Medellin Colombia

Medellin for Digital Nomads

 

After finishing up a 3 month stay in Medellin, I thought it was only fitting that I post a ‘digital nomad destination’ review for the “City of the Eternal Spring”..

To start things off, I will say that my original intent was to visit Chiang Mai, Thailand, but after tons of research, I realized Medellin better lined up with my needs, as you’ll see below.

What I was looking for

In doing my research, I made a short list of traits an ideal destination would have. Some of these things included, in no particular order:

  • easy to access
  • reliable internet
  • inexpensive (sub $1500/mo USD)
  • ability to come & go with pets
  • minimal culture shock
  • and so on..
Where to go? Somewhere easy to access, with stable internet, and all at a low cost. Click To Tweet

Why Chiang Mai wouldn’t work

While it seems that Chiang Mai is a digital nomad hotspot, there were many areas where it falls short. On the surface, it seems like an inexpensive place to live, but upon further examination, there are lots of expenses that most people tend to gloss over.

Things like the cost of a visa, visa extensions, border runs every 90 days, and the somewhat substantial flight cost (if you’re not travel hacking). Not to mention the lengthy flight if you are coming from the US.

The Search Beginsglobe

It was these initial findings that had me start looking for an alternative destination.

I actually started my new search by reading ‘best international locations to retire to’ types of posts, and then checking SkyScanner for flight length & prices.

My logic was that retirees are often working from a smaller fixed income, yet they still need access to modern infrastructure and amenities. This would likely mean that these destinations would be cheaper than living in the US, but still relatively modern.

Medellin, Colombia

Medellin SunsetAfter several dead ends, I found a location that looked promising. One of the things I noticed, was that much of the world still thinks Colombia is full of danger & chaos, while that hasn’t actually been the case in almost a decade.

You can see this reflected in the cost of living which, arguably, should be 50-70% higher than it actually is. Add in the not-so-stable currency, and you get a destination where the cost is roughly 50% lower than most American cities, but without sacrificing modern conveniences.

Also, when comparing flight costs, Chiang Mai was about $600 for a 1-way ticket, while Medellin was only $140. This, coupled with the short flight time (only 5 hours), was a huge difference, especially if I needed to return back to the US sooner than expected.

Life in Medellin

Aside from the initial confusion on our arrival (detailed in an earlier post here), we were able to settle in quickly and start to assimilate their culture.

One of the things that made the transition easy for us was the ubiquitous acceptance of Visa & Mastercard. In fact, there was only 1 shop (besides the farmers market) that I needed cash to pay. Another big plus was the ability to use Airbnb & Uber.

With Airbnb, we picked out a nice flat a month in advance that was within a few minute’s walk to the ‘Golden Mile’ in the higher end El Poblado section of the city. And after picking up a local SIM card, it was never more than a 5 minute wait until having a personal driver available from Uber.

Airbnb is a bit pricey, which is mainly due to the fact that most listings are priced in dollars instead of pesos, so you aren’t able to take advantage of currency fluctuations. For our 2nd & 3rd months, we moved to another flat, and negotiated directly with the property manager. This allowed us to stay in a place that was much bigger & nicer than our first flat, and at practically the same price.

Medellin Quick FactsWorking

Al Alma Cafe MedellinWhile there weren’t too many co-working spaces in the area, there were plenty of cafes and other places to get work done. If you’re OK working alone, you’ll have no trouble being productive.

Almost everywhere had free WiFi (usually between 5-10 Mbps) that was mostly reliable, with a couple exceptions; the entire El Poblado area was without internet for nearly 2 days, but this was due to some upgrades to the infrastructure, so this may have been a 1 time outage..

There is even a thriving ‘expat’ scene, not exactly tailored to digital nomads, but great for help with learning Spanish (and also nice when you need a break from Spanish and want to speak English with other native speakers).

Culture, Nightlife, and more..

Besides work, Medellin has a lot to offer with regard to culture; museums, parks, shopping, and more. There are plenty of options available for a night out, and a wide variety of cuisine can be found.

‘Cons’ of Medellin

With all of the upsides, there are a few drawbacks to living in Medellin. First of all, learning some Spanish is a must. Most people you meet will only know a few words of English (despite the fact that most movies in the theater are shown in English, with Spanish subtitles).

If you make an effort, though, they will do the same. I never ran into someone that wasn’t willing to try to help bridge the communication gap, when issues did arise. Having the Google Translate app on standby (and downloading the Spanish language pack in advance for offline access) will help out quite a bit.

