Sun, sea, holiday hotspots… these are the Irish who have swapped their home offices for sandy beaches.
The dramatic increase in jobs that can be done remotely since the start of the pandemic has created a trend in so-called “digital nomads”, a term used to describe tech workers who relocate from expensive cities like Dublin, London or San Francisco to cheaper places, often with lifestyle benefits, to work remotely.
Kyero, one of Europe’s largest property agents, reported a 117pc annual increase in Irish people renting property in Europe in January and February this year compared to January and February 2020.
Martin Dell, founder of Kyero, said: "There is little doubt that coronavirus and higher levels of remote working has driven up interest in property overseas as the dream of moving to Europe becomes a realistic possibility.”
Many countries who rely heavily on tourism, including Spain and Portugal, have been offering work-from-home visas in a bid to attract remote workers and help boost the economy while the tourism industry operates under heavy restrictions.
Here we meet the Irish digital nomads who have swapped their home offices for sandy beaches….
“I really found lockdown in Ireland, like many others, extremely difficult as I was living at home again for the first time since I was 18. I considered moving to Dublin or Galway, but as I am a recent graduate, I really couldn’t justify spending such a large portion of my salary on a small room in an Irish city.
"I had just started an exciting new job in October and I felt like being trapped in a lockdown was the worst setup to start a new role.
“The idea to move to Tenerife came when I heard about other people doing it online. I saw countless TikTok videos of digital nomads moving to the sun to escape lockdowns. I began researching and found out that Tenerife was not in a strict lockdown, the country’s cases were low, and that rental properties were of a high standard and fitted my budget. I was sold.
“I did feel guilty about leaving during a pandemic when so many of my family and friends were staying in level 5 lockdown and I did worry about what people would think. When I heard about other people doing it though and the fact that Ireland was allowing people to move to other countries, I thought “why not?”.
"I got my test just before flying, I have no responsibilities or ties holding me back, and I felt like I was not living in Ireland.
“It’s been great living here so far. The little things like the sun shining everyday and being able to meet up with people my own age has been invaluable. I really didn’t realise how much I had missed myindependence over the last year until I landed here and saw how people were living.
"Staying in a nice apartment with my own space again has been great - having a separate work station outside of my bedroom has made me more productive. Unfortunately an extra office space would have been impossible to get if I had rented in Dublin.
“I’ve met lots of Irish people over here who are also working online or even using Tenerife as a base to work on their own companies. I think there are certain people who come here just to party but I think since the pandemic, the island has attracted a lot of young people who like to work hard during the week and spend their weekends exercising and socialising with other nomads.
“There is an 11pm curfew at the moment, that’s when bars and restaurants shut. Gyms, hairdressers, beauticians, and pretty much every other business is open. People from Tenerife are very used to tourists as it makes up the majority of their economy and I think they’re happy to see people enjoying their beautiful island as long as they respect the Covid-19 restrictions.
“I am wondering if more young Irish people will move abroad if lots of companies adopt a fully remote working policy. As huge tech companies, like Twitter and Spotify, adopt these models I think this could entice even more Irish to work online in the sun. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues after the pandemic. For me, the more I stay here, the more I think I’ll find it difficult returning to Ireland. I would like to come back frequently to see my teammates for meeting and of course visit my family and friends - but I do think the freedom of living abroad while still working on the career of your choice is a massive pull.”
“For my first few months being here, there were so many tourists and digital nomads coming here because there wasn’t a lockdown, the bars and restaurants were open and there were very loose restrictions. Once the lockdown was put in place, most digital nomads left because they didn’t see the point in staying here when nothing was open.
“On November 3rd they enforced a lockdown and closed all non-essential retail, indoor dining, gyms, museums, cinemas etc and you are required to send a text when you plan to leave the house. They also enforced a curfew where you must be inside from 9pm-5am. Four months on, and one failed attempt at opening back up the country (in mid January they tried to open non-essential retail and it lasted for 2 weeks), we’re still in lockdown, but now there’s even more restrictions like a 7pm curfew at the weekend and in Athens you can’t go beyond a 2km radius.
