FOCUS on Digital Nomads: Kevin Ohashi

FOCUS on Digital Nomads: Kevin Ohashi

Check out Kevin’s website: reviewsignal.com

Name: Kevin Ohashi

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Academic background: Bachelor degree in Economis, minor in computer science.
2 Master’s degrees in Entrepreneurship and International Marketing and Brand management.
 
Without talking about work, tell us a bit about who you are and what you value.
I’m an introvert but everybody thinks I’m an extrovert. I’m the kind of guy who plays video games in the coworking space.

What do you do that allows you to be location independent?
I run a company called “Review Signal” which does web posting reviews based on analyzing social media posts. I also do consulting. I have worked with individuals up to big companies solving a variety of problems related to big data, web marketing or software development.

How would you say that being location independent has changed your life?
I don’t think it has changed my life. I feel like travelling has always been a part of my life. My family worked in international development and they traveled around my entire life so travelling is in my DNA. I started my first location-independent business at the age of 16 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Travelling has always been my life.

How many countries have you visited and which one did you prefer?
I have visited 44 countries. I spent more time in Thailand than anywhere else because I like it there. I was raised with Thai housekeepers in the family, one of whom has been longer in the family than my little brother and sister! I grew up with the food, the culture, and I have been there many times.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced living a nomadic lifestyle?
The biggest challenge is the routine. Every time you are in a new city, you have no pattern and finding discipline and routine can be difficult. And also having “normal” relationships with friends, I mean both maintaining existing friendships and making new ones.

What advice would you give someone who wants to run their own business and travel often?
I see a lot of young people who want to live remotely with little experience and connections or network and it’s difficult to build those when travelling. Especially when going from high-paying countries to cheap or poor ones. It’s better to know when you’re going to make your money from before you leave. I think missing out on that local experience and connections can be harmful in the long run. Some places are much better than others to make business, like Europe.

Why did you choose Locus Workspace to work when you first came to Prague?
I first came to Locus in 2016, I was living nearby. I was looking for a coworking space so I decided to check it out and had a free day.

Why do you think Locus Workspace is a good place for digital nomads?
Prague in general is a nice city for digital nomads. I like it for the community aspect, I get to meet people and hang out. Meeting people and making friends is the most difficult part so this coworking space facilitates creating a community and getting people included in that community.

What is the best thing about working and living in Prague from a digital nomad’s point of view?
The cheaper cost of living and Prague is a beautiful, small and easy city. It does not take more than 20 minutes to go anywhere. I also like all the weird bars and enjoy the lack of fashion which feels very liberating!

Imagine that you had one month to travel anywhere in the world (money not being an issue), where would you go and why?
That’s the question I ask myself every day! I definitely want to go scuba diving in the Galapagos.

What is a fun fact about you?
I was once bitten in the butt by a tiger. I won’t give any further information!

Prague as a digital nomad destination

Prague as a digital nomad destination
“Prague Castle, a castle complex in Prague, Czech republic” in travelercorner.com

The first question is: “What makes a great digital nomad destination?”

There are some characteristics that make a destination ideal for digital nomads and their lifestyle. Here is a list of some of the most important characteristics: affordable cost of living, high-speed and secure Internet connection, a community of other digital nomads, good places to work from, good living conditions (safety, freedom of speech, tolerance, etc.). 
 
For several years, Southeast Asian cities (Chiang Mai, Bali, Ho Chi Minh City…) have been very popular among digital nomads and seem to be ideal places for their nomadic lifestyle. But EU cities are gaining ground, especially Central European cities such as Prague and Budapest.
“How to travel as a digital nomad” in retireby45.com

Now let’s explore the reasons why Prague has been a hotspot for digital nomads

  • A global phenomenon

Digital nomadism is exploding around the world. Prague has been one of the popular spots since the beginning and has benefitted from the global growth of this phenomenon.

  • Affordable cost of living
Prague is one of the most affordable cities in Europe and it’s a big reason why location-independent professionals make it a hub. According to the website Expatistan.com the cost of living there is around 50% cheaper than in Paris and 34% cheaper than in Berlin. In some restaurants or pubs, beer is even cheaper than water!
  • Architecture and History
“Food tour in the Czech Republic, Prague” in tourily.com

Prague is in the heart of Europe and many people say it is the most beautiful city in Europe!

  • High-quality infrastructure

You will find very modern infrastructure next to very old buildings and bridges, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice work efficiency or quality of life for your taste of history.