Beyond the language barrier and a couple of WiFi outages, I didn’t experience anything negative about the area. I never felt unsafe, didn’t get sick at all, and was able to adapt to the elevation within just a few days.

Summary

I definitely Medellin Colombiaenjoyed my time in Medellin, and hope to return again. While I had been a sort of ‘digital nomad’ for a bit before visiting, leaving home to travel somewhere international made it feel ‘official’. I can definitely recommend it, especially for digital nomads living in the US.

If you do have interest in visiting, a great resource for information is the Medellin Living blog. It was my one stop shop for researching the area prior to (and during) my stay.

That’s it for this week. Next week, I’ll have a post talking about a book that inspired me to become a digital nomad, long before I had even heard the term, and maybe before that term even existed. It is one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read.

Cheers,

Patrick

Location Independence Medellin

What’s the point of location independence?

Location Independence Medellin

What’s the point of location independence… if you don’t change locations?

When you think about location independence, what location do you think of? A good majority of the bloggers and other ‘experts’ in this industry fall into 1 of 2 categories: Those that choose a location based mainly on the low cost of living, and those that don’t bother to change locations at all..

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#digitalnomad #hustle”]Achieving location independence is just the beginning.[/tweetthis]

Initially, I fell into the 2nd category, and then almost fell victim to the 1st category. Fortunately, I struck out on a better path..

Choosing the location

plane wingWhen I decided to become a digital nomad, I divided my time between setting up online income streams and choosing an ideal location to start my journey. Initially, I thought Chiang Mai might be a good spot, as it is an extremely popular ‘digital nomad hub’.

Due to a few logistical concerns, we eventually settled on another location; Medellin, Colombia. Luckily, I stayed true to my philosophy of finding the best solution for me, not what the majority seems to have chosen.

I’ll give a full review of Medellin as a digital nomad destination in an upcoming post. 

With that decision made, everything else fell into place. Well, mostly.

Arriving

slip on banana peelHaving a plan is essential, but rarely does that plan hold up once the action starts. This was no different. Even though everything had been planned for, there were a few hiccups.

First, our flight arrived just as the airport was closing, which meant no chance at getting a little local currency, and practically no cabs available. The airport was also lacking WiFi, so we were on our own.

On top of this, there was some additional paperwork needed to ‘import’ our cats (basically another small shakedown), and there were no English speakers to be found. Luckily, the official and I both spoke enough French to get things squared away.

At this point, it was after midnight, and the few ‘cabs’ available appeared to be opportunists looking to deprive us of our luggage. I managed to find an ‘off duty’ cab driver who happened to be at the airport to pick up his girlfriend, and offered him a bit extra, roughly triple the normal fare (but still less than 1/2 of what it would cost in the US), to take us across the city.

Assimilating

Aside from the chaos of arriving in a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t know your way around, and don’t know anybody, we figured things out pretty fast.

In my experience, most people will help you out when you need it. We did need to make some lifestyle changes, but most of them were minor. Once we’d finished a few Spanish lessons, went out shopping, and learned our way around the city, we developed a nice routine.

Note: I think it’s important to learn the local customs and try to fit in a bit. This is in direct contrast to the boisterous tourist that expects the locals to go out of their way to accommodate him.

So What’s Next?

We’ve decided to finish up here, staying up to the 3 month mark, and then head back to a different part of the US for a little while, and then decide what to do and where to go next.

The Road Ahead

I should have plenty to talk about for the next Progress Report post at the end of April. Next week, I’m going to touch on a strategy I’ve written about before, but go much more in-depth.

See you next week,

Patrick

DS Essentialism Review Featured Image

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Book Review

DS Essentialism Review Featured Image

This month I’m talking about a book that has been very important on my Journey Toward Location Independence. The book is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.

For a long time, I was at either end of the spectrum.

First, having way too many possessions: over a dozen vehicles, 2 homes, and multiple storage units (the consequences of running multiple businesses and owning dozens of rental properties).

Then a few years later, I took a different direction with my work, and became intrigued with the idea of minimalism. After a while though, this too seemed unfulfilling.

What’s wrong with minimalism?Essentialism

For all the high points, minimalism has plenty of lows too. It puts so much of the focus on simply having fewer possessions, and often I found myself making compromises.

It seems like with minimalism, the bragging rights come with owning practically nothing – even if it makes your life more difficult.

This is where essentialism comes in.

What’s different about Essentialism?

