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My story as a remote worker and digital nomad

As a marketing consultant, I haven’t always been a digital nomad. An early advocate of remote work, for sure. In nearly nine years I tried everything, from coworking spaces to home office. It’s only the recent years, after some changes in my life, I became what you can call a digital nomad… 

I’m a long-time remote work enthusiast

For a long time, I have lived and worked in the beautiful region of Alsace, France, where I was born. Most of the projects I’ve worked on were remote. Except in some special cases, for example, the tourism industry, I never had the impression that I had to commute to my clients to complete the projects given to me. All was a matter of organization.

After nine years experience, I can tell the benefits of remote work are many: more comfortable, cost-saving… Add to that, the amount of time saved daily, productivity gains resulting from a more efficient work… When I think about it, it is very difficult for me to find any drawbacks.

And I’m quite confident I’m not the only one. Over the years, remote work has become a central feature of organizations that have outsourced their workforce across the world. At a time of high-speed broadband Internet, of collaboration tools such as Slack and Google Drive that allow asynchronous work for teams spread over different time zones, of video conferencing tools such as Google Hangouts, Zoom and Skype that allow remote meetings with the same ease than face-to-face meetings, I think for many businesses relying on a large number of digital workers, the benefits of remote work outweigh its drawbacks in many situations.

Besides, as my environmental awareness has grown, it has become essential for me to relate the necessity of my business trips to their impact on the environment. Every time a client offered me a job that involved going back and forth with their internal teams, I thought twice about it.

What changed when I became a digital nomad

When my life took a digital-nomadic turn, working remotely became the only option. This led me to stop offering certain services such as digital marketing teaching.

Ultimately, it was an opportunity for me to rethink the way I promote my business services. For years, I have been blessed with the full confidence given by many people around me, for finding new projects. But as a digital nomad, social media and other platforms quickly became important to me. A way to keep in touch with my network and to expand it.

That being said, the greatest opportunity this new lifestyle gave me, was to meet fantastic people no platform could have given me the chance to know. 

Working from Ukraine

In 2017, in the space of a few months, I made many trips between France and Ukraine. Alternated stays in both countries, before settling in Kyiv. This period was an interesting experience. It showed me what it was like not to have my own desk, to be on the move all the time. I met great people and saw that despite different cultures and languages, there are many things that bring us together.

Managing the change of time zone has been fairly easy. There’s only a maximum of two hours difference between Eastern and Western Europe. It’s surely another story to be a digital nomad in more exotic, but no less popular countries, like Thailand. 

In terms of workplaces, there are many coworking spaces in the Ukrainian capital as elsewhere in Europe. Let’s mention for example Creative Quarter Astarta, Creative Quarter Gulliver, HUB 4.0 or Coworking Platforma Leonardo. Although I was able, once I settled in Kyiv, to recreate a home office. It seems that there is no Anticafé in Kyiv, but there are many places that have a similar philosophy. BiblioTech smart cafe, Chasopis, Freud House and Ziferblat, to name a few spots. I haven’t had the chance to try it all out yet, but I can tell that the offer for fixed or flex offices is very attractive and cheaper than in Paris or London. So is the general cost of living in Ukraine for a foreigner.

Being a digital nomad opens new horizons

As you often hear from expats, living elsewhere means being able to open up to new horizons. Kyiv is a beautiful city, and you have no idea how big it is until you go there.

It is hard to imagine as a guy from Western Europe that the capital of Ukraine is a sprawling city of nearly 3 million souls, spread over 850 km² (for a quick comparison Berlin is 890 km²). And the city continues to grow at a frenetic pace: not a week goes by without a new building complex coming out of the ground. The neighborhood where I live didn’t exist 20 years ago.

The architecture of the city, strongly marked by the cultures and political regimes that have passed through the centuries, offers a diversity, a heterogeneous landscape that has nothing to envy to the most touristic sites in Europe. It would be a mistake to reduce its cultural heritage to the 70 years it spent under the Soviet yoke. The millenary history of Ukraine, which resonates in Poland, Lithuania and Russia, shines through Kyiv. 

To live in Ukraine is to share this piece of history, and to make it your own. Since I live in Kyiv, I understand things that my friends living in France would see differently. Being in contact with a different culture enriches us. In an ideal world, I think everyone should have the chance to experience it.

Are you a remote worker or a digital nomad? Share your experience in comments!

By Max Schleiffer

French entrepreneur. I have grown a marketing consultancy over the decade. Now, I explore new ways of working in the digital age.