  • Great geographical location

Prague is in the heart of Europe. The country is surrounded by Austria, Slovakia, Poland and Germany, with almost the same distance from the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean. Thus it’s quite easy to travel Europe with Prague as a base.

  • English speakers abound

Many Czechs (especially the younger ones) speak English well, making it an easy city to navigate if you don’t speak the local language (Czech!). You can also meet other foreigners and travelers. There are many of them! (Vinohrady is one of the neighborhoods favored by English-speaking expats).

Locus Workspace
  • Good places for productive work
Depending on your preferences, you can work either from lovely cafés or modern coworking spaces. Locus Workspaces is one of the favorites for digital nomads as we are an English-language space with members from nearly 30 countries. But there are many great cafés and coworking spaces in Prague that help make it a great spot for location-independent professionals.
  • Vibrant (night) life
Lots of events are taking place every day in Prague: concerts, festivals, markets, exhibitions… At night, the city centre in even more bustling due to the huge number of bars and clubs. Prague is a great European city for living it up.
“Prague Farmers’ markts and Flea-markets” in prague.eu – “Cross Club, nighlife in Prague” in likealocalguide.com
Prague is currently ranked as the 7th best cities in the world for digital nomads, according to Nomadlist.com, the premier web-portal for digital nomads (though this number changes daily). Check out the whole report about Prague here.

The C in Coworking Space Also Stands for Community

We’re excited to be “syndicating” a blog post from Robin Terrell’s amazing blog on the future of work (with a particular emphasis on the location-independent variety): The Global Mobile Worker. This post in particular was meaningful to us because it’s about the meaning of community, and in particular the community Robin found (and helped create! – Thanks, Robin!) at Locus.

Along with creating this blog and being a member of Locus, Robin is a Berkeley-educated lawyer, a writer (her book, Two Broke Chicasa travelogue about her adventures traveling around Central & South America, Mexico, and Cuba with her partner–is available on Amazon), a technology / startup junkie, a proud Amazon employee.

We’re excited to be able to share her blog post here…

wordgram-of-cowork
When I first arrived in town I used Meetup to find people who shared common interest. That led me straight to Locus Coworking space. Once in the door, I quickly connected with both the startup community and the writing community, common members of co-working spaces. It has been almost three years now and although I never signed up to co-work at Locus, I realized that I spent time in one of the two spaces at least once a week.
When my new job took me away from Prague for months, my homecoming included reconnecting with my friends at Locus. I write every Saturday with a dedicated group, committed to various forms of media that involve the written word. We have bloggers, and novelists, and game script writers, and PhD students writing a thesis. We come from different countries, different generations, different genders. Our bond is a long-term fascination with words on a page.
It was through Locus that I joined my E-publishing Mastermind group that has single-handedly taken me from talking smack to preparing to upload my first ebook, Two Broke Chicas, a Travel Series, December 26th, just in time for people to use their Christmas gift cards and make their New Year’s Resolution to travel more. Mentor members, like successful sci-fi writer, Bill King, have made my dreams come true.
While plopped on a big fluffy couch to wait for the group to start, I realized how important Locus was to my social life, and sense of being, in Prague. What my virtual membership gave me access to, besides one day a month and access to my e-Publishing Mastermind group, was a community. A place I could belong with people who shared my passion for a flexible work life.

Community = Thrive

Just like we need a Tribe, we need a community. Research found that people who belong to a co-working space report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale. This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices. Read more: Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces
infographic-co-work
Grind, is a growing network of coworking spaces in New York and Chicago. Community manager, Anthony Marinos, shared, “When it comes to cultivating our community at Grind, we’re all about the human element. We consider ourselves as much a hospitality company as we do a workspace provider. Our staff knows all of our members by name and profession, and we’re constantly facilitating introductions between Grindists.”
Research in Forbes magazine showed that entrepreneurs with larger and more diverse networks grow their businesses bigger.Co-working spaces can be a place for women, known for being great communicators and collaborators, who don’t excel at building power networks can find a safe space to start. (Women tend to build deep and narrow networks women-networkwhile men wide and shallow ones.) I’ve added several women to my network from Locus, and started an informal dinner group to encourage young professional women to support each other, over a glass of wine.

