After traveling full time for 5 years, I have rounded up my top 5 destinations for Digital Nomads that love surfing! Tune in to see which places made the list.
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Reflecting on my early Digital Nomad days
Some food for thought. To start off today’s episode, most people overestimate what they can accomplish in a day and underestimate what they can accomplish in a year.
Have you ever looked back on a specific year in your life where everything has just changed? Maybe it was 2022 when you decided to take a leap and your life shifted upside down. If you’ve never experienced one of those years, it can just seem like a pipe dream. But believe me, and believe many members and testimonials in our community, your life can change drastically in a year’s time. And in today’s episode, I’m going to be sharing my top five digital nomad destinations for surfers. And it’s crazy to think I didn’t even start surfing until 2019.
And so for me to be recording this episode for other digital nomads and surfers out there, if you had told me that I would be doing this while I was working a corporate job, I probably would’ve thought you were insane. And that has all happened within the past five, six years for those new to this show. I used to work a corporate finance job in New York City, quit my job in 2017, started traveling the world full-time in 2018, took on surfing in 2019, and now it’s just such an integral part of my life and business. So if you think that you don’t have the power or the control in your life to make these big, massive scary changes, welcome to my show and know that you are basically going to be proven wrong.
You can do really hard things in life, and I fully believe you have the power to design a life that you are wildly obsessed with. So to preface, my online business journey and my digital nomad journey has gone through many iterations. When I first started traveling full-time, I still traveled like someone who was working in corporate, I would country hop and tried to do something every single day. I really had no base because when I was working in finance, I was given limited vacation days. And so I really maximized every single day to be go, go, go.
What that led to was burnout was overwhelm. I felt like I didn’t have enough time to spend in my business. I couldn’t focus and there was just so many distractions. I was staying at hostels all the time. And for those of you who are familiar with hostels, you’ll know that it’s a very party environment. You’re constantly meeting new people, new backpackers, and it’s just really not that conducive to getting work done. And when I did find time to work, I was trying so many new things on my Instagram, on my blog, on my website shop. I remember my first product I had found on Ali Express. It was this gold necklace with a world map pendant and I put that on my shop.
I was going to drop ship it and I didn’t make any sales. I also remember I wrote an affiliate post on my website. I thought I was going to be able to travel and make money from affiliate postings, and I didn’t make any sales either. So this was a lot of trial and error on what kind of business I wanted to pursue, what kind of lifestyle worked best for me. And when I finally found my first base in Bali, I was living really cheaply. My villa, a one bedroom, one bathroom with a pool and a shared kitchen. I was spending around 300 US dollars a month.
It gave me a lot of space and stability and peace of mind to really explore my creativity, to really work on my online business, meet other entrepreneurial like-minded people. But what I was envisioning for myself and my future is I don’t want to always be living and traveling to the cheapest destinations in the world, right? I want to live in New York City, I want to live in Hawaii. I want to live in expensive cities and have a thriving online business that gives me the freedom to choose where to be based. I didn’t want to be based in Bali because I couldn’t afford other locations.
And when I accepted this as my reality, I knew that I had to learn the sales, the marketing to scale my business, learn how to get new clients, new customers on a daily basis, and be able to create a holistic lifestyle brand that transcends just Instagram. And looking back to when I was so confused about why people weren’t buying my necklaces or why they weren’t clicking on my affiliate links, it’s just so clear to me now it’s because I didn’t have the marketing in place. I didn’t have the traffic going to my website to monetize. I hadn’t built the brand for myself on Pinterest, using Facebook ads, using seo, all of these things which I now use on a daily basis, and I teach my clients how to as well.
I understand it can be so frustrating when you feel like you’re just throwing spaghetti at the wall, you’re trying to learn and you really don’t know what’s going to work for you or whether you’re doing the right things on a day-to-day basis. But again, do not underestimate what you and your business can do in a year. And I’m so happy to say after years of growing my business, scaling it to multiple five figure months consistently on a monthly basis, while giving me the freedom to choose where in the world I am based, I would not have it any other way.
