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The Rise Of Bitcoin Nomadism: Is It Right For You?

The Bitcoin economy is enabling more people to choose their own adventures around the world and optimize their lifestyles.

It’s the rise in Bitcoin nomadism. The appeal of Bitcoin nomadism has risen in popularity over the last few years as the growth in the Bitcoin economy has enabled more people to choose their own adventure around the world, taking advantage of bitcoin’s phenomenal rise in purchasing power. We see more services catering to Bitcoiners who want to receive sats or spend sats in easier ways around the world, as well as services facilitating Bitcoiners to “buy their way in” with residency or citizenship of another country.

While the appeal of traveling might have diminished because of travel restrictions, COVID-19 testing, quarantine and so on, there’s still a considerable rise in the net benefit of traveling. Why do people do it? For some, it’s increased freedom, for others it is reduction in cost of living and taxes, and for others it is the variety of experiences and cultures. Some Bitcoin nomads relish the opportunity to build skills and networking opportunities in digital nomad and expat circles around the world.

For my part, I was thrown into this life because of not wanting to be stuck in Australia at a time when the nation’s bureaucrats and politicians went power mad. Sadly, much of the population was docile and living in fear. So, for me, it represented an opportunity to get away from that, and instead stay closer to Bitcoin community events with the advantage of meeting in person. While it can be stressful at times, the increased freedom has been worth it.

Let’s talk about some of the pros and cons for Bitcoin nomadism, and I’ll then share some tips I’ve learned along the way.

The Pros To Bitcoin Nomadism

You Could Go To Countries With Dramatically More Freedom

Instead of staying stuck in a hysterical country, you could explore the world and look for places that are less COVID-19 crazy. Of course, this changes over time, but there are some countries where rules differ, or hysterical rules are not enforced so strictly.

There are some countries in the world that “know where their bread is buttered” and they are actually keen to remain open for tourism and business. They know that imposing nonsensical hysterical COVID-19 rules is bad for business. You can find them, if you search and network well. There’s no one perfect place, but there is a mix of places that you can pick and choose from to optimize your life. On top of this, you could benefit from a range of experiences in different countries.

Potential For Massive Tax Savings

Think about it: If you’re paying upwards of 40% or even 50% in taxes, are you really free? And we’re not just talking federal level taxes here, consider also state taxes, stamp duties, sales taxes, sin taxes and others. You could easily be paying over half of your income in taxes if you’re a high earner. As Robert Nozick spells out in his classic “The Tale Of The Slave,” it could be argued that we are modern-day slaves to the state.

Alternatively, there are countries that have zero or low income tax, which, if you compound the savings for some time (obviously by stacking sats), could grant you and your family dramatically increased wealth.

Now, what does it take to achieve these kinds of savings? Well, let’s be honest, for American citizens, this part will be more difficult — unless you’re willing to renounce your citizenship and pay the exit taxes. But for most non-Americans around the world, there are generally ways to become a non-tax resident of your country, and establish yourself as a tax resident elsewhere.

Establishing yourself as a tax resident in a low tax state will keep more money in your pocket. Whether you, as a Bitcoiner, choose to stack more sats, donate to Bitcoin development or invest in Bitcoin companies, that’s up to you. One way to go about this is to seek professional consultation from an expat specialist tax accountant or lawyer, who can advise you on how to structure your affairs.

Geo-Arbitrage Your Way To A Lower Cost Of Living

When you can earn at rich-country income levels, but spend in low-cost countries or areas, you’re living the dream. Especially if you’re earning bitcoin. You might be able to regularly afford things that were previously a treat, like a nice rib eye or tomahawk steak at the best restaurants in town. You can rent or buy a home far cheaper than what a comparable home would be in high-cost-of-living countries.

This steak was about $26 in Medellin, Colombia. Source: author.

Yes there’s generally some dysfunction to deal with in these countries, but is it really that different from the dysfunction you face in your country today?

The Cons Of Bitcoin Nomadism

It’s Not For Everybody — You Probably Have To Be Rich Or Smart To Do It Today

There’s arguably a minimum hurdle level of income, wealth or intelligence to even be able to achieve this. But if you’re resourceful and willing to persevere, it is achievable for many, but not all. It obviously works better for individuals who can work or operate businesses remotely, but in this day and age, it has never been easier to work online.

People from countries with “strong” passports allowing more visa free or visa-on-arrival travel will find this easier to achieve than those without. But that said, if you are wealthy, you can look into buying your way into the likes of St. Kitts or Maltese citizenship, which will qualify you for a stronger travel document that is more widely recognized around the world.