“I would definitely recommend Greece to digital nomads, the cost of living is some of the best you can get in Europe. You can rent a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre with a balcony for €550 a month on Airbnb. When domestic travel was allowed, it was amazing to be able to easily go to a Greek island for the weekend and constantly feel like you are on your holidays.
“There are some differences between Greece and Ireland’s response to the pandemic, on both a government and general population level. Greece relies so heavily on tourism since they are still recovering from what happened to them during the recession.
" Last summer the government in Greece knew that they needed to open the country to tourism to boost the economy. The lockdown has been so strict because they need to be able to do the same this year. But you can feel the fatigue with lockdown compliance among the population here, but it’s the same everywhere. The vaccination level in Greece is one of the best in Europe at the moment though and they are hoping to vaccinate all over 60s by May.
“The Greeks are very welcoming to tourists, and most Greek people say that they love the Irish due to our shared history and how we both fared during the recession. The Greek government has been making plans to get a digital nomad visa up and running and offering tax breaks to digital nomads as an incentive to move here. Lots of countries have been doing this because it’s an attractive form of tourism since we can live and work anywhere.”
“I got here in June, and stayed in a super cool hostel. It was very quiet when I first arrived, but soon enough things started coming back to life and the hostel became a buzz of digital nomad types. What I can say is most of the time I was here, certainly the first few months, it was quite bizarre in that Lisbon was very much open, rooftop bars, restaurants, shops, beaches, and life was a lot of fun.
"Places were mostly open from about July until December.
“It was strange and weird communicating with friends back home and in other countries where things were closed while a good time was had here.
“That said, it has been lockdown here since mid December. Now shops are closed and you can't even get a take away coffee which is sad. I am very near the water and lots of people go out for walks, runs, etc. A lot of the hotels here are renting out rooms long term so I'm living in a nice hotel room in the city centre. You can get a decent room in the city for about €450 a month.
“Lisbon is a great city, I have met great people and as I'm writing to you I'm sitting on a little balcony on my laptop looking out on the empty streets but the sun is shining so that's something. Lisbon seems very much a welcoming city for digital nomad types, then people love it and want to stay or explore Portugal more.”
“There are a few reasons I moved to Tenerife. I was frustrated with how the Irish government was handling the pandemic, in particular in 2021.
“Due to the current remote nature of my work, the opportunity to code near the beach, surf, and hike, encouraged me to consider a short stint abroad. The Canaries made sense because of weather and a synchronized timezone. Being prohibited from visiting my family, or say, enjoying a walk in the park, as a consequence of draconian measures, made the decision easier for me to leave. I would still be able to video call friends and family, which I was doing in Ireland in any case.
"I have met other Irish people here, and many other digital nomads from all over Europe, working remotely for similar reasons, all of whom are very respectful toward Canarian law.
“Everyone is very welcoming, and given that many of us made the leap alone, we’ve formed a sort of camaraderie. Locals are also very welcoming and given the island is heavily tourist focused, have a positive attitude.
"Restrictions are still in place, and a noticeable distinction to Ireland is, most people here are content with following them. Everyone respectfully wears masks, there is no clubbing or partying, with everything closed by 11pm.
"It is peaceful and pleasant. People aren't terrified, but understand the risks. We can sit outside a cafe by the beach and work on our laptops, or in a restaurant with (up to 6) friends and enjoy a meal and a beer.”
“I’ve only been in Barcelona for two weeks and I’m working away and I’ve really settled into my apartment. I’ve de friends from all over the world already which has made it so much easier.
"I am very lucky that I’m self employed so I can work from wherever I want as long as I have my phone and my laptop.
"The pandemic has not made much difference to my job at all because my work has always been focused around social media marketing, promoting brands and helping brands to expand their businesses so it’s very digital focused.
“I’ve been very careful since arriving here, I’ve had a Covid test and I’m following every rule within the Spanish guidelines. I’ve received a lot of messages on Instagram from people saying they want to move abroad for a month or so.
"A month isn’t really moving away, it’s just an extended holiday.
"I think if you’re moving abroad you need to commit to moving, otherwise it's breaking the guidelines. If there are people who are genuinely committing to moving abroad, they should go for it.
"For young people who are considering moving, you need to make sure you’re strong enough to do things for yourself and be on top of yourself in regards to finance. But make sure it’s a long term move and not just a getaway holiday.”