Digital Nomad Stories

The Future of Remote Work and Its Effects on Work, Travel and Cities

October 02, 2023 Anne Claessen Season 2 Episode 150
Digital Nomad Stories
The Future of Remote Work and Its Effects on Work, Travel and Cities
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Alv Daza is an architect, author, and nomad entrepreneur who’s been challenging traditional norms and exploring innovative concepts of work and urban life. He journeyed from selling bracelets across 64 countries to establishing Circolo, a revolutionary network that connects communities globally. 

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Speaker 1:

Hey Nomads, welcome to Digital Nomad Stories, the podcast. My name is Anna Claessen and, together with my co-host, kendra Hasse, we interview digital nomads. Why? Because we want to share stories of how they did it. We talk about remote work, online business, location and dependency, freelancing, travel and, of course, the digital nomad lifestyle. Do you want to know more about us and access all previous episodes? Visit digitalnomadsdoriesco. Alright, let's go into today's episode. Hey, hey, nomads, welcome to a brand new episode of Digital Nomad Stories, the podcast. Today, I'm here with Elv Daza. He is an architect, author and nomad entrepreneur, and he's here today to talk a little bit about the future of remote work. It's a topic that I am very excited about because, honestly, so much is happening in this digital nomad remote workspace and I'm personally just really curious to see where it will go. So I think I'm just very excited for this topic, but also to hear a little bit more about Elv's story. So, elv, welcome to the show.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much, ann, for the introduction, and I'm super excited as well like being here and sharing some ideas and some insects about the future of remote work and more about what we do as well.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, awesome. So about what you do, can you tell us a little bit more? Because, like I said, you do a lot of different things. Right, it's entrepreneurship. Author, architect. Tell us more.

Speaker 2:

Well, let me start by giving some context. I was born in Colombia. As I was growing up, I lived in between countries. Colombia has a particularity used to share a lot of exchange in terms of commerce, and some with Venezuela. So I was kind of living in Venezuela but studying in the high school in Colombia and then my parents were working in other countries. So it will be like me growing up seeing like how, in my family, people were constantly traveling and also like, let's say, seeing the world not only as a country or like as a group of countries with borders, but more as a borderless world. That's it. I decided to start studying architecture.

Speaker 2:

As I was studying architecture, I was always questioning the evolution of the cities and how cities were growing irresponsibly, let's say, building like being built more from the cars than that for the citizens and being at the service of the capital or at the service of the office spaces and not of the public spaces, right? So like, let's say that that capacity led me to do my thesis, and my thesis was quite something funny. It was like back then it was a company that would work 100% without offices and a master plan that would develop public spaces for the people and instead of having an office in a place we would have like social housing with a space, like working spaces and kind of communal working spaces that now are co-working, right, like imagine, back then I was like, take these things. And then I remember how the thesis would come and say like hey, this would never work. Like how do you think that you will create architecture and that you will develop architecture if you don't have an actual office or an actual public space? So it was very interesting, because back then people would just say that that would not work. So I will show this to my teachers and then they would say like you are crazy. A city can't work without the dynamics between the cars and the people, between places and so on. And I remember how interesting was that, because what we are living right now is actually that. But back then there were not actually really a lot of tools and the term digital nomad was not really a thing, at least in Colombia.

Speaker 2:

And as I was, let's say, growing up, I was trying to work from home and trying to work remotely. I remember the first thing I had in my office they were all from different backgrounds and so on and so on. I will tell them like to not go to the office but to go only a couple of days in a week and to work like by, let's say, deadlines instead of like time frames or timetables, and the people will not know really how to work like that, because people were used to the idea of having a boss or somebody who will give them instructions and that. And just to summarize it, at some point I ended up being the co-founder of the Colombian Entrepreneurship and Innovation Alliance. Then I started traveling the world selling bracelets in $2, and that jump was because, as much as I tried to do things, I felt that there was not really like an intention or there were not really many actions of people moving forward to try to discover and other ways of working, and I kind of left everything and say I will find the people who are actually doing this. So these bracelets, they would say, together we can change the world. I will start traveling, finding these humans or these people, and I will start giving these bracelets to these people and in one year I ended up traveling to 64 countries just giving these bracelets out to people in different places.