Building Intentional Communities

Some experts believe that co-working space should be built more like intentional communities. Example, Brooklyn’s Friends Work Here. Founded by NYC-based Swiss-born designer and entrepreneur Tina Roth-Eisenberg, who’s also behind the international lecture series CreativeMornings (which happens monthly in Prague, but mostly in Czech) and Tattly. The space came as a response to Roth-Eisenberg’s negative experiences in “soulless” coworking places that are more focused on making money than cultivating inspiration among its members.

A Wealth of Human Resources

Locus is how I found my brief dog-sitting gig. I enjoyed several days of pretending to own a dog, forced to take several walks every day, which did wonders for my mental health. I’ve enjoyed people passing through town and people here for the duration, like my friend Sarah who first came when it was Czechslovakia, and still communist. She is at heart a historian, writes historical fiction, and loves talking about the history of this country she calls home, as a well-informed outsider.
It was hysterical and inspiring to sit in on Texas Holdem’ Poker night, where people from around the world turned into ruthless gamblers who might gut you for a pair of Ace. It was motivational to listen to Regina and Mike talk about becoming Courageously Free, and through that relationship I was interviewed for their podcast – which should be out just in time for my book launch.
There were people at Locus doing, looking for, thinking about the exact same things as I was. We all wanted to marry our fascination with social media and our passion for words. I could pick the brains of people who, like me, were inspired by Prague, determined to make their literary dreams come true. We figured out all kinds of ways to make money with words. My critique and Saturday writing buddy, Beth Green, will fix your words for a fee. Which still leaves her time to search for an agent for her first novel, represent on Booklust and @bethverde, and be a Wanderlust columnist at thedisplacednation.com.
My writing group has sustained me, in ways both creatively and emotionally, over noodles and pivo at the Vietnamese restaurant down the street from Locus. We’ve discussed our lives and our loves, U.S. and European politics and the meaning of feminism.
We’ve shared critique groups and book front-cover
launches, like Sonya’s soiree for Under a Caged Sky, held at Locus Slezka, where we toasted with glasses of wine under the skylight, with Prague as the backdrop.

Staying Engaged

partyOnce I’d had that moment of realization, that my co-working space was my community, I started to look around for other ways to participate. Engaged in the social media connection and found easy, fun ways to stay involved. I am looking forward to the Christmas Party catered by Ethnocatering, a social enterprise of migrant women that serves authentic food from Georgia, Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Armenian. You can’t find this deliciousness in restaurants. I know, I said it, that bad M word. Well, I must own it because here in Prague, I’m a migrant. A tax paying, law abiding expat seeking shelter and new beginnings.
I know I’m not alone in this revelation and would love you to share your experience of finding community in co-working spaces. Tell us your story in the comment section here at the Global Mobile Worker Project.

Nomad Holidays

Below is a wonderful blog post about organizing work-holidays for independent workers by the Czech Republic’s own Robert Vlach, founder of na volné noze. Read the original Czech version here.
 
Nomad holidays
 
26 September 2012, by Robert Vlach
 
Translated by David Creighton 
 
Organising a longer holiday can pose a real challenge to freelancers. But do you know how a holiday can boost your business?
 
Although it may not seem very obvious, a quiet revolution is sweeping through the labour market. In the USA, 25% of the workforce is now working on a freelance basis, and this number is the same in a number of European countries. This revolution is ushering in new lifestyles, including the freelancer‘s approach to holidays. In this article we’ll look at the main principles and then offer full advice on everything you‘ll need to know about organising holidays abroad for digital nomads.
 
The problem: irreplaceability
 
One of the downsides of being a freelancer is irreplaceability.If employees are on leave, colleagues can usually stand in for them, but most independent professionals have nobody to replace them, and they can’t be offline for more than a week(according to recent research, up to 80% of freelancers are in such a position). And what if a long-standing client needs urgent help, or a lucrative project comes in?
 
Such fears are justified. Self-employed people running small businesses need to think twice before heading off on a break to the middle of nowhere. What’s more, unlike employees, self-employed people have to pay travel costs and run the risk of a considerable financial loss in the form of lost income. In other words, the traditional summer holiday is much more expensive for a freelancer than an employee.
 
The solution: a nomad holiday
 
The market is able to find ideal solutions to very tricky problems. When I first wrote about digital nomads, I thought the term meant a fringe phenomenon involving holiday adventures. But I was very much mistaken. Among freelancers abroad, nomadic work is coming to the fore, which is a huge leap in just one year!
 
