Even before the emergence of COVID-19, it had been predicted that remote work (telework) would expand to include the majority of the U.S. workforce before the end of the 2020s.
Of course, no one predicted the transformation would happen within months, not years.
According to Pew Research, before 2020, only about 7% of workers could telecommute — mostly affluent professionals. Some young, usually single workers also cobbled together gigs and improvised projects to earn enough money to survive in places like Bali, Vietnam, or Hungary.
However, now many middle class workers in traditional professions find themselves with this newfound flexibility. They no longer have the same obligations to make the grueling commute into the city, or to maintain a Groundhog Day-style existence in suburbia.
#1 - Amazing Culture
For an American or European, Guatemala offers the perfect combination of the exotic and the familiar, the old and the new. Indeed, just as Guatemala’s high-altitude arabica coffee offers complex notes and deep-body taste, so too its unique blend of New World and Old World has produced a distinctive experience not available anywhere else.
Mayan villages surrounding pictoresque, volcano-ringed Lake Atitlán; colorful colonial avenues in Antigua Guatemala; and the thriving, cosmopolitan metropolis of Guatemala City illustrate the wide variety of experiences in this most-populous of Central American countries.
Importantly, Guatemala is a stable, multi-ethnic democracy that celebrates diversity and freedom. Unlike some of the other trendy destinations for digital nomads, the “Land of Eternal Spring” steers clear of the dangers associated with dictatorship or religious extremism. (For anyone who thinks those should not be major considerations, one might end up learning the hard way, especially if one is creative, individualistic, or sensitive to oppression.)
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#2 - Unforgettable Nature & Ruins
Guatemala stretches from blue Caribbean waters in the east to stunning black volcanic beaches in the west. To further spice things up, there’s volcanoes, majestic mountain ranges, lush ranchos, and even a colorful colonial city on an island in a lake (Flores).
In the northern part of Guatemala, one finds El Petén Department, more than one-third of the country’s overall surface area. The heart of the ancient Mayan civilization, this area has pyramids and ancient cities where archeologists have only begun to scratch the surface of what the rainforest conceals. The truly adventurous can penetrate into vast underground cave systems and subterranean rivers.
For the remote worker, it’s the perfect situation. Imagine doing a conference call and impressing one’s co-workers by transacting business at the foot a pyramid, or in a rainforest bungalow surrounded by colorful and melodious birds.
For someone attracted to the more traditional appeal of sun and water sports, afternoons could be filled with waterskiing at Lake Atitlan; swimming in calm, turquoise Caribbean water; or drinking margaritas on black volcanic beaches on the Pacific Coast.
#3 - Affordable and Accessible
Guatemala is famous for its affordability. The middle class tourist can get five-star accommodations for the price of two-stars. The budget traveler can live indefinitely in a comfortable house, a clean hotel, or a welcoming hostel. The wealthy visitor can rent a large mansion directly on Lake Atitlán or the beach.
Unlike small touristy islands where tourists are targeted for price gouging even as they are resented by locals, Guatemala is a large country of seventeen million that clings to its traditional values of hospitality. The capital city offers all the modernity one would expect in a cosmopolitan metropolis, an alpha global city; e.g., a large international airport, hundreds of restaurants offering different types of cuisines, and several highly respected universities offering hundreds of different degree programs.
Unlike far-flung destinations in Southeast Asia, Guatemala is more accessible for workers from the U.S. or even Europe. The unexpected mandatory in-person meeting would still be inconvenient, but less of a challenge than in more distant locations. With excellent internet speed, reliable electricity, and a modern mobile phone system, Guatemala meets the technical requirements of any telecommuter.