Curtis Duggan: Welcome back to Remotely Serious. My conversation in this episode is with Lily Bruns. She is a digital nomad, but also a digital nomad advocate and researcher who has thought about things like digital nomad visas and countries on the internet, and. New ways of structuring passports. So I had a really good time talking to her, and I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Let's jump in.
Hey everybody. Welcome back to Remotely Sirius. I'm here with Lily Bruns. We're gonna chat about digital nomadism. We're gonna chat about. You've got a lot of different projects. But I kind of wanna jump in really quickly. I've I've told, I can't remember if I've told this story before, but there's the movie Walk Hard and there's a joke at the beginning, which is like, Dewey Cox, the protagonist who's like playing a Johnny Cash character.
It's like Dewey Cox needs to talk about his entire life before he goes on stage. And I find that a lot of podcast episodes can take that form where you spend 20 to 25 minutes talking about someone's biography and that's that's great. We've done your whole biography. Now let's talk about something.
And I actually don't want to do that. I kind of wanna jump into like right into it. And one of the things is you are a digital nomad advocate and you among many other things. But one of the things, the reason I got to know you is that you've done a lot of great work working on. A digital nomad visa research and advocacy, but specifically an ongoing, and you can tell, jump in and tell me where it's at, but an ongoing digital nomad Visa White paper.
Do I have, yes. Those facts correct.
Lily Bruns: Those facts are indeed correct, sir. Yeah, it's like a, it's become, I don't know, a running joke. I think sometimes when something is so intense, like the only way to deal with it is to have humor, it's become just like this thing in my life. And I was like, someday it's gonna be done someday.
Curtis Duggan: stressful at all. This is your Moby Dick just goes on and on. Yeah. Infinite adjust. Yeah. So what, where is it, when did you start it? The,
Lily Bruns: the project. I fir probably first had the intention to write to share my knowledge and research about digital nomad visas in 2019 when I started on this advocacy journey just in Thailand, just in the very Thailand specific context.
And then it just ballooned from there. But I've been working in earnest on this with my co-author Leanna Lee, probably for the past. Okay, so my baby is now 16 months old and I was pregnant when she and I started collaborating on this. So however long that is, I guess so we can do almost two years.
Curtis Duggan: and you, so you where have you been where are you now and where have you been since Thailand? Maybe you can't count all the places if you've been nomad, but generally where have you been in the last I. Eventful, in the world of Digital Nomad has been eventful with the Great Pandemic, I guess it's, is it 2023 now?
So it's been three or four years. Yeah.
Lily Bruns: Yeah. I was bunked down in Chiang Mai, which is like my hometown, where I'm from and spend most of my time. So most of the time was there. But let's see, I was in Virginia, which is where I grew up for a while. And then, yeah, back in Thailand, mostly in Chiang Mai, sometimes in, and.
Very lately I've just been visiting family in North America, so I'm in Vancouver for the first time. It's beautiful. Here's very, you're in Vancouver right now? It's environment. Yeah, I'm in Vancouver right
Curtis Duggan: this next, oh. I'm probably like 15 minutes away by helicopter. I'm in Victoria on Vancouver Island right now.
Lily Bruns: amazing. Yeah. Oh my gosh. This part of the world is gorgeous.
Curtis Duggan: It's nice. That's what they all say when people come here. It's, isn't it beautiful?
Lily Bruns: It's, I was walking through the forest yesterday. I was like, oh my God. This feels like a magical fantasy land. Where, when are the elves gonna walk out? Yeah.
Where is El Ron? So we had a little brief pit stop in Tokyo right before this, but yeah, I'm pretty sedentary these days. It's mostly with the baby, but yeah, life is based in Thailand and I go around visiting family. But yeah I'm I joke that I'm like a fake nomad.
Sort of dabble in this world.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah, no, there's definitely a lot of that and I think it's totally healthy where it's like I'm a digital nomad. But yeah, I've been here for eight months, whether it's Thailand or, yeah, I'm additional nomad, but I've been in Lisbon for 12 months straight. Yep. Which is totally okay.
It's an inclusive community. But it's over, it's really is over the, these last few years where, you know, 2019 there were no and we'll get into the part, but there were, yeah, were no digital nomad visas in 2019 and then in. 2020 along with everything else that was going on.
They, a trickle of countries, maybe on the surface adapting to what was going on with the pandemic. But also, nothing to do with the pandemic, just adapting to the fact that remote work would've happened anyway with or without the pandemic. But you saw Caribbean islands and then Estonia, and then more Caribbean islands.
And then eventually, fast forward a year or two and 50 plus countries have announced some form of a digital nomad or remote work visa. And part of your work seems to have been parsing what they're trying to do. And, coming to some conclusions, at least, you can share it with me, but it looked like you were grappling with the fact that digital nomad visa might be a misnomer.
They should be called remote work visas. So what has that journey been like? What have you learned, examining and comparing and contrasting all of these nomad visas from around the world?
Lily Bruns: Yeah I think that like funny little breakdown of where I've been and what my travel style is actually a great segue into this because people talk about digital nomads as if people have a set travel style, as if that means one concrete thing, right?
But it's this collective movement that has many diverse members who have very different travel styles. Some people are. They're doing the digital mom thing for many years. And they're perpetual travelers. And some people are more like, they're just location independent, but actually like to be based in one place, but they just like having the option and flexibility travel.
