Updated: Apr 11, 2019
The Brooklyn of Bali, stoked on young people, Instagrammable food, and good surf
Why you’d want to work there: There’s nothing more inspiring than a morning commute in Canggu, across pristine tiny beaches and labyrinthine rice paddies with glimmering ocean views. In Bali’s youthful hipster enclave, an office day consists of a dapper co-working space with surf and beach breaks, plus a steady diet of smoothie bowls, raw desserts, and cold drip coffee.
The cost of living is incredibly cheap, with a two-bedroom villa priced at roughly $900 a month, and the area’s premier co-working grounds, Dojo Bali, ranges from $51 a week to $146 a month for unlimited access, including facilities such as Skype booths and a pool. No wonder Canggu is home to a thriving expat colony of bespoke bikini and jewelry designers, full-time Instagrammers, startup gurus, and none of the Eat, Pray, Love crowd.
Why you’d want to live there: This is where people segue from work straight into play, with laid-back vibes strewn across a variety of beginner surf swells, perky beach bars, and yoga studios. You’ll find a distinctly youthful spirit in each unique dwelling here, from Deus Ex Machina, a motorcycle-cum-surf shop, to Pretty Poison, a bar with a skate park hosting regular music gigs. Parties and events pepper the week: Check out “Dirty Ol’ Wednesdays” at Old Man’s Bar, practically an expat’s rite of passage.
SIMPLY SAID IF YOU WORK REMOTELY YOU WILL LOVE MY LIST VANCOUVER, CANADA A shimmering natural paradise 30 miles from the US border
Why you’d want to work there: This tightly bunched nest of glass high-rises and trim bungalows truly feels like the edge of the world, where Canada (the world’s 17th-largest economy) plugs into the Pacific Rim. The tech scene caps the Cascadia belt of information workers that reaches through Seattle and Portland and Silicon Valley; the sheer quantity of TV and film made here has earned it the nickname “Hollywood North.”
You can West Coast it: Knock off work at 5, when New York offices are dark, and go savor a sunset from above the clouds on a 4,000ft mountain, or night ski with birdlike views of the ships anchored in English Bay. Earning US dollars will take you far: The exchange rate gets you a 25% discount on any price tags you see — which, alas, you’ll need to meet the cost of living here.
Why you’d want to live there: If you’re the proverbial work-hard-play-hard type, given to slacklining and beach yoga and trail-running, you’ll love it here in the mild north. In winter you can stand on a clear urban beach and watch fresh powder falling on Olympic-venue ski mountains just a 30-minute drive from town.
The warm summers, with 16 daylight hours at the equinox, are lit at clothing-optional Wreck Beach, where locals lap up every minute of sun before sparking up the inevitable driftwood bonfires. Your passport is license to play both sides of the border, after all. Vancouver plops you decidedly in another country, yet Seattle Mariners games and the cheap groceries at Bellingham, Washington’s Trader Joe’s are short drives away.
Come for the mountains, stay for the beer.
Why you’d want to work there: Whether you’re zipping between cafes and co-working spaces on your bike, cozying into a multi-national firm, or just using the city as a freelance gateway to the Alps, Munich will make you feel part of an ever-widening international happening. You’ll have, at your disposal, quick connections by train to pretty much anywhere in Central Europe; access to huge European firms; and some of the most reliable internet in the region. The attitude of Munich is work and connectivity during the week. Then, on the weekend, everyone actually stops checking work email and comes out to play.
Why you’d want to live there: Put aside the outstanding art, museums, and concerts. Munich truly excels in two key departments: mountains and beer. The most exquisite woodlands, lakes, and mountains will convert a cubicle-dweller to an outdoors person faster than you can say beer garden. There’s also this little thing called Oktoberfest once a year. You may have heard of it. Its reputation feeds a certain expectation here, but the locals will surpass even your most hopeful stereotypes by grilling sausages pretty much every day of the week.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
A high-tech megacity that doubles as an expat playground
Why you’d want to work there: For a modern, eclectic burg on par with the amenities and population of NYC, Seoul boasts a cost of living where the dollar goes far, and it’s fairly inexpensive for an expat to settle in. Expect rent on a nicely located and furnished one-bedroom to go for about $500 a month (not including the deposit, aka key money, which runs in the $5,000 to $10,000 range; employers are known to sometimes pick up that tab).
As for food, lots of expats opt for dining out most nights: A hearty Korean meal goes for about $8. The strong coffeehouse culture has free and fast Wi-Fi standard. Wireless internet is so ubiquitous here, you can hop on a perfectly strong network on the subway. Filing taxes as an American is surprisingly simple; if you’re a public school teacher, you’re exempt from filing US taxes for two years.