Speaker 2:

Let's say that this was the beginning of what's now Circulo and it was thanks to the fact that this whole story about traveling the world and so on had me invited to Harvard University, oxford, mit, berkeley and different universities around the world, and then I started talking about the idea of a future of different type of citizens. It was the first idea, different type of citizens. Then COVID happened and, of course, covid had the companies going remote. It was so funny because one day I had to endure COVID in Uganda for over six months. And it was so funny because one day I was sitting in my house in Uganda and I was listening to the news saying like now the companies are finding ways to work remotely and so on, and now the governments are even questioning how to have in the places, sites designed for working from home and there's a crisis.

Speaker 2:

And I was thinking of my teachers and I was saying, like you say that I was not right and look what's happening. Right, like I wish I could see the face of my teachers back then. And then Circulo became essentially I was moving forward and working from places, because I ended up traveling to 81 countries in a matter of two years, which was really crazy. I ended up developing skills and developing ways of working from home and, as an architect, trying to understand the ways how cities could work better, and eventually involved governments and organizations in talking or finding ways of redesigning cities, redesigning the concept of property, developing alternative ways different to the, let's say, renting a property or buying a property, but having properties by subscription, and we ended up becoming a community that connects communities, that offers a subscription, that works with governments and organizations in helping them understand what's the future of remote work, helping governments designing digital nomad policies and helping companies going remote without losing productivity, and that's essentially what I'm doing right now.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, so interesting. So just for context, when you were writing your thesis and you had these conversations with your teachers where they said you are crazy, this cannot exist. When was that? Like how many years ago was that?

Speaker 2:

This was in 2013. So it was not long ago, but 10 years. Yeah 10 years ago 10 years ago.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, it's wild to think in the last 10 years, I mean, I think you were very early with these thoughts and these ideas. But it's very interesting to see now I mean especially since COVID, but I think also a little bit before COVID how much more mainstream it has gotten to just work remotely and like work from home, work in the same place that you live, at least whether that's home or an Airbnb or whatever that looks like. So it's really interesting to hear that you saw that coming, basically that you just had those ideas so early on. That is awesome.

Speaker 2:

Thank you. I think that there are like some components in that regard. The first thing is that it has to see potential. That's why I mentioned my family in the beginning, because my mom is a single mom, right, and I'm from Latin America and, as I was talking with somebody the other day, in Latin America and in the global south in general Africa, latin America and Asia we were never really people who will go to an office. We will go, people who will go to an office but also had things to do in their house and had to catch up with their parents or with their siblings, because probably you were the first one going to university or the first one who had so many opportunities to the first one who traveled and so on.

Speaker 2:

Your mom was a single mom who was working and at the same time, was taking care of you and taking care of your siblings, and so it kind of makes sense that in the global south we are catching up faster because we were never used to the normal life of just going to an office, staying there and coming back home and seeing your family. When you come back home, you will see your home always in the morning, because you will need to leave the breakfast ready very early, or you will need to wake up very early because your parents will leave home very early and then you will come back home and do your homework at the same time that you will work with your family in something. So that kind of idea of remote work is not that it's not new, but it's potentially not that novel in a region because we are used to the idea of working from everywhere, just because that was our situation in many of the cases.

Speaker 1:

Right, exactly, that's very interesting. So I'm also wondering because you look at remote work as an architect from a completely different lens than what how I look at remote work, of course. So I'm also wondering I've heard some things over COVID and like in the news oh, people are moving out of cities and I don't know like so many things were happening around that time that remote work really took off what has changed between like 10 years ago and now in terms of cities and how cities work? I'm really curious to hear your thoughts on that.