And so when we. Hone down on the whole visa thing. It's who are you actually talking about? And my big frustration when I started looking at this the, this topic was that there was so little information about who additional nomad was supposed to be and like how that was being communicated to governments.
Governments don't really have a lot of data. And a lot of them have had trouble. I think really getting into the community and understanding who a digital nomad is posted be, and I don't blame them because we are such a diverse group and that's a difficult question to answer. So I think when I set out to write the white paper, that was like part one of something really important that I wanted to address.
Hey, let's. Have some common understanding. Let's do some common vocabulary of who additional meta is. What are some of the defining characteristics? What are some of the movement patterns of folks who live this lifestyle so that we can paint paint a picture for governments, for policy makers?
Because if you don't know who you're creating policy for, then how is your policy going to be? So that's been my mindset coming into this project and looking at the like whole global mobility landscape for digital nomads remote workers.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah. And it seems like the digital nomad visas that they've created often are more of a.
Extension, extension or flavor or genre variant on the concept of a long-term worker visa, a permanent residence visa, where it's like we acknowledge that you have work that income that comes from elsewhere outside of the country. Yeah. Because you can go on your laptop and make money. Money comes in from someone outside of our country.
'cause that's that's the first hurdle, is that immigration is, for hundreds of, not, maybe not hundreds of years, but since World War ii Yeah. The national borders are there for many reasons, but also sort to, to protect the local jobs of a country and not have local people get jobs and opportunities taken away by people who parachute in from other countries. I'm not saying I agree with this. That is very, top of mind for politicians is protecting their voters because their their voters are the locals, not necessarily the people that visit for a year.
And so it, it seems like the core thing is these are lo, these are remote work visas, for example. I'm trying to think of a good example, but maybe, the ones in Spain or Portugal, maybe some of the ones in in Southeast Asia they have been conceptualized as mitten.
I don't wanna put paint them all by the same brush, but it's like we're come here, you get a year, you should be making at least two grand a month or some number and. We expect, you don't, you may or may not have to pay tax, you need to sign up for this process, submit all these things.
Yes. Maybe do a criminal record check. Yes. And then we expect you to come for a year, and then maybe you can renew for another year. But it's certainly not enabling, oh, you're gonna be here for six weeks quickly and then you're six weeks in. Yeah. Mauritius. And then six weeks in Lisbon and six weeks somewhere else.
It's not really enabling that, which is A common path of many digital nomads is not to spend a year everywhere. It's to spend a month everywhere.
Lily Bruns: Absolutely. There's a fundamental incompatibility with the. The freedom and flexibility of digital nomadism and what that lifestyle is supposed to be about versus how governments view immigration.
They have a couple of different statuses. You're a tourist or you're maybe a temporary resident. You have a business visa or some other non-immigrant visa visa or you're an immigrant or you're a permanent resident, right? And nomads don't.
A lot of the countries that were trying to move quickly were adapting something that they already had to try to capture this new target population. And I think that's why you get some of the issues with, in my opinion, we don't have a true digital nomad visa. Nothing that really fits what I think are the defining characteristics of additional nomad person really maxing out that lifestyle.
But what we have are an array of remote work.
Curtis Duggan: Visas, what are some of the elements of a digital nomad visa that you think are missing? If there was top one, top two? Yeah, that just classically, the classic elements that aren't there that you wish were there In an ideal nomad visa,
Lily Bruns: I think the number one criteria is that if you have a visa that requires someone to commit to do a destination, even if it's for a year, but like to commit to a destination, you're making them not a nomad.
So to me that's like a no go. Is a commitment, like I think like maybe six months is reasonable and compatible with the sort of Slow travel vibe that a lot of digital nomads go for, but like a year is a stretch. Like anything longer than that, I'm like, come on, that's not a digital nomad visa.
You are basically targeting someone who by their travel style, by their mobility style, which is very loose, very flexible, and you are removing that defining characteristic by telling them that they have to commit to a place. And especially if we have a visa that has any criteria around if.
If there's like only a single entry visa versus like a multiple entry visa if there are minimum days required for you to stay in that country, then that's like bonkers and that's not most of the remote work visas out there don't have that criteria, but a handful do. And I feel like it's just a little bit like crazy making because yeah, you define your target population by their movement style, but then the very active making them jump through the, to get this visa.
Remove them from that class of person. Do you get me, this is like crazy
Curtis Duggan: making. Yeah. Did it sound Yeah, it sounds like they all suck and they are all lacking on that front, on the front of making, there's, we got a long way to go to to enable the vision for nomads.
I think there's a couple things going on. There's nomad, there's enabling what nomads are doing. With moving around and not committing, but also I think acknowledging the fact that A and I don't wanna be ages, but let's say a 25 year old nomad may say, this is what a nomad is. I'm gonna travel everywhere.
And then realizing when they're 31 or whatever, or whenever. But let's say when they're 31 or later that it's actually no I did want to sample some of these countries and I do want to have, yeah, education system, driver's license, social security, a hospital near me, maybe not in their home country, but that they do actually want to.
Sort of commit, for lack of a better word. Yeah. Eventually and I think in an ideal world we would support, there would be a global utopia that kind of supports people that are on whatever phase of the journey they're at. And we still only support the people that are. Ready to emigrate as opposed to the nomads.
Yeah, so I'm just wondering though, that they all suck and they're all lacking on this dimension, but was there any of the many announcements and the many visas that are in various stages of being live or under legislation or whatever, is there any that stuck out as like the best among rotten lot that.