Part of the appeal here is being able to have more choice in which countries will accept you as a tourist, and the time allotment they give you to stay may be greater. But even without a “powerful” passport, it is possible to apply for visas in advance if you’re careful and plan visits out in advance.

It Can Be More Stressful And The Pathway Isn’t So Easily Laid Out

Your TV news is not going to be teaching you about this lifestyle anytime soon. It’s also a bit like playing life on “hard mode.” Forgot your backups or two-step verification keys? You could be in trouble. Didn’t research the visa or country entry conditions correctly? You might be in strife or get sent back at very inopportune times. Got mugged or pickpocketed and didn’t have a burner wallet or burner phone? This could create difficulty accessing your accounts.

This takes research and resourcefulness. But you can start slow with baby steps before progressing up to more advanced nomad and expat ideas.

You May Have To Accept Some Trade Offs Around Quality Of Life, Language Or Access To Products And Services

You’re used to certain products and services being available in the western nations, and these may not be available in countries that you travel through as a nomad. In some cases, the infrastructure and roads may not be as nice as what you’re used to. You might need to spend some time learning the language to get by. But you can network and find other Bitcoiners and nomads, who can “show you the ropes.”

Generally speaking, if you expect the exact same products and comforts that you’re used to from your home country, this will be more expensive and less practical. If you’re more flexible and willing to accept changes in products and services, you’ll probably have a better time of it. That said, sometimes you’ll be surprised by the upside on the level of service or products available.

FAQs On Bitcoin Nomadism

So, Where Does The Bitcoin Part Come In?

Much of this is generally true of digital nomadism, but where does the Bitcoin part come in?

With Bitcoin, you can easily take your wealth with you and set up to take or send payment seamlessly. You can access the bitcoin markets around the world, whether they are P2P, OTC, or exchanges and brokers.

Many Bitcoin companies are perfectly geared to work in a remote-first or even remote-only fashion. So, you can apply for a job or put up your candidate profile at bitcoinerjobs.com. Or you can directly sell your own products and services for bitcoin and use the likes of BTCPay Server or OpenNode to take payment over bitcoin on-chain, or through Bitcoin’s Lightning Network.

For example, you can use the likes of cheapair.com to book flights with bitcoin and you can use bitrefill.com to buy vouchers for various products that don’t directly accept bitcoin. Whether it’s flights, hotels, eBay, coffee, tech products or more, chances are, you can find vouchers available for purchase with bitcoin.

Digital nomads especially appreciate the difficulties of handling cross border payments and wires. Many of them have spent so much time wrangling back and forth with banks on whether they put in the right SWIFT or IBAN code, or having banks stop and question why they are making or taking this particular payment. With Bitcoin, it can be as simple as scanning a QR code and pressing send.

Is This Only For Single People?

Contrary to what many think, it is possible to do this as a couple, or even with children. If planned out carefully, you can make it work as a family who are homeschooling, or using online learning resources. Depending on the country you’re in, you might even use some of the savings to get a nanny to assist with children or housekeeping.

Are My Worldviews Out Of Date?

If you’ve grown up in some of the richer western nations, like the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or the richer European or Asian countries, you might look at some of the medium-wealth or poorer countries of the globe in a certain way. But there’s a chance your worldview is “out of date” based on what these countries were like 20 or 30 years ago.

The reality is that the rest of the world has developed rapidly and, unless you’ve traveled extensively, you might not realize just how quickly things have developed. For example, there are ridesharing services, food delivery apps and co-working spaces with fast and reliable internet in many countries around the world. You can find reasonably developed and relatively safe cities or towns that offer good deals in terms of amenities and lifestyle for a better price. If access to healthcare is the thing for you, you could also consider medical tourism, by accessing healthcare in well-known medical tourism destinations such as Dubai, Costa Rica, Singapore or others.

Perhaps there is a lifecycle for countries, states or city states that come up really quickly with smarter rules and governance, creating good times, but then leading to weak people creating hard times. For 27 years, Australia had no recessions and was known as “the lucky country.” I wouldn’t call it that anymore!

Are some of the current “world-leading” nations coasting on fumes, going complacent or even trending the wrong way? Could you instead forge a pathway or life for yourself in some of the more hungry, “up-and-coming” nations, states or cities?

Bitcoin Nomadism Or Bitcoin Expats?

