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.


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.



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.


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.


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,


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!


Becoming Location Independent

The Journey Toward Location Independence (Part 2)

Becoming Location Independent

Location Independence; dream or reality?

So in Part 1, I gave a brief overview of my journey toward location independence. Now in the 2nd part of this series, I’ll be going over the specific steps I’ve already taken, and those I plan on taking in my business and personal life.

Personal LifeTakeoff Quote Image

The main area of focus here is the continued scaling back of our possessions so that long-term travel/relocation is more easily accomplished. This has been a focus for the last year anyway, but now it’s time to really get serious about it.

The goal is to get the core of our belongings to fit into 4 suitcases (2 per person). Anything beyond that would be sold before leaving, and then re-purchased at a later date if need be.

Here is some of what has been done so far:

  • Migrating my expansive (physical) book collection onto my Kindle.
  • Scanning all of our pictures, old journals & notebooks, etc., and then throwing out the originals.
  • Selling/donating anything that hasn’t been used in a year or more.
  • ..and we had already downsized our possessions quite a bit when we moved into a nicer, but smaller place.

While some of this might seem a bit extreme on the surface, having space that is unused or possessions that are being stored away (often in a storage unit with a monthly payment), is not really doing you any good at all.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#essentialism #digitalnomad”]Having fewer things allows you to have nicer things.[/tweetthis]

In Businesslaptop

There are a couple of goals in this area. First is the transition to income derived entirely online. Next, having flexible deadlines for any non-passive income is a must.

My business is already paperless, and having dropped my smartphone plan in early 2011, my communication has been almost entirely online for a while now. To put things into high gear, we’ve dumped Windows and moved to Chrome OS via Chromebooks.

With that, I’m putting a lot of trust in Google and ‘The Cloud‘. While I do have a secondary backup of my most important files (both physical and in Google Drive), my pictures have all been moved into Google Photos, and my music library now resides inside Google Play Music.

To learn more about the technology I’m using to become location independent, check out my free report HERE where I list 21 of the top resources I use that will allow me to run my business & life from anywhere.

In addition to my free report, I’ll dedicate an entire upcoming post about the switch to Chrome OS, and the pros & cons about moving your business entirely into the cloud. (Spoiler Alert: The Pros far outweigh the Cons.)

In Summary

So, in essence, it’s not about becoming a minimalist, decreasing your quality of life, or settling for second best. It’s about focusing on what is actually important. Becoming agile (i.e. able to move quickly and easily) is vital to location independence. It is equally important to be mindful of your actions & experiences.

In my next post, I cover a tactic that lets me live rent free, which also happens to be the topic of my next book.



[ Update] If you want to see whether I’ve become location independent, check out my ‘progress report’ series here.

Becoming Location Independent

The Journey Toward Location Independence (Part 1)

Becoming Location Independent

In my personal journey toward location independence and the ‘Digital Nomad Lifestyle’, there are still several steps that still need to be taken in both the personal and professional areas of my life. In this post, I’m going to fill you in on the overall philosophies & strategies that are driving my actions, and then in Part 2, I’ll go over some of the specific steps I’ve already taken, and my future plans in both areas.

One of the main ideas is to get things “Lean & Lightweight” in both business and life. So it’s really about agility and speed of movement, rather than minimalism. This makes the necessary actions as easy as possible to carry out, and still leaves you with all the important resources at your disposal.

[tweetthis]The more complex your business and life are, the greater the chance of errors & unhappiness.[/tweetthis]

Here are a few examples of these ideas in action as related to your personal life and business:

Personal Life

Location Independence 101 While it is about having less, it is not about going without.

(Reference: Essentialism, by Greg Mckeown)

It is important to have everything you need and want, but physical objects are less likely to have a lasting impact on your happiness & fulfillment than mindful experiences.

Far different from “Minimalism” and settling for less, it is about being a “Conscious Consumer” and carefully choosing what you DO want.

In Business

The ideal “Lean & Lightweight” business, is one that takes minimal effort on your part, is enjoyable to run, and otherwise plays to your strengths ONLY, while delegating and outsourcing the rest. For me, this means that a laptop & internet connection are all that is needed, and that I only do work that I both enjoy and am good at.

In Part 2, I go into greater detail about the steps I’ve been taking on my journey toward location independence in business and life.

Talk to you next week.