That kind of were good, or stuck out
Lily Bruns: I guess. I have a couple favorites for different dimensions. I don't think any one of the remote work visas that I've analyzed, so I have this whole like database where I've put them all together so I can figure out what's going on in common with them.
Like compare contrast and a couple stand out for I, maybe it's just because it's nearby in Southeast Asia. So I, I like Malaysia's approach. I think they've done something clever there where they have. Really honed in the c the community aspect, they've got a fairly they've got a very reasonable like minimum income requirement.
And it seems, I don't have direct experience on the application process, but it seems fairly straightforward to figure out if you're eligible and then to apply for it. And as far as the target country, I think Malaysia's got a lot of what the community are looking for. And again, on the community side, they're like, Hey, we know that you're coming here, not just people who are digital nomads tend to want to be around like-minded folks, and we wanna encourage and cultivate that for you.
And so I think that's very front and center with their program. So I think there's some like good notes to take there. And from what I've seen of Costa Rica, which is still very new and emerging, but they they made an announcement last year and. I think a lot of folks were disappointed, but then they came back and they adjusted those criteria, which I think is really that's really awesome, to take feedback and do something with it to make it a lot more flexible.
So I think those are two that are on my radar to watch, but I think they're still very new and we haven't had a whole lot of uptake. So I think everything is still a bit up in the air.
Curtis Duggan: And is it true? You have I, I don't wanna say worked for, but I'll say worked on Lumia. I say that because it seems like more of a, it's a concept as well as I don't know if it's even a company as much as just a project. Yeah. But the aim of p Lumia is for people that haven't heard of it I'll summarize it a little bit, but you could probably Yeah. Correct me or guide me. It's a it is a concept and a. Community that is somewhat decentralized but is generated or the brainchild of safety wing the health insurance company, among other things that Safety Wing does.
But Plummy is essentially the it is a more of a moonshot in terms of global mobility in that it seeks to create a world where you can have a digital passport instead of the, dice roll of whatever country you happen to be born in is where you get your passport. Now, I was, I'm Canadian, so I have a Canadian, I'm, a passport from Canada.
I could change that and I probably could have gotten an American passport, but that would be that, that was really hard. I lived in the United States for a short time and that was hard to do and involved lawyers and was not easy at all. And so there are people that are not in Canada, the United States all over the world in other countries, and all of these countries have different It's like you have different powers, if you're in a certain country you might not be able, if you're in Russia, things are gonna be really hard. If you're gonna be in India, you're in India, things are be harder in a different way. Yeah. No. Passport is equal. And, why do we do this to people? Why do we, when a baby is born, why are they born with these restrictions?
It's just, it's the way it is. But Pluma is aiming to change that.
Lily Bruns: Yeah, so I've been involved with Lumia for a long time. I was just a big fan of the concept and I was really fascinated by this idea of creating a country on the internet. I think a lot of folks are doing that from a very decentralized, DAO focused way.
But the folks at Lumia, I think it's a. It's a gathering this community of folks who are really nerdy about this topic, folks who like me, who really just want to create some impact in this space to see the potential of the remote lifestyle as like a world changing force for good. And they've done a really great job of attracting folks and supporting Folks like me who want to harness that energy and do something, but they're like internally what they're working on as the Moonshot project is to create like a, the nomad border pass.
So it's just okay, we, let's rethink like passports, right? Like rather than, 'cause it's, you alluded to this whole idea of like passport privilege. And that goes back to discussion nomad. That question is constrained by who can become a digital nomad, right?
Because if you have really good digital nomad visas, then many other people could become digital nomads. You ask the question of what what are the countries that digital nomads come from? They tend to come from the countries with with strong passports, right? But if we can totally change the game that can look very different.
So what Plummy is doing they want to basically create they. They wanna have maybe like one application to multiple countries so that their quote unquote, like internet country citizens can have mobility rights akin to what your national passport would allow. But your membership to, to lumia and the passport privileges that you get don't come from Yeah, your accident of birth, but rather, joining into this community community.
It's like an opt-in
Curtis Duggan: system. Yeah, no I love to see these projects move forward and I participated in a pluma cohort earlier this year, which was I it's a lot of things, so I don't want to make it sound smaller than it is. It actually is quite a lot of conversations. Oh, yes. But essentially it was like joining a discord and chatting with people, but that kind of, it's more to it than that.
But that is essentially the mechanism. It was a decentralized, and you could, you could jump in and tackle these kind of open source. Or open-ended. Yeah. And open source projects. And the thing that I find, and just this is my personal opinion, may not reflect the opinions of anyone else with these things is I love following pluma.
I also follow various network states and sovereign cities, cities on the blockchain, various projects that are emerging and of often, it may be tied to land, it may be not tied to land at all in terms of, and I'm not I'm not saying plum me is like these other projects where they're looking to, start a new city.
Yeah with blockchain governance, the thing that's exciting is on the one hand, I love that we're rethinking the way that countries are. Haven't really changed since the 16 hundreds or 17 hundreds. We had a few democracies, I was talking about this in the, on the last episode of this podcast with another guest, we had a few democracies start America and France had the revolutions and then, democracies popped every up everywhere.
We got rid of kings and queens. Yeah, around the world. Lots of detours around colonialism and communism and fascism. But eventually, eventually, 50, 75, a hundred countries were democracies by the end of the last century. Yeah. And we haven't really changed much like it's even a democracy now has the constitution, the parliament where people sit and it resembles the Westminster Parliament that was invented by the English and et cetera, et cetera.
