Five Reasons Why Digital Nomads Should Live in New York

You may have heard the term “digital nomad” before. Basically a digital nomad is a 21st Century creature much like myself: a person who is highly mobile and makes a living through working remotely. With no physical office to trek to every morning, I can choose to live anywhere – or nowhere, if I feel like it.

Out of all the world’s cities, I have selected New York as my base.

Times Square

I first moved here in 2004, and altogether have spent about six years in the City of all Cities since then. The rest of the time I’ve been roaming around the world: Australia, Asia, Latin America, Europe, Africa. My trips away from NYC have varied from a couple of months to even a year at a time. But no matter how far I’ve ventured, I’ve always found myself back in NYC sooner or later. It truly is the best place in the world to call home! I am always excited to come back here, so homecoming blues is a foreign concept to me nowadays.

nightsky

But despite what you might think, there aren’t a whole lot of other digital nomads using this megalopolis as their home base. Most seem to set up their mobile offices in places like Chiang Mai, Thailand, or Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I suppose that is mostly because of the lower living costs of developing countries (and the eternal sunshine of these spots…).

Well, I can’t blame these kids, but I sure can think of multiple reasons why more digital nomads should live in New York City instead. (Not counting the obvious: New York is the center of the world’s media and definitely one of the most exciting cities in the world.)

Here are my TOP 5 reasons.

1. New York just might be the most multicultural place on this earth

As a globetrotter with precious memories from 60+ countries, I tend to get nostalgic for at least five countries/cultures per day. I may simultaneously miss Bolivia, Laos, Korea, Nicaragua and Senegal. Luckily New York has people from all over the world who have formed lively communities here – some 110 different languages are spoken in the borough of Queens alone. So whenever the mood strikes, I can head over to Korea Town, Little Ecuador or Little Senegal to ease up my reverse-homesickness. Easy peacy! A normal New York day for me is one where I use 3-4 languages, hear music ranging from reggaeton to Irish folk tunes, wander from a Latin area to a Chinatown (of which there are three in New York) and chat up some strangers from exotic lands. I often feel like I’m traveling, even when I haven’t left the city borders. Amazing.

2. You can get all your favorite foods in New York

pupusaEvery country I’ve traveled to has left some kind of a mark on my culinary palate: it’s because of my recent trip to El Salvador that I now love pupusas, both home made and those from street stalls (pictured above), and I still yearn for Mexico City’s tacos that I tasted in 2009. My Korean trip would not have been complete without daily helpings of kimchi and bibimpab, and the Senegalese yassa sauce was so delicious I want to learn to make it. The good news is most of these foods can be bought in New York. All it takes is a trip to some far-flung ethnic neighborhood, and you’ll get all your favorite cuisines from the world over. No passport needed.

3. New York is inspirational

A few months ago I attended the Social Good Summit and the Global Citizen Festival in Manhattan and learned a ton about the problems plaguing the world today. More importantly, I learned about the solutions. That’s the beauty of the city: whenever I have extra time on my hands, there’s no shortage of lectures and networking events to attend, and most are free of charge. My favorites are the speeches organized by the Open Society Foundations, as you also get served a tasty lunch. Can’t beat that, free nourishment for both the body and the mind. In my spare time I also attend lectures about the future of journalism and the art of travel writing. I meet other writers, get inspiration for new stories and improve my craft. Love it!

4. New York is affordable

Sunset Park

I know what you are thinking – “what is this girl talking about? New York is the most expensive city in the US!” Sure, the city is pricey based on the statistics, but make no mistake – there are always deals to be had in this town. I might even go so far as to suggest that New York has more deals than any other place in the world. In midtown Manhattan there’s always a $1 pizza slice war going on, and in Brooklyn you can find neighborhoods where beauty salons charge $12 total for a manicure and pedicure. Happy hours are abundant, as are $10-15 three-course dinner specials in Thai restaurants. Taxis cost a fraction of those in Europe. Even rent gets down to affordable levels once you leave Manhattan. Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and New Jersey just across the East River all have affordable housing options and fast public transportation into Manhattan. Plus with all the free events going on, who has time to spend money in this city? I find that I spend relatively little money in New York, considering how much fun I have here every week.

5. New York has great flight connections

Digital nomads need good flight connections and many airports options – and New York City has three airports in its proximity. Bargain hunters can score roundtrips to Europe for $400-500, and one-ways to Central America can be bought for as low as $150 on Spirit Airlines. And getting to the airport doesn’t break the bank either: New York has the world’s only 24-hour subway system (as far as I know), so you can take the train to the airport at all hours of the day.