Why you’d want to live there: There’s a reason expats are everywhere here. Aside from Seoul’s big-city trappings, you’re also a short hop from beaches, mountains, peaceful countryside, and Korea’s warm-weather offshoot, Jeju Island. All of it’s a breeze to get to, thanks to mass transit that blankets the peninsula. And Koreans go big on festivals of the food, beer, Comic Con, and even mud variety. The robust drinking culture has made Koreans pros at hearty partying.
Friendliness, frolicking, and fish on the Andaman Sea
Why you’d want to work there: The dollar goes an appallingly long way on this lush tropical island. Behold the tipsy foreigners stumbling beachwards down the teeming macadam of Soi Sansabai — they’re hollering nonsense; they’re swaggering groundlessly; they look like somebody just crowned them kings of the world. Really, they’re high on the power of a nonsensical exchange rate. While tourists stay in perfectly boutique hotels and Airbnbs for well under $50/night, a rainbow of expats are renting rooms for under $200/month. (Plenty of older expats, who might be mere petit bourgeois in more “developed” countries, live like pre-revolutionary Romanovs in terraced estates on Kamala Beach and in the hills above Surin.) As in any country with natural splendor, fast internet (at least 20mbps), copious amenities, and weirdly low prices, there are trade-offs. Police here are alert to offenses both real and imagined, and their alarm over the latter can often be salved only with a small cash gift. (Do not get caught in actual crimes. Bribes will do you no good, and Thai justice is harsh.)
Also, Thailand is a difficult country in which to buy property outright, and the inscrutability of the country’s military government and its new monarch makes it difficult to know whether a home or business that seemed safe in 2017 will be razed or confiscated in 2018. (The cafes of Surin Beach, for instance, were unceremoniously bulldozed in early 2016. They were technically operating illegally, but nobody had ever cared before.)
Why you’d want to live there: If you can forget the governmental instability in Bangkok — and you can, for months at a time; the odds are vanishingly small that it will ever directly affect you — then Phuket is paradise. Patong, on the peninsula’s southwestern coast, is one of Southeast Asia’s great nightlife capitals, with clubs of all kinds within a few blocks of Patong Beach and a happening gay scene in the area around Soi Paradise. There’s world-class scuba diving off either coast, and off the east coast, the thousand breathtaking islands of Phang Nga Bay are a quick boat ride away. (Many of these islands are “hongs,” with kayak-accessible lagoons deep in their interiors, which have been hollowed out by millennia of rainfall on soft limestone rock.)
You can get the freshest, cheapest, and very often spiciest seafood of your life in any one of the towns around Phuket, but the freshest/cheapest/spiciest might be in the nameless little front-yard restaurants of Thai people, in neighborhoods where tourists seldom go. Stop by one of them — perhaps in one of the neighborhoods you pass en route to the Big Buddha, high above the southern town of Karon. The proprietors will make you feel welcome immediately, because Phuket is one of the friendliest places in the world.
The romantic parts of the Middle Ages live amid tech savvy
Why you’d want to work there: Since shaking free of the Soviet full-nelson in 1989, Latvians are still humble — everyone’s parents here went through some real rough times — but are leaning into the next century. You’ll discover a smart city defined by its robust investments in tech infrastructure and by a post-Communist society standing firm against democratic overpricing. The result is simply an incredible value for your money — reasonable cost of living won’t exceed $1,600 a month. A bottle of choice vino sipped in a restaurant your parents would like will set you back what you’re now paying for a draft IPA.
Why you’d want to live there: The largest city and economic/financial center in the Baltic states has nightlife ranging from chatting over smoked fish with Art Nouveau aficionados to getting sweaty in a rock club. You’re in a small country with a big soul where the leading exports are wood products (keeping it real) and IT (that’s where you come in). Only about half of Riga’s 705,000 residents are native Latvians, so you’ll also be mixing it up with Russians, Belarusians, and the other dudes that read this article. When you need a break from all that, Scandinavia, Russia, and Eastern and Western Europe are all within easy striking distance. Pop over to neighboring Tallinn, Estonia to find another classic European city reaching to become a high-tech superstar.
Duke it up on the banks of the Danube.
Why you’d want to work there: Because you’re going to have the advantages of European city living while stashing the lion’s share of your paycheck. Fancy your own 900sqft apartment within walking distance of the Danube for $500 a month? Want your own space near the Opera? Then allow me to introduce you to a low-overhead European capital I like to call Budapest. You’ll dine out on goulash and opulent East European wines and have money left over for a taxi home afterwards. Add on the extremely low utility costs and affordable health care, and you have yourself the most underrated work-away-from home destination in Europe.