And a lot of that hasn't changed in hundreds of years. Yeah. The details might change, but the actual governance hasn't changed. So that's great. That part is good. Like rethinking that, figuring out how to build a new kind of country, a city. I love that. The thing I don't understand yet is the state, the nation state now is a thing that actually has some good, I.
Kind of backstops and safety precautions. Yeah. And legal systems built in. So what I don't and I'm gonna make a facetious example, but you go to some Mediterranean island where someone has used a blockchain dao to source some land and gotten a zoning law. Where this is a new sovereign country and all of our citizens use token, et cetera, and I'm not trying to make fun of this.
I'm actually interested in this. And everybody shows up and maybe there's a population of 3000 people in this new city, and I'm not trying to pick on any city, but it's often in an idea like this. And then I. Everybody gets together for conference day one. We're building things. We built some buildings.
We have our to, blockchain based laws, and then at 1.2 people get drunk and get in a fight and someone breaks someone's arm and they're lying on the ground. A thing that I, you know, a thing that I have some friends who are police officers in my hometown, and like stuff happens every night, stuff happens in a city, in any jurisdiction, shit happens. Yeah. Every night. And so what happens then? It's like you go to the mayor of. Nation of what's, you go to the mayor of network, state town and you say someone's got a broken arm. And I just picture the mayor being like, I'm gonna be a bit pejorative, but like a crypto bro that's oh crap, we don't really wanna deal with this stuff.
Yeah, we wanna have like libertarian bank accounts and Bitcoin bank accounts and not be taxed and oh, someone has a broken arm. Oh, we didn't really think of this. And I know that I'm making fun of it, but that's my like, thing is Cities and states and promises and nations have this, all this civil and criminal case law and laws and enforcement and all this stuff.
And it's what about that stuff? Yeah. What about all that?
Lily Bruns: You have, if you boil down the digital nomad movement in some way, it's almost just like Braveheart just like this. Somebody at the top of mountains just shouting. Freedom. Yeah. But then it's wait, but what's the other side?
Like what about responsibility? What about commitment? What about yeah, but justice. Yeah, it's like civil litigation. Freedom and independence sound great, but the thing is like we humans are social creatures and in order to like peacefully live in this planet together, we have to have like mutual obligations.
So I think that's something that's really, I think that's what intrigues me about this kind of work. And this community building, this kind of advocacy is hey we are in this like big paradigm shift, right? Like we're seeing like a huge shift in the world order. And there's a lot of opportunity in that.
Let's rethink like in a world where people can shift across borders much more easily, where the place that you're born may not be the place that you end up, where you may, use these remote work visas to date a couple different countries perhaps before you decide who you wanna get married to in a way, right?
And commit to long-terms. What do we want those relationships to look like? There should be some sort of for form of reciprocity, right? And maybe you wanna make it like really fast and loose. So those are like light commitments, more like dating but surely to have a good world where you know, where you have a tax base.
Where you have people who like aren't just trying to geo arbitrage and pay as due taxes as possible, you actually have people who wanna invest in the place that they're at, right? They wanna invest in the community with their taxes, with their efforts, with their entrepreneurship. This is, I don't know, like this.
This to me is like the really interesting. Space where let's figure out not just what like maximum freedom and flexibility is, but like I have all of these options for who I want to commit to, how I wanna commit and invest my energy. And if we, if I can live and work anywhere. What kind of relationships do I want with the places that I go in this place?
I may be a visitor, right? And might, I might just be a tourist and I'm hopping in and out and we're not gonna have a long-term relationship. But maybe a couple places. I really like going back to, and so I want to have. I'm open to a bit more of a commitment, a little bit more of an exchange I wanna give back.
I wanna receive more from that community. And then and this place is like my, my, my base, right? And I'm going to invest the most in this particular community because I think we all wanna set this home. So maybe this is like very conceptual, but like this to me is like the really interesting stuff I've been like, I think it's because I have a baby now.
I've been really like digging into like psychology and development and just really thinking about the human brain and how we evolved and adapted. My background is in anthropology and so in this moment, in this like modern world where we have like digital technologies and people can travel anywhere and we have digital nomad I'm fascinated hey, Like borders used to not be a thing, and we used to live in like clans and tribes and the fact that this kind of movement might be enabled again, can we like draw on some like ancestral wisdom and yeah.
So much shit happened between like the foundation of the nation state and the creation of like passports, right? We, I think we have this. Opportunity to like work backwards to say okay, what really worked about all those things that we learned about nation states and capitalism and economic development, and what lessons do we wanna keep?
And maybe now that we don't have some of the forcing functions because like the. Economic of cities has been broken by remote work, right? Like in order to advance economically and prosper, you do not have to be based in a city anymore. And that's the paradigm shift. That's the shift. You don't have to be based in a city in the west, right?
In the developed world. And so now that we've broken that, what are some of the things that we can like maybe rethink and rebuild from the ground up? I've talked a lot. No, I think that, that's so juicy
Curtis Duggan: to me. The, it's a common theme in literature and in society about the tension between the move to the city post-industrial revolution and some pastoral life that we're leaving behind, in every century, every decade there's some version of this, whether it's a. A writer or something that kind of, what if we just went back to nature whether it's into the wild, the beach, Thoreau, or all these different tropes and literature about how if only we could go back.
