Once upon a time, in the far distant past, before COVID-19, remote working was something other people did. People who worked for themselves in tech, teaching, or writing, freelancing their skills out to those who needed them.
Remote workers were called “digital nomads”. That term conjured up images of freedom-loving risk takers, willing to trade job security and guaranteed paychecks for a life on the road, living in hostels and working out of coffee shops and shared spaces.
But that was in the far distant past, before March 2020, when the world was a different place.
Since March 2020, the pandemic came and changed all our lives, particularly our working lives. Suddenly we all became remote workers, if not digital nomads. Well, those of us lucky enough to work from desks and computers…
Our city center offices closed, and we got used to working from sofas and kitchen tables. Our commutes shrunk down to the length of a few steps down the hall from the bedroom.
And as the pandemic continues and eventually withers away, once we can go back to normal life, our city center offices may well remain closed.
Many businesses won’t go back to paying extortionate rents for office space, now they’ve had months of their employees working from home. They’ve seen how allowing people to work from home hasn’t affected performance and they’ll stick with the new normal.
It’s a no-brainer all around, less expensive for companies, and much better for employees.
Working from home was always the future. It was always going that way. But COVID forced everyone’s hand and the future is now here to stay.
But why stop at home?
If you can work from your couch or kitchen table in your house, surely you can do so from someone else’s house, right? Or a hotel? As long as you have a reliable internet connection, surely you can work from anywhere in the world?
Surely you too can now become a digital nomad in all senses of the word.
This is the hope of many countries around the world who have used the concept of remote work to attract tourists.
As the pandemic killed the regular vacation, countries like Barbados and Bermuda opened up to remote workers, offering special visas to travelers to come, find a place to stay, and work from there instead of from their own homes.
Before COVID, digital nomads simply arrived. But now countries desperately want them to come and work and spend their earnings in them. They’re willing to lay out the welcome mat. Following Barbados and Bermuda, many Caribbean islands now have some form of legislation to attract remote workers. Several European countries are doing the same thing, as well as Dubai and far-flung destinations like Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.
Remote working as a concept is here to stay, and lawmakers in Costa Rica are on board, too.
Bill #22215, the “Law to Attract International Workers and Remote Service Providers” is winding its way through the Costa Rican legislature. If passed, the law will allow remote workers to stay in Costa Rica for up to a year and add another six months after that if they wish.
The idea is to make Costa Rica and all its tourist treasures accessible to a larger cross-section of travelers, people who can come down and combine work and leisure.
But do local travel experts believe this could be a real solution for the Costa Rican tourism industry? And is Costa Rica a good place for remote workers anyway?
On the face of it, Costa Rica is an ideal spot for remote workers, especially those from North America.
The country sits in Central Time half the year and Mountain time the other half, so the working day coincides with office hours back home.
Online infrastructure in Costa Rica has improved immeasurably over recent years. Good fiber optic internet is now available in most cities and tourist centers. Satellite internet is making headway too, connecting more remote places around the country.
Tim Foss is the founder of Itellum, a company providing fast, reliable fiber optic and satellite internet all over Costa Rica.
Itellum works with many hotels and rental homes in Costa Rica, providing their internet needs as clients demand more reliable connections. Foss sees Costa Rica becoming more viable as a remote worker destination as good internet becomes something easily accessible all over the country.
“Working from remote locations has never been more essential and popular than now,” says Foss. “We face unusual situations that dictate a different mode of behavior and method of working in our careers. If you want to live in places that are “off the beaten” track yet, still maintain an internet presence, it’s easier than ever in Costa Rica.”
Internet aside, rents are low for remote workers looking to find an apartment or home during their stay in Costa Rica. And for those coming on a more short term basis, many hotels and vacation rental homes now offer remote worker packages.
They’re not waiting for any legislature to pass, they’re going ahead and doing it anyway.
One of those hotels is Banana Azul in Puerto Viejo on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
Banana Azul’s owner, Colin Brownlee, has been a long advocate of attracting remote workers to Costa Rica. He was lobbying the government to work on a remote worker program in the early days of the pandemic, as global tourism closed down.
Since Costa Rica reopened in August, Brownlee’s been selling remote worker 30-night packages for Banana Azul, and people are buying them.
“After being locked up at home for months on end because of COVID people want to get out, they want nature and fresh air. Costa Rica’s the perfect place,” says Brownlee.
“Even so, I must admit I was somewhat surprised by the positive response we’ve had from our remote worker packages. They start at around $3,000 a month so I wasn’t expecting too much. But people are buying these packages, which proves what I’ve been saying. People are ready to travel again. And where better than Costa Rica?
Shay Tippie, a travel consultant with Costa Rican Vacations agrees there’s no better place than Costa Rica.
A long-term expat from California, she cites Costa Rica’s safety and ease of access as selling points for remote workers.
“Costa Rica’s reputation for safety, particularly when compared to some of our Latin neighbors, is hard to beat,” she says. “Then there’s the proximity. Costa Rica is so darn close to many major US airports. Direct flights abound; in fact it’s in many ways more convenient to get from San Jose (or Liberia) via cities like Houston, Atlanta, Miami and D.C. than it is to fly from Los Angeles to New York.”
Costa Rica is already attracting remote workers and doesn’t need a bill to make it become a paradise for them.
It’s happening already. All the tourist industry needs to do is wake up to the fact that there’s a new trend going on here. Banana Azul, Costa Rican Vacations, and others are actively talking about remote work as a “gap year for adults” or time to spend re-evaluating your work/life balance.
The bottom line is that wherever you go, there you are. So Costa Rica becoming a remote worker paradise depends as much on you as on the country itself.
But that said, with all Costa Rica has to offer, you’d have to work real hard for it to not be a paradise, no matter your reasons for coming.