Speaker 2:

You know what's really interesting? There's this sociologist. Her name is Saskia Sassim and she wrote a treat about the dispersed city, and this was in the 80s something. So this whole treaty talks, or speaks, about how cities in the future are going to be more important than countries and how they're going to become kind of the center of power of the world, and how cities are not going to have really like, let's say, a border that can be identified easily, but they're going to be kind of a network of villages and a network of, let's say, centers of powers or different types of centers, and they're going to be grew either within a same region, physically, or across different regions in the world. They're going to be grew as power centers, about power houses, and what I say is that for the ones who who, at least in the field of architecture, anthropology and sociology, for the ones who've been starting this for quite a long time, it just makes sense that humanity is moving there and it's because humanity has and just let's just remember that in every, in every time that that let's say the way how we work shifts, humanity has come out of crisis and have transformed the way how we work.

Speaker 2:

The last one was in the times of the industrial revolution, when we had to move from the villages to the cities because they were not conditions in terms of health, infrastructure and different things, and the new rich or the new power people, powerful people became the ones who develop infrastructure, the one who develop housing and the one the ones who will have would trade goods and so on and become like in either industrial or or entrepreneurs and business people, whereas before it would be the farmers right, because they will provide food and so on. Now the power was the people who were doing that. But as the time evolved and at the time past, more regions were discovering their own potential and their own way of the of developing things. And when that time happened, what people found out is that it was actually not sustainable to aspire with having a house, a wife and two kids and having an insurance and so on and so on, and sacrifice and all your days in the week just to work eight hours and then in the weekends trying to escape from that eight hours and spending the money that you made. They must be a different way of doing things and also with the work working or or operating in a way that is, as in chronic, with different time frame or with different timetables depending on the region where you are. They must be a different way.

Speaker 2:

So I just think that what essentially have changed in the over the past 10 years is that people have evolved the consciousness and have become more aware about their own power.

Speaker 2:

That, thanks to the web, to which is like social media and so on, and also thanks to the fact that people understood that they they could be connections without necessarily have to go through bureaucracy because that's another paradigm or another change and other changes that social circles are not anymore what it used to be before.

Speaker 2:

You will need to belong to a club or something in order to get knowledge or access to things. Now we have access to everything. So the new wealth is connections, and those connections are things that you can do, and once you have connections, you have power, and that power allows you to think that you can do everything. So this chef of people moving out of the city is people going to another places is logical in, let's say, under the frame of what was happening the world already with the development of the cities and the dispersed city theory. But this thing a complaint by the fact that people change the way of thinking is what have us has, or have us thinking right now in the opportunity of working from everywhere as a reality and not as a possibility.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, that huge mindset shift of this is this is possible, and not only possible, but also important, right? Yeah, exactly, very interesting. So are you seeing that people are now also moving outside of cities because of that?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think that I think that there are different things happening with the cities.

Speaker 2:

One thing is that, again, like as the mindset is growing, people are For potentially finding new, new ways of discovering what's what they really like and what they really want, and Then not having to be attached to an office gives them the space and the and the opportunity to think that probably what they want is more silence.

Speaker 2:

And another thing is that it's not a secret that many people want to be more, let's say, have slower lifestyles instead of, rather than having like, just this crazy lifestyle that is like taking their from place to place.

Speaker 2:

And I think that the last thing is that, again, with all these type of processes, what comes is a term also called, in architecture, gentrification, which is essentially with a new group with a higher income comes in a place and reshapes the place, but that also increases the prices in the properties and the prices in the land.

Speaker 2:

So that's a phenomenon that is not only affecting, let's say, people who want to work remote, but also people who live in the cities and who live forever in the same areas. But now they have people working from internet, at least in the global south, who are making money in dollars, euros or pounds or their hands and have more available money to spend. So the neighborhoods become more expensive and that ended up displacing people who were living there for 30 or 40 years. So I think these two phenomenon. So due to that, to a new type of economy, to a real estate industry not really ready to face this type of things, into cities that are not well designed so that people have to move out to find silence and peace that they are looking for.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, it's kind of the obvious consequence, like there's basically no other way. So what you said I thought was really interesting about going from place to place and people looking for more silence and rest. That made me think of what you just said when you introduced yourself more at the start of this interview, where you told me that you traveled to 81 countries in two years. That is crazy. That is so much travel. So I would love to know, like how, how did you manage to stay alive while traveling to so many countries in such a short time? And I would love to know a little bit more about what that looked like for you. Like what was life on the road, traveling so much?