And so now I think enabling people to simply have the choice whether they want to live in the city, the suburb, and the city, the suburb, or some existence that resembles more of the the ancestors. Agricultural or simply even. I don't wanna say hunter gatherer, but literally there are, we probably won't go that far, although some people might be into that.
But there's versions where we can live and it's not just more and more densely packed into cities and the the monopoly of the downtown. But I'm actually curious, I think you were mentioning, we've talked about passports, multiple passports, digital nomadism. I hear a lot of commentators and influencers and creators.
Many of whom are male, and they talk about, getting multiple bases. Yeah. So multiple you mentioned the concept of home, so multiple homes, let's call it that. And, diversifying and being a nomad or being an individual who can spend time in different continents, in different countries and not being necessarily super rich in order to do it.
It's a middle class. Global mo, globally mobile lifestyle. Yeah. And they're, they're often talking about it for the various reasons. And so I think many of these people I listen to who are male don't have the perspective of being a mother with a child. So I'm just curious if you have a perspective on home and would you envision somewhere where your child or children have Multiple homes, like we consider, Thailand, somewhere in Europe and somewhere in North America, all equally home.
Or do you do you find yourself thinking I should make a choice, I should double down on one place Now that the situation is different, and I know it's a personal question, but I really do wanna. I'm tired of hearing all these dudes talk about what you should do with your life, and I just want your perspective.
Lily Bruns: Yeah I think like the whole, because you alluded to like flag theory and J arbitrage and that whole thing, right? Something that the super rich have always had access to, like how can I like. Set up entities and to be in the countries where I'm treated best. And it's, I think it's really cool that kind of thing is accessible to people who don't have to be super rich.
If you're just clever, you can like hack the system. But the thing about hacking the system or gaming the system is that it ends up being a race to the bottom. And one of the things that I sort of wanna touch on with my work on, like nomad visas is this topic of income tax.
Because we saw what happened when a lot of countries started incentivizing, like for corporate income tax. And we had a race to the bottom where all of a sudden wait, if this company is like managing all the savings because they're incorporated in such and such place. And that place is collecting lower taxes like, Surely we don't want the same thing to happen with all of these remote workers.
Tried to pay as little income tax as possible because good things can come from taxes. The fun thing about being in like North America right now versus Thailand is, my husband and I have been having lots of conversations about parks. And libraries and like Thailand is a wonderful place to live and it's definitely where like we wanna raise our family, but we, Thailand is not a place where there's a lot of infrastructural development in these kinds of things.
And yeah I think about that topic of like taxes and investments. So I think if you ask me, as a mother, as a woman, I'm I. Yeah. I think I want to, I want my child to grow up with the best of all options, right? But I want I want her to. To Actually, the funny thing is I want her to be rooted in, in, in a way that maybe a lot of folks aren't now.
I really hope that she grows up and she wants to stay at home because I like right away from my family, for many years. And that was really fun adventuring. But selfishly I oh, if I can just create a really great community around her, maybe she'll never leave me. I want her to have life experiences and all that, but I think that we've lost something in, in this.
We teach our young people to go out in the world and we then leave us, but we've diminished the social fabric because we do that. I'm having, I, I love Thailand, but I'm having a hard time sometimes with raising a family because my own family isn't around. I don't know.
I've wandered around a lot of topics here, so maybe you can bring it back, Curtis.
Curtis Duggan: No, I think I, I think that it, you bring up a good point, which I think there will be this evolution. It's a generational thing and there are more and more nomads than more and more people who have the complete freedom to work remote.
And over the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll absolutely see the, the return to the home country. So there will be all kinds of people who say you know what I, I thought that it was paradise. For a variety of reasons. In Thailand or Bali or Lisbon or Madera. But, and I'm North American, so I'll just take this perspective.
I won't speak for like a European or Asian or an African perspective. There, there will be North Americans who say, I just want to go back to my neighborhood in Toronto or in Tampa or in Southern California. And just I want the little league game nearby. I'm saying for kids, maybe for oneself, but I think specifically driven by people settling down and having families. I think there's something that. About rootedness that won't change just because there's a globe. I don't think most nomads will have their kids in a different place every two months, forever. So yeah, we'll see how that happens.
There'll be this 10 years from now we'll have so much more perspective on okay, how many nomads continue nomad and how many went back to their home country. But I also think there's the new places around the world that become rooted, settled, new places with. Nomads becoming oh.
I don't wanna use like colonial language, but they'll be like trout, not settlers, not pioneers, won't use those words, but people who are I know, settler, pioneer, gentrify are all bad words or words with not bad words, but they're words with connotations. But there's some word for like the reconfiguration of, oh yeah, this community popped up in this part of Portugal, or this part of Croatia, or this part of Malaysia.
And it, there was a big hub of. Remote work. Expats. Yeah, let's say families actually. And one would hope merging and mixing with local culture and not being like an enclave that's completely separated. So these fusion, these kind of, these new communities that are, in 20 or 30 years you might have a school and there's this blend of kids, let's say in 2040 or 2050, there's this blend of kids where some of the parents are.
Remote worker, millennials that are now 40 and 50 and 60. And the kids even don't, they don't know about all that. They're just living together and they know that Yeah. Their, the new community is I don't know, to what extent that'll happen. There's lots of people trying to build cabin communities, remote work destinations to Yep.