The main catchphrase of essentialism is Less, but better; singling out the vital few from the trivial many.

It’s not so much about having fewer things as it is about being conscious of what you do have, and striving to have the best for your specific situation. It even goes way beyond possessions; it influences how you spend your time and helps prioritize your life in general.

Start with what matters.

What matters most to you? The best electronic devices, plenty of free time, choosing more healthy groceries than junk food? You can start by choosing one area of your life you want to improve.

keep it simple

Decide what’s important to you, understand that there are trade-offs, and then you can begin eliminating things that don’t fit. It’s kind of like this post I read on a concept called The Conscious Consumer.

The Impact

Where this book had the most impact with me was when I was first planning to live abroad for a while. Being limited on the amount of things we could bring with us on the trip, it became important to make sure we were bringing the right items, and that they were high quality.

I started with all of the standard travel items (packing cubes, silicone bottles, luggage scale, etc.), most of which I was able to get for FREE (more about this in an upcoming post). After that, I started whittling down what I though were the important things until I could fit them in a single checked bag.

Travel Items: Essentialist vs Minimalist

Here are a few specific examples of items I decided to bring that a minimalist would have rejected:suitcase

  • Monitor stand – I often stand while I’m working, and can use this item to convert a kitchen table, counter, etc., into a ‘standing desk’.
  • Multiple bags (messenger bag, backpack, duffel bag, sling shoulder bag) – I prefer using the right bag for the right reason. Things like being out all day vs only out for a couple hours, traveling light (water bottle, snacks, sunglasses, etc.) vs taking my laptop, camera, Kindle, thermos, umbrella, snacks, etc.
  • Shoes – Most packing lists recommend 1, maybe 2 pair, but I brought 4 pair along. I wanted to have something for casual walking, gym shoes, slide sandals for the pool, and a good pair of hiking boots.
  • Music Gear – bass guitar and recording equipment.

That last example was a hard decision to make (since I had to use up an entire checked bag for it), but I’ve seen too many musicians let ‘life’ get in the way of their hobbies & interests..

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#minimalism #hustle” remove_twitter_handles=”true”]The Essentialist beats The Minimalist every time, because they have the right tools for the job.[/tweetthis]

Beyond Possessions

Aside from simply decreasing the amount of ‘stuff’ you have, I’ve found the principle of Essentialism helpful in many other areas of my life. From time management, to the different groups I’ve been involved with, to what activities I do in my free time, it’s had quite the impact.

I encourage you to check it out, it’s definitely worth the read. You can find it HERE.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll build on this post and last week’s ‘goals’ post by showing you the exact formula I use to manage my time. (Think: 80/20 2.0)

Cheers!

Patrick

 

Digital Nomad's Chromebook

The Chromebook: Secret Weapon of the Digital Nomad?

Digital Nomad's Chromebook

As I started my Journey Toward Location Independence, I began to look at the many tech options available to me. Was there a ‘perfect’ system for my needs?

The 4 Main Choices

To be able to run my business from anywhere, there seemed to be 4 main options available to me: a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or simply a smartphone. What I needed to do was find the option that best fit my online business needs..

Eliminate the Obvious

4 Tech OptionsWorking through this list, I was able to eliminate 3 of these rather easily..

The Desktop Computer

Even though there are some semi-portable options, in general there are several downsides to the desktop computer.

  1. Size & Weight – this choice is the least portable option.
  2. Static Location – even if you bring it with you, it can only serve as a “home base” at best.
  3. You’ll also need a desk. Depending on where you are, you may only have a counter or table, not a proper desk to work from. Also, if you frequently work while standing, this makes it even harder.

The Tablet

While iPads and other tablets can be a convenient way to read, watch videos, etc., they aren’t very good when it comes to creating new content. Sending email, writing, and filming quality videos can be done, but not very quickly or easily.

The Smartphone

Screen size is what really kills this one for me. Add to that the same downsides as working with a tablet, and this option can also be easily eliminated.

So where does that leave us?

The Laptop

The portability and functionality of this option seem to make it the best choice for a Digital Nomad living the ‘laptop lifestyle’. Upon further inspection, though, we are still left with 2 choices..

Either go big, or go lean.

 

Going Big

Most entrepreneurs I’ve observed have chosen this option. The idea is to get a high-end laptop with the most possible speed, RAM, hard-drive space, screen resolution, and loads of professional software suites.

These, too, were my initial thoughts (more on this in just a sec), but all too often I observed this option being taken more as a status symbol, than as the best choice for that individual.

