Kyiv-based Kate Leschyshyn always had an urge to travel when she was younger. It wasn't until she got divorced that she finally had the freedom to do it. She was able to take more long weekend trips that soon turned into working from different cities and, eventually, becoming a full-on digital nomad.
As a sales team lead for a flexible company, Leschyshyn has to take calls with people all around the world at all times of the day. Her unstable schedule meant it didn't really matter where she lived. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, she decided the best move was to leave the country for the long term.
For over four months now, Leschyshyn has been living as a digital nomad in Berlin. She chose the city because she wanted to practice her German, experience the culture, and spend time with a close friend who lives there.
"There are some places I knew and dreamt about since childhood or from friends," she said. "Right now, I can travel to these places, not as a tourist, but rather to integrate into the local lives and culture. And I don’t even need to use my vacation days for this."
She's found the digital nomad lifestyle to be rewarding, especially helping to "better understand other people," she said. "I build more meaningful connections in my personal life and at work – it's priceless."
'I left all my stuff, all my dreams': Refugees fleeing Ukraine find help, housing online
Not everyone wants to come to the US: Gun violence, safety concerns are keeping travelers away
A growing movement
Leschyshyn is among the many people who are getting involved in the booming digital nomad lifestyle. In 2021, 15.5 million Americans said they were a digital nomad, a 112% increase from 2019. The steep rise is partially due to the COVID-19 pandemic making jobs more flexible and more people itching to travel now that places are reopening. More digital nomads are staying put in one destination versus traveling more frequently too.
Countries are responding to the trend. Now there are almost 40 special visas for digital nomads, including Spain, Mexico, Germany and Australia. To find the right destination, people are considering factors such as cost of living, visa requirements, and health and safety of the place.
With over 70% of digital nomads being women, especially solo women travelers, making sure their destination is relatively safe and healthy tends to be top of mind.
Is it safe for women to solo travel, live abroad?
The global prevalence of violence against women can make solo travel seem like a risky choice. Women often have to face societal customs and laws in certain countries and are considered to be easier targets by criminals compared to men. In a 2018 survey, over half of 400 U.S. women said they have felt unsafe when traveling alone, and 40% have been sexually harassed while traveling.
"Although I have no fear of traveling solo, I have to be more attentive," Leschyshyn said. "At the same time, I always say that you have to be attentive in your own country too, so not much changes." She said she always does her research before going to a new place, which she feels helps her be smart and avoid being taken advantage of. She remembers taking extra precautions when she was traveling through Colombia, like using an old watch and phone to ward off robbers.
'Do you have to cover your face (in Saudi Arabia)?': What to know about solo female travel in the kingdom
'I just want to see more of us': The importance of seeing people like you while traveling
There are also things that she always does, no matter where the location. She said she won't drink alcohol with people she doesn't know and listens to locals when they warn her against doing something.
Tech company Lemon.io analyzed data from the Global Health Security Index (GHI), which measures the capacity of countries to prepare for epidemics and pandemics, and the Global Peace Index (GPI), which measures "national peacefulness" to pick the safest, healthiest six countries for digital nomads. (And Leschyshyn called it: Germany made the list.)
Read below to learn more about the healthiest and safest countries for digital nomads.
Ranking second (the U.S. ranked no. 1) out of 195 countries on the Global Health Index and 27th out of 163 countries on the Global Peace Index, Australia earned the study's title as the best country for digital nomads. It's a place that offers a cosmopolitan scene as well as a diverse range of wild nature to explore. The Land Down Under offers a digital nomad visa for young adults without dependents to "have their first extended holiday in Australia and work here to help fund their trip," although working remotely is allowed too. The visa is good for one year, but you can renew it twice for a total of three years.
Australia is known to be a relatively safe place to visit, although travelers are urged to "remain vigilant" by the State Department.
Want to leave the US?: These women found a home, community in Mexico
A pilgrimage to the goddess of fertility: How my Egyptian vacation empowered my path to motherhood
With rich historical attractions and a vibrant arts and culture scene, Germany was found to be another best country for digital nomads, ranking eighth for GHI and 16th for GPI. The European country offers a D-Visa to citizens from the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and Korea (Republic) who want to live in Germany longer than 90 days and "pursue an economic activity" or study during that time.
The visa is specifically friendly to freelancers, like writers, and young people from select countries between 18 and 31 years old "to gain insight into culture and daily life in Germany."
Leschyshyn said she's happy with her decision to live in Germany and has yet to feel in danger.
"In Berlin, you can wear whatever, no one cares, and you’re safe," she said. However, as of April 19, the State Department posted a warning for U.S. citizens going to Germany to "exercise increased caution" in case of an increase in terrorist attacks in public areas, like hotels, transportation hubs and malls.
People who want to enjoy thermal baths and stunning mountains and lakes can head to Hungary. Ranking 34th on the GPI and 13th on the GPI, Hungary is the third safest and healthiest country for digital nomads. The central European country offers a White Card visa for non-EU citizens who are employed in other countries and want to work remotely from Hungary for more than 90 days. One requirement is that you have to make more than 2,000 EUR a month for the past six months. The White Card lasts for one year and can be renewed one time. Once you have it, you can also visit the other 25 Schengen Area countries, like nearby Romania.
There are no Travel Advisories by the State Department for U.S. citizens wanting to go to Hungary.
Looking to move abroad for a while?: You might need a nomad visa
With a GHI ranking of 13th and GPI ranking of 2nd, New Zealand is another ideal destination for solo female digital nomads. Besides breathtaking nature and outdoor adventures, the country had some of the strictest quarantine requirements in the world during the height of the pandemic.
Working holiday visas are offered to young people between the ages of 18 and 30 (or 35 for some countries) and let you travel and work in New Zealand for a year. (Although U.K. and Canadian citizens can stay for 23 months.) Requirements for this visa include not bringing dependents nor accepting a permanent job. You don't have to work during your stay, but you do need to show evidence that you can meet the cost of living – people will need to make at least 350 NZ a month or 4200 NZ for the 12 months.
The State Department issued New Zealand with a "Level 1" Travel Advisory in July, noting that the crime rate is "relatively low," but thieves can target tourists in crowded public areas.
With a GHI ranking of 33 and a GPI ranking of 6, Portugal has recently become a hotspot for expats – the number of Americans who moved to Portugal rose by 45% last year, driving gentrification among locals. The country draws people in with its warm climate, access to health care and affordable cost of living.
Earlier this summer, the country announced it will soon offer a visa specifically for digital nomads. "Portugal is a country for immigration. Every year, we receive thousands of immigrants seeking opportunities in our country," Ana Catarina Mendes, Minister in the Cabinet of the Prime Minister and for Parliamentary Affairs, said in a statement. "A country that wishes to welcome immigrants as it wishes its emigrants to be welcomed too."
Currently, the country offers a two-year D7 Visa to retirees or people who make more than a year's worth of minimum wage in passive income, like from rental income, which may apply to some digital nomads. This visa also allows you to travel throughout the Schengen Area, although you'll need to spend six consecutive months or eight non-consecutive months in Portugal. Unlike other long-stay visas, the D7 welcomes families as long as you can prove you can financially support them too.
Portugal was given a "Level 1" Travel Advisory by the State Department on Tuesday in response to possible terrorist attacks across Europe. People should also watch out for "crimes of opportunity," such as pickpocketing.