There's city planners who are trying to rebrand their city. To be, whether it's Dubrovnik or Buenos IRA or other places, there are people where the tourism board has, spun off a new department and said, okay, now we're the digital nomad and remote work. Bored and go get the remote workers to come here.
And I think you know that with these visas that are not really digital nomad visas, but stay here forever visas, some of them will start to work. So I don't know what that's gonna look like. And yeah, but we'll see. Yeah. It's, sorry, go
Lily Bruns: ahead. Yeah. If we go back to that discussion about visas, right?
Like my analysis looking what's your playbook? What are you actually trying to do because you, are you familiar with the South Park underpants, gnomes? There's this like that, like
Curtis Duggan: professional something, question
Lily Bruns: profit. Exactly. It's like underpants, right? But how underpants turn into, and I think countries see digital nomads as okay.
These people mo highly mobile, mostly young. They're smart. They have they have digital skills. They have money. Like we want them to come, but but why? Why do you want them to come to your country? Create policy, creative visa. That is coherent for your objective, right? Because if you want these people to come because they're tech talent and you wanna support your startups, then why the, like, how is your visa not allow local work?
Like why are you restricting against that when you actually should be incentivizing for like knowledge exchange, right? And if you want people to relocate, right? You're one of those countries that has that has all these. Rural villages like you hear about these like schemes in Europe where oh, this, like this house or this whole town is available to purchase for one euro if you commit to such and such, right?
Okay, yeah. So you wanna incentivize for that. You wanna incentivize people to come settle. Don't brand it like a digital nomad visa. Create a program that's no, don't do a bait and switch, right? Just create a program that's like for remote workers to come to there for this objective.
Pick the reason that that this like young tech literate, highly mobile population are can connect to your country's like economic objectives, right? And draw the line correctly. And sometimes that may not be, Visa even. So this is where I think things like get so confused.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah. Yeah. It reminds me of in the 2010s and even earlier in the 22 thousands and maybe even earlier than that, there was always these things where there was always these init, there were these initiatives where cities were trying to be Silicon Beach.
Silicon Mountains. Yep. Yep. Silicon this, silicon that. And it was always like, they had one outta the four ingredients. Oh we have, Office space or we have Nice, yeah. Restaurants or something. But it's this complicated thing that made Silicon Valley what it was, where there was, there was Stanford and there was various defense department budgets that funded the semiconductor companies, et cetera, et cetera.
And venture capital and angel investors and entrepreneurs. Yeah. And some nice weather and all of that came together. And there's let's say there's. 17, elements or six really major elements that are really hard to recreate, artificially. Yeah. And they happened over a hundred years from the war and onwards, and then they're like, okay, we're gonna do this, and this, and we're gonna have silicon forest and whatever, somewhere.
And I see the same kind of thing with the digital nomad and remote work visas. It's yeah, it's the gnomes. It's, and it's okay if someone wants to start the next Shopify in, Somewhere, in Croatia or Montenegro or the next, maybe, that's a gener an example from the last generation, the next big web three company.
There's so much to it. It's like all the engineers, everybody, the designers, the salespeople, the mentors, and it's you can't create some of these things in a vacuum. So I'm rambling a little bit. I did wanna No, you really
Lily Bruns: hit the nail on the head there. Yeah. I've worked in that world of like startup capacity building, like ecosystem development.
And my big peeve was like, oh, this city wants innovation. And so they have a budget and what do they do with it? Is they put this shiny building somewhere Yeah. With like offices and coworking space in an area that doesn't traffic, that people don't actually wanna go and they say, look, we created Tech Hub.
Yeah. No one actually wants to live there, work there like that. What a waste of money. Yeah. And in the same way I feel. Yeah. I think you've really nailed it. Like a lot of countries who want to do something with digital nomads, with remote workers, the first thing that they're going to is a visa.
Even if that's not the tool that's for the job.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah. Yeah. I tell you a lot of work to do. I hope that One, it seems like one of the line of work that you've been in, I know what it's like to, be a consultant and kind of work with organizations on these kind of strategies.
It can be very difficult. It's not. It's not necessarily like a marketing or eng software development or design contract with a growing private company. A start series A or series B startup. If you do work for a company where it's like, we need this, deliver it, yeah. Do this. It's one of these things where not to like, Yeah, it's harder sometimes to work with governments and regions on a strategy because it just works differently I can imagine it'd be very difficult, but, there, there is this pressure of competition.
I do see it's like green shoots of plants coming up outta the soil. Maybe it's like with what they are feeling economically, what happened with covid. It does feel like countries and cities are. More proactive to realize that they're competing with each other to try and get Yeah, this knowledge work.
It's still vague. They're like knowledge work, digital, no matter. Remote worker sort of piece of the pie. But I do feel this kind of competition where, 10 or 15 years ago, I don't think countries thought of themselves that way. It was more like, yeah, how do we keep people out?
The border has nothing to do with like economic policy. It's more just, we wanna keep the bad guys out or what, whatever. Yeah. Now I see it's like just the concept that they're going for these visas and allowing people to very very quick. I shouldn't say very quickly.
I know that there's a bit of a process. But they're taking the step to say, yes, you can come here and work remotely. And that, it happened in a couple years. It didn't happen over 15 years. It started in 2020, and now here we're in 2023. So there's some positive stuff there, I think.
Lily Bruns: Absolutely. Yeah. I think that competition thing it's. The countries who are wise to the opportunity seem to be like the smaller, more nimble ones are the ones who just they're shit out of luck for X, Y, Z reasons. So they're more willing to take the risk, right? Yeah, because it's not without its risk.
