By opting for a local operator as opposed to a larger brand like WeWork, Zoku or Outside, digital nomads can ensure that their money goes into the local economy rather than an international business. Yet Razavi warns that locally owned co-working spaces aren’t automatically better. Making responsible decisions about where to support financially often requires a bit of internet research. The key is to find places that hire locally, treat and pay their staff fairly, and put the money back into the surrounding community.
âBig global brands can often bring local economic development and exciting new jobs to a place, and they can encourage new, higher standards for how suppliers operate in this area,â she says. âA lot of times, making responsible – and even practical – decisions is about taking the necessary steps to ensure that what you do aligns with your personal values, just as you would in other areas of your life. “
When Candy Traft, a American digital nomad, decided to take root and found her own coworking and co-living space in Tbilisi, she felt it was essential to do so responsibly. In recent years, the Georgian capital has earned a reputation as one of the best startup hubs in Europe, thanks to its affordable cost of living and its growing expat community. Last year the government introduced the Remote from Georgia program, which allows digital nomads to spend up to a year working in the country.
âWe really strive to support our local community,â says Treft. âThe end goal is not to create this division. I have traveled all over and you see the locals are starting to resent digital nomads. We maintain a high level of respect.
AT LOKAL Tbilisi, Tref hires exclusively Georgian staff and stores in small local businesses where possible. To help bridge the cultural divide, she offers free Georgian language lessons for digital nomads. During the pandemic, LOKAL Tbilisi became a stopping point for Total Courage Georgia, an NGO that collects basic food, clothing, household items and children’s toys for those in need. Treft is thrilled with the influx of support and is currently hosting a big fundraiser later this summer.
“The name ‘Lokal’ comes from my desire to be a place where everyone feels welcome, whether you are an expat, a digital nomad or a local,” says Tref. “I think the digital nomad community has a lot that we can share with the local Georgian community and I think the local Georgian community has a lot that they can teach digital nomads.”
Create a sense of community
While COVID-related travel restrictions remain high in many countries in Southeast Asia, the region has always been a favorite for remote working. In perpetually popular Bali, Rumah Sanur gives back by offering residencies to local artists, as well as supporting Paradesa, a social enterprise that invests in Indonesian farmers, and Kopi Kulpture, a fair trade coffee startup that provides income to small farmers across the country.
Meanwhile, in Thailand, the northern city of Chiang Mai, with its lower cost of living than Bangkok, laid-back vibe, and easy access to hiking trails, is the epicenter of digital nomadic life. Husband and wife duo Vichaya Sirisanthana and Euam Sirisanthana opened Word game space in 2013. Both had appreciated the community aspect of coworking in Bangkok and wanted to foster a similar environment.
âWe also try to create as many activities and events as possible for our members to connect,â says Vichaya. Today they operate two bright locations, one near Tha Phae Gate and the other in a former soda bottle factory in the old city center, both popular with Thai creatives and techies as well as expatriates. Creating a shared space as well as plenty of opportunities to exchange stories helps overcome cultural barriers, say the founders. Vichaya and Euam make a point of encouraging digital nomads to cycle around the city and support local cafes, shops and restaurants.
The recently introduced Barbados welcome stamp and the Bermuda Labor Certificate allowed U.S. citizens to work remotely in the Caribbean for a year, while Costa Rica Rentist Visa allows stays of up to two years. The latter comes with a particularly well-developed infrastructure for digital nomads, with outposts of popular co-living chains like Selina offering the option to take a surf break before a Zoom meeting. For those looking to escape the expatriate cocoon, however, TEN Habitat in Barbados is the perfect place to rub shoulders with Bajan entrepreneurs and tech innovators. By participating in co-working spaces, digital nomads contribute to the nonprofit incubator’s broader mission of providing coding skills to local children and teens, as well as helping foster Caribbean startups by to become.
âOne of the great lessons of the internet and the rise of remote working is that we are all more connected than ever,â says Razavi. âI think the most important way for people to fit into a new community is to treat others as equals and to approach everything as an opportunity to learn.
This sense of curiosity is also crucial to being a good neighbor in any country. Ultimately, a good coworking or co-living space should make travelers want to engage more deeply with the surrounding community. By learning about local customs, shopping and eating at neighborhood establishments, digital nomads can support their adopted communities and have the chance to explore while doing so.