I’ve noticed there’s also a lifecycle aspect to how people pursue Bitcoin nomadism. After an initial period of time, traveling around more regularly, people slow down their pace of travel and perhaps they shift from “nomad” to “expat.” They might live from a different homebase (or multiple home bases). So, whether we call it “Bitcoin nomadism” or “Bitcoin expatism,” I think the point is more about living intentionally given that we live in a world with Bitcoin.

Rather than letting the inertia of life keep us in one place merely because that’s where we grew up, we should proactively select competitive jurisdictions that offer us a better deal.

Additional Resources And Advice

I’m going to list some resources and tips for those of you who are attempting to do this. Some of this has been informed by my conversations with other Bitcoiners, such as my friends CoinsureNZ (see podcast episode “SLP328” for more) and Katie The Russian. Readers might also enjoy my interview with Andrew Henderson, aka Nomad Capitalist (“SLP250”).

Don’t Actually Work From The Beach

You’ve probably seen pictures of travel influencers “working at the beach” or from a hammock. Don’t do this. This is not practical. What about sand in your keyboard? How reliable is the WiFi? What about your ergonomics and posture from sitting awkwardly? How long can you operate on your laptop battery without charging?

You’ll be far better off working from a co-working space, or from a designated desk in your room. It is important to actually get work done and keep good working habits, which is impractical to do at the beaches and bars. Save that for when you’re proverbially “off the clock.”

Don’t Travel Too Often

At the beginning, you might be tempted to travel really often. I’d recommend against this, as it won’t be practical. Every time you switch locations, you’ll have to figure out a new set of logistics around getting food, supplies, doing washing, transport, COVID-19 tests, etc. This is especially worse in the era of COVID-19 restrictions, when you have to check entry conditions for countries and so on.

Aim to spend a longer period of time in each location to ease the stress, try for two or three months if your visa allows. When you try to set up a new homebase, just be wary that your productivity may initially drop while you figure out how to reliably get things done. But after some time, usually a few weeks, you will adjust to the new location.

How To Research Where You’re Going

One great resource for figuring out what the current COVID-19 rules are is canitravel.net, where you can input your passport, where you are currently and where you’re going. You can then see the relevant COVID-19 entry rules. You can even check which countries are relatively open at a glance. This is much easier than individually trying to figure each country out. 

Source: canitravel.net

You can budget and do some basic research with sites and resources such as nomadlist.com, numbeo.com and expatistan.com. These sites can give you an idea of living costs, internet speeds, temperature, quality of life and other information.

Source: Nomadlist.com

The Value Of Nomad Friends And Connections

Make nomad friends and join nomad groups. They’re on Facebook and other platforms, and they can be an important source of “on-the-ground” intel on an area before going, or to stay in touch with an area you previously visited. Of course, as a Bitcoiner, you could connect with local Bitcoin meetup groups or startups also. These connections will be valuable for helping you find the right place or way to get things done in the city.

You Don’t Have To Go ‘All In’

Some people think that they have to “go all in” on nomadism. This isn’t the case, you can start small and baby step your way in. If you’re thinking about “flag theory” for example, you could start by going to a country and attempting to get a residence permit or nomad visa, and setting up a bank account in the country. This might give you some more flags for the next time you come back, or options in terms of P2P bitcoin trade.

Consider Residency Rights

While some nomads use “visa runs” (exiting and re-entering a country), note that you might want to consider formally applying for a residency on the basis of being an investor, entrepreneur, freelancer, etc., as this will give you less issues at the border when entering.

Accomodation wise, one approach is to start with hostels or Selina, while you then figure out longer-term accommodation on the ground. Some local options are not advertised online. Remember, you can “test run” Bitcoin nomadism and simply go back to your original country if it is not to your liking.

Summing Up

Other countries are not what you thought 20 or 30 years ago. In many cases, they can offer you a better deal via geo-arbitraging Western World income with developing country costs of living, new adventures or simply a better deal on taxes. Bitcoin is helping enable a new era of remote working and remote business.

To some extent, we’re seeing the sovereign individual thesis play out, with high-skill workers, entrepreneurs and investors being able to pick from the countries of the world like a diner can pick from a buffet of food choices. More and more people “voting with their feet” helps keep governments just that little bit more honest.

But of course, don’t do it for the vague notion of competitive jurisdictions, do it for the sake of your own goals. Whether that’s increased sat stacking and wealth creation for your family, or the chance to experience different adventures, you owe it to yourself and your family to be intentional with where and how you live.

Credit and thanks to CoinsureNZ and Zender for their feedback on the article.

This is a guest post by Stephan Livera. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.