Another kind of Silicon Valley Exit
Lately I have been asking myself more and more — why am I in Silicon Valley? The living costs are getting ridiculous and at the end of the day I’m mostly just sitting behind a computer. There must be a place similarly suited for me given what currently matters in my life. I decided to test this theory by spending some time away from Silicon Valley.
Our team is split between US and Europe which time zone wise rules out Asia as a pleasant destination to join group calls from. Given the people I work closest with remain in Palo Alto it makes more sense for me to stay on this side of the Atlantic as well. Now, since I want the move to also be international my main options are Canada and pretty much all the countries in Central and South America.
Throughout life i have felt the constantly increasing pull of the equator. I have spent most of my life in countries with cold and dark winters (Estonia, Finland, Sweden) and I guess now I just have to make up for all that sunshine I have missed. This pretty much rules out Canada at this time of the year.
I have also always been very curious about spoken languages, so why not pick up Spanish while I’m at it. Una cerveza and a few google searches later i’m dropping Brazil, Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana and a few others off the list given that their main spoken language is not Spanish.
I have never visited any of the countries on my list, so I don’t have a strong opinion on which ones to prefer. As long as they speak Spanish and allow me to enter without a visa it feels like the nation state borders should not speak too much into my decision. Instead I’m concentrating on major urban areas.
The exclusion method seems to work well, so after “hipmunk’ing” around a bit I’m able to drop off most cities too far from Silicon Valley in terms of flight hops and costs. This is clearly a very helpful filter leaving me mainly only Central-American cities along with a few in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
Next I start asking my friends on Skype about their experience when living or visiting the places left on my shortlist and quickly learn of a few more things that had not really come up in the past six countries I have lived in. A few discouraging comments motivate me to look at the crowd-sourced crime levels data on Numbeo to get a better feel for the safety in the region.
After all this filtering I’m left with a list of cities like Quito (Ecuador), Panama City (Panama), Bogota, Medellin and Cartagena (Colombia), San Jose (Costa Rica) and San Juan (Puerto Rico). I think a pattern is starting to emerge.
Since the location does not really matter that much during working hours when you’re coding, then it makes sense to optimize for the quality of life outside work and try to land in an area that strikes your fancy in terms of possible weekend activities. I for example care about hiking in the mountains and paragliding, which further helps give weight to a few destinations and make others (with no mountains) less relevant. A quick look at ParaglidingEarth puts Columbia well ahead of other South American countries still on my list. I’m not going to ask you to watch through all those paragliding videos from the region, but if you watch one, then it should be his one: http://vimeo.com/53162708
In general what we all are looking for is happiness. That sort of stuff is contagious, so I was pleasantly surprised to find Colombia also thirds on the Happy Planet Index combining experienced well-being, life expectancy and ecological footprint.
A strong motivation for getting out of Silicon Valley is of course the ridiculous living cost here, so I wanted my next destination to be attractive in this dimension as well. A quick look at the crowd-sourced Nomad List gives a lot of weight to Bogota and Medellin and given the recent article on TechCrunch on the local startup ecosystem there I finally decided for exactly those two cities. It just so happens that Bogota is also the only city in my list where I actually know someone local.
So there it is — I’m moving to Colombia!
I get a lot of funny reactions from people when I tell them about my next destination. I have even had people tell me that I make it sound like I’m going to the cinema. Moving to another country used to be a serious life changing decision that most people would not even entertain, mostly for a lot of reasons that are blown out of proportion. Now you can literally hop on the plane, catch an Uber to your new Airbnb place, open the laptop and the majority of your day will look the same as it did before your move. Except for the parts that will hopefully be better.
All and all I went through the process of looking at things such as
- flight connectivity
- crime levels
- living costs
- leisure activities (mountains, paragliding)
- startup activities
- local connections
and spent a lot of time googling around to find the next “place” for me. There are a lot of startup and software people who have the freedom to roam the planet and optimize their location for their startup and personal goals. Although there is a lot information out there it is still extremely time consuming to narrow down a list of your magnetic cities. And all of that was just to figure out where to go — I have not even gotten into what it actually takes to get to Colombia and settle in there. We have the work cut out for us at Teleport indeed.
See you in Colombia and let me know if you want to meet up!
Silver Keskkula served Skype as the first researcher of the core team. Having lived in 6 countries he is a digital nomad and a Co-founder of @Teleportinc
- some yet unreleased learnings from Teleport’s secret labs ;)
Originally published at teleport.org on January 6, 2015.