There are very specific reasons why countries control their borders and the way that they do historically. But it really is the risk takers who are. See I think some something new happen. I wonder what's gonna happen with the followers if there's going to be room for the followers, because I just feel like it's just such a big shift in the way you even think about it because you don't need to have created new visa policy for remote workers.
But if, if half the world does. Then they're the ones who are gonna be sucking up all of the talent, right? Because if they make it really easy for the best, the brightest to come to them, whether that's on a short-term basis as like a, as a visitor, as a digital nomad, or to immigrate long-term gosh, it's going back to that thing you said, A country is accountable to its citizens, right? But if your citizens leave you on mass, like brain drain was a problem that was happening to many countries because they were so stilted in their economic development that they didn't offer opportunities.
So their best and brightest went to be educated in the west. And a lot of them stayed there. And so those are the countries that were the winners. But now with remote work like. It can go the other way now, and I just do people like that to me is just Wow that's that's completely game changing.
The best and the brightest people are now gonna go, not to the west, but to the places that offer like a really good quality of life. The kind of place that has neighborhoods where I wanna raise my kids. The place where it would be fun to be an entrepreneur and create new opportunities, right?
Like it's. It's just a very different world. And if people are leaving your country, if people are if we all of a sudden have a pathway for people to opt out, right? Because there's that whole joke that like nothing is like inevitable in life except for death and taxes. But what if the taxes part is decoupled, right?
Because actually we, if citizenship, if like travel, if immigration is a lot more flexible, then people have the ability to opt outta the tax part. And that's the thing that countries really. Yeah. I have to be paying attention to.
Curtis Duggan: Yeah, I definitely, there's a lot of people in Silicon Valley I think right now that are like, what if we didn't have death or taxes?
Let's figure those. That's true. Yeah. Yeah. Let's solve for, let's solve for those problems. The final frontiers. Have you gone to many digital nomad conferences, events, or festivals in the last three or four years? Do you go on that? Circuit the global nomad trail of, I, I really
Lily Bruns: haven't.
I just was hungered down in Thailand during the pandemic and then I had a baby. So I've been very settled. So I certainly, when we, people were doing lots of the virtual events, I was, oh yeah, I was quite a regular feature. But now I've just had Major fomo. I had a friend who was at like running a remote and he was like taking selfies with all of our like mutual besties and I was just like, oh my gosh, I wish I was there.
But no, I haven't done that circuit. Have you?
Curtis Duggan: I've been to running remote twice and I was there in Lisbon. Nice. When was it? A month or two ago. And yeah, it was great. It was in Montreal. My, my home country, although I'm not from Quebec or Montreal, but it was in my home country two years ago.
And yeah it's a, it's an interesting mix. Running modes remote, running remote is an interesting mix of the enterprise best practices, so companies talking about how to run remote teams, that's the core audience and of the organizers I is really to bring companies in.
It's not like a. Totally like a digital, it's not a digital nomad conference. Yeah. Frankly it's a remote work conference. Yep. But still many digital nomad influencers and personalities and remote work thought leaders gather running remote anyway. 'cause it's a really well run conference and there's just such a great community around it.
Yeah. You get this blend of, on the one hand talking about how Slack or GitLab manages remote async communication. Enterprise thought leadership talks, and also just like digital nomads talking about where the coolest place to go is Yeah. In the hallways around. I haven't gone to many besides that.
I'd like to do more in the coming years. But yeah, it's a, it's interesting. It's an interesting Thing to think about. I've seen, I think what happened was there was more, there were more annual conferences, but then 2020 and 2021, I think it killed a lot of them, unfortunately.
Oh, yeah. So I don't know how good they were in the first place. I can't say, all of them were great, but, it, it doesn't seem like there's as many now. And it seems like there's an opportunity probably for more of them, but
Lily Bruns: yeah. Similar to, everyone reaching for the digital nomad visa, like in their tool, in their kit.
And no, not every problem requires a hammer. I've seen a lot, it seems like every country wants to do their own digital nomad festival. And I was speaking to some folks in Thailand who, again, we wanted to do the same thing. We're like, travel is opening up again. We want the digital nomes to come here.
For me personally, I was deep in like the newborn baby world and so that was like beyond my capacity, even though I. Fbo, it kills me to go this opportunity. It would be so perfect, I had to pass it by. But now that I've seen the, it's been a year or two of seeing many different countries launch these it's been actually been a good opportunity to think okay, how do you differentiate?
Like, how do you do something more than just like slap Digital Nomad Festival, like on the headline and say, digital nomads come here. Because the movement has grown. So much. And it's like there's actually a lot of different angles to work in there. There's a lot of different, like communities, like sub communities to, to support.
Like I, I went to the Nomad Summit, like the last one I guess in Xang Mai in 2020. That's actually when I connected with the safety wing folks and the stuff that became plum. My, my takeaway from that was a lot of folks really enjoyed the first time they went when they were like newbies and they wanted to learn how to live the lifestyle, but it didn't really offer a lot of value to folks who were more seasoned nomads who had figured out some of the entrepreneurship stuff, how to figure out the logistics stuff, and so that there was like, okay I took a lesson from that okay, maybe this is like in the events, conferences, space, that's an underserved population perhaps. So I kept that mental note. But yeah, just thinking about how to differentiate, hey, I don't know if you wanna go to Thailand next year, but trying to see if we can do something in Thailand.
