May 03, 2022
By Samantha North

How Madeira made digital nomads quit nomadism

Portugal‘s island of eternal spring, Madeira, has become a paradise for digital nomads from all over the world. So much so, in fact, that some just can't bear to leave.

2021’s Digital Nomad Village project brought thousands of nomads to Madeira. That initiative has secured the island's place on the map amid a new younger demographic, beyond the traditional foreign communities of British and German retirees.

The COVID-19 pandemic was another push factor. Strict lockdowns across much of Europe compelled many remote workers to seek refuge elsewhere. Madeira’s balanced approach to tackling the pandemic and its largely outdoor lifestyle made the island a perfect destination to wait out lockdown.

By definition, the word ‘nomad’ means a perpetual traveller with no fixed home. But many of the original nomads who arrived in Madeira last year have decided to settle down and make the island a more permanent home.

Some have invested in property on the island, in hotspots like Funchal, Ponta do Sol and Calheta. Others – especially Brits, Americans and South Africans, are aiming for Portuguese citizenship, so they can enjoy the many benefits of being European Union citizens.

So what makes Madeira such a compelling destination for these young, globally mobile digital professionals? A lot of it is about the enhanced lifestyle that Madeira offers.

For starters, the natural environment and scenery of Madeira is addictive. For remote workers, who spend most of their lives in front of a screen, easy access to outdoor activities – such as hiking along Madeira’s magnificent levada trails, ocean swimming, and paragliding – offers an excellent way to counterbalance the stresses of a life lived largely online.

Combine all that with Madeira‘s fast internet, year-round warm weather and unusual, award-winning beaches, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for attracting remote workers who want to make Madeira a long-term home.

What’s more, being an online entrepreneur can be a lonely life. For many, it’s important to live somewhere with a strong sense of community. Madeira is an easy place to make friends and get plugged into new networks. There are numerous activities on offer, including entrepreneurship meet-ups, jam sessions, jazz nights, outdoor sports training, fitness clubs, cryptocurrency investment events, and mindfulness circles – among others.

Digital nomads have been accused of ‘changing the landscape of the world’, leaving a trail of generic coffee shops, co-working spaces and Instagrammable restaurants in their wake.

But despite the recent influx of international remote workers, Madeira shows little sign of heading in that direction. A long tradition of tourism means the island knows how to retain its original character while elegantly incorporating certain elements of the international lifestyle.

Moving to Madeira – and Portugal as a whole – remains straightforward, even for non-EU citizens. The range of accessible Portugal residency options on offer, such as the D7 passive income visa, several startup visas, or the Golden Visa, are a great fit for global digital professionals.

All of these offer a direct pathway to becoming eligible for Portuguese citizenship after five years - a compelling prospect for those seeking a foothold in the EU.

Samantha North
Founder at Digital Émigré