I moved to Turkey on a whim and am working remotely from the US

  • Jacki Ueng started working remotely in Turkey during the pandemic as a “digital nomad”.
  • She bought an apartment in Istanbul for around $100,000 and decided to move there.
  • Now she embraces a working life while traveling where she is always available.

This as-told-to 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 dreamed of settling in the Mediterranean for years. Then the pandemic shook things up, and I finally took the leap.

In August 2020, while California was still in 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 Beirut Blast took place 10 days before my departure. The country was devastated and it didn’t seem right to leave.

The flight I booked on Turkish Airlines had a stopover in Istanbul, so I decided to go there instead. I packed a carry-on with the intention of staying two nights at the Second Home Hostel, which I had previously visited in 2010.

After 2 days I already knew that my life in the United States was in the past

I canceled my flight home and spent the next few weeks exploring Turkey – from Konya to Cappadocia, the beach towns, the south coast and many places in between.

During this time, I connected with fellow travelers and Turkish expats on a WhatsApp group and started to build a local community. At the time, Turkey was lenient in issuing one-year resident visas to travelers and even offered citizenship to those who purchased property worth at least $250,000. I quickly made friends with people who were embracing their new life in Turkey.

Like many of my new friends, I can work digitally from my phone and laptop. I’m vice president of business development for Ticor Title, a title insurance company in Los Angeles. I have been working there since 2006 and have an established network of clients. There is also no cap on my earnings since they are commission based.

I also earn passive income through real estate investments

Half of my properties are in Southern California, and I’m about to close a four-unit in Dallas, which will be my eighth property.

After observing the booming real estate market in Istanbul, I decided to buy a property 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 on the European side of Istanbul. I had planned Airbnb, but after three months of renovations, I decided to move in and make it my home base. I bought it for about 900,000 Turkish liras, or about US$100,000, and in less than a year my apartment 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 across the country, exploring all of its regions and meeting the locals. Flights are cheap in Turkey and cost an average of $40 one way. Sometimes you will even find flights for as little as $15.

The beauty of being a digital nomad is that I’m not tied to a desk.

I have a boss who supports me and trusts me, so it doesn’t matter where I am as long as I can complete my tasks.

The only downside is that I’m always “on call”. I would never log out of work or activate my out of office reply. When it hits 6pm, I’m on my email responding to customers. I cringe when people ask me so much how I go on vacation, because I’m not on vacation – I work wherever I travel. The beauty of working from my iPhone is that I could be in my apartment, a bar or an airport lounge and answer all my emails.

I am so grateful that this lifestyle allowed me to move to Turkey. I fell in love with the country because it’s a delicate balance between West and East like me. I was born in the United States with parents from Taiwan and grandparents from China. I also like Turkey’s public transport and infrastructure, which is among the best I’ve seen in the world. However, I acknowledge my privilege to earn money in a country where salaries are only a fraction of those in the United States.

I want children one day and from now on 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.

About Louis Miller

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