Over a year later from my last post. Many things changed, of course.
This time last year I was in Italy and the country was coming out from the lockdown. Bars were reopening, life was getting back to a “new normal”. International travel was still mostly banned. Football was restarting behind closed doors. And I was still in my hometown, with my parents. After almost 3 months it started to feel way too long.
Compared to other countries, Italy had minimal Covid restrictions and we had a relatively good summer. I stayed mostly at my family summer house on the Adriatic Sea and it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I usually spend at least a couple of weeks in August every year.
This time was different though. Maybe I had been there too long or I just couldn’t see what to do after, but I was feeling out of place. I was lost. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t want to go back to London (for many reasons, I could write an entire blog post about it). I didn’t want to stay in Italy. Going traveling was obviously not an option. Moving to a new place didn’t feel like the right thing to do. I was not seeing a way out. I think I was never so close to depression in my life.
As soon as September approached I had to go. Anywhere. Ok staying for the summer, but after that..no chance. Also it was definitely the wrong moment in history to live with parents. I had to be careful who I was going out with, keep an extra eye of attention for everything, as the last thing I wanted to do was to bring the virus home and infect them.
So even if I was not inspired or convinced at all, I came up with 3 options:
- Bologna 🇮🇹
- Lisbon 🇵🇹
- Tenerife 🇮🇨
1. Bologna 🇮🇹
Having spent most of the summer with some friends who normally live in Bologna, I was brought to consider this option. They passed the summer in my region, but in September they were going back to Bologna and invited me to join them.
Bologna is a city I always liked, I’ve always had a lot of friends living there and I often visited, but I never lived there. So maybe it was a good occasion to check out how it was to live in Italy after many years abroad. Maybe it was better than I expected, maybe I could consider moving back to my home country one day.
2. Lisbon 🇵🇹
Lisboa sempre no coração. Lisbon is the city where I spent my Erasmus year 10 years ago. After that I went to visit a few times, I still have friends living there and part of me has always considered getting back to live there for a while one day. Plus after my recent travels in Brazil I had refreshed enough my Portuguese.
3. Tenerife 🇮🇨
Tenerife came up as an idea when I saw that my London friend and ex-colleague Marina was opening a coliving there.
Marina had recently lived in Bali, where she experienced the digital nomads life and staying in colivings. Then, because of the pandemic, she moved back to her hometown in the South of Tenerife. There she saw that there were quite a few digital nomads, but no colivings and there wasn’t a proper community yet.
She saw the occasion and grabbed it. She turned her villa, which she normally rented on Airbnb, into a coliving. As soon as I saw that, I thought it was a great idea.
Still I was feeling very unmotivated to do anything. So pushed by my friends I just went for the easiest solution, Bologna.
From day one I started to have a great time there. Hanging out with old friends and meeting some new ones. It was warm, all bars and restaurants had outdoor tables, in terraces and spaces usually destined to walking paths or even roads. I was already considering staying there at least until Christmas.
It was all going well…until one morning. October 4th. I wake up and get a Whatsapp message from a friend who I was out with in the previous days. “Hey, I’m sorry but I’m positive..”
At the time taking a test in Italy was a privilege. It took ages for me to get tested, but well, long story short, I was positive too, asymptomatic.
As I came out from isolation, I was back in my hometown and it looked like everything had changed. Temperature had dropped, it felt like I entered the house in summer and left in a chilling Autumn. The clock was about to be pushed back an hour back to solar time. Covid cases were rising drastically, masks became mandatory at all times. The government started to mention imposing a curfew and closing bars and restaurants at 6pm. One of the longest winters was about to start…
I had just had Covid, I had some sort of immunity. I was not going to go through another lockdown. So back considering my other 2 options. Lisbon is warm, but winter is still winter. Plus it looked like the situation was getting worse there too. Tenerife instead…Tenerife looked good.
So I texted Marina.