I teach my clients how to do this. So if you are struggling and you don’t want to figure it out on your own, seek help from someone who has been there, check out the links in my episode description because they will save you so much time and so much trial and error.
Top 5 Digital Nomad Destinations for Surfers
So after the past few years of traveling full-time and learning that I work best when I am based in a location for at least a few months, getting to really integrate with the local community, create my routine, create my workflow, and plan out my day optimally without feeling rushed or without feeling like I have to constantly be on the move, I have rounded up the top five digital nomad destinations for surfers. Because I want to be really transparent this might not apply for everyone. Maybe you have different hobbies, maybe you have different interests, maybe your business runs differently.
But for me, most of my clients are in America. I am super flexible with the times of day I work outside of those client calls. I sometimes have group calls throughout the year group business coaching calls where I also need to be uploading call replays. And so I require a fast internet connection. I also upload podcast episodes and YouTube videos. So I need the internet to be strong enough to support those business functions, whereas if you don’t do any calls and you just need internet to post on Instagram or send some emails, maybe your requirements are going to be different.
I have traveled to over 60 countries. I have lived in a handful of them over the past few years. I also want to preface that my partner, rags and I, we both surf. I am a long border, so I prefer tiny manageable baby waves, whereas he is a short border and he hunts for bigger barrels. Surfing is a non-negotiable for us both. So we tend to gravitate towards beachside, Oceanside, surf towns with a thriving digital nomad, entrepreneurial expat scene. That is where we choose to travel to.
And so if you are looking for some new destination ideas, then this episode is for you.
5. Puerto Escondido, Mexico
So I’m gonna start with number five, which is Mexico and where we’re actually returning to in March. I’m gonna say each country, but I am fully aware that each country is massive and there’s just so many cities. But I’m going to say in general, the areas we have visited, the areas I recommend as well as pros and cons of the country. Two years ago we spent a few months in Porto West Glendo in Oaxaca where we stayed in a midterm rental. So we were renting on a month to month basis, which comes out always significantly cheaper than if you were to rent on a nightly or weekly basis.
Like think about it, in New York City, a hotel room can cost upwards of 500 to a thousand dollars per night, but you can rent an apartment on a monthly basis for a few thousand, right? Like 2000. So same thing with other destinations. You are always able to find a better deal the longer you stay, which is one of the perks of being a digital nomad. In Porto, we rented a beautiful two-story villa for around I would say 1200 US dollars a month, and it was in a really central part of town. We were able to walk to a lot of restaurants and we really loved the scene there.
There was a lot to see. There were waves, the water was warm, there was a great community. We made a lot of friends and mexican food is incredible.
But if you were to go back to my podcast episodes that I was trying to record in Mexico, I went through a lot of headaches because of the wifi situation. Even though there were some co-working spaces like Selena, we couldn’t find a decent reliable wifi connection over 10 to 15 megabits per second. They simply didn’t have the infrastructure to support faster internet connections.
And on top of that, sometimes the internet and the data network would just go out completely without explanation for hours and hours on end. And because I was doing live videos back then because I had coaching calls with my coach and I had to miss all of them, it was causing a lot of stress on my life and my business, and we looked to move elsewhere.
Other locations in Mexico
Now knowing more about Mexico, I know that on the East coast by play Del Carmen, Tulum, there’s a lot more coworking spaces and a lot more reliable internet. However, there’s no surf because it’s the Caribbean, so it’s flat, but if you don’t surf, you know, look on the Yucatan for a digital nomad destination.
Another place we’re looking into is Baja, Los Cabos. The infrastructure there is a lot better. It’s more connected to America. So we’re going to check out that peninsula in the near future. When we go back to Mexico this time around, we are looking to go to Las Salita, it’s in Guerrero and there’s a Mexican log fest, a longboarding competition, and we’re going to stay there for a month or two. I don’t have high hopes for the internet situation because again, it’s on the Pacific coast of Mexico where there’s surf, but no infrastructure for fast internet.
