3 Things Digital Nomads Should Consider Before Settling Down

September 4, 2021
Illustration of a digital nomad conflicted between travelling (plane emoji) and settling (house emoji)

After almost four years living nomadic, the most common question I get asked is: "Don't you want to settle at some point?" And the answer is: it’s complicated. Probably yes, but there are more layers to this answer which I feel should be addressed.

Specifically, there's 3 of them.

1) Deurbanization is growing.

To start with, I'm curious to see if the growing adoption of remote work will lead to a substantial de-urbanization, and the rise of new communities outside of big cities. Earlier this year I spent some time in Madeira, a Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, where the local Government supported the Digital Nomad Village project to attract remote workers from all over the world. Similar projects are now being developed in other places like the Azores, Cape Verde, the Canaries and other destinations in Europe and around the world.

If the trend continues to rise, and more infrastructure is built to accommodate remote workers, I think it will significantly expand the options of interesting places where one could settle besides today's big cities.

A group of Digital Nomads poses for a picture with a beautiful background of the ocean and hills
Digital Nomads in Madeira | @Borderless Retreat

2) Cheap 3D printed homes are coming.

Another thing I'm monitoring is advancements in technology around house construction. As Y-combinator's Sam Altman writes in his article Moore's Law for Everything:

“Technological progress follows an exponential curve, and it will rapidly drive a decline in the cost of goods across many sectors, including housing- to the point they could become half as expensive every two years.”

According to a publication by Aurecon Digital Futures: already today 3D printing technologies offer significant cost-saving potential. Research shows that construction costs could drop by 50 – 70%, and labour costs by 50-80%.

A few examples? Apis Core, a startup based in San Francisco, was able to 3D print a tiny house in under 24h. In the future, Apis Cor says they could print these tiny houses for $10,134 — “a price that includes windows, doors, electrical wiring, plumbing and other things resembling a real home.”

A mockup of a village made of 3D printed houses
WASP 3D printed houses

WASP is an Italian company that is 3D printing houses from reusable and recyclable materials, sourced from local soil, carbon-neutral and adaptable to any climate and context - and they do it at a cost tending towards zero. Their goal is to work towards communities of smart houses around the world.

When I learn about these projects, I question if taking up a mortgage for 30 years to buy an apartment in a city is the best option to settle down right now. I'd rather wait and see what happens in the next 5 years.

3) You shouldn't rush it.

There is another reason why I'm not in a hurry to settle down, and that is because it is an important decision that shouldn't be rushed. I like this quote from angel investor Naval Ravikant:

"There are basically three really big decisions you make in your early life: where you live, who you’re with, and what you do. We spend very little time deciding which relationship to get into. We spend so much time in a job, but we spend so little time deciding which job to get into. Choosing what city to live in can almost completely determine the trajectory of your life, but we spend so little time trying to figure out what city to live in."

I fully agree with him, and that’s why I’m spending some time figuring out where I'd like to live, collecting data by experiencing different locations.

Mastering Territory

To conclude, I’d like to share with you a quote about settling down from the book The New Nomads by Felix Marquardt. He writes:

"By first leaving and then settling down, we can connect with both our nomadic and our sedentary instincts and come to see that the divide between nomads and sedentists is an illusion. Leaving allows us to get the bigger picture, to grow personally and to gain a crucial perspective on ourselves, the broader human trajectory and modernity. But to never settle down is to remain stuck with a superficial grasp of the people, the fauna, the flora and all the particulars that make up the culture of a place, to never become an expert of the local, when ‘becoming native to a place’ is one of life’s great endeavours, one of its great gifts, and an important part of becoming decent ancestors."


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