Why you’d want to live there: Try getting bored in Budapest, I dare you. Expats are flocking here lately for the nightlife and the easy excursions outside the city. Once you get tired of the hectic pace of life, you can find space meandering between the museums and cafes, among the rich facades and neoclassical architecture available in the inner city. You’d have to go to Vienna to surpass the density of history and design in modern Central Europe, but of course then you’d have to pay Viennese prices.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
A Cali vibe with unique flavors and Middle-earthly environs
Why you’d want to work there: Auckland is privy to year-round gorgeous weather, with comfortably warm summers and mild, dry winters. The natural delights recall the US West Coast: the emerald-watered Waiheke Island, a medley of rainforests, thermal springs — all fed by ocean air. Hiking, surfing, and snowboarding are at your full disposal. Auckland skimps a little on free Wi-Fi, but the internet is blazin’ fast and the exchange rate is in your favor: The New Zealand dollar is flirting with some of its lowest rates against the greenback since the Great Recession; live well for a little over two grand a month.
Why you’d want to live there: New Zealand’s most populous city is the spitting image of cosmopolitanism, so expats easily fit in. Two-thirds of the country identify by Pacific and Asian ethnicities, but local indigenous heritages like the Māori are also strong forces in Auckland’s melting pot (and don’t say you’re not interested in learning more about tribal culture after watching that viral haka wedding video). Auckland’s also home to thriving arts and food scenes, so live music gigs, decadent seafood feasts, and cool street murals abound. Plus it’s just a conspicuously safe and tolerant city, which these days, is definitely not underrated. — Barbara Woolsey, Thrillist contributor
Where Western Europe decided to legalize human nature
Why you’d want to work there: Well, first of all, do Southern Europeans ever seem like they’re working? One day of you doing your hyper-American work-ethic, no-napping thang, and you’ll top what the local competition will accomplish in a week. Dollars buy a lot of euros these days, leaving you time and cash for you to dive into what really makes this World Heritage City tick: chill, fit people enjoying — not rushing through — life. You don’t even need an office space here, as cafe culture has always been the way. You won’t need a car either, as Porto was established (as most ancient cities were) as a walker’s wonderland (updated to include a steady wireless signal).
Why you’d want to live there: Strive to be a frontline worker in the battle against shitty workplaces. The Portuguese like Americans, and you won’t get the French-style thumbs-down for not speaking the native tongue. Plus you’ll be in good international company as tourists and expats find their paces. You’ll have organic food and wine without the US-style price hike, and slingshot distance from the Atlantic, you’ll have mind-blowingly fresh, delicious, and affordable seafood dishes. Across the river from the old town, the Yeatman Hotel may be steep, but it’s worth a happy hour visit to Dick’s Bar, where you might catch a sexy Euro royal at leisure (then kiss that day job tchau). The 83-room, 30,000-bottle-strong wine hotel clings to a landscaped hillside and its halls double as a museum — the Yeatmans have been a trading family since 1692 and their collection includes a wineglass-sampling anthology dating to 800 BC. Take your time, and truly relax for a change.
The ultimate adult wonderland, where the living is easy on overseas income
Why you’d want to work there: Thailand is an illustrious base for bloggers, techies, and other self-employed folk for good reason: those idyllic tropical surroundings and low living costs, stretched even farther on Western currency. No wonder Bangkok’s co-working scene has exploded in the last couple years. A desk amid stylish interiors with a barista delivering edibles right to your seat might run you $8 a day, or roughly $105 a month. Just as easily you can also set up at home, with a decent connectivity of 35mbps costing around $17 a month. Hard work days can be fueled by Bangkok’s famous street eats, or any kind of delivery you could ever imagine.
Why you’d want to live there: Well-versed in excess and hedonism, Bangkok is the closest thing to an expat’s never-never land. It’s possible to live large on even a mid-range foreign salary. Apartments and shopping are cheap, and you’ll find reasonably priced fine dining alongside sophisticated bars, speakeasies, storybook steampunk nooks, and spectacular rooftops. Late-night munchies are easily conquered with gourmet burgers and tacos (even McDonald’s delivery is 24 hours, so prepare to hate your sloshed self). At least beach detoxing is just a budget AirAsia flight away, and if that fails, high-standard privatized medical care is available at various mega-hospitals — and much cheaper than back at home.