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Never mind WFH — try working from paradise instead

Armed with just a laptop, more of us are discovering we can head to the sun to do our jobs

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How about this for a view from your workstation? Mauritius is offering a one-year visa for remote workers

How about this for a view from your workstation? Mauritius is offering a one-year visa for remote workers

Laura Bonner, boss of the Muff Liquor Company, swapped her office in Donegal for one in Barbados for the pandemic

Laura Bonner, boss of the Muff Liquor Company, swapped her office in Donegal for one in Barbados for the pandemic

Sandy Island, Anguilla

Sandy Island, Anguilla

Time to surf in Barbados

Time to surf in Barbados

Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago on Portugal's Algarve

Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago on Portugal's Algarve

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How about this for a view from your workstation? Mauritius is offering a one-year visa for remote workers

If all a remote worker needs is a laptop and decent wi-fi then why can’t you work from a place where you can nip to the beach before work and eat lunch as the sun warms your shoulders?

Well, thousands of people have made that dream a reality during lockdown, swapping their makeshift home office for a life where they can finish up the working day by leaping into the Caribbean Sea.

Before Covid, it would have been hard to believe so many employers would embrace the remote working model. But even now, as offices are reopening, an increasing number of permanent flexible working policies are emerging as firms such as Google and Facebook realise that people really can work from anywhere.

And it’s not just workers and their employers – many countries have welcomed these digital nomads with open arms. Plenty of places that would have previously only been accessible for short stays have launched visas and permits to attract the remote workers who want a change of lifestyle. Costa Rica is one of the latest to do so, with the recent passing of a law to attract international workers and remote service providers, which allows remote workers to stay for up to two years.

Schemes like this originally emerged when international travel was off the cards. Faced with the reality of a world without tourists, many governments recognised that digital nomads would be a boost to a rapidly dwindling economy.

Soon, they were tripping over themselves to offer visas that would allow people to stay for longer and spend their hard-earned money within the country. In turn even the swishest of resorts dropped their rates to lure international visitors as they were eager for long-term guests to replace the usual rota of incoming tourists.

Barbados was one of the first countries to launch a visa for remote workers. Back in July 2020, the island announced its Welcome Stamp scheme, which allowed people to live and work on the island for up to a year. So far, more than 5,000 people have applied for the Barbados Welcome Stamp, with Ireland ranking fifth in terms of volume of applicants.

It’s a scheme that looked more than appealing to Laura Bonner, chief executive of the Muff Liquor Company (themuffliquorcompany.com). When numerous friends sent her the link to the Barbados scheme, she leapt at the chance to spend a year in the Caribbean.

“I’m really driven and focused but when the first lockdown happened it really started to affect me,” Laura says. “The Caribbean was Covid-free and we have business contacts out there. It was perfect timing.”

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She works to Irish hours, rising before dawn to crack out her daily meetings before wrapping up for the day at lunchtime. Funnily enough, sticking to a more rigid structure has reaped dividends for her working life.

“Previously, I would have taken meetings at any time on any day. But in Barbados I take my meetings from 5am to noon then I have the rest of the day to go to the beach, learn to surf and hang out with my friends. I manage my time so much better now.”

Even when curfews were introduced to combat increasing Covid numbers Barbados was never in a lockdown as strict as those in Ireland. And when you’re looking out at a glistening turquoise ocean it’s easier to feel more removed from the grim reality of the pandemic.

“It’s not that I was oblivious to what was happening in the world. But when it’s not right in front of you, you can live your life as normal,” Laura says.

“I’m a really positive person and really engaged with my team but the stress of being at home wasn’t the best for any of us.

“When they got on a call with me when I was in Barbados, they could instantly see the difference.

“I’m very grateful that I got the opportunity to go out there. It was the best decision for me and my company.”

With her year almost at an end, but an opportunity to increase her stay by another six months, Laura may remain a Barbadian for a little longer.

