Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. and global job markets experienced an unprecedented shift toward remote work in 2020. This trend is expected to boost interest in the digital nomad lifestyle in 2021 and beyond, as office workers-turned-remote workers start to explore their new geographic freedom.
According to a study by MBO Partners, at least 11 million Americans currently work as digital nomads. The independent talent provider found that the number of traditional workers identifying as digital nomads grew from 3.2 million to 6.3 million in 2020, an increase of 96%. The number of freelancers and independent contractors spiked by 12% over the same period.
While some long-time digital nomads enjoy traveling the globe for years at a time, newer remote workers might prefer to test the waters with shorter trips. Ongoing pandemic-related travel restrictions could also encourage many remote workers to choose domestic travel over international adventures in 2021.
With that in mind, Zillow teamed with Yelp to rank the most favorable U.S. metro areas for digital nomads. The list omits the country’s most populous cities in favor of smaller, less obvious markets that have a lot to offer remote workers.
The locations were scored based on the affordability of housing leases under 12 months and the availability of services that are typically important to digital nomads, such as vacation rentals, auto and RV repairs, outdoor activities and nightlife.
“These destinations boast a mix of outdoor adventure and city perks that are appealing to the many young professionals who have transitioned to the nomadic lifestyle due to their newfound ability to work from anywhere,” said Tara Lewis, a trend expert at Yelp.
Here are the top U.S. metro areas for digital nomads to live in 2021, according to Zillow and Yelp:
1. Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville offers year-round sunny weather, 22 miles of sandy shoreline of some of the best Florida’s beaches and a plethora of desirable services and activities, including shared offices spaces, furniture assembly, golf lessons and brewery tours.
Average rental rate in Jacksonville: $960 per month.
2. Austin, Texas
Renowned for its music, artistic and food scenes, Austin is expected to be one of the hottest U.S. real estate markets in 2021. It also offers the most digital nomad-friendly amenities on the list, including coworking spaces and furniture rental services.
Average rental rates in Austin: $1,323 per month.
3. Boise, Idaho
Boise is an outdoor lover’s paradise, with plenty of rivers, lakes and hiking trails. It also has many services critical to digital nomads with mobile homes, including RV repair and RV parking.
Average rental rates in Boise: $1,495 per month.
4. Nashville, Tennessee
Remote workers who love country music, great food and shopping will feel at home in Nashville. This city has everything a digital worker needs.
Average rental rates in Nashville: $1,369 per month.
5. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is stacked with rental properties, top-notch restaurants and outdoor activities.
Average rental rates in Charleston: $1,645 per month.
6. San Jose, California
While it’s no shock that Silicon Valley is packed with all the services a digital nomad could ever need, newcomers may be pleasantly surprised by its booming international food scene and nearby outdoor activities.
Average rental rates in San Jose: $2,511 per month.
7. Fort Collins, Colorado
Beer lovers and outdoor enthusiasts will love Fort Collins’ stellar line-up of craft breweries and extensive network of parks and hiking trails.
Average rental rates in Fort Collins: $1,795 per month.
8. Asheville, North Carolina
Asheville is known for its live bluegrass music, incredible cuisine and easy access to the Appalachian mountains.
Average rental rates in North Carolina: $1,782 per month.
9. Las Vegas, Nevada
It’s not a gamble for remote workers to set up shop in Las Vegas. The Strip offers plenty of services, nightlife and shopping, and the surrounding area offers ample hiking trails and outdoor activities. Housing is also plentiful and relatively cheap.
Average rental rates in Las Vegas: $1,275 per month.
10. Salt Lake City, Utah
Digital nomads who love skiing, biking, camping or fishing will want to check out Salt Lake City. The city is home to some of the best ski slopes in the world and offers an enviable list of outdoor recreational activities.
Average rental rates in Salt Lake City: $1,761 per month.