And that's really been on my mind, like what's a way to highlight the destination and differentiate 'cause you don't wanna just do the exact same. Do you necessarily wanna do the exact same gathering in all these different places and it just feels super generic? Or do you wanna really highlight something like in the locality, something that's like really, like unique?
Curtis Duggan: know. There's something there. Yeah. No, I, I get That's a good segue into maybe ending this off and I've got a not like a lightning round question. It's a very easy question. Yeah. But it's a personal question, personal request. So basically through all of this, I, I feel like I do know north America and some parts of Central America, specifically Costa Rica and and Europe pretty well.
And I've been to Brazil, so I have a decent tracker. It's not a co it's not a contest, but I have a, like a decent just a horizons expanded in various places. But I have never been to east or Southeast Asia. Ah, I don't wanna say I, I don't wanna say I've never been to Asia, 'cause I have been to Dubai, but that's quite a that's a different place.
Yeah. And so basically all of east and Southeast Asia, including India and a lot of places I have simply never been. And so in 2024 knock on wood, I would like to. Nomad or remote work there? Yeah, at some point. So nowadays, I know the history of ang gu or places were popular before the pandemic, during the pandemic.
Maybe still popular now, but if it was like a 2024 traveler, let's say, I allot, I. Two months, dip a toe, maybe even one or two months. What do you think are the best places to go and assume? I can't go a different place every four days. I'm not, I ain't doing that. I ain't doing that.
If I was gonna go one or two places, three is a stretch. What would be the places to check out for the first Asian nomad? Journey.
Lily Bruns: Yeah. If you're coming to my neck of the woods I recommend organizing a long layover in Tokyo. I did that on the way over here to Vancouver, and I think Tokyo is such a fun city.
So if you can do that as a travel hack that's a great idea. And then, yeah, come to Thailand. I think you gotta give Thailand like a full month at least. Bangkok. It's like some people love it, some people hate it. So leave your itinerary loose. And then you gotta come up north to Chen Mai my hometown and hang out.
See why it's one of the ot nomad hotspots. I think this still has a lot to offer. Come say hi to me and hang out. I love meeting my internet friends in real life. And then definitely hit up. In the South as well. I think KP Hass got its own very unique magic and a really great community down there as well.
And I was recently in Huan in Vietnam. We entirely skipped Danang and I think there's some good folks in Danang. But and I think if you wanna like connect with a tech scene in Vietnam there then maybe there's more there. But we went straight Toan, which is like 30 minutes away and it's just, Beautiful.
Really lovely place. My friend there runs like the local coworking space, like Hub Hoon, and it's just a really nice vibe. You get a chance to he's got this coworking space that's set right in the middle of rice fields. And so it's just a nice view and I think a really a good chance to dig into the local culture.
So I would definitely say those, and I think it's for stopping in Singapore as well. As, because I think, it's a good chance to see how a big developed like city. Can be done like Asian style, but still Southeast Asia. Like I love, like Singapore's very developed and very structured, but there's still a little bit of the sort of Southeast Asia, just like chaos wildness to it in certain parts.
At least with like the cuisine I think still comes through. You can go eat at like the hawker stalls and see, like this melange of like cuisines and cultures that have mixed it up there. So maybe that's my itinerary to recommend to you. Yeah,
Curtis Duggan: yeah. No that's a great itinerary.
I I'm going to listen back to this and actually write that down and hopefully do that itinerary. Even in this world that chat, G p t, it's still nice to ask a real expert human for an answer. Instead of just cheating with the AI and just saying gimme an itinerary for Southeast Asia.
You know you are a travel guide.
Lily Bruns: Yeah, what, chat g PT is great at is like optimizing. Yeah. If you give it like, I have this many days and I don't wanna drive for more than so and I don't want flights for such and such ugh, it's so great for
Curtis Duggan: that. Yeah, no it's good. I'm only making fun of it 'cause I use it.
Too much. Yeah. Yeah. It's good. Maybe next time we record I said earlier we're close by I don't you are in Vancouver right now and I'm in Victoria on Vancouver Island. I don't know why I said I was, I think I said I was like a 15 minute. Helicopter right away. I don't know why I put it like that.
Lily Bruns: Do you do troubled by
Curtis Duggan: helicopter, sir? Yeah. Like I'm some character from Succession. One of the Roys yeah. I'm a helicopter right away. It's actually more like a three hour trip to, to take a ferry. Like a normal person. There are sea planes. I've noticed inflation though is, I don't know if you've ever come to the island, but.
There are sea planes that go and they are more like the 20 minute seaplane ride or half an hour seaplane ride. I've seen inflation rearing its ugly head and gosh, and something that used to be 130 bucks is now three, 280 bucks. And so the ferry is like 20 bucks and you can walk on and it's a little longer, but it's a classic British Columbia trip, is to take the ferry to either Vancouver Island or some of the other islands around here.
So if you get a chance to do that that, yeah, that is great. A good thing to do in bc but maybe next time we'll be chatting in person for a pod in in Southeast Asia.
Lily Bruns: That would be very fun.
Curtis Duggan: Thanks Lily. It's been great to have you on the remotely serious pod and we'll see you on the Nomad Trail.
Lily Bruns: Thanks, Curtis. It's been fun, yeah. Wandering around with a couple different topics with you. Thanks for having me on.