It’s safe to say that she’s a huge advocate for the concept of ‘workations’. “I would 100pc recommend it to anyone. It’s an incredible opportunity. It just gives you a restart… to be able to swim in the ocean every day and do yoga at sunset. It’s an amazing experience.”

Barbados may have been one of the first to launch such a scheme but it isn’t the only Caribbean island tempting remote workers – you can find similar opportunities in Bermuda, the Dominican Republic, Anguilla and Antigua to name but a few.

But it’s not all as easy as it might seem. Most countries have a strict entry protocol including a minimum amount of annual earnings and a guarantee that your income will come from outside of their own country. There are also application fees that can run into the thousands of dollars.

While the lure of moving overseas seems mighty appealing now, bear in mind that ever-changing travel restrictions might make it trickier to come home at the drop of a hat.

The logistics of such a big move can be a bit confusing as well, with so many practical elements to consider. Which is where a website like Nomad List (nomadlist.com) comes in handy. Working on ongoing data supplied by digital nomads all around the world, you can easily access the facts and figures in one place from the price of a pint in Penang to the average rent in Lisbon. You can also research co-working spaces, meet other digital nomads and search by climate if you want some guaranteed sun.

As we look down the barrel of another Irish winter, the idea of swapping Sligo for St Lucia has never been more appealing. Play your cards right, and soon your Zoom background won’t be a battered bookshelf or unmade bed, but a tropical backdrop that will be the envy of all your colleagues.

Five to try

1 Costa Rica

The cost of living is fairly cheap in Costa Rica. In the middle of San José you can expect to pay around €420 a month for a one-bed apartment (take that, Dublin). Move outside of the capital and you’ll be paying even less. Once you’ve got a place sorted you can fuel your working day with some of the best coffee in the world then spend your free time surfing the world-class waves or hiking volcanic peaks. Or you can take things at a more leisurely pace, taking inspiration from the country’s national symbol, the sloth.
See: visitcostarica.com

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Time to surf in Barbados

Time to surf in Barbados

Time to surf in Barbados

2 Barbados

The application process for the Barbados Welcome Stamp is competitive but simple – you just need to prove that you have an annual income (or savings) of $50,000 (around €43,000) as well as health insurance. The fee to process the stamp is $2,000 (€1,700). Once you’re over there you can rent a one-bed apartment for around €560 though you’ll spend more for a place near the beach.
See: barbadoswelcomestamp.bb

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Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago on Portugal's Algarve

Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago on Portugal's Algarve

Four Seasons Fairways in Quinta do Lago on Portugal's Algarve

3 Portugal

If you don’t want to commit to a move across the world, how about looking a little closer to home? The Algarve has winter temperatures of around 20C and is only a short hop away. The Four Seasons Fairways has a dedicated ‘Workation’ package, with seven nights in a two or three-bed villa or apartment with swimming pool or Jacuzzi from €1,200 self-catering. The fibre optic broadband is fast and there are smart TVs so you can connect your laptop for Zoom.
See: fourseasonsfairways.com

4 Mauritius

Fancy a real taste of paradise? Whisk yourself off to Mauritius where the government launched a Premium Travel Visa in October 2020. The visa allows individuals (and their families) to stay in Mauritius for a year, though it is also renewable. Interestingly it’s also open to the retired and tourists as well as those who will be working remotely. As with the majority of similar visas you have to prove that your income will be coming from outside of the country throughout your stay.
See: residency.mu/live/mauritius-premium-visa

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Sandy Island, Anguilla

Sandy Island, Anguilla

Sandy Island, Anguilla

5 Anguilla

One of the most beautiful little islands in the Caribbean, Anguilla hopped on the digital nomad train last year. You can stay for a period of 91 days to a year and make the most of this laid-back, picture-perfect isle. Long-term accommodation is relatively easy to find though you may find it simpler to make the most of the tourist options offering discounts for even longer stays. The Hummingbird studio apartment starts at €66 a night, with a 10pc discount if you stay for more than a week – find it on Airbnb.
See: escape.ivisitanguilla.com


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