“Hey I’m thinking of coming next week there, do you have space in the coliving?”
“Hey nice! Yes, we’re opening another villa this weekend. When are you thinking of coming?”
“Don’t know..on Tuesday would be good.”
“Oh..well, I’m organising a badass party for Halloween this weekend, you should come a bit earlier”
“A party? After 2 weeks of isolation and days only talking about Covid, limitations, etc…the idea of a party felt insane. Felt like belonging to another life. Is a party even a thing?”
So I was like “Well, in that case I should leave tomorrow…”
I remember speaking to some friends from my hometown about this idea.
One said: “What? Are you crazy? I think this is the worst moment to travel”
Another one “And what if they close the countries and you have to stay there for months?”
And pretty much all like that “I think it’s a bad idea.” “You’re gonna regret it” and so on…
What-ever 🙄 my mind was made up.
Two days later I was in Tenerife. As soon as I walked off the airport I felt the sun on my skin, the warm air, I looked at the palm trees and the enormous mountains in the background. Wow. I felt immediately good.
Marina came to pick me up. First stop was the gas station by the airport, to buy some beers. A couple of people were waiting for us at the coliving for pre-drinks and then we had a table booked in a restaurant. Tenerife life was on.
Since the beginning it was great. I moved to the coliving and it was probably the best place to start life in Tenerife or maybe in general, in any place. I had never been in a coliving before. Obviously I had been in plenty of hostels, but not a coliving.
Just to explain it. The coliving is a shared house with other remote workers. Similarly to an hostel you book a room or a bed in a shared room (max with another person, not a dorm). The stays are generally longer than in hostels. I’d say a minimum of 2 weeks, but that can vary. I stayed 2 months.
The concept is that all the people living in the coliving besides working, they do activities like dinners, workshops, classes, excursions, etc.. Well actually I recently finished the website for Amarilla Coliving, so you can read here what’s all about: amarilla-co.com/coliving
The villa where I stayed (Casa Russ) had 5 bedrooms, a large living room, a beautiful garden with jacuzzi, bbq and different spots where to chill out, including a terrace on the first floor with sea view.
That was one of the two villas making Marina’s Amarilla Coliving at the time. The other one was 10 minutes walking in the same village. Casa Marina a 4 beds villa, on 3 floors, with heated pool, a gaming room (the basemeeent!!) and very nice spaces.
In all, the coliving group was made of about 10-12 people. Pretty much everyone arrived at the same time and we were all of the idea that, even if there was gonna be a lockdown and we had to stay home, at least our home was amazing, in the sun and we were in good company (eventually we never had a lockdown, we had restrictions, curfew, but life never stopped).
Indeed even without having to invite external people we had bbqs, parties and jacuzzi nights pretty much every day. The glorious jacuzzi days… 😎
At the same time, the coliving included a Coworking, an office 5 minutes walk from the villa. I went back to an office a year and half later. Strange feeling.
Indeed, despite everyone being up for a good time, we were all working remotely. All digital nomads, remote workers or however you want to call it. For the first time in a long time I felt normal!
When I travelled in South East Asia first and South America after, I was always the weird traveller who was travelling with his laptop and working in hostels while others were just taking time off and “living the dream”. In fact, I met some other digital nomads in my travels, but that was pretty rare. I always had to explain that I had clients in London, that I was “working from home”, but my home could’ve been anywhere. Some people understood that, some people, many people, looked at me like a genius or just a weirdo.
In Tenerife it was different. In the past months there have been no travelers or tourists. Everyone is a digital nomad or a remote worker. In fact, in Tenerife we took advantage of one of the few perks brought by the pandemic: the breakthrough of remote working (or as they call it in Italy “smart working”. They think that’s how you call it in English. I don’t get why that country has to be always so ignorant..).
The commonly called “nomads community” here has been growing month by month. Since December there are many saturated Whatsapp groups, Facebook, Slack, Telegram, everything..
