BY LEYLA YVONNE ERGIL
With its optimal climate, stunning landscape and affordable living, Turkey is a wonderful spot for digital nomads to put down roots, a fact that many are now discovering
The fastest growing line of work in this day and age has to be that of the digital nomad, a development accelerated by the climate and pandemic crises. These days, financial independence and the ability to work from anywhere, that is, conserving valuable resources by working remotely, is just good sense.
The term “Digital Nomad,” which has only been around since the start of the new millennium, refers to people who are not bound to a particular location and remotely use telecommunications technologies to earn a living. Thus, digital nomads have the freedom to choose where they want to live and how they want to work. You may have seen these “nomads” hunkering down at their computers at cafes or at trendy new coworking paces, shared offices popping up all over the world. These days in Turkey, they are everywhere.
People of all ages are jumping on the bandwagon of the digital nomad, aka the remote working way of life. From young entrepreneurs to online teachers, to professionals and semi-retirees running their businesses online and snowbirds, those who seek warmer climates to settle in, the possibilities are endless as long as there is a hotspot connecting you to the world wide web.
For nomads in general, the most important factor in choosing the next destination has always been climate, and this is no different for the digital nomads of our day. In addition to finding the most accommodating weather, digital nomads seek out destinations where they can easily obtain visas and health care and that offer affordable living options. For many digital nomads in the know, Turkey offers just that! From the bustling and beautiful Istanbul to Izmir and Antalya, with its modern cities situated on the coast to popular holiday destinations such as Bodrum, Fethiye and more; an increasing number of digital nomads are choosing to make Turkey their base for the time being.
Whether for short-term off-season stays or year-round experiences, Turkey has a lot to offer the digital nomad. First and foremost, Turkey’s southern coast remains relatively sunny throughout the year and experiences a mild winter of rain and hail at most. You can comfortably swim in the sea for six to eight months a year depending on your heat threshold. Many households in this region get by using an inverted air conditioner or an electric heater for easily accessible warmth, other more traditional households will use “sobas,” which are wood or coal-burning stoves that can double as an oven. In Istanbul, most of the apartment complexes have central heating, thus though the temperatures are lower in the big city, which does occasionally see snow, heating is generally not an issue as it tends to come as part of the housing package. If not, you can always buy an “Ufo,” the name given to convenient upright plug-in heaters that can reach scorching temperatures in confined spaces.
If it is wood you seek to burn or need water, a maintenance man or really anything, the local community and market, the latter referred to in Turkish as “bakkal,” will generally provide you with all of the information you need and more. Turks are famed for their hospitality and generosity and it starts with your neighbors, so just know that if you move into a home or flat in Turkey you become part of a community. This means that should you choose to, you could potentially be surrounded by people all the time, which is good as loneliness is one of the main complaints of those adopting the digital nomad lifestyle.
Furthermore, Turks are friendly and spontaneous, which means that when the lights go out for most other professionals in the world, in Turkey the party and general enjoyment, referred to as “keyif,” starts. In most towns and cities in Turkey, there is a vibrant nightlife and grand feasts and live music can be a big part of that on any given day of the week. Thus, I can near guarantee you will be in for a good time and make lifelong friends on any nomadic stop in Turkey. Maintaining a strong sense of self-discipline is integral to the digital nomadic lifestyle, thus keep in mind that while the Turks are accustomed to enjoying late nights and then getting up early for work, the exciting life here can take its toll if you don’t pace yourself.
On a practical note, there are a wide variety of resources for expats in Turkey established and run by seasoned expats. Multiple social media groups, online newspapers, published books, blogs and podcasts all track and trace the expat experiences in Turkey for the layman. Whether you have questions about residence permits, house hunting, driving and so forth, I can pretty much also guarantee that the answer will have been laid out before you if you delve into the wealth of information provided online by expats on Turkey.
For a quick synopsis, you have: Yabangee, which is an online and event community for expats, the website Doc Martin’s Surgery for Expats provides the answer to almost every practical question a foreigner could have, Fethiye Times and The Ege Eye are newspapers that can be found online and Bodrum Echo Community provides in-depth information for expats on the Bodrum peninsula. Other more localized expat Facebook groups can also provide valuable insight into community-related questions such as housing, internet service and blackouts.
There are multiple internet options in Turkey ranging from landline-based cable connections, satellites and mobile broadband plans, which are an excellent option as the modems provide strong signals in most areas of the country and can be transported, but are also pricier and can be a challenge to obtain. In my case, it was a breeze; I was even given a trial box for a day to make sure the signal was sufficient for my needs.
In my opinion, the health system in Turkey is miraculous. State and private hospitals can be found in nearly every district. There are multiple insurance options for foreign residents, but regardless it is a common practice to visit a local doctor at the Sağlik Ocağı, which are medical centers treating basic complaints, or to walk into any state hospital and receive affordable, personal and timely service.
Finding housing can be trying anywhere and Turkey is no different, pounding the pavement in the neighborhood where you want to be goes a long way in a house hunt here so long as you ask the local vendors and neighbors if they know of something to rent. In holiday destinations, off-season rentals can be affordable options, however keep in mind you must be willing to vacate when the summer season arrives. Most homes and flats in Turkey also come furnished, which has its positives and negatives but is of course convenient for the digital nomad. Volunteering at farms or participating in a workaway exchange are also potential opportunities for temporary housing possibilities.
Where to work as a digital nomad in Turkey?
There truly are a vast variety of locales in Turkey to work from for digital nomads. The cafe culture is alive and well in Turkey and many towns and neighborhoods will have tea gardens designed specifically for whiling away the day. Otherwise, the truly mindboggling number of cafes and upscale coffee shops where you can plug in will almost always offer free WiFi and in Istanbul, there are also a number of 24-hour libraries. Furthermore, the coworking concept is booming in Turkey, with multiple creative venues offering innovative shared working spaces and opportunities to socialize with other professionals and digital nomads through a variety of specialized events.