Subscription Living and Heartland Visas
What’s in store for the future of human movement?
It started with the slow nomad. The person who, unlike location-hopping digital nomads of pre-COVID, wants to stay in a place for a while. Then it naturally moved to the question of which countries have digital nomad visas as COVID shut down normal tourism.
Now, we enter a new paradigm: subscription living and heartland visas.
I’m referring to two articles in specific, but that are indicative of a broader movement:
Remote work has kickstarted a hotel subscription-living movement by friend (and Remotely Inclined interviewee) Lauren Razavi.
Why I Changed My Mind About Heartland Worker Visas by Noah Smith (who seems like someone I’d want to be friends with).
These two articles are interesting, in my opinion, for two reasons:
The trends they advance
The intersections between the two trends
PS - I have to highly recommend my friend Marissa Goldberg’s new newsletter, Remotely Interesting. Marissa is a public servant turned entrepreneur who is REALLY smart about leading remote teams. That’s what her newsletter is all about - and it’s worth your email address.
Lauren talks about Zoku in her article, a ‘quirky’ hotel living concept where you could cowork in the lobby and mix with travellers while staying for months at a time. In light of COVID, Zoku moved from quirky to innovator real quick.
“The vision is that remote workers will spend time with us in different cities every year,” said Veerle Donders, brand and concept director at Zoku, to Lauren for her article. “Long-term, we anticipate that the creative audiences we serve will choose to pay an annual subscription to be part of the global Zoku community.”
For full disclosure: Lauren and I chatted about the subscription living movement over (virtual) beers near the end of 2020. She was exploring the concept (maybe even for this piece?!), but I was new to it at the time. It really resonated with me as part of the broader slow nomad movement. It’s not just for people who want to be full-time nomadic, either. Some people just want a 1-3 month getaway while otherwise maintaining a home base, mortgage, car payment, and all that jazz.
In three words: I love it.
Living in a hotel sounds at once very appealing but also very annoying. I get the convenience of it, but it doesn’t feel like home.
There are innovators fixing that one, too. Though this crop likely doesn’t call themselves innovators, but rather hosts.
Not only are hosts on Airbnb thinking about longer term stays (my mom even has mid-term tenants in her Airbnb property!), but owners of historic properties like French chateaux have been doing artist and retreat residencies for years. I think the difference now is that people don’t look at this concept with a sigh and an “Ugh I wish” but more with piqued curiosity and a “Hmmm, could this work for me?”
New startups like Key Living in Toronto are even operationalizing this concept, providing “Living as a Service” (LaaS) while still giving people the capital benefits of real estate ownership.
The re-think is even permeating immigration, as President Biden is toying with a so-called “Heartland Visa” program. This program ties immigration status to moving to a specific town in the US - usually a down-trodden city in the core of the country. This, as Noah brings up in his op-ed, is very similar to a program in Canada that allowed immigrants in but required them to move to central Canada (instead of already-dense cities like Toronto).
This kind of thinking is interesting. It’s at once limiting, but also freeing. Immigrants to different countries - be they nomads or people looking to permanently move - typically face major issues finding suitable housing and employment. That’s one of the reasons digital nomad visas all have earnings stipulations. This kind of visa helps to curb that problem, since people move to lower cost of living areas and are given some support in finding work (particularly since these cities are dying for talent. The jobs are there - that’s not the problem. It’s that people keep moving out).
Cyber and physical space
Where I see these trends - subscription living and mobility visas - coming together is in one simple concept: we are fundamentally rethinking what we do with our physical spaces now that we spend so much of our time in virtual spaces.
There is of course more to this conversation - privilege to work remotely and US politics to name two big elephants in the room - but what drew me in is how the conversation has moved from concept to action. And that’s what I like to see.
Thanks for reading!
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