The next option, go lean, is one that I hadn’t seen too many other people choose.

Get Lean

Going Lean

Philosophically, going lean sounds like a good idea, but the execution seemed like it would be lacking quite a bit. Even though I was sure this would be the case, I still decided to look into this possibility.

As I dug deeper, I came across a device that was quietly growing in popularity: The Chromebook. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed like it could almost be a viable option.

I just needed to find out if it would be possible to run my entire business using only a Chromebook. Here’s how it all played out..

My Journey

This started when it was finally time to upgrade my laptop. As I hinted at earlier, my initial objective was to get the best and most powerful laptop I could find.

I found one that suited my apparent needs, and placed the order. Shortly afterwards, though, I got an email that it was on back order and would ship out in a few days.

Well, a few days turned into a couple of weeks, and I started to get impatient. Did I pick the right one, and if it didn’t ship in another week, what would be my next choice?

The Chromebook

Sample ChromebookIt was at this time that I started entertaining the idea of going lean instead of going all out.

The one thing that was important to me, was to shrink from a 15″ screen down to a 14″ screen. Even though I was planning to go all out, I had wanted an edge with a bit more portability.

In the online comparisons, an HP Chromebook kept showing up. Since most of what I had heard about Chromebooks was negative, I was a bit intrigued. I liked the concept, but wasn’t sure I could make it work for me.

With each passing day, though, I kept leaning more towards this choice. It was finally settled when I got another email that my laptop wasn’t going to be back in stock at all, and I’d need to choose another model. I finally took the plunge.

How does it work?

Chromebook ExampleBefore I finish my story, I’ll take a moment to bring you up to speed on Chromebooks, if you’re not already familiar with them.

Basically, it looks & feels like a ‘normal’ laptop, but uses a different operating system (Chrome OS). This operating system is much lighter weight, and doesn’t take as much in the way of resources to run.

Most of the functionality requires that you are online, but there are still plenty of capabilities if you happen to be out of WiFi range.

Rather than full local ‘programs’, it uses lightweight Apps (similar to smartphones and tablets). Beyond that, you can access everything else through the Chrome browser.

It also syncs with your Google account once you log in, and automatically installs your extensions & bookmarks. There are no drivers to worry about, no updates or antivirus to download, and it doesn’t slow down over time.

In fact, you’ll get a couple of tiny updates each month that only add about 10 seconds to the lightning fast 5 second boot speed.

Now I’ll get back to my story and show you how it all played out for me.

Using it as a 2nd Computer

When I got started with Chrome OS in 2013, it couldn’t yet replace everything I needed it to. Over time, however, it has gotten better and better, eventually becoming my primary device.

 

What MUST it do for me?

Before switching to a new platform, I made a list of everything I needed my device to do. When I had finished, there were about 6 things that I couldn’t do on a Chromebook at that time.

The main things that I originally couldn’t find suitable arrangements for were:

  • Desktop Publishing
  • Audio & Video Editing
  • Screencasting
  • Using my VPN

As each month passed, though, new apps were added, and some of the software I needed began to be offered using the SaaS model.

Chromebook Promo

Now, my Chromebook can handle between 95-98% of everything I need to do for work, and I anticipate the last few percentage points being added in the coming months.

Since ChromeOS is an operating system based on the Linux kernel, I’ve actually installed GalliumOS (a Linux distro built specifically for ChromeOS devices) alongside Chrome, giving me a full range of desktop applications (should the need arise), but that’s a story for another day…

There are even a several competing devices entering the market now that Google has proved the concept of a cloud based laptop, usually running either a stripped down version of Windows or even Android. I expect the number of devices and competing systems to continue to rise, especially as the heavier desktop applications move into the cloud as SaaS.

The Digital Nomad’s Secret Weapon?

To bring the post back to the question I asked in the title, could a Chromebook be the secret weapon for Digital Nomads? I think so.

A Digital Nomad keeps things lean & lightweight. Their tech system must also be easy to maintain, and ideally everything would backed up automatically. Also, if they’re living abroad, they likely only have one computer with them.

You may think this would be the reason to have the end all be all device, but I say that this is the main reason for having a less expensive device.

Which laptop is more likely to be stolen; a $300 Chromebook or a $1000 MacBook? And assuming you keep your laptop secure, what about accidents? I can replace my laptop 3+ times for that price, and with ChromeOS, my new device will be setup exactly like the old one within a few minutes.

