- Jacki Ueng started working remotely in Turkey during the pandemic as a “digital nomad”.
- He bought an apartment in Istanbul for around $ 100,000 and decided to move there.
- Now, embrace a working life while traveling where he is always available.
This essay is based on a conversation with Jacki Ueng, who lives and works remotely in Turkey. It has been edited for length and clarity.
I had been dreaming of moving to the Mediterranean for years. Then the pandemic rocked things and I finally made the leap.
In August 2020, while California was still on partial lockdown, I couldn’t wait to travel. Turkey was one of the few countries still open, so I had planned to go to Lebanon, but the tragic explosion in Beirut happened 10 days before my departure. The country was devastated and it didn’t seem right to leave.
The flight I booked on Turkish Airlines included a stopover in Istanbul, so I decided to go there. I packed my bags with the intention of staying two nights at the Second Home Hostel, which I had already visited in 2010.
After 2 days, I already knew my life in the US was in the past
I canceled my return flight and spent the following weeks exploring Turkey: from Konya to Cappadocia, the seaside resorts, the south coast and many places in between.
During that time, I connected with other Turkish travelers and expats on a WhatsApp group and started building a local community. At the time, Turkey was lenient in granting one-year residence visas to travelers and even offered citizenship to those who bought properties worth at least $ 250,000. I quickly became friends with people who were embracing their new life in Turkey.
Like many of my new friends, I am able to work digitally from my phone and laptop. I am the vice president of business development for Ticor Title, a securities insurance company in Los Angeles. I have been working there since 2006 and have an established network of clients. Also, there is no limit to my income as it is commission based.
I also earn passive income from real estate investments
Half of my properties are located in Southern California, and I am about to close a four unit apartment in Dallas, which will be my eighth property.
After observing Istanbul’s thriving real estate market, I decided to buy some properties there. It is so easy for a US citizen to buy property in Turkey. I found a nice apartment in a bohemian and liberal neighborhood called Cihangir, in the European part of Istanbul. I had planned to move it to Airbnb, but after three months of refurbishment I decided to move and make it my base. I bought it for about 900,000 Turkish Lira, which was about 100,000 US dollars, and in less than a year my apartment has doubled in value.
These days I spend my time meeting new friends, taking tennis and pilates lessons, exploring neighborhoods and trying to learn more about Turkey’s complicated history. I work remotely as I travel around the country, exploring all of its regions and meeting locals. Flights are cheap in Turkey and cost, on average, $ 40 one way. Sometimes you’ll also find flights for as little as $ 15.
The great thing about being a digital nomad is that I’m not tied to an office
I have a support boss who trusts me so it doesn’t matter where I am as long as I can complete my homework.
The only negative is that they are always “on call”. I would never log out of work or activate my out of office reply. When it’s 6pm, I’m on my email replying to customers. I shudder when people ask me how I go on vacation so much, why I’m not on vacation, I work wherever I travel. The great thing about working from my iPhone is that I could be in my apartment, in a cafe or in an airport lounge and still answer all my emails.
I am so thankful that this lifestyle allowed me to move to Turkey. I fell in love with the country because it is a delicate balance between West and East like me. I was born in America with Taiwanese parents and Chinese grandparents. I also love Turkey’s public transport and infrastructure, which is some of the best I’ve ever seen in the world. However, I recognize my privilege of earning dollars in a country where wages are a fraction of those in the United States.
I want children someday and for now I would rather raise them in Turkey than in the United States. I also fell in love with the owner of the first hostel I stayed in so that’s an added bonus.