According to several sources Tenerife is one of the favourite destinations for digital nomads and I can see why. The weather is good all year round, fast internet connection, cheap prices, good food, many activities to do (from watersports to a myriad of hiking trails), same time zone as London and most of all, it’s in Europe. Canary Islands are in fact probably the best compromise between Europe and a tropical country.
Here are many people who would normally be in South East Asia (which is currently still closed or fairly difficult to access), but also many people who have to work from 9 to 5 for Europe and only need to wake up an hour earlier. I also know quite a few people that didn’t even tell their bosses that they were abroad (some couldn’t take much sun as it would have looked suspicious). After all, if anything happens we’re only 3-4 hours away from almost every European country with a cheap Ryanair flight. I mean, of course it’s not the most connected place for its geographical position, but it’s quite different from being based in Asia or South America for example.
Another characteristic which makes me feel even more at ease is the fact that pretty much everyone I met is my age. All between the late 20’s and mid 30’s. Again, pretty amazing to feel so much in the right place at the right time. Especially after a summer where I felt lost and out of place.
Finally, given all this digital nomads community, you don’t find only people to hang out or to do sports with, but it’s very good also from a working point of view. There are conferences, talks and occasions to network, plus as there are many freelancers, company founders or individual workers it’s also great to find work. Speaking of my experience, I found a client in the coliving. Valentino hired me a day after he had arrived. He saw my work, needed a designer and fucked up my Christmas holidays. I had to deliver two websites for him by the beginning of January.
Then just randomly, one of my older clients from the UK moved to Gran Canaria for the winter too. So I was working for him, British LTD to British LTD, but we were based respectively in Tenerife and Gran Canaria. He then recommended me to his flatmate in Gran Canaria and I ended up working for 2 British clients based in Gran Canaria. Finally, as I mentioned I worked on the branding and the website of Marina’s Coliving, Amarilla.
Fast-forward to now. 8 months have passed, I’m about to leave. About to go back to Italy for the summer, but I’m not leaving Tenerife, I’m gonna get back in September.
If I had to leave 2 months ago I would’ve said I’m not ready, but now I am. Since the end of April a lot of people who came here in Autumn started to leave. Mostly because there started to be a feeling that the long lockdown winter had passed. The weather was starting to be good in Europe, restrictions were easing, vaccination programs were going ahead, etc.. Plus some people here were paying double rents in big cities like London or Berlin. They had come here just for a 2 weeks holiday in December which turned into a 5 months stay.
May was the month of “despedidas” (leaving dos). Literally every day there was a dinner or a drink for someone who was going. It was intense.
This brings me to speak about a negative side of Tenerife. It is for many a short-term place. I mean as we’re speaking about the digital nomads community, it would be a bit controversial if they stayed in one place and not moved to the next. They would lose the “nomad” bit in their name.
By my side I don’t really classify myself as a digital nomad (at least not now), in general the term is fairly new and commonly misused. There are periods of life. A period when you travel you’re a traveller, when you stay in a place you’re a resident, when you travel and work, call it digital nomad. I’m not in the same office with my clients, but I’ve worked from the same office for a few months, I’m a remote worker. (Call me smart worker and I punch you in the face).
In any case, I believe that many of those who called themselves digital nomads and that are probably doing so during these summer months (I’m gonna pass to digital nomad status in 5 days btw) will be back here over the winter.
Tenerife community of remote workers is growing and I believe Covid has just enabled this process. More and more people will keep working remotely also when the pandemic is over. The full-time digital nomads will continue to travel the world and go from place to place, although they will still have a base at some point. While the remote workers will just need a place warm and comfortable where to work from. If I had money I would invest it in this. Various local newspapers mentioned how remote workers have saved many businesses in this year of crisis in a place which relies almost uniquely on tourism for its survival.
So to wrap up, if it wasn’t clear enough, I think that coming to Tenerife was a good idea.