So we’re going to make it work. I’m not going to be planning any lives, any group calls while we’re there. All in all, Mexico is massive. So I’m not giving up on it yet, and every time I’ve been, I’ve been to Cabo once, but before I was a digital nomad. I’ve been to Tulum and Cancun and I just know that there are so many parts of the country, so much I haven’t explored yet, especially as a an online business owner. That is why I am giving it the number five spot. Go check it out. It is an amazing country with so much history, so much culture. So if you find a spot like Sayulita, I’ve heard great things about that Mexico City, right? Just so many places. If you can find a spot that works for you, let me know.
4. Ericeira, Portugal
Okay, number four on this list is Portugal. We spent a few months last year in Eddie Sada and we visited Lisbon. We visited Doro Valley. There is a huge thriving digital nomad community and the country itself is just beautiful. There is so much to explore. We didn’t go down to the south coast where Lagos is, but we’ve also heard incredible things about that that I really need to go back to the next time we visit. Other great things about Portugal. Fast internet always had a reliable connection in the co-working space that we joined.
Always in the apartment, it never went out. It was very reliable. In Eddie Sayda, there is amazing seafood right on the coast. You can have octopus and fish and drink wine right on the cliff every single day. And the other thing I really liked is I met a lot of young families. So my friends, they all had young children and it was just really cool how they kind of lived this alternative lifestyle outside of their home countries of America and England and they chose to relocate and now live in Portugal, which I thought was really cool and really inspirational. Portugal is also a lot cheaper than other European countries, so we also spent some time in France and the Alps and we found that Portugal was significantly cheaper.
And again, just going back to the community aspect, the entrepreneurial digital nomad community fully thriving in Ericeira.
The biggest con I can think of off the top of my head is that to surf you need a car and you need a wetsuit. So those two combined poses some difficulties with getting to the surf because you need to invest in a vehicle and then you also need to put on a wetsuit every time you go into the water. The water is pretty cold. Some of my friends even wore booties in the water, but also keep in mind that we were there in March, April, so the water is warming up.
I’m not sure if you need as thick of a wetsuit as I had in the summer months, but that was one con because I just found it really difficult to have to put on a really thick wetsuit every time. It was also super windy when we were there, and I’m not sure if that was just the season, but the waves honestly weren’t as good as other places that we have traveled to in the past few years. And so the surfing was a little underwhelming from my expectations.
The other con was we had a really hard time trying to find a long-term visa that would allow us to stay in Europe for more than 90 days. We were actually unsuccessful in doing so. We tried applying for a D visa for entrepreneurship, but when I went to the embassy, I had like collected all of my documents. I went to the embassy in New York to try to apply for this visa and they were like, it doesn’t exist. You need to be either incorporated, your business has to be in Portugal, or you have to be working for a Portuguese company, or you have to like employ Portuguese citizens or something like that. I basically couldn’t apply for the visa, so we had to leave after 90 days. And so if you’re thinking about staying in Portugal longer, it might be harder to do so you might need to apply for a visa that enables some kind of path to residency, which is a bit more work and investment.
So that is something to keep in mind. Overall, loved my time. There would definitely be back. Might be back this year, who knows? So that is a great place to be if you haven’t checked it out already.
3. Hawaii, United States
Next number three on my list is Hawaii. I’ve been to Hawaii twice in my life. The first was when I was working in finance. I had loved it. It was before I started surfing. After I picked up surfing. I remember going years thinking, oh, I can’t believe I was in Waikiki and I didn’t get in the water on a surfboard. Had so much regret until we made it back during the pandemic just at towards the end of the pandemic when they were starting to open everything up and I fell in love with Hawaii.
