipity is a “skill” that one can cultivate, the speaker reasoned. Is it that simple?:

Consultant Jana Schuberth delved into the emotive and pyschological, encouraging self-reflection and reaching out to our fellow humans:

Not everyone appeared in favour of the more introspective elements, however…

Dutchman Jasper Ribbers offered advice on creating engaging video courses:

Hubud’s Steve Munroe touched a chord through outlining a co-giving programme in Bali:

Chris Dufey urged the audience to think and act bigger, and shared tips on how to get more impressive numbers:

British adventurer Dave Cornthwaite entertained and inspired the audience through sharing his madcap escapades:

Natalie Sisson, apparently very attached to suitcases, impressed the audience with her practical tips:

Setting the right tone:

Pre-event (the pool party)

Digital Nomad Conference proceedings kicked off with beer by the pool at AmBar, a rooftop lounge bar in Bangkok: