Live & Work Anywhere: From Idealism to Realism

If we want to consider the wider shift in tourism, we need to look deeper into how people are travelling, living and working today.

The experience of freedom as a traveller shifted a lot in how Alexandra sees life, where she describes feeling like she was on a never-ending vacation.

Alexandra Lazarin works in the Airbnb LUXE team and is based out of the company's Montreal office and wanted to share her personal experience as part of X. Festival about trying life as a Digital Nomad.


Born in Romania, Alexandra found a passion for what she does today from living in different countries from Italy to Finland and now Canada. She's been working for Airbnb LUXE, for now, four years, where she looks after luxury properties from all over the world where it's the only part of AirBnB where you get to work with a Trip Designer through the live chat and get real-time support in designing the perfect trip experience.


Finding Work-Life Balance


In December 2020, thanks to the support of AirBnB's new flexible working policy, she had the opportunity to travel and work remotely for two 'seasons', where this new world of being a Digital Nomad brought her to Gran Canaria, where she spent most of her time to Las Palmas.


She describes the 7 islands of Gran Canaria as a really interesting place for digital nomads as a unique place which really supports and promotes flexible remote working, actively encouraging visitors to settle there temporarily, while enjoying the discovery of different communities all looking for the same things.


Growing through meeting people, learning new languages and realising that there is another way to enjoy work-life balance was a major part of the experience. Developing hobbies and interests, like hiking and road cycling, were all opportunities that as a digital nomad Alexandra was able to explore and enjoy.


She describes each trip as a 'Season'. The second season in Gran Canaria left her much more prepared, where she researched a lot online, used Facebook groups to get ideas, actively networking and understood how to spend her trip, consulted with the community, made decisions and built a checklist of things that she really wanted to do.


The community was also something that was really unexpected, when she arrived this sense of family really clicked, which quickly helped her to realise that the social value was something really special, leaving memories in the place which will last forever.


The strong international and local community on the island from social gatherings, co-working gatherings, sports, yoga, running, cycling and beaches all played a part in making the trip so rewarding and memorable.


Life as a Digital Nomad


The experience of freedom as a traveller shifted a lot in how Alexandra sees life, where she describes feeling like she was on a never-ending vacation.


The experience of meeting Airbnb hosts was a central part of the experience, where the memories are also rooted in personal experiences and the lifelong connections and memories built on human relationships


Why do this?

  1. Transformative - Alexandra learnt a lot about herself.
  2. Feeling like you can belong anywhere and home is literally anywhere and everywhere is powerful.
  3. Digital nomad communities are important to find a way to build connections.
  4. Stay somewhere for a while, changing every month can be very stressful and intense.
  5. Appreciate living lighter - don't pack too much, there's no need for a lot of things.


The Community


Nelleke Meijer talks about how she fell in love with the island and how going to Gran Canaria was the best decision ever where she runs the Digital Nomad community in Las Palmas, but she herself, who decided to stay, would now consider herself as a 'retired digital nomad'.


Not living in a co-living environment, she realised that there was a community there but they weren't connecting and the lack of this social contact left her feeling that something was missing. She decided to post an invite for a meet-up and expected 20 people to turn-up, and more than 60 joined. From there, she realised that the community aspect was something missing in her life and this experience was about bringing structure to life as a digital nomad.


During the pandemic, she moved this to online meet-ups where people from within the community would share their passions from painting to other hobbies. Starting with a WhatsApp group, she quickly realised that it was a complete disaster, with a lot of random parallel conversations taking place but no order or structure according to interests. She had the idea then to develop a Slack group, to keep conversation threads organised.


Live it up Las Palmas was born and it has gone from 1,500 to 5,300 members today is a true community, organically growing and finding its own identity and sense of purpose. Alexandra points out that the very personal invite, welcome and introduction on Slack made this very 'digital' and sometimes 'cold' interface completely personal and welcoming.


Even sections like housing, healthcare and other essential needs found their way to build a community that supports each other in that space. Now it lives organically, someone asks a question and another person answers and whilst there is some moderation it generally finds its natural way forward as a self-supporting community.


Lessons for Industry

What is clear is that this is a much bigger market than we perhaps realise. The shift happening now where people are being given the opportunity to work remotely has led to a shorter average age, with people becoming younger as jobs now include flexibility.


We can also see the way in which communities exist today is a lot more private, with a rejection of mainstream platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp were even more adapted to the individual needs of communities, where support is coming from within the community and not influenced by brand voices but genuine camaraderie.


If we want to consider the wider shift in tourism, we need to look deeper into how people are travelling, living and working today.


The notion of a tourist is only reflecting one type of traveller, whilst the way in which we create value isn't as simple as inspiration and awareness. In specific examples, such as trying to attract digital nomads, the opportunity lies in creating an attractive temporary working environment, where things like living, working and connecting are key factors attracting people to the destination but also where a lot of questions and support needs lie.


So with the need to overcome barriers remaining a key part of the destination's role in attracting visitors, including those long-term visitors to the destination, finding relevant ways to provide these answers digitally is key - whilst not exploiting or viewing communities as target segments.


Spain's decision to create a Digital Nomad Visa offering a 5-year stay with just a 15% tax rate is also part of the policy-level work to attract people to the destination.

Key Takeaways

  • The remote workers market is much bigger than anticipated.

  • Digital nomad visas are key in attracting these travellers.

  • The very personal invite, welcome and introduction on Slack made this very 'digital' and sometimes 'cold' interface completely personal and welcoming.
Published on:
December 2022
About the contributor

Alexandra Lazarin

Airbnb Luxe

Nelleke Meijer

Live it up, Las Palmas!