Convinced yet? Let me know if you are a digital nomad contemplating moving here! It would be great to have more world traveler friends in New York. 🙂

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Weekly Wednesday Video: Eating Live Octopus in South Korea

Hmm, somehow this blog has changed into one big Weekly Wednesday Video series. It seems like I never find the time to write an actual post, even though my head is full of ideas and stories I want to share. But whoops – AGAIN a week has gone by and it’s time to post my weekly video. And that is a whole process in and of itself (as I have to scroll through tens of videos from tens of countries to choose my favorite).

In honor of completing my first four weeks of the Weekly Wednesday Video series, I am taking you all back to South Korea (whose cat cafes I showed in my first weekly video). Initially my plan was not to feature the same countries too often, but this time I’ll have to make an exception. That’s just because this particular video kept popping up today, as if begging to be seen.

What is it about, you may ask…. Well, it’s about eating live octopus. Yep. That’s exactly what a fellow traveler, Shai from Israel, wanted to do as we toured around Seoul together last October. This bizarre dish, called Sannakji, is common in Korea and is believed to make you healthier. It’s really quite simple to whip together – as Sarah Shaw wrote for Mappingwords.com, the meal consists of “fresh, wriggling pieces of live baby octopus, drizzled with sesame oil. After minimal preparation, it is served immediately.”

So here we go! Bon appetit!

Initially I was a bit grossed out, but finally ended up popping a few pieces into my mouth, as you’ll see in the end of the video. And I was pleasantly surprised! The moving tentacles felt really funny, and the suction cups kept latching onto my tongue and mouth. The raw octopus didn’t have much of a taste. The worst part was having to crush the wandering tentacles with my teeth. It felt pretty cruel. 😦

While this plate was just a little appetizer, I came across another video on YouTube that shows a more elaborate live octopus dinner, in case anyone is interested.

Have you tried live octopus? If not, would you like to? 

Weekly Wednesday Video: Korean cat cafe

I was poking around my external hard drive the other day when I realized that I have about a gazillion short bits of video footage just sitting in a folder. These are snippets I’ve shot on my travels all over the world, in hopes of one day doing something with them. Some of them have been waiting to see the light of day for months, others for years.

Well, that day is here. I’m starting a new blog series called the Weekly Wednesday Video. So every Wednesday I’ll be posting a short travel video of mine, shot in some random country.

The first flick comes from South Korea and features a cat cafe that I visited last October. It basically shows you what it’s like inside this cafe that is home to 50 cats. As you’ll see, sometimes tension builds up between the furry residents. My apologies for the quick moving camera work in the end of the video – I just wanted to give everyone a better idea of the decor of Y-Cat cafe in Seoul, Korea.

The video is actually pretty timely right now, as my article about the history of cat cafes is out in the May issue of Blue Wings, Finnair’s in-flight magazine. (Well, more than an actual article, this is a short side bar to someone else’s piece that talks about Japan’s cafe culture. But nonetheless.) If you view the video, you’ll surely recognize some of the cats that make an appearance in these Blue Wings photos as well.

Korean cat cafe

In case you are interested in reading the article and can’t squint your eyes enough to make sense of the tiny print (can’t blame you!), here it is:

CAT CAFES POUNCE FROM ASIA TO EUROPE

TEXT AND PHOTOS BY Mirva Lempiäinen

A cat cafe may seem like a quintessentially Japanese institution – after all, the country is Hello Kitty’s homeland. Yet the first one, Cat Flower Garden, opened in Taiwan in 1998 before the concept landed to Japan in the mid-2000s. Since then there has been no stopping the feline fever. Japan is now home to about 160 cat cafes, where for less than ten euros one gets a drink and a chance to pet tens of Garfield’s cousins. There are also cafes featuring dogs, goats and rabbits.

In 2012 the special coffee houses started making their way to Europe. The first of the continent, Café Neko (www.cafeneko.at, Blumenstockgasse 5) with five resident kitties, popped up in Vienna, Austria last May. St Petersburg in Russia followed suit in October of 2012 with Cat’s Republic (en.catsrepublic.ru, 10 Ulitsa Yakubovicha). London’s Old Street area is slated to welcome Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (LadydinaHs.com) in May.

The project, which will be the home of rescue cats, recently received more than 120,000 euros in funding through the crowdsourcing website IndieGogo.

(You can also read the entire article about Japan’s cafe culture and my cat cafe history sidebar by clicking here and scrolling to page 56.)

Picture 10