Speaker 2:

Well, I will not have a formal answer. I have different theories about how I survive, like when traveling to different places in such a short period of time. I think that let's say that the theory that is gaining more, or that makes more sense in my mind, is that I suppose that I had for such a long time that a hunger to discover the world that once I had the chance, I just stick to it so deeply that I tried to do as much as I could, and I would never imagine that I would actually end up doing this Like it was a project. It was actually was funny, because I was supposed to travel only 50 days to eight countries and then I ended up traveling to 64 and then in two years I was already in 81 and I was like, okay, what's going on? Right, and then I started documenting and learning more about things. I think that one thing that really makes sense in my mind is that the fact that along the way, I lost the fear of facing the world and facing the reality that we are living. I became more open to making more friends, to learn from different environments, to connecting with more people, to discovering more about myself, and became more open about who I am and what I want to do, and that helped me to survive, I would say, and to learn how to be productive as I was traveling, because I was not always productive before. I was potentially not always emotionally stable, I was potentially not always, let's say, in a good spirit to face a trip like that or like in good relationships with people. Right, I will make mistakes, like everybody, and I think that the biggest insight about all that is that I learned about myself, learned to forgive myself faster, learned to talk to myself deeper and learned to connect with people better, and that's something that helped me really like to go through it and to become a person who now sees life in a way that is more from the community building perspective and from trying to add value in the lives of people and receive value equally, in a way that is reciprocated.

Speaker 2:

And regarding the other question, how life looks like is, I think that one thing that will happen is that, of course, there's a lot of instability and that, for sure, challenges a lot.

Speaker 2:

The things that you think about in the way how you see life, and particularly what will happen to myself, is that I will receive comments from my friends or from my family saying you should come back.

Speaker 2:

It's very unstable, you are not really going anywhere, you are not really doing things, you are not really achieving goals, you are like losing your GRs and so on and so on, and I think that that really, really, really hits very, very, very hard when people try to impose their agenda and when you realize that it's actually something that you learn but not actually something that you want.

Speaker 2:

So as I was traveling, I faced all these and confronted all these concepts about stability, about having a good life, about growing, about going, and I think that I kind of went through this whole mindset change and that's what my life would be, where every day, I was learning something new and I was trying to allow myself to learn that new, while society was telling me that I was unstable and that I would not do anything with my life. And eventually the company came, all the other things, recognitions and so on, and now what we are doing, which is super nice. So I think that this process has given us a lot of at least mental stability to be able to adapt very fast and to work from flexible environments in any situation while having a good spirit to do it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, it sounds like a massive learning curve that you get from traveling so fast, for for I mean such a long time. I think two years is still quite a long time. So I'm personally a fan of slugging. I'm personally a fan of slow travel, and we've had a lot of people on the podcast who are really fans of slow travel and spending several months in one place. How do you see that? Are you still a fan of fast travel, or did that change after two years, or can you share your thoughts on that?

Speaker 2:

I would say that I'm not really a fan of fast travel or slow travel. I think that at the moment, what I do is I try to see what are the things that are coming for the next months and I plan my schedule accordingly. And let's say, if I have to compare, when you travel fast it's kind of an immersion process where your mindset is constantly changing and expanding. When you travel slow, it's another process where you are developing your skills and and deepening your connections with people and with the environment and also with yourself. So let's say that these are two different kind of experiences.