Of course, surfing is the number one pro here because rags, short boards and eye long board, and it’s an island. There is a wave for everyone ranging from the beginners to the most advanced of surfers on the north shore. It is just a beautiful island. There’s so much amazing scenery, so many hikes, fast internet because it is an American state. So I feel like it has the accessibility and the convenience of being American. So there are Costcos, you know, and there’s Amazon Prime, which you won’t find in other countries.
I also love the food there. I love poke, I love musubi’s. We spent six months there and there were still just so many restaurants, so many new delicacies that I was waiting to try and I just never got sick of the food. The people are so welcoming, so friendly, and I feel like they have a slower pace in life where it’s not always go, go, go, and they truly enjoy friendships and relationships and family and enjoying life to the fullest. What was also incredible was when you go into the water as a surfer, so when you’re surfing Waikiki or surfing the North Shore, the skill level of surfers is insanely high, I think high, higher than anywhere else in the world.
Everyone is amazing at water sports because they grew up with it and they go into the water every day. So even like toddlers and kids are all surfing, and that just inspired me so much to really integrate into this lifestyle and make surfing a priority. Also, you see it in front of you. The more time you spend doing something, the better you get at it, especially if everyone around you is doing it too, right? If everyone around you is like, let’s go surfing this afternoon after work, like you’re going to go with them and you’re going to get better. We met so many entrepreneurs, so many people from all different walks of life, Americans who moved to Hawaii from the mainland. We met expats, we met travelers, and everyone inevitably falls in love with the island.
The only con I can think of, actually, no, there are two. The first is high cost of living and that is what the locals call a paradise tax. Everything is imported, so there is a high cost of living, but it is so worth it. The other thing that is a con is because it is an island or Oahu is an island and it’s a chain of islands, island fever is real. Or as the locals tell me, you kind of get bored of being stuck on an island.
We were there for six months, so we didn’t experience it. I feel like I could, you know, live in Hawaii for many more months without getting sick of it. But island fever is real. There is also a really high number of homeless people because it is so expensive. So that is a factor to consider, although for me it really wasn’t a factor at all.
2. Florianópolis, Brazil
Number two on this list is Brazil. Brazil is massive. We spent most of our time on a little island in Santa Catina called Florianópolis, or as they call it Floripa. And it was the best nine months of my life in South America.
I’ve been to Peru and Columbia, but honestly, personally, I prefer Floripa. The water is so warm, the weather is basically like temperate and beautiful year round. There is fast wifi, there are co-working spaces, the food and the Chico, oh my god, so good. I wanna go back just to eat the food and Brazilian barbecue. To be honest, we loved our stay in Brazil. It was at the peak of Covid, so we weren’t able to travel outside of Santa Catina, so we kind of just stayed put on the island of Flores.
They had a bridge connecting it to the mainland and they actually weren’t allowing people to enter because of Covid. And so when we were there, it was really peaceful. The waters were beautiful, it was empty waves, and the local people are just so kindhearted, like everyone wants to go out of their way to help you, to introduce you to new things and we just had an amazing time there. Again, Brazil is massive, so there are just so many places, basically like the entire country we haven’t explored. But honestly, every person I talk to about Brazil who is a digital nomad, they have found coworking spaces in other cities like South Paulo or Rio that they really vibed with.
They love the culture and the pace of life and how everyone is so warm and friendly and Latin and Carnival, we were there for carnival, amazing celebration. I wish I was in Rio for it. We’ll probably go back one year to experience a full Rio Carnival. So there’s just so much to do. There’s so much culture, there’s so many places, so much nature, you know, like the Amazon is part of Brazil and that just seems like a foreign land to me. So the country in itself, when I think about it, amazing memories, amazing scenery, amazing people.
The only con that I can think of, and it’s not even from personal experience, it’s from other travelers, is that in the bigger cities safety is a very valid and major concern. However, I don’t believe this is a blanket statement. Use your street smarts, right? Don’t go out at night if you’re traveling solo or even if you do like just be aware and be alert, use your street smarts. Don’t do anything stupid. And honestly, I think you will be fine.
