The Top 10 Lifestyle Design Cities – 2014 Edition

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I was fascinated by an article on Marginal Revolution that listed cities “at or near their peak of excellence.” I enjoyed hearing the author’s perspective and comparing it with my own, so I thought I’d do something similar and try and identify “lifestyle design” hot spots.

Many might remember in the Four Hour Work Week Tim Ferriss specifically mentioned Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Thailand as great places to go on a mini-vacation. Those cities were, more or less, chosen for how far a dollar goes there. A lot has changed since then, notably people have been relocating not just to enjoy a break, but to build their enterprises in the first place. Those spots will be the ones listed below.

Of course the list is somewhat arbitrary. I’ve tried to use DC as a sort of canary in the coal mine. With close to 1,000 location independent entrepreneurs hanging around in there, it’s pretty easy to see trends popping up.

The cities listed below demonstrate:

  1. A good value for money.
  2. DC trends like monthly meet-up attendance, “migrations,” (like the massive one to Saigon last year inspired by @JonMyers), popular threads, etc.
  3. Travel friendly– hubs, availability of short term housing, visas, etc.
  4. Co-working and cafe cultures.

Hope you enjoy, and I would love your thoughts about where I went wrong and what you see happening in the future.

Top 10 for 2014…

  1. Berlin. Artsy and sprawling with great apartments, nightlife, and cafes. At least in the DC, Berlin is the place to be this summer. Berlin’s got some of the best of what Europe has on offer, and the rest of the continent is within easy reach. Co-working and digital bohemian culture abounds.
  2. Prague. Inexpensive, fairy-tale like architecture in the center, large format apartment buildings in the residential neighborhoods, great parks, easy public transport, and a growing scene. It’s summertime in Europe, who can argue? The only thing Prague is missing is palm trees.
  3. Chiang Mai. Still popping off despite the recent coup, Thailand has long been the quintessential “lifestyle” destination. Chiang Mai is nestled in the mountainous north of the country. It’s almost tailor made for the digital nomad, with great coffee shops, co-working spaces, and serviced apartments just a walk and a knock away. If I were 18 years old I’d go to Chiang Mai instead of going to college.
  4. Ho Chi Minh City. The economic heart of Vietnam, this up and coming city features cheap rent and 1000’s of cafes that are laptop worker friendly. It’s easy to live a good lifestyle on less than $1500 a month.
  5. New York City. Housing can be difficult to come by and expensive, but once you’ve got that sorted it’s a great value. Brooklyn is happening, food and entertainment are world class and a great value, and the fellow entrepreneurs you get to know just might return the investment you made in your apartment.
  6. Austin, TX. Quickly becoming the internet marketing capital of the US. Lots to do, great healthy food options, tons of recreation activities, reasonable rents, and plenty of space.
  7. Bangkok. Traffic sucks, but Bangkok is still a great value for the money. For nightlife and dining, it’s tough to beat anywhere. The Thong Lor area really seems to be taking off for young expats. After cooling off the past few years, BKK is seeing a resurgence in 2014.
  8. Medellin. A city with it all— nightlife, nature, friendly and passionate locals and expats from all around the globe. Medellin attracts perhaps a less transient crowd as it’s a little more difficult to get along without the local language.
  9. Barcelona. Livable, clean, great nightlife and food. Not much of an entrepreneurial scene (yet) but one of the best all around cities in Europe. With many fans coming through periodically, a scene is bound to coalesce.
  10. Ubud, Bali. It’s not just Eat, Pray, Lovers flocking to the island of the gods lately, with internet speeds improving rapidly, co-working spaces and cafes popping up like weeds, internet entrepreneurs are seeking to grow their businesses in and amongst natural beauty and world class services.

Honorable mentions: Melbourne, Mexico City, Shenzhen, Taipei, San Diego, Danang Vietnam, Portland.

Outside of the cost and difficulty in terms of securing housing, NYC shines in terms of networking, vibrancy, community, and value.

Outside of the cost and difficulty in terms of securing housing, NYC shines in terms of networking, vibrancy, community, and value.

Dinners organized on the fly via group texting applications are common in places like Saigon.

Informal meet-ups organized on the fly via group texting applications are common in places like Saigon.

Chaing Mai, perhaps the world's most user friendly city. Living costs can be lower that $1K monthly.

Chaing Mai, perhaps the world’s most user friendly city. Living costs can be lower that $1K monthly.

This year's top city, Berlin, mixes some of the best of what Europe has to offer and allows easy access to other destinations.

This year’s top city, Berlin, mixes some of the best of what Europe has to offer and allows easy access to other destinations.

Many in our community are re-considering Bangkok as an option, in particular the stylish Thong Lo district.

Many in our community are re-considering Bangkok as an option, in particular the stylish Thong Lo district.

That’s it. I’ll make a note for us to circle back in 1 year to see if we see if I’ve noticed any movements. I’d love your thoughts.

Cheers,

Dan

Published on 06.17.14

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