Speaker 2:

I'll try both from time to time. So sometimes I will spend in a place several months, as you say, and sometimes I will spend in a place or in several places, weeks, right, or like few periods of time. So it depends a lot in what's the moment of the year and what the let's say, what's what I feel that I should be doing. In the moment, or currently, I'm particularly more focused on, let's say, kind of a mid-speed traveling, whereas I am from time to time traveling fast and then, like I stop and I stop in a place for a long time I, let's say, recharge, do certain things that I have to do, deepen the connections and so on. To what protocol? One thing. And then I start traveling, like because I want to learn and I want to spend like more, more and more.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I think it's a beautiful thing that you said that when you fast travel, your mind expands and you deepen the connection with yourself, and then when you slow travel, you can deepen the connection with your environment and your connections, and I think that's just spot on. I think that's a great point and it makes a lot of sense, right, that you could just see what you need or want at that time and you don't have to choose. You can do both. You can do fast travel and then slow down for a little bit, and then go faster again and slow down for a bit. So I love that, and I think it's also important to know that this digital nomad lifestyle you have the freedom to do whatever feels good, like whether that's slow, fast, lots of travel, not a lot of travel it's all possible, and I think the thing that we strive for is really the freedom.

Speaker 1:

Now, before we end this interview, I also want to know a little bit more about your company. What do you do exactly at Circulo? And, yeah, like, how does that fit into how you see the future of remote work?

Speaker 2:

Well, circulo thank you for that question. I love that and Circulo is a network state. So probably many of us, when we travel, we always face, or we constantly face, certain things that are common to all of us as digital nomad travelers, and is that the environment will not get us right. Like, let's say, the hotels will try to offer us a package that is designed for a specific type of traveler, then, like, the landlords will offer us a certain type of rent and so on. That is for specific type of travel, and then the environment will offer us services that are for a specific type of traveler. Is because the world is to be your work. Your travel spends what you work for and then you come back and work and that's it. You will go on a tourist mission, on a touristic mission, but in digital nomad, they go, they live, they interact, they connect, they consume local, they do things, they try to make a community or to build a community and they try to be happy and that's it along the way, and to contribute to the economy somehow and to contribute to another people as they offer services or have a company. Circulo is born as a community that essentially connects communities across the world and what we do is we say, ok, we already know that there are many communities around the world and that there are many services, but who connects these services? And this is what we do. We offer a membership is a subscription. This subscription grants you access to a rent that is universal, meaning you always pay the same monthly, and for this payment you have access to apartments and properties everywhere in the world. You have access to a health insurance, which is different to a travel insurance. This is remote health, meaning that you can actually go to a dentist, go to America appointment, have your controls and different things anywhere in the world. Grants you access also to gym facilities and, what's most important, grants you access to a conscious, connects you with people and to local communities in those places Introductions in local communities and local communities in those places for in real life events, so then you can connect and integrate faster. This is essentially Circulo and its core product.

Speaker 2:

Then, as we were doing this and as we were developing the things that we were like working on, we found out that there are actually other things that that, let's say, were happening in the remote work, work in the remote work world, and it was that the governments were starting to issue Visa, digital nomad policies or digital nomad visas, but they were not really getting the digital nomads because none of them are digital nomads Right. So we will need to, we will need to come in and tell them hey, this is what we will tell you, this is the advisory that we will give you. And we started advising governments in the issuance of digital nomad policies or in the legal framework, he said. And lastly, companies wanted to go remove. We were advising them, essentially, helping them to expand and to teach the people productivity. So then, like, whenever they are expanding, whenever that, whatever they are, they can actually offer that to people.

Speaker 1:

Exactly so. It's a service to digital nomads, to, but also to governments and to businesses, if I understand correctly, to make sure that it is easy and accessible to just live Everywhere, wherever you want.

Speaker 2:

Basically, it's correct, it's correct and you pay always the same and you have access to everything anywhere with the same quality, the same type of people. You connect with community so that, let's say, waste of time that you have every time you you search on TripAdvisor, booking or in other companies for a place to stay or for things that are. Just have it centralized and every time you go to a place you have your recommendation is someone who helps you to do everything ahead. So then you arrive and you don't have that hustle or that that struggle.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, I love it. So what do you think is next for digital nomads and remote work? I think that what you offer is already a huge step. You know making everything connected so you don't have to do a ton of research all the time. But where are we heading as digital nomads? What do you think?