This is the definition of simplicity & practicality, and very cost effective to boot. If your interest is piqued, here’s how I’d suggest you go about trying out a Chromebook.

How to Make the Transition to Chrome OS

For anyone looking to try out the platform and possibly make the switch, here is what I suggest

  1. Start using your Chromebook as a backup computer.Acer Chromebook C740
  2. Begin transitioning to cloud based services. Start with data storage, then begin trying out SaaS options & apps for the software you use.
  3. Embrace “good enough is good enough”. Just because the program you use has 100 features, doesn’t mean its replacement needs all those features. Find replacements for things you actually use.
  4. List any “must haves”, and start researching your options.

Other Considerations

Most early Chromebooks only came with smaller screens (11-13″), but now you can find models with the display sizes ranging from 10-15 inches. Try choosing one that has a screen size closer to your existing laptop, or maybe just an inch smaller.

Also, many devices only have 2 Gigs of RAM, but I’d strongly suggest going with 4 Gigs if you’ll be using it for your primary device, and it’s truly a must for power users.

With it’s main use case being in the education market, the trend used to lean towards longer battery life rather than raw performance. This is changing now that mid range and high end devices are now available for the consumers outside of the education market.

Some quick research will point you to the Chromebook that best suits your needs. To check out the current Chromebooks on the market, go HERE.

You can learn a lot more by reading the blogs dedicated to Chromebooks & Chrome OS, watching YouTube unboxing and review videos of each device, and checking out the Amazon review.

Whether or not a Chromebook may be right for you, the concept of going lean with your tech is definitely something to look into. Even if you have no interest in switching platforms, learning more about Chrome OS and Chromebooks will give you better insight into where computing is headed.

To quote my good friend Sherlock Holmes:

[tweetthis]Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.[/tweetthis]

That’s it for now. See you in the next post!

Patrick

Personal Update Post

Personal Update – Relocation

Personal Update Post

Personal Progressset and reach goals

Every time a month with 5 Fridays comes along, I like to dedicate that 5th Friday to a sort of ‘Personal Progress Update’, which includes both personal & business updates and goals..

Often, the simple act of measuring something can improve your results all by itself. Add to this any actions & course corrections, and you can achieve extraordinary results.

Hence the tagline: Plan, Do, Check, and Adjust.

Personal Updates

Most of my personal updates this time around relate to my upcoming trip to South America. Passports, check. Plane tickets, check. 1st month of accommodations booked, check.

Takeoff Quote ImageThe major work here lies in selling everything* we own. Mostly via Craigslist, but a bit on eBay as well.

*Excluding 4 suitcases of goods, and a few totes stored with family.

This is the 3rd time I’ve sold at least 50% of my possessions in the past 6 years! So although it involves creating 100+ listings on Craigslist, it really only takes a little bit of mental energy, since the process itself is pretty quick & easy.

I’ll also need to cram in some language learning, since English won’t be very common. Between the Pimsleur audio lessons and the DuoLingo app, I should be OK.

Those are the main highlights, now on to the business updates.

Business Updates

The business updates fall into 3 main categories: active income, passive income, and brand building.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#passiveincome”]Active income pays the bills today, but remember to add passive income streams.[/tweetthis]

Active Income

For the active income, I’ll be experimenting with another micro job platform and increasing my output on Fiverr. I’m basically looking to spend the least amount of time possible on active income while still covering the bills and adding to my reserves.

Passive Income

Passive income is probably my biggest focus at this time. I’m finishing up my 2nd book, about to start my 3rd, and would like to get back to my 1st book and put out a 2nd edition with some needed updates.

Beyond books, I also have a couple of video courses lined up for the beginning of next year.

Brand Building

repurpose your contentMy main objective with brand building is to take care of two things at once: begin building an audience and content creation that can later be re-purposed into books and/or video courses.

So far I’ve been able to stay consistent with my blogging schedule of one post each week, and I’d like to throw in a guest post or two each month.

Beyond that, I need to finish up my resources page and write an autoresponder sequence for new subscribers.

Goals

Besides progress with my 3 income categories, my top goal is to have a successful relocation; all our possessions sold and a safe arrival in South America, and enough Spanish learned to get by (for now).

Until Next TimeIm Off Quote Plane

There is quite a bit I need to work on until the next update (which will be the 5th Friday in January), so I have about 90 days to make a big dent in this list.

I’ll also be taking the month of November off, and will resume my normal weekly posting schedule the first Friday of December.

So until next time..

Patrick

[ Update ] How did things go when I arrived? Find out here.