Other locations in Brazil
Other places in Brazil that I really want to visit that are really good for surfing like Pipa and Itacare. I want to spend some more time on the coast of Sao Paulo of Rio and the islands around Rio. I still haven’t been to Rio, so yeah, I will definitely be back in Brazil. And this should be on top of your bucket list if you haven’t visited already.
1. Various Islands, Indonesia
Number one on my list, and I might might be biased because it was my first quote, kind of like digital nomad. Love is Indonesia. I’ve spent lots of time in Bali. I am currently now in Batu Karas. I’ve spent time in rote and next month we are going to Nez. It is just a digital nomad paradise because it is cheap, it is easy to get around. There are so many islands to choose from, and there is fast, reliable, and affordable internet. There are so many digital nomad communities, co-working spaces, and it’s just attracting expats from around the world.
For me, it was my first glimpse into what my life would look like if I chose to pursue full-time travel. So many other people were doing it and it felt like a community, like a hub of digital nomads in one place. And it just opened my eyes and expanded my mind in so many ways that I truly will always love Indonesia. It’s where I first learned to surf. It’s where I made the most friends in the shortest amount of time and just resonated with so many people’s stories. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. So if you are looking for your first destination as a digital nomad, look into Indonesia, it is easy to get accustomed to. It is comfortable and it has basically everything you would need to grow your business and develop personally.
Some cons are the time difference. So if your clients are in the Americas, I am currently 12 hours ahead of Eastern time, so ahead of New York. And so for my client calls, they’re either early in the morning or late at night, which work really well for me. But if you are, let’s say working for an American company, it might be harder to adjust or adapt to the time difference, right? It’s also really far and just in general hard to get to if you have family in the Americas like I do. So every time I go back it’s at least a one or two day journey and I am usually jet lagged and tired after. So it’s just a part of the world that’s harder to navigate to if you are American.
Another con about Bali specifically, not Indonesia in general, is that the tourism is what I would call unsustainable. A lot of people are just building and building and building without really giving thought to the local communities. The island itself is seeing a major trash problem because so many super clubs and hotels are opening and buying out all of the local, local businesses on the beach, and they’re not really thinking about how it affects the island as a whole and the infrastructure.
So the locals are kind of getting like pushed out because of the foreign investment. So that’s just one thing I’ve noticed and that’s why I don’t really spend much time in Bali anymore because it’s just getting so busy, so hectic, and I really value my peace and empty waves. Even though it is far, I will always be coming back. It will forever be one of my bases because it’s just the loveliest country for digital nomad surfers
Runner Up – Costa Rica
I want to include a runner up on this list and that is Costa Rica. We were only able to visit Tamarindo because again, it was Covid and we weren’t able to travel between like Liberia airport and Santa Tasa where I wanted to go, but the internet there was really fast and the people were nice.
However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Tamarindo, which is why I’m adding it as a runner up. My perception would probably change if I was able to visit like no, and the places in Costa Rica I wanted to go to, but because I wasn’t, I was in a relatively touristy part of the country and the cost of living was significantly higher than I was expecting for what I was getting. And so because of that, I’m adding it as a runner up. If you haven’t visited, I know so many people who rave about it. I can see myself raving about it if I was able to go to the places I wanted to. But yeah, that is a runner up and I hope that this episode gave you lots of new travel ideas, expanded where you want to go visit in the world.
I kind of have Guinea pig and tested out these six for you to start with, many of my clients have embarked on their digital nomad journeys themselves and started with one of these destinations and they absolutely loved it. So if they did, I know you will too. And if you want to start your online business to be able to design a life like this where you can travel to wherever and base yourself wherever in the world there is a wifi connection, check out the free resources in my bio.
Join the free Wanderlover Community on Facebook or join us on Instagram. You can also apply for private coaching where we will build your online business together. All links are in the episode description. If you have any more destinations that you want to add or share with the community, please DM me on Instagram and let me know. We are constantly looking for new places to experience. Hope this episode was helpful and I will see you all next week.
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