Speaker 2:

I think that's what's coming now, to be honest, is an evolution in the way how families live, because digital nomad lifestyle has been pretty much designed for people, or it's pretty much conceived in general for people who are single or who are like young couples, right like traveling, but there is not much space for families who are already conform or families who are coming, and I think that what we need to do now is to start thinking about the way how families going to be sustainable towards the future any kind of family, but family in general is going to be sustainable towards the future, and how is for infrastructure in different industries or across different industries can facilitate for families to live and to work remotely. So then remote work can be a thing and a way to bring stability and good mental health for people and not a limitation for people to grow and have a family.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly. So you also see it get more accessible for people from all walks of life, so not just young couples or single people, but also families, also older people, and I think it makes a lot of sense because these young couples who start traveling and start a digital nomad life, they also get older and many of them get babies and children and they also travel together or they want to travel together. So that makes a lot of sense and that sounds actually really exciting. I think I'm excited to see where everything goes for us digital nomads and remote workers, and I think it's awesome what you offer at Tecolo and the work that you do. I think it's awesome to see that your that connector between all the things are already there and just making life easier for us, which is very nice.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much.

Speaker 1:

So what is next for you, al like for you personally, do you have any cool travels planned?

Speaker 2:

Well, what I think is that currently, what I want to focus on is making sure that I connect with communities around the world and, overall, with more organizations.

Speaker 2:

What I found is that we do have a product that is very convenient for digital nomads, but still people in the real estate industry, the hospitality industry, in the government space, they don't kind of get the digital nomads that you think that there is a phase and that people only young people who are going through a phase of escaping from the matrix are going out and then they will eventually come back.

Speaker 2:

But they don't understand that this would actually dramatically change the way how, for example, property operates. Why? Because people who are traveling, they are not really making savings and they probably don't want to buy a house, so property is going to be, in the future, potentially under subscription instead of like by rent, right and same with hotels and same with governments. The way how taxes, income come, the way how, for example, hospitality and service operates and it bolts more into a concert service is going to change. So I want to learn more about it. I want to discover more about it and to connect with more and more people, because that's my superpower. It's connected with what I want to do is I want to make sure that I'm connected with everybody in the world so that I can offer real solutions for people.

Speaker 1:

Exactly. That sounds awesome, and do you have any destinations in mind that you're traveling to in the near future?

Speaker 2:

Yes, I'm currently in Colombia. Colombia is part of a trip that we are doing with a community of digital nomads that's called ArtsDao. We are going to be here for 15 days. 30 of the members of the community are coming. We are giving them a full cultural immersion in Colombia, together with the government and business, and so on and so on, and after here I'm going to Kenya, to Africa, and then, after Africa, I'm going to the Middle East.

Speaker 1:

Awesome, wow, that is really exciting, that sounds really good.

Speaker 2:

Yes, I'm so excited and also I'm so happy for the opportunity to be here in your podcast. I hope that at some point in close parts Whereabouts are you?

Speaker 1:

I'm in Europe for the near future. I'm in Germany at the moment, next stop is Spain, canary Islands, and then, only in March, I'm leaving Europe to go to South Africa. So that's kind of the travel plan there on my end.

Speaker 2:

That's fantastic. Well, if at some point we cross paths, it would be amazing to have this conversation, this photo conversation, over at Coffee. That would be fantastic.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely yes. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast, Al. It was really great hearing your story, hearing about the amazing business that you build, the connections that you make, and also your thoughts on the future of digital nomad live, remote work cities. I think you have a really unique perspective on this, so it was really great hearing about that, and thank you for listening. Don't forget to tune in next week. And that's it for today. Thank you so much for listening. I appreciate it very, very much. I would appreciate it even more if you could leave a review on Apple Podcasts for me. That way, more people can find this podcast, more people can hear the inspiring stories that we're sharing, and the more people we can impact for the better. So, thank you so much if you are going to leave a review. I really appreciate you and I will see you in the next episode.

Future of Remote Work With Elv Daza
Dispersed Cities and Remote Work
Benefits of Fast and Slow Travel
The Future of Digital Nomad Life