Essentially, digital nomads are independent professionals able to work remotely from abroad for their clients, using a laptop or mobile phone. The nomad holidayusually involves an average of two hours’ work a day; the rest of the time is spent like any other holiday – with families, partner or friends. And as with classic holidays, nomads go on trips lasting several days and meet local people, among other things.
 
A traditional holiday has a different “structure“ from a nomad holiday, but a huge benefit of the latter is that it promotes relaxation, inspiration and ideas, and is an opportunity for nomads to recharge their batteries. And in these respects, traditional and nomad holidays are practically the same. In professions that don‘t require frequent contact with clients (such as translating or programming), the stay can be several months longer, making the holiday impact even stronger. And earnings can be a pleasant surprise during the stay, in line with the well-known Pareto principle, where up to 80% of your income is earned from 20% of your work.
 
A holiday for nomads is therefore a surprisingly neat solution. It answers the problem of irreplaceability over a longer period and the corresponding impact on income. At the same time, the positive features of a holiday aren‘t lost. You can easily alternate between a traditional and nomad holiday, depending on your situation, taking into account the season, agreement with your partner, etc.
 
How to organise a group nomad holiday
 
A good number of people have asked me how I organise the successful nomad holidays about which I’ve just been writing. Over the past few years we’ve developed an approach, through trial and error, that deals with most of the familiarrisks and suits those involved. This method can also be used on a wider level, and should be regarded as just one of many approaches to a holiday for nomads:
  1. Why a group? Group dynamics have, over time, become the theme of our holidays. When you put together a group of fantastic people for a month and mix in local friends, you have a recipe for amazing things. Can you remember the last time you spent a whole month in one place with your peers?! It’s a very intense experience and–for all the participants–an enriching one too, with a creative explosion of ideas as well as discussions, trips, shopping, new friendships, and who knows what else.
  2. Organiser On our holidays I take the role of initiator of the entire project. This key role must be the responsibility of someone who is fluent in English, is reliable and trustworthy, and can smooth out problems and minor conflicts.
  3. Holiday dates As the organiser, I have to start with all the date options and then come up with suitable times. I tend to have less work in the winter and summer holidays. So I organise shorter winter breaks of two to three weeks and longer summer holidays of three to five weeks. In summer, it‘s good to go away for at least four weeks because it gives us enough time to make friends with local people.
  4. Destination country My responsibilities also include making a list of possible destinations. Most people want to spend the holiday by the sea, somewhere where it’s warm and quite safe. Ideally, it should be somewhere relatively close at hand, and I comply with these criteria. After this year‘s experience in Morocco, I‘ll leave out the Arab countries. Women are worried about travelling there.
  5. Sending out invites beforehand When I have an idea of where we’re going, I then send out invites to friends. A month, or at best two months, before the date under consideration, I send the list to 120 potential nomads (all members can travel with their partners). The goal is to ensure a number of participants expressing a preliminary interest, defining who will make up the core group.
  6. Core group These are the serious candidates who want to stay for the entire period. They‘re willing to equally split the costs and responsibilities, including for resolving issues. They also share the risks associated with organising the holiday and property rental. The core is made up of three to six people (including me).
  7. Firming up arrangements We confirm the date and place with the core group members. For long summer breaks, we prefer an attractive seaside resort that also offers cultural and other activities, because we would become bored after a week in a small resort. Barcelona and Lisbon are excellent examples of places where you can combine a resort holiday with other activities.
  8. Estimated number of participants The core group is present throughout the holiday, but we also need to have spaces available for those who are with us for a shorter time. When the core comprises five definite people and 20 tentative people, we know that we have to look for a property with a capacity of 10 beds. Seven would be too small (there wouldn’t be enough room) and 15 too much (we would run the risk that we would be unable fill more expensive properties). On the other hand, the more people the better!
  9. Choosing a place The advantage of travel in a large group is that we can afford to pay for very luxurious, centrally located, accommodation, which is just what we‘re looking for. We don’t want to be stuck out in the suburbs or in accommodation with mouldy walls. We look for an airy, bright flat, ideally with a cleaning service, air-conditioning, a terrace, and more than one bathroom. We also look for a property with double bedrooms and a quick, reliable internet connection. All of us have the task of finding accommodation, most often on Airbnb, Homeaway, and Homelidays.
  10. Discussions with the owner We usually choose from a selection of apartments. Beside the price, what‘s important is the communication process with the owners, how quickly they can hand over the property and a willingness to accommodate our requirements. When renting a property for longer periods we can sometimes agree to a discount of up to 30%.
  11. Deposit The core of the group divides the overall accommodation cost equally. The deposit is paid, and the organiser is responsible for paying the rest. The reservation is binding upon everyone, and payments are not refundable if somebody has to cancel and the only option is to find a replacement. The amount involved is quite high, so it pays to consider your plans carefully. We all then buy cheap flight tickets.
  12. Costs for visitors Short-term guests pay more for the beds available than the core group members. This is because they do not bear any risk or additional costs connected with renting the holiday accommodation. Generally we agree on a price of around EUR 20 per person per night, which is similar to the price of a bedroom for 10 people in a cheap hostel. On the other hand we are all together, and visitors can take advantage of all the comforts of property. In addition, they are sharing it with friends, not strangers.
  13. Gender balance It‘s quite important to have a balanced number of men and women, otherwise the holiday doesn’t quite work. I therefore give priority to inviting a couple of men or and a couple of women, so that there is balance. At this stage I’m still fine-tuning the make-up of the group, through personal meetings.
  14. Reservations In the first stage I send those who are tentatively interested an invitation with detailed information and instructions. The reservation goes through the system on a first come first served basis and becomes binding when the full payment is deducted. Everyone can track their reservations and occupancy rates online. This year in Lisbon we were fully booked in a record two hours!
  15. Costs split equally Ultimately, the payments from the short-term guests make the stay cheaper for the core group members, who bear all the costs and risks of the  holiday. This is a good system, and ultimately everyone is 100% satisfied. Once we are fully booked, we spend part of our funds on other items, such as renting a car. It is available, including petrol, to everyone. We also spend money on minor items for the kitchen, refreshments and such things. It is the little details that make the holiday perfect, and we want our guests to feel at home.
  16. Sending out more invitations If there is a lack of interest, all members of the core group send out invitations. We don’t try to have a full house at any cost, but rather our aim is to have a holiday with lots of great people! Having free spaces left is better than a full group that doesn’t work well together.
  17. Before we depart When we reach full capacity, the preparations are essentially finished, although there is work to do a week before departure. At this stage I contact the owner of the property. I check with him/her that everything is in order, that there will be enough keys, beds and tables, etc. Then I send everyone in the group an email with last minute instructions, our telephone numbers, etc.
  18. After we arrive There are almost always some minor niggles after we arrive, and as the organiser my responsibility is to resolve them tactfully with the owner. First of all we check the workspace and the internet (it’s a good idea to carry a spare Wi-Fi router). Then, as soon as possible, I see what’s on offer in terms of local groups  and activities on Couchsurfing. Then we can start meeting the locals! It’s best to do this on the same day that you arrive.
  19. During the holiday We have just one rule: we mustn’t disturb others, and should respect their rights to work and peace and quiet. If people are still up at 4 o’clock in the morning and making a noise, I try to sort this out, but usually people are considerate and tolerant so there isn’t much to deal with. As the organiser, the only thing I have to deal with is buying minor items for the accommodation, and managing the transition when short-term guests come and go. Everybody can get up when they like, nobody is forced to do anything, and organising trips and entertainment is spontaneous. Some people eat out; others do their cooking at home, as they wish.
  20. Departure and settling the bill The holiday accommodation tends to be in my name as the organiser, so I always want to be there when the property is handed over and have assurance that everything is okay. Within a week after we return we settle the bills. If there’s any money outstanding, we divide it up equally between the core group members. And I’m pleased that everything has turned out well!
 
“I’m back at home after spending three weeks in Lisbon. What was the break like? Inner and outer worlds came together. On the outside, people are just travelling through a new world, meeting people and enjoying life. But at the same time they are changing inwardly, imperceptibly. The idea of coming back from the holiday is an illusion – and it should be, otherwise travellers lose a bit of what they gained while away. The digital nomads were great friends on the journey. I took everything back with me and nothing. And I’m not back –  I’m a step further on.”
 
What next for digital nomads?
 
So far, nobody knows, but things are looking up for us. Perhaps the biggest hurdle facing global nomads is the actual – not entirely intuitive – concept,which has almost endless possibilities. It‘s evolving organically through imitation, improvements and coincidental innovations.
 
Everybody has the chance to  discover something new and share this with others. For example, designer Vít’a Válka travelled with his family around Europe in a caravan and writes about it in his blog. It may be that this trend inspires travel agents to offer packages for nomad travellers. I’d love to hear about your nomad holiday experiences and would be happy